Toys are far too valuable to leave to children

'Every day I'd find the baby trying to ram a combine harvester down the guinea pig's throat'

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Somewhere in the attic or in the shed or under the bed in the spare room there's a trunk full of old toys which, with any luck, will make up the shortfall between my wretchedly reduced Equitable Life pension and a pauper's grave. I refer, of course, to the Australian who has just shipped his entire collection of 16,000 Dinky toys to London where, next month, they are expected to fetch around £500,000 in a specialist toy auction.

Somewhere in the attic or in the shed or under the bed in the spare room there's a trunk full of old toys which, with any luck, will make up the shortfall between my wretchedly reduced Equitable Life pension and a pauper's grave. I refer, of course, to the Australian who has just shipped his entire collection of 16,000 Dinky toys to London where, next month, they are expected to fetch around £500,000 in a specialist toy auction.

With more foresight and less honesty I could have contributed to that particular sale having once rented a house in Scotland which had cardboard boxes full of antique Dinky toys in the hall cupboard. The children used to take them out and play with them when it rained which meant they played with them every day for a month. By the end of the holidays they had become so attached to their favourites – a black Ford Popular, a blue and white MacFisheries delivery van, a vintage taxi with running boards and a Greenline bus – that they begged to be allowed to take them home. "Certainly not,'' I said. "They don't belong to us and besides you've got hundreds of toys at home already.''

This wasn't strictly true. Compared with other families' brimming toy cupboards, ours were like Mother Hubbard's, except for a short period in January when they were piled high with the usual plastic junk that relatives and godparents had sent them for Christmas. How I loathed all those plastic airports and garages and plastic helicopters and petrol pumps and kitchen units.

One year a well-meaning aunt sent a joint present for the four older children – a 100-piece super farm set complete with animals, fencing, agricultural vehicles and machinery, farm buildings, farmhouses and people. What a nightmare. Every day I'd find the baby choking on a haystack or trying to ram a combine harvester down the guinea pig's throat. The Hoover sucked up an entire flock of sheep left to graze under a bunk bed, and after two hours trying to work out why the washing machine didn't work the engineer eventually discovered that the filter had been blocked by Farmer Jones lying on top of a one-legged pig.

No more plastic, I said, and then for some reason I was taken by a games inventor who would send me his latest inventions to try out on the children. They were plastic, too, but strictly educational, mostly glorified speaking calculators that asked maths or general knowledge questions. I overlooked their garish plastic casings and thought about the benefits they would undoubtedly bring the children by way of academic prizes. Most of them had American cartoon voices. When you got the answer right they'd give a little giggle and say "That's correct''. When you got it wrong they would sound sad and intone "Sorry, please press the Try Again button''.

I remember one toy game called Mary-Lou's Math Magic where a husky Marilyn Monroe voice would ask breathlessly how long 11 boys would take to eat 322 apples if a third of them ate 12 in two days, etc. There was a limit to the size of your total and sometimes Mary-Lou would have to whisper "Uh-uh that's too big'', giving the last word such a long seductive emphasis that my husband would look up sharply from his newspaper and say: "Who said that?"

So what, you are no doubt wondering, have I got in that trunk that a specialist toy auction could possibly want? Certainly not my youngest daughter's favourite, a hideous rubber amoeba covered with pink nylon fur called a Snuggle Bum that glowed in the dark. No, I'm pinning my hopes on a collection of much loved golliwogs, and before you upbraid me for using such a politically incorrect word, please tell me what else I should call them.

Like it or not they're golliwogs, old-fashioned golliwogs with red tailcoats, bow ties, blue trousers and huge white grinning smiles. If you ever read the Little Black Sambo books, you'll know what I'm talking about, but they were outlawed too. Hang on, I've got a few of those as well. I really am in the money.

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