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Popular Toy Models and What to Look For

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 18 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Toys Vintage Antique Toys Vintage Toys

It seems to be a human trait to feel the need to collect things. Accruing a mass of collectable items not only satisfies this need, but also makes for an impressive and valuable collection of culturally and historically interesting items.

Some people love to restore and drive vintage cars. However, there are probably equally as many people that love to collect vintage toy cars. Both give us an insight into the history of the automobile, tracing its evolution from a stylish luxury item into a functional, everyday necessity. Adults and children alike can cherish vintage car toys. So if you're thinking of starting your own vintage car collection, this article looks at the most popular models, and the basic things to look for when purchasing your first specimens.

Defining Vintage

There is a marked difference in the UK and USA when it comes to the definition of 'vintage'. In the UK, the vintage period tends to be defined as anything between the years of 1919 and 1930. Confusingly, this period can also be referred to as 'antique', although commonly 'antique' is more than 100 years old. However, in the USA the vintage car period ends in 1925, after which the cars are classified as 'classic'.

In this article, the term vintage relates to the make and model of the car, not the year that the toy was manufactured.

Starting Your Collection

When starting your collection, you should perhaps have an idea of what you want to collect exactly. Because there are a range of vintage toy cars made from different materials, as well as the actual make, model and manufacturer of the toy, perhaps it's best to get an idea of what you're aiming for before you start. For instance, if you have a passion for tin or die-cast or iron-cast toy cars, aim to collect just those. You may prefer to collect the same car model in different toy guises - either way, having a clear idea before you set off is the best way to get your collection started.

The Box!

A toy car is always more valuable if it comes with the original box. Obviously, the older the toy, the more chance there is that the box has been subject to wear and tear, or lost or destroyed altogether. So it's no surprise that the more rare or older the toy, if it comes with the box it's going to be much more desirable for you and future buyers. You should bear this in mind when collecting newer vintage car toys - looking after the box as much as the toy itself can prove profitable.

Some collectors like to collect trade boxes that were never released to the public - the bottom line is that you should take care of the box, you never know how much value it could add to your collection!

Popular Makes and Models

Perhaps the most well known of all toy car manufacturers is Dinky. Dinky toys can still be found all over the country, and the introduction of online auction sites has made them more accessible than ever. Because there are so many dinky toy cars that have been produced, it would be laborious to upload a whole catalogue of desirable makes and models. However, you should bear in mind that it is thought that a Dinky toy in the box in mint condition can fetch up to 10 times more than one that has been played with, and subject to wear and tear.

The most valuable Dinky car ever sold at auction was a 1937 Delivery Van adorned in the livery of Bentalls stores.

Matchbox also produce a vast range of collectible die-cast toy cars. Those looking for specifically vintage makes and model of car should look at their 'Yesteryear' collection, featuring gems such as the Morris Cowley.

Things to Look Out For

When buying a vintage toy car, you should pay attention to the wheels and tyres. These are the parts of the toy that are most susceptible to the wear and tear process, particularly when played with. Good examples will have no or little paint chips and all tyres will be in tact.

Pre-war models were also made with a softer alloy, which means that mint or good condition Dinky toys from this period are highly sought after.

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