Collecting Tin Toys

Tin Toys were originally produced as children’s toys – just like the great Teddy Bear.  So, who would ever have thought that in the future tin toys would be collected by adults the world over.

Originally, tinplate toys were stamped out of and moulded by hand-operated devices, then decorated by hand – a very time consuming process.  Later on, however, as powered machinery began to take over many of these processes, many more tinplate toys could be produced.

The capital of toy production, especially tinplate toys, had to be Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany.  It was indeed the historic centre of the toy industry long before the word ‘toy’ was used to describe children’s playthings.  Soon, Nuremberg toys started to pour out of Germany, and literally flooded the toy markets all across the world.

Tin Toy production from other countries began, possibly as a result of the shortages caused by the First World War.  After the war, many countries, including Japan, attempted to take over the tin toy market, but not very successfully, the tin toy market was still heavily governed by Germany and after just a few years, Germany had once again regained it’s lead in the toy markets.  German tin toys were remarkably well made, innovative and were very reasonably priced, considering their very high quality.  Germany governed the market right up until the Second World War.  At the end of this war in 1945, Germany found it very difficult to recover the industry, one of it’s major problems being a shortage of materials.

Toy production did, however, make a comeback, especially in Bavaria, which was now in the American Sector of Germany and up until the 1950’s, the tin toys that were produced there had certain markings, ‘Made in the US Zone.’  After the 1950’s, toys started to carry the name of it’s country of origin.  We would also note here too that, similarly, Japanese toys made just after the war were also marked ‘Occupied Japan.’  By now, many German toys were marked ‘Made in West Germany’ due to the country’s East/West divide.

Once the toy industry got back on it’s feet, it was Japanese toys that started to take over the tin toy market.  Japanese tin toys were by now of a much higher standard than they once were and many tin toys were powered by battery which meant that they could move, have flashing lights and they also made exciting noises.  However, Japanese tin toys were aimed mostly at the American market, this being evidenced by the tin toys produced such as American Police Cars and Limousines.

With the arrival of the late 1950’s to early 1960’s, the tin toy market had started to decline dramatically and many manufacturers started to close their doors.  This was because plastic toys had now started to enter the toy market.  Plastic toys were modern, economical and much safer than their tinplate rivals.  Safety laws were now starting to enter the toy world and tin toys with their sharp metal tabs etc. were not deemed to be safe for young children any longer.  Japan dramatically reduced their tin toy output while big names such as Schuco and Marx in America ceased production completely.

Today, most old tin toys are bought by Collectors.  ‘Post-war’ and ‘Pre-war’ tin toy collectors always refer to World War 2 (1939 – 1945).  Tin toys produced either side of the First World War (1914 – 1918) are referred to more specifically – ‘It’s pre World War 1′ or ‘it dates from just after the First World War.’  These are probably the most used phrases for such toys.

Most tin toy collectors have certain areas of tinplate which they collect.  It can either be a specialised item or it may be a certain manufacturer, such as Schuco.  These beautiful old models can certainly fetch some very high prices, depending, of course, on their overall desirability and/or condition.  Many of these toys made by companies such as Schuco really are superbly made and are therefore nothing less than tiny works of art.

Many fine example of old tinplate models still come on to the market today.  A collection of these wonderful models certainly create a collection worthy of lots of interest and would certainly make a fantastic heirloom which is intense in character.


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