I began to collect tin-plate toys about twenty-five years ago. Brand new ones were reasonably cheap then, and although you’ll still find such things as wind-up mice for a couple of quid, prices have risen sharply.
Tin-plate toys were first made in Germany in the 1850s. As lithographic printing on metal improved, the price of the toys fell, and their light weight made them cheap to export. German antique toys, especially those by E P Lehmann, are now very collectible, and bring high prices.
I bought this rocket for about a fiver back then, and they are selling for about £15 today. It’s a friction drive model – pull it back, let it go and it trundles along until the tip hits an obstacle, whereupon it rises to an upright position and the stairs drop down, revealing the cosmonaut inside.
Here are a couple of frogs; the large one is Russian, the smaller one is Chinese.
This is a Chinese sparrow, with a fixed key, with its box. I paid less than £5 for it new – I have seen them for sale today, in the box, for over £40.
This is a Rakuten ‘Happy Bunny’ drumming rabbit, made in China in the 1990s, which I think is fantastic – wind him up and he goes on for ages, drumming furiously and rocking his head madly from side to side. His splendid retro look has led to this model being offered for sale by some less than scrupulous sellers as genuine vintage toys, with matching prices – into the hundreds of pounds. This one, even though being honestly offered as a reproduction, I’ve seen on sale for between £44 to £65. If you find one for about a tenner, buy it – not even as an investment, you’ll get ten quid’s worth of pleasure from it.
Three cars; two MGs from Japan, and an ambulance from China. All three are pull-back-and-go friction models.
Another friction model – this one is a Japanese fish. Pull out the small fish, set him down and off he goes, with the big fish in hot pursuit. When the mechanism winds down, he catches up to, and swallows, his prey.
This is a Chinese ‘phut-phut’ boat. The idea is you light a fuel pellet in the body and the heat produces steam, which drives the boat through the water. I haven’t had the nerve to try it out.
This is a Chinese chicken. There should be a joke in this, somewhere. I’ll leave it to you to make up your own.