Merchandise from Star Wars , Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings could be particularly valuable. Charlotte Beugge explains how to make money from your childhood toys.
The pile of plastic toys in your child's bedroom may be the way to your family's future prosperity.
Surprisingly, it's not just Victorian dolls and ancient train sets which are worth a mint. Even mass-market plastic toys from the Seventies and Eighties can command large price tags and today's plastic toys could be tomorrow's heirlooms.
And you may not even realise you've got a fortune stashed away. According to research from Zurich, the average value of items stored in lofts is £584. Its survey found that Barbies, Action Men and Fisher Price toys were popular attic inhabitants. Merchandise from Star Wars , Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings was also stored by many respondents and these could be particularly valuable.
But while more than half of those storing toys in the loft told Zurich they were hoarding for sentimental reasons, a fifth said they thought they would be worth something one day. And they don't need to be box perfect: even toys which have been much-loved and played with could be worth something.
Leigh Gotch, head of the toy department at auctioneers Bonhams, said: "Toys from the not too distant past which are rising in value include early hand-held electronic games and toys from fast-food meals. The original Barbie and Action Man already have a great collectable value, with the accessories and outfits sometimes more desirable than the doll. Thunderbirds figures (from the late Sixties to early Seventies), Star Wars toys (1977-83) and Hornby (LSE: HRN.L - news) trains also appear to be as valuable as ever."
Toys which are linked to their time but were not heavily promoted tend to be collectable. John Ennals, who runs the website Tortoys.co.uk , started collecting Dinky Toys around 20 years ago. Mr Ennals says that his customer base neatly divides into investors who want pristine models and those who remember playing with them when they were young and want to revisit their past.
He said: "Investors want boxes and any leaflets too. Half the value of an item can be accounted for by the box." The most valuable item he's sold was a Britains tractor for £550: it was also only produced for a short period of time which made it rare.
Out of this world: Prices can soar for Doctor Who and Star Wars
He gets much of his stock from people who find boxes of items when a family member dies. "Often they want items to go to a good home," Mr Ennals added. But die-cast models are not immune from the economic climate or indeed the effect of the media on prices. Mr Ennals currently has a James Bond car with its original box on sale for £150. "Several years ago one of those would have gone for £300," he said. "But there was an item on Blue Peter about them and after that, people remembered they had ones just the same and they flooded the market."
Mr Ennals warns that for toys to be worth anything, they have to be originally sold as toys, not as collectors' items. "I get calls from people saying they have extensive collections they bought in the Nineties. I have to tell them they are worth a fraction of what they paid for them: it is the fact that toys could have been played with, lost or damaged that makes them valuable."
Another of Mr Ennals' specialisms is the Britain's Floral Garden range. This was sold in the Sixties with collectors buying plastic mini-greenhouses, lawns and flowers to make their own gardens. "These appeal to both women and men," he added. A tiny piece such as a 75mm flower bed with 12 plastic gladioli is on sale for £12.75 without a box. "The gardens look really attractive: these sell to enthusiasts rather than investors," Mr Ennals said.
James Bond Corgi cars are popular with collectors
Mr Gotch added that classic toys such as Scalextric "will always be collectable and Hornby trains never diminish in popularity. And early Eighties hand-held electronic games are becoming very popular. With toys in your attic, the most collectable and valuable in the future will probably be the one that you least expect rather than the toys that were heavily advertised and promoted. Remember that the original toys collected by adults will be toys that have a connection with their childhood but also have a connection in their adult life."
Carlos Mendoza has turned a childhood interest into a collection. He collects Star Wars in particular. "I saw Star Wars in 1977 when I was seven years old and was obsessed throughout my youth." Mr Mendoza, a musician from Chicago and the father of seven-year-old twins has sold a chunk of his collection over the past few years but still has some special pieces.
"My pride and joy right now is my Stormtrooper armour and blaster which are as accurate to the first movie as they can get. I also have a first-run Darth Vader helmet that was released in 1977 around Christmas. It was handmade and is inscribed on the inside with the copyright information."
He also has around 100 vintage Star Wars action figures plus other memorabilia from Dr Who and other films and programmes. "I would think my collection in total is worth about $10,000 (£6,400) but prices do fluctuate. Sometimes something is worth $500 and a month later it can be worth $50."
Big boy's toys: Horby trains hold their value
= Why I'm holding on to Scalextric, Action Man and Barbie =
Margaret Coupland from Wrotham, Kent, has a sizeable collection of toys. "We've got four children so we've got their toys from when they were small including about 40 Corgi toy cars.
"My father started buying them for my son many years ago as he was certain they would be worth something one day. My father was a really keen collector and so my son, much to his annoyance, wasn't allowed to play with the cars. This is why they are still in their boxes which enhances their value."
Other toys in her extensive collection include Scalextric, Action Man, Barbie and toys given away free by McDonalds. "I think there's an element of luck with collecting. I do keep a keen eye out for items that will add to it." Mrs Coupland has also continued the family tradition of stamp collecting, started by her grandfather. She has stamps which are more than 100 years old including a penny black.
Her collections are all covered under her Zurich home insurance policy in case of damage or theft.
= TOP PRICE TOYS =
• Tinplate HMS Terrible made by Marklin in 1905 sold for £76,000 last year probably the most expensive toy ever sold in the UK
• Prototype of GI Joe made in 1963 sold for $200,000 10 years ago
• A Barbie doll with a diamond necklace sold for $302,500 in 2010
• A Steiff teddy bear dressed by Louis Vuitton sold for $195,000 in 2000
= CASH IN THE ATTIC? TOYS WORTH DIGGING OUT =
• Original (Seventies/Eighties) Star Wars figures
• Dapol and Denys Fisher Dr Who characters from the Seventies
• Handheld electronic games from the Eighties
• Toys given away by fast-food outlets
• Thunderbirds puppets from the Sixties or early Seventies
• Original Barbie and Action Man costumes
• Hornby trains
• Dinky cars and other die-cast models