Hidden treasures – making money from old toys is child’s play

That forgotten box of toys in the attic could turn into a treasure chest: Here’s what to look for.

If you or your children were big Star Wars fans or a Dinky toy collectors, or even if you were more Sindy than Barbie, if you’ve got a secret stash of much-loved toys in the loft it could be time to take them out and dust them down. Old toys can be worth big bucks.

Roland Ward who has been running Mr Blunden’s Dinky’s, an online shop on eBay selling 60s and 70s Dinky Toys, says old toys can be a profitable business.

“Old toys are very much a niche market, and not all are worth selling. The general rule of thumb is that age, condition and if it still has its box, increases value.”

Find a rare and sought-after item and you will find there is certainly plenty of value to be had from toys of old.

But when it comes to toys, age does not automatically make it valuable to a collector. While many other collectables often need to be truly ‘antique’ in order to be valuable, with toys, trends rule the market. The popularity of a toy – both at the time of the original purchase and at the time of re-sale – makes all the difference to how much it will fetch.

The most valuable toys in terms of re-sale are not necessarily those that would strike you at first glance as being the rarest or most unusual.

Instead, those which command the highest price are the pristine, preferably boxed versions of toys that were sold in their millions and played with until they broke. These sole survivors, by their very rarity, are the most highly desirable to collectors.

One other point to note when rooting through your old toys is to tread with care with anything originally sold as a collector’s item.

As Roland says: “If something was originally sold as a 'collectable' it means that there are possibly many good examples already safely stored out there, so its value may not be as great as you think it is.”

Star Wars

Collector's editions can be worth less than standard toys in good condition. Image: PA

One prime example of mass-produced toys which were loved by millions of children the world over and command even higher prices today among collectors are Star Wars toys.

Over the past decade there has been a huge resurgence in the popularity of Star Wars, probably largely due to the fact that Lego launched its own Star Wars series and introduced a whole new generation of boys, and girls, to the wonders of Tatooine and Naboo.

As a result the value of original Star Wars toys has sky-rocketed.

Patrick van der Vorst, a former director at Sotheby's London for over 12 years, who now runs website Valuemystuff, says Star Wars is top of many a collector’s list at the moment.

“Stars Wars was one of the first films to really take advantage of merchandising and as a result, there are a number of collectable toys to look for.”

The Star Wars action figures were one of the most famous toys of the 70s and early 80s. They were affordable and well marketed so plenty were sold, but find one in mint, unopened condition and it will be worth some serious money.

The most valuable today are those which although being an immensely popular and played-with toy have managed to survive the worst ravages of the playroom. This means, find in your possession a highly-popular yet brand new or good condition R2, Han Solo or Chewwy figure and you could have a small fortune sitting in the palm of your hand.

Palitoy made the British versions of the toys and in collecting circles they are considered more desirable than the US-made Kenner examples.

So aside from Star Wars what other toys should you keep an eye out for?

Dinky Toys
This 1930s Ensign van would have cost four pence new, it's now worth around £2,500. Image PA

What’s small by name, but a huge hit with collectors? Dinky Toys. Experts estimate that the prices have, an average, quadrupled over the past 15 years.

Noted auction house has got in on the act and started selling 70s toys. It recently sold an HG Loose promotional delivery van for a staggering £4,600.

Corgi cars
A Corgi Porsche 509 police car, now worth £100. Image: PA

Another hit among toy collectors is Corgi cars. Find one of the rare gift sets featuring Steed's Vintage 1927 Le Mans Bentley in red and black and the Lotus Elan Sl, driven by Emma Peel, in white, from the Avengers TV series and you’re on to a real winner.

Very few promotional items were produced for the cult TV series when it switched from black and white TV to colour. This Corgi ‘40’ Gift Set was produced in 1967 and was relatively expensive to buy even back then costing about £16/11.

But if you have one, boxed and in pristine condition you could make between £250 and £450.

Another one to look out for is the James Bond Aston Martin. This toy won the very first Toy of the Year Award in 1965. Find one in your attic in good condition, in its original packaging and you are quids in.

Matchbox toys
A Matchbox Mercedes Benz 230SL. It cost less than three shillings (15p) new and sold for £4,100 at auction. Image …

And let’s not forget Matchbox toys either. As popular pocket-money toys these sold for a couple of shillings each when they were first sold, but find a rare toy and you can make some serious money.

It’s the elite marques that you want to keep an eye out for. Your old Ford Cortina toy won’t fetch much, but find something rarer and a little classier and collectors will pay top dollar if it’s in good condition.

Take the Pontiac sports car. Made in 1970 and originally selling for two shillings and sixpence, experts say it could fetch up to £4,000 at auction today.

Steiff Teddy Bears
These early Steiff bears were found in skips. They were sold for thousands Image: AP

Most people have caught on to the collectability of Steiff bears, but find an original and you could be clutching on to a small fortune.

Christie's has seen collectors paying top prices, with the black Steiff teddy bear fetching an eye-watering £91,750, while several mourning bears made by Steiff in 1912 to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic have also been sold for vast sums.

The black bears, of which only 600 were made, have received valuations of up to £300,000, depending on their condition.

But it’s not only Steiff bears that are in demand. Auction house Bonhams has sold a number of famous teddy bears, such as Mr Bean's teddy, and even bears that once belonged to the likes of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Prince Phillip.

Barbie and friends
The 1959 Barbie No1 (second from right) with other collecitble Barbies. Image: PA

It’s not only soft toys that are a hit with collectors. Plastic toys, once sniffed at by collectors are seeing something of a resurgence. Early Sindy, Barbie and Action Man dolls are commanding high prices – especially in their original boxes, and complete with clothes and accessories.

As the best-selling doll in the world in her heyday, Barbie may seem an unlikely candidate for collectable of the decade, but find an original from around 1959 in mint condition and she could make you more than £2,000.

Action Man may not be quite as desirable, but find an original army, sailor or pilot version from the 1966 run and you could trade him in for £100.

It’s time to get sorting through that pile of old toys and see what hidden treasures you have lurking there, because find a collectable and you could be just a hop, skip and jump away from a nice bit of extra pocket money.