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What are Antique Toys?

By Ken Black
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Antique toys may be defined in certain ways based on the individual's needs or preconceptions. For example, some may consider older models of bikes to be antique toys. In most cases, and for the purposes here, it is acceptable to define an antique toy as an item that is used, or can be used, primarily for recreation and was made in a different era than the current one.

While this definition may be considered somewhat subjective, that is because each dictionary, let alone each person, may differ slightly on their thoughts of what a toy and an antique are. For this reason, a variety of things may be found in antique stores that some may not consider antiques. Others may say the placement of the item fits perfectly well.

There are many different types of antique toys, the most common of which are often considered collectibles, (also spelled collectables). These antique toys were often mass-produced, but have since become more rare due to attrition. Antique toys commonly fitting this description include dolls and model cars. Due to the popularity of these types of toys, many prefer to collect them over a variety of periods, of which they are usually readily available. This can not only reflect the progression of technology, but also what human beings perceived as beautiful or desirable over time.

In addition to the dolls and model cars, antique toys that reflect a change in technology are often coveted. In these cases, there may be a modern equivalent already commonly available. These types of vintage toys include first-run editions of popular games, which can be especially valuable. Another value are those items which reflect a difference in how something is made. While, for example, chess sets are commonly available, finding one that is hand-carved is a rarity. As an antique, this adds value to it, versus the stamped-out plastic pieces commonly found today.

Those who are interested in collecting antique toys should keep in mind a few basic rules. The more rare the piece, the greater the value. Further, condition is also very important. Antique toys are worth more if they are in better shape, just as is the case with coins.

Keep in mind that any dealer in antique toys, and antiques in general, is going to try to get the most money possible for the item, no matter what its true value. Therefore, it is important to do research about an item desired. Never buy on impulse unless you are absolutely certain you are getting a great bargain. However, in order to be so certain, you should probably already have done your research before running across the item.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By GardenTurtle — On Jan 12, 2011

@christym: There are several different websites that you can go to that will give you an idea of what your Shirley Temple dolls are worth. My sister is a collector of Shirley Temple memorabilia. Some of her dolls are worth a lot of money.

The first Shirley Temple dolls were made between 1934 and 1939 and were known as composition dolls. They were basically made of a six-piece sawdust-based, wood-pulp material and it was painted flesh toned. These particular dolls had hazel eyes with hair upper lashes. Their eyebrows, lower lashes, lips, and nostrils were painted. This particular type of doll wore clothes just like the ones Shirley Temple wore during that time period.

Most of them (except for the very first ones) will have a marking that says “SHIRLEY TEMPLE” on the back of her neck. These dolls are valued anywhere from $200 (worst condition) to several thousands of dollars (depending on the condition and rarity).

By christym — On Jan 09, 2011

I have several really old Shirley Temple dolls. My mother passed them down to me. Several of them are still in boxes. Is there any kind of antique toys price guide that could tell me what they would be worth now?

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