The Antique Toy Archive

Boys will be boys

Business World. Nov, 1990

There’s money to be made with toys – old toys, that is, Historic playthings are bringing enormous sums on the art market. Hugo Marsh, head of the toy department for Christie’s auction house, told the Sunday Times: “in the past two years our turnover has doubled.”

Among the recent sales was a tin ocean liner made in Germany by Marklin in about 1910. It was a sold at Sotheby’s for £14,300. A rare car made by Dinky Toys, originally priced at less then one pound, sold at Christie’s for £2,800.

The most successful antique toy salesman in Britain is 34-year-old Londoner Jeffrey Levy. He began his business, Mint & Boxed, in 1983. In its first year the firm had sales of £250,000. Last year’s sales were £13.5 million, and Levy expects this figure to double in 1991 when he moves his shop from Edgware to more fashionable Mayfiar. Levy also expanded his business this autumn to the US. Where he opened a gallery on Madison Avenue in New York.

A Number of well-known personalities collect toys, including singers Phil Collins and Rod Stewart. Some of Levy’s best customers are Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra, as well as actor Willian Shatner (Captain Kirk of Television’s Star Trek). The late millionaire industrialist Malcolm Forbes was also an avid collector and often visited Levy’s shop.

Malcolm Forbes’ son. Robert, said: “Like my father. I have always been fascinated by toy boats – ever since I played with them as a child in puddles, ponds and the bath-tub. Our collection here on Fifth Avenue has been accumulated over 25 years.” The Forbes collection is exhibited in family-run museums that are visited by more than 1,000 people a week.

Oddly enough, toy collecting does not seem to appeal to women. “I admit that is a male chauvinist hobby.” Levy said “Ninety-five per cent of my customers are men.”

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