The Antique Toy Archive

Jet-Setting Jeffrey

Antique Toy World, June 1985

Jeffrey Levy’s shop “Mint & Boxed,” must surely be the most go-ahead enterprise of its type in the world! In only six years young Mr. Levy unceasing energy and hard work have created a business which has caused quite a stir in the toy trade – not only in England, his homeland, but internationally wherever toy collecting is in vogue.

Old toys have become one of the world’s “in collectables” and may well be described as “fun investments.” Their investment potential is patently obvious to all who see the amazingly high prices these bygone playthings realize whenever they come on the market. They have the obvious bonus of being appealingly nostalgic by nature and wonderful conversation pieces when tastefully displayed in the home. In most cases, their artistic appeal is irresistible – particularly if they incorporate some form of ingenious mechanical mechanism!

In less than a year, Jeffrey Levy’s “Mint & Boxed” showroom in London has created worldwide interest and has been visited by collectors and dealers from many distant lands. It is true that the shop contains a superabundance of mint and boxed Dinky Toys; there is a Dinky dominated air about the place. Even the Dinky box logo of the ’50s-‘60s decorate the counter and the shop frontstage!

There are many other makes of diecast models to be had, though, and an excellent selection of beautifully preserved tinplate toys.

“When I first commenced dealing, I ran a mail order business and specialized in diecast models,” Jeffrey explained. “But I am now concentrating more and more on tinplate items.”

Jeffrey follows a jet-setting life; always in search of fresh items to replace the ones he sells from his shop or to some of his 2,000 clients who are kept regularly informed of his stock by a computerized mail-order listing sent out every other month.

“Whilst I’m away on my travels, I leave everything in the care of my very capable staff in London. They are most efficient and can well attend to any queries posed by visitors during my frequent absences.” He informed me.

Success in his venture – coupled with the great interest shown by collectors on the opposite side of the Atlantic – Jeffrey decided to open a branch of “Mint & Boxed” in sunny California. Opening in September, the new shop will be situated in Beverly Hills, just a 20-minute drive from his Marina del Rey apartment, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where he pays regular bi-monthly visits.

Already he has vast stocks of toys stored in the U.S.A., ready for the new shop, including plenty of 1950s Japanese tinplate.

“I have noticed that the demand for tinplate toys in America is about equal to that of diecast models,” Jeffrey pointed out to me. “And, in Europe, the accent seems to be a little more on diecast collecting.”

Jeffrey is fully convinced that the future of the toy collecting hobby is assured and that the investment potential is immense. This entrepreneur in juvenilia never ceases his international searching for new material, and he also likes to take the opportunity of meeting his clients personally.

“You just cannot beat face-to-face talking,” he said. “and I can see exactly what I am buying. “I advertise to buy and sell only the best; there must be no compromise on quality!”

“You know,” he continued, “since I opened my London shop I have quadrupled my regular mail order list. Some of the world’s top collectors have attempted to call my bluff on the quality of good offered; when they received them they have ‘phoned us to thank us. One even described us as magicians!

The next step Jeffrey is takin is to introduce his very own charge cards carrying the smart, striped Dinky logo he has adopted as his own trademark. These will be available to Christmas and will be accepted for personal customers’ credit at both the U.S.A. and U.K. branches of “Mint & Boxed,” as well as on mail-order goods. All the other major credit cards will still continue to be accepted.

Personally, I am more interested in tinplate toys than in diecast models, and it was fascinating to take a look at some of the tinplate goods on show in the London shop.

There was an interesting collection of tinplate ‘buses – including a fine pre-World War II single-deck Green Line ‘bus by the German firm of Tipp & Co. This was unusual in being preserved with its original cardboard box. Tinplate toys are harder to find with original boxes – indeed, many never had then in the first place – so, in this respect, Jeffrey has to be content in finding examples in near perfect condition. Another single-deck ‘bus was a 1930s product of Burnett, complete with illuminated headlamps!

A 1930s “Transport Routiers” van, made by the French firm of Rossignol – complete with tinplate deliver and clockwork powered – was in splendid condition, and I think, was evidently one of Jeffrey’s favourite pieces!

Fascinating, too, were a couple of nicely preserved boxed motor car construction sets by Maerklin (and one by Schuco, too!); all the pieces still tied in the boxes. A future owner will be faced with the quandary of leaving the boxes, just as they were sent out from the factory to the shops, or removing the parts for assembly!

Flying machines, suspended from the ceiling, include a large American-made airship as well as various airplanes, one of which is a good example build from a Meccano construction outfit of the 1930s.

Jeffrey maintains that the appearance of the shop sets the scene for good business – as does the attention to customers’ requirements from the high quality stock.

“A top-class professional image must be presented,” says Jeffrey. “Three or four years ago the second-rate had a market, but not now, in the present economic climate, where people with money to spend or invest demand only the very best.

“It is a fact that the gap between tip-top examples and the rest has widened considerably over the last few years,” he continued.

“We now have a new breed of collector who is prepared to pay only for the best and nothing less. And the original box for the item has an extra special importance nowadays.

Jet-setter Jeffrey has only just returned from the U.S.A. and showed no trace of jet-lag. “I’ve worked out a method of avoiding it, “he smilingly explained.” “It’s really a matter of diet and adjusting the body to the time differences.”

Next day he was off to the Continent, to visit France, Belgium, and Germany.

The ‘phone rang out; it was a client calling from Italy. Couldn’t help smiling when I saw the ‘phone; it was in the shape of a model Porsche!

Playing with toys is one thing; talking to them is another!

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