The Antique Toy Archive

Toying with a small fortune

Times & Post, Oct 1984.
By Robin Stacey

They sold in their thousands for sixpence, 30 years ago but nowadays, with their boxes and in mint condition are worth their weight in silver.

Dinky Toys – the miniature metal copies of the cars, lorries, aeroplanes and boats of the post-war years produced in Liverpool for a worldwide market of energetic boys and girls are now worth a small fortune.

Fortunately for collectors such as Jeffrey Levy, who last week opened his new business, most of the users were a little too energetic for their toys.

The small number of each model that have survived in perfect condition and with that vital box are now worth hundreds of pounds. The lorry illustrated bearing the original advertisement is priced in Jeffrey’s shop at £780, compared to the 4/6d you would have paid for it in 1952.

With a little help from a British Leyland archivist, who plundered files of yellowing 1950s price lists we have discovered that the price is just £20 short of the £800 originally asked for the four ton lorry.

Said Jeffrey, 28, of September Way, Stanmore: “I was just as bad with my Dinkies as everyone else, I’m afraid. It’s only now that I realise all those head-on collisions with skirting boards and simulated multi-vehicle pile-ups were proving very costly.”

Jeffrey began his mail-order business six years ago while gaining business experience with the family whisky-exporting concern.

“My customers are spread out all over the world and I do a lot of my trading at big European toy fairs, so the siting of my shop was not going to matter a great deal. I did not necessarily need a High Street position but the premises here are ideal”.

You will not see anything other than mint and boxed models on offer in his shop. That means a minimum price of £50 for even the most common 1960s toys.

There is, however, a big market for less-than-perfect models and that dust covered biscuit tin in the attic that looks like a miniature breaker’s yard might contain something valuable.

Without a box a model’s value is instantly halved. That said, the most important factor is the condition of its casting. A model with original paintwork but a few small chips and scratches is more valuable to a collector than one which has been retouched A complete respray, no matter how professionally done, is the cardinal sin.

Although Jeffrey sells only the perfect item, he will buy almost anything. They will all fetch a price somewhere. Many of the items in your attic may be worth £5 depending on their age, rarity and condition.

Dinky were not the only manufacturers of miniature vehicles, but the best known. Jeffrey also handles old Matchbox, Corgi, and Triang Spot-On. They are all collectable, but not nearly as valuable as the Dinky range.

Dinkies began in 1933 as scale accessories for Hornby train sets but immediately made an impression in their own right. A year after they acquired a separate identity and by World War Two had a worldwide reputation. The golden years were the 1950s. With the influx of cheaper, hardwearing plastics in the 1960s demand for the zinc-based toys began to fall. Dinky folded in 1978 together with its parent company Meccano, leaving the way open for Jeffrey and a handful of other specialists to keep the Dinky name alive.

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