One of the world’s leading dealers in antique collectable toys is Jeffrey Levy, who runs his business ‘Mint & Boxed’, from offices and showrooms in London.
He first started trading about eight years ago, gradually building up international business by mail order and through appearances at toy fairs in Europe and the USA. This success enabled him to open his Watford Way premises three years ago.
Originally he was concerned solely with dealing in mint and boxed examples of collectable diecast automotive models, the products of Dinky Toys in particular and his colourful blue and white striped logo, displayed over the shop premises, is based upon the artwork used to decorate many of the Dinky Toys’ cartons.
His interest in collecting and dealing in desirable old toys was sparked off by an inexpensive new toy car bought for him as a present, this revived nostalgic memories of similar toys he had as a child, he begun to make enquires as to where he might find some of these old toys and became well and truly bitten by the collecting bug!
Whilst British Dinky Toys are his favourites he told me that he was particularly keen on acquiring examples of the products of the French Dinky company.
“I feel that they are far superior in quality to their English counterparts and have a finer detail and finish – they seem to possess a charm of their own.”
“The decision to deal solely in mint and boxed items and to reflect this in the name of the business – was to make sure that my mail-order clients would know exactly what they were going to receive.”
“I still believe that personal contact is the best way to deal but, obviously, this is not always possible in an international business. Items which are described as ‘mint and boxed’ are received by a distant client in exactly that condition. To describe a toy as ‘slightly chipped’, for example may result in disappointment for a customer because on person’s idea of a slight chip can vary from another’s.”
Originally, Jeffrey specialised primarily in quality diecast models but, over the years, has included an increasing number of first-class tinplate toys in his stock for which he is finding an ever increasing demand from collectors world-wide. His storerooms, packed with rare diecast pieces, now also contain many scarce and beautiful tinplate toys, the majority being classical examples of the work of the early German toymakers. Many boxed examples can be found even though it is not always possible, for various reasons, to find boxed examples.
Prices of desirable diecast and tinplate toys have escalated over the past few years, especially those of the rare early classical tin toys and model railways which regularly realise four and five figure amounts in auction today. A fine Marklin toy battleship made in Germany in the 1920’s recently sold for a World record price for over £19,000! Such splendid toys, which include wonderfully detailed model cars, battleships, and ocean-going liners, have great investment potential and interest is increasing in this side of their stock from international professional bodies such as pension funds, museums, and city institutions.
“A mint-boxed Dinky Toy “Weetabix” van which cost under £1.00 when it first appeared on sale in the 1950’s is now worth around £15,000” I was informed; and of a beautiful tinplate model horse and trap he said; “This is a rare and early product by the German firm of Lutz and was made around 1880. It’s price is £1,700. The value of toys is, of course, based upon a combination of age, rarity, condition, and demand. This fine model of a train from the London Transport central Line was made much later by the British firm of Bassett-Lowke in the 1930’s. It has already been sold to a regular client for a sum of £12,500.
It was certainly in ‘brand new’ condition and had retained it’s original box. Nearby was a rather rare example of a New York street-car which had been manufactured by the famous German firm Marklin in 1908. Toys made by this prestigious company are highly valued by collectors and this example was being offered at £12,000.
“With most of my business being mail order – my clients are all over the world – it is essential that I handle items which are in pristine condition.”
“Because of our international standing I back up all my goods with an unconditional guarantee. A disappointed client will be allowed credit or an immediate cash refund on any item felt to be unsatisfactory. After all, it is the only way to. Create customer confidence and we work on the highest of business principles.”