Currently, some of the hottest high-ticket items among art and antique collectors and dealers are not painting that are signed and framed; they’re toys that are mint and boxed.
Old toys– particularly rare, antique mechanical models of tin and cast iron that are in pristine condition, their original packing intact– are putting smiles on the faces of investors who play this aspect of the art market. Prices for fanciful examples of period plaything, from banks to horse-drawn and motor vehicles to trains and boats, are skyrocketing.
One of the key figures in this game is Jeffrey Levy, British founder and chairman of Mint & Boxed, an antique toy emporium whose name refers to the condition of the most valuable items tendered. With galleries in three cities– London, Tokyo, and New York– as well as an extensive cross-reference system which facilitates finding rare and special toys anywhere on the globe. Levy claims to have established “The world’s leading source for rare and antique toys.” His stock, consisting mostly of boys’ toys, represents items from the 1840s to after World War II; many are one-of-a-kind pieces with values that range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1 million– which only hits at the surge that the market has enjoyed since Levy established Mint & Boxed in London in 1983. That year, he says, the company sold $600,000 to $700,000 in toys; from June ’89 to ’90, sales were $28 million.