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Types of toy car to collect
The big advantage, at least initially, to collecting toy cars rather than the real thing, is that they don't take up too much space around the home. Buy wisely and chances are they won't lose value either, so long as you look after them and keep them out of reach from inquisitive youngsters! With a bit of luck they may increase in value over time, but this should be a bonus and not the sole reason for buying a particular range of toy cars.
Some examples of toy car construction
Pick up a magazine about old toys, or go to a toy fair (swapmeet) and you'll quickly see that there is a huge variety of toys to choose from. First thing perhaps to clarify in your own mind is what type of vehicle do you wish to collect toys of? Do racing cars or sports cars really interest you, or are military vehicles, buses, tractors or something else really appealling to you? Sort this out in your mind first, then you can begin to focus on whether you wish to collect all toys that relate to the subject, or focus yet further on a particular construction - by this I mean die-cast metal, tin plate, plastic, or even wooden models & toys.
Die-cast toy cars are probably the most numerous, with examples dating back to the early 20th century, right up to the modern day. Popular makes of older diecast toy include Dinky, Corgi, and Crescent, with modern toys (often on older subjects) easily available from companies such as EFE (Exclusive First Editions), Vanguard, Lledo and many more. They often have a one-piece moulded body, which is riveted or screwed onto a metal base. Some toys have plastic one-piece 'windows' fitted to them, whereas others just have gaps where the windows would be.
If starting out for the first time, I'd recommend building up a collection of diecast cars and diversifying into other materials at a later date. Old Dinky toys can still be found for reasonable prices simply because so many were made, rarer subjects or colour schemes will inevitably cost more, but plenty of toys, perhaps in slightly 'play worn' condition, are available for under £10 a time. Various examples of these toys will feature in the diecast toy car section.
Tin plate toys
The real heyday of tinplate toy production was in the 1950s and 1960s when the Japanese manufacturers churned out an astonishing variety of tin plate toys, some of which were automobile related. Earlier examples, dating to the 1920s and 1930s, can still be found, and are often German in make, but their rarity means that they'll be priced accordingly. Tin plate toys are often formed by taking a flat cut out of a car, onto which graphics may have been lithographed, and the plan formed and folded into the shaped of a car. This body is then attached to a metal base, often using tabs on the body sliding into slots in the base, and folded over. Some are fairly plain and simple, whereas others can incorporate vivid and intricate colourschemes as the lithographic process improved. Many of the tin plate cars found nowadays date to the 1950s through to the 1970s, and are probably either of Japanese, Chinese or Hong Kong production. The most valuable tin toys are those that date to the 1950s and earlier, preferably powered by a small motor (either battery or clockwork). More recent examples are much cheaper, in fact tin toys are still being made, although they can fall foul of modern toy safety regulations due to sharp metal edges. Repro toys can often be spotted simply because they look brand new, and show no sign of age. Few genuinely old toys show no sign of age at all. You can see some proper old tinplate toys on this page.
As the prices of old tinplate toys soared beyond many people's means, interest in older plastic toys began to gather pace. For years the plastic toy was seen as a the poor relation in the world of collecting, but things have changed. As with other types of construction, there are both cheapo and expensive examples out there to choose from. Whereas metal toys suffer abuse quite readily before falling apart, plastic is less forgiving, scuffing and cracking quite quickly in the hands of the excitable child. Hence good examples of plastic toys can take some finding, and, long term, this can only help their values increase. I've picked up all sorts of plastic toy over the last few years, from large hollow (vacuum moulded) jobs, down to tiny throwaway and penny toys, that would have been given away as freebies in cereal packets. Some are now featured in the plastic toy car section here at oldclassiccar. Plastic toys were cheap to produce, hence the huge variety that were made. But this simplicity of production means that survival rates for all but the most prolifically produced toys, are quite low. Grotty old Dinky toy cars will survive long after a similarly aged, and played with, plastic car will have been thrown away in pieces.
Many wooden toys were home made, very basic in appearance, and aimed at the youngest of children who, naturally, would not be too concerned about a toy resembling an actual car. Fine quality wooden toys are appealing, but are thin on the ground, the very basic toys that loosely follow the silhouette of a road car will not be worth much in most cases, and consequently will not cost much to the aspiring collector.
One area of toy car collecting that is very popular is old pedal cars. Enthusiasts hunt all over to secure the rarest examples of children's pedal cars. Some, from the 1960s and later, were made of plastic, and are perhaps the more affordable examples that can be hunted down, although rare versions of these won't exactly be around for giveaway prices. Metal is where the real interest is at, with condition, completeness and originality, being keenly sought by the serious collector. The favourite era for pedal-car collectors is between 1920 to 1960, most of which are designed along the lines of road cars, but also available are racing cars, tractors, fire engines, and even pedal-powered steam trains! Probably the most sought after pedalcars, in the UK anyway, are the Austin J40 and the Pathfinder racing car, and I'd be happy to add an example of the latter to my collection of old things.
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