Most of us have fond memories of childhood days spent with our favorite toys, but what can be surprising is just how valuable some of those old cars or dolls we used to play with are in today's market. Nostalgia is a major motivator in the toy collecting hobby, and some people will pay thousands of dollars to once again own a piece of their youthful history. Yet not every toy from the past commands a high price. Careful research is vital in determining whether that slightly battered plaything is trash or treasure.
Identify the toy you are researching accurately. Many times toys are produced in several varieties. For example, your average Corgi 349 Morris Mini-Minor from the 1960s might be worth a tidy $200 or more, while a rare variety of the same toy car produced in 1967 can be worth $2,400. Buddy L trucks from the '20s and '30s were made from a heavier grade of metal than ones in later years. Understanding the difference at a rummage sale can help you know if you are holding a toy potentially worth $50 or $5,000.
Evaluate your toy's condition. Like most collectibles, toys are worth more to collectors when they are in as close to new or mint condition as possible. Many of the older Buddy L vehicles, for example, were so sturdy that their play life was extended longer than average. According to "O'Brien's Collecting Toys," about 50 percent of them may be sound but are rusty or repainted, factors that lower their value considerably.
Determine if the toy is complete or not. Many dolls and action figures came with specific clothes and secondary items such as miniature telephones, guns, tennis rackets, etc. Certain die cast vehicles such as Hot Wheels were bundled with tin pins or badges and occasionally had items such as surfboards attached. Having all of these additional items can dramatically increase the value of the toy. Additionally, premium prices are often paid when the toy is still in its original package.
Research your toy in an online price guide or on a collectibles site that specializes in the type of toy you have. Not only do these sites often include a value for the toy, they sometimes have other information related to your collectible, such as its history, scarcity or whether or not it was bundled with other secondary items.
Consult a good toy price guide from your local library or bookstore. In addition to possibly finding the value for your specific toy, you may learn how to identify other toys from the same line or competing ones that can help you know whether that snazzy fire engine you find at next week's garage sale is worth the price or not.