Scarcity of old toys begets premium prices

Old toys are expensive today because they are scarce. Children played with the toys, damaged them, scratched the paint, lost parts and eventually the toy was discarded because of its shabby condition.

Today collectors of early tin toys pay premium prices for toys in good condition with most of the original paint. To repaint it lowers the value.

One of the most famous 19th century American toy makers was George Brown. He worked in Connecticut from 1856 to about 1880. The toys were made of tin-plated sheet metal cut into pieces, soldered together and hand painted.

His partner was a clock maker and they made their own clockwork mechanisms. They made both push toys and toys that moved after the clockwork was wound.

A well-documented tin toy was made to represent the horse Dexter, a famous harness racing champion of the 1860s. A Currier and Ives print and many weathervanes pictured Dexter during his career. The horse was on a wheeled platform and originally had a removable rider but only one complete toy is known today.

A riderless horse was offered for about $1,500 at a past auction by Bertoia in Vineland, N.J. It would sell for much more today.

Q: I have a redwood rocking chair that has springs in the back for recoil. It was made by Vandy-Craft of Chicago. How old is it and what is it worth?

A: The name “Vandy-Craft” was trademarked by Edward A. Vandy of Park Ridge, Ill., in 1952. The trademark expired in 1994. The company was known for its redwood patio and garden furniture. Chairs, tables, ottomans, chaise lounges, settees and other items were made.

A high-back rocker made by Vandy-Craft, originally $17.99, was advertised for $9.99 in a 1962 newspaper. The rocker came with thick foam cushions. The value today with cushions is about $100.

Q: I got six Wedgwood plates from my aunt, who was a great estate sale shopper and antique collector. The backs are marked with a vase with three stars under it. The words “Wedgwood,” “England” and “Ovington Brothers” are below that. Is there a way to tell how old they are?

A: Wedgwood first used the Portland vase mark beginning in 1878. Three stars were added under the vase in 1900.

Ovington Brothers were importers with showrooms in Brooklyn and Chicago. The company was started by Theodore and Edward Ovington in 1845. Some manufacturers made china patterns specifically for Ovington Brothers.

The company’s name was changed to Ovingtons sometime after 1922. Your Wedgwood plates were made between 1900 and the 1920s.

Q: I have a songbook from the 1937 movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The cover reads “Souvenir Album, Words and Music of All the Songs from The World’s Greatest Picture, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” It was published by Irving Berlin Inc. The cover has a small tear and one corner is folded down. What is it worth?

A: Snow White was the first full-length animated picture made. Walt Disney won an honorary award at the 1939 Oscars ceremony recognizing the film as a “significant screen innovation.” Shirley Temple presented the award, one large statuette and seven smaller ones.

It’s one of the highest grossing movies ever. The movie has been rereleased several times and was made on video for home viewing in the ’90s. Many souvenirs of the original movie were made. This souvenir album is fairly common and sells for $5 to $10. Your copy, with cover damage, is worth about $5.

Q: I own a bronze statuette of Rebecca at the Well that was cast in two sections. The two pieces have come loose and have to be tightened up. The woman carrying a water jug is separate from the stone steps. It’s about 2 feet high. Can you recommend a restorer?

A: This should be a relatively easy repair, given that nothing is broken or missing. Any good antiques restorer should be able to fix it. The pieces just screw together.

Contact a museum or antiques store in your area to see if they have someone who does restoration.

Q: I inherited a collection of more than 100 10- and 12-inch records from my great uncle. Most of the records are from the early 1900s. The collection includes popular songs of that era and operatic solos by Enrico Caruso and others. All the records are in good shape and playable. Do they have any value? Are there collectors of such items?

A: The value of old records is determined by the fame of the recording artist, the sound quality and the condition of the record. Records made in the first half of the 20th century were made of shellac, a mixture of resin and fiber. The first 10-inch records were made in 1901 and the first 12-inch records in 1903.

The most valuable records are not necessarily the oldest and it can be difficult to sell old records. Most sell for only a few dollars, usually $10 or less.

You can find groups and publications online that will help you find collectors, or take your records to a store that buys and sells used records. They’ll tell you if any are worth more than a few dollars and which ones are worthless.

Remember, when selling to a dealer or shop, expect to get half of what they think they can sell the item for. They have to make a profit, too.

Terry &Kim Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

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