Toys are one of the cornerstones of childhood. It's fun to sift through a grandparent's old collection, and a visit to a parent's basement stirs up happy memories from carefree days. However, it can be hard to tell if a toy is worth a trip to the collector's shop or if its only value is sentimental. Toys are considered vintage after 20 years, and there are several key features to consider when evaluating the monetary value of a vintage toy.
One of the best ways to identify if a toy is valuable is by its patent number. Most toys have a number on the bottom that corresponds to the patent submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Search the office's website for full text and photographic information for toys made in 1976 or later. Patent information is available for toys dated between 1790 through 1975, but information for these toys may be incomplete. This site can also indicate whether a toy is a first edition, which increases the item's value considerably.
Another key feature to consider when assessing a vintage toy's value is its condition. The most valuable vintage toys are ones in "mint" or "C-10" condition; this means that the box is unopened, instructions are present, and all parts are included. Although "mint" condition has become a universal term, many vintage toy buyers utilize the "C-Scale" assessment system instead. This universal system assigns a numerical value from 1-10 and is a great indication of the value of a toy. The higher the number, the more a seller can expect to get for their vintage toy.
Everyone is familiar with cheaply made knock-offs. Boasting funny names and slightly skewed logos, it is easy to differentiate a modern knock-off from a brand-name product. With vintage toys, however, it can be tricky to spot the differences. An authenticity certificate lends credence to the toy's value, and many toy enthusiasts will pay more for a toy that has been certified as an authentic vintage.
Toy classification is another important factor to consider when determining the value of a toy. Toy buyers often look for toys that belong to a specific category, such as action figures, trading cards, or vintage toy cars. Because items such as these are highly collectible (a person could purchase many to achieve a complete set), these often bring in more money than other vintage toys.
Just like modern items, certain brands are more sought after than others. In the early 1900s, specialty brands produced toys in smaller batches with higher-quality materials. These products were often crafted by professional artisans and were hand-painted. Because toys from these companies are in smaller supply, these vintage items are valued higher than other mass-produced toys.
Star Wards action figures are some of the most popular vintage toys. These wildly popular movies from the 1970s launched a new era of toy development, with brands like Hasbro and Kenner jumping on board. Currently, the most sought-after Star Wars toy is the 1978 Luke Skywalker Action Figure. The action figures often sell for over $4000 when in mint condition.
PEZ dispensers have been around since 1949, when Eduard Haas revealed his candy dispensers at the Vienna Trade Fair. Marketed as an alternative to smoking, these cute candy machines quickly gained popularity. Collectors look to complete sets from different series, and rare designs are in high demand. Recently, the 1961 Political Dispensers sold for over $20,000.
Monopoly, possibly the most well-known board game in the Western world, has been around since 1903. Originally invented to teach people about money and the benefits of a balanced economy, the game grew in popularity over the decades. While many editions of the game have been produced over the years, the original Monopoly game is highly sought after. Check the patent number on your grandmother's old board—it may be worth a small fortune.
Comic books have long been a collector's item, but some are more valuable than others. Thanks to the movie franchises, Marvel Comics are gaining in popularity. Vintage comics in pristine condition can be worth a pretty penny—check the cover for ones marked at a retail price of 10¢, 12¢, 15¢, 20¢, or 25¢; these are the most valuable variety.
In the late 1990s, people flocked to Beanie Baby with the hope that these small stuffed animals would be worth the investment. Children were forbidden from ripping the tags of the little stuffed animals, and some owners bought cases to keep the animals in pristine condition. Unfortunately, most Beanie Babies are not worth more than their original cost. There are a few notable exceptions, however, like the blank-tag Scoop that recently sold for over $100,000.
Barbies have gone through many changes over the years, but what hasn't changed is its universal popularity. Invented in 1959, Barbies adapted to cultural changes throughout several generations. Original Barbies from the early 1960s and special-edition Barbies bring in the highest prices.
Debuting in 1998, these toys just barely meet the classification for vintage. While most Furbies are simply nostalgic, some can be worth a pretty penny. President Furby, a special edition Furby with only 36,000 in existence, sells for several hundred dollars.
Originally called My Pretty Pony, Hasbro developed the equestrian toy line in the early 1980s. Movies and television shows soon followed, which skyrocketed the toy's popularity. One of the most valuable My Little Ponies is Rapunzel, a pink pony figurine that sold for $1,500.
Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls first hit the market in 1915 as an inexpensive way for children to own dolls. Based on real children, these dolls were wildly popular and remain so to this day. While modern variations of the dolls are still manufactured, toy enthusiasts covet mint-condition originals. Dolls from the early 1930s are worth several hundred dollars.
Collectible items such as action figures and toy soldiers are some of the most sought-after antique toys. Coveted by collectors of all ages, even G.I. Joes in used condition sell for a few hundred dollars. Toys R Us sold several exclusive G.I. Joe collections in the 1990s; toys from these series can garner over $1,000 in mint condition.