Harking back To Our Childhoods

Harking back To Our Childhoods

01/03/2024     General News

Most of us love to hark back to more innocent times, and this is the reason for the surge in demand for vintage toys and games, as buyers seek to own toys they loved in their childhood – or ones that they aspired to own when they were young, but didn’t quite manage to get hold of, writes Emily Ayson.

Wednesday next week sees a Vintage and Modern Toys, Dolls, Games, Video Games and Computers Sale in which some 368 lots offer grown-ups of all ages the chance to rediscover their childhoods.

Steam engines have always held a powerful fascination, especially for young boys (although thankfully we are now attracting more girls into engineering nowadays, so these are certainly not just for the boys).

Founded in 1912, Wilhelm Schröder GmbH & Co KG is better known by its trade name Wilesco.  The company was originally a producer of aluminium forks and spoons, but after the war it started to manufacture miniature steam engines.

Mostly powered by ‘esbit’, a form of solid fuel in tablet form, more recently they have embraced electric heating – but the basic steam engine technology is unchanged.  Along with British manufacturer Mamod, Wilesco is the world leader in working toy steam engines, and its models remain very popular in the saleroom.

In next week’s sale we have a boxed example of its ‘Old Smoky brass steam engine in very good condition, a classic which has been in continuous production since 1966.

Of course, it is in the world of model railways where the most widespread enthusiasm for steam engines can be found, and arguably the biggest name of all in this field is Hornby.  Founded by Frank Hornby in 1901, the company pioneered the now-standard OO gauge from 1938 onwards, and many post-war family homes had a Hornby train set chugging away.

The ubiquity of the brand does not mean that rarities don’t exist: special editions are often the subject of bidding wars in the saleroom, and our sale next week has a number of complete sets themed around royal jubilees, including one made for the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Another iconic post-war toy brand was Matchbox, which made toys cars in a smaller (and hence more affordable) scale than Corgi and Dinky.  Matchbox was originally a brand owned by parent company Lesney Products & Co; the name was a combination of founding partners Leslie Smith and Rodney Smith’s name (they were not related).

In the 1950s Lesney used a partner company ‘Moko’ to market and distribute its toys, and early Matchbox models had the text ‘A Moko Lesney product’ on the box.  These examples are much sought-after, and achieve among the best prices for Matchbox toys in the saleroom.  Since 1997 the Matchbox brand has been owned by Mattel.

As well as a selection of Moko Lesney Matchbox models, we also have a very rare Lesney Massey-Harris tractor in next week’s sale.  Introduced in 1954 and regarded as possibly the finest ever Lesney toy, the model was later scaled down to become the fourth ever Matchbox toy.

Keys’ Vintage and Modern Toys, Dolls, Games, Video Games and Computers Sale takes place on Wednesday 6th March at its Aylsham salerooms and live online.  Full details, including an online catalogue, at www.keysauctions.co.uk.

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