Nostalgia A Powerful Motivator For Toy Sale Bidders

Nostalgia A Powerful Motivator For Toy Sale Bidders

01/12/2023     General News

They say that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, and yet it remains a powerful motivation for buyers in the saleroom, writes Emily Ayson. 

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 manage to.

Tuesday next week sees a Vintage and Modern Toys, Dolls, Games, Video Games and Computers Sale in which some 378 lots offer grown-ups of all ages the chance to rediscover their childhoods.

One of the most enduring toys of the 20th century was Action Man, still the greatest hero of them all.  Launched by Palitoy in 1966, Action Man built on the success of ‘GI Joe’ in the US, which had hit the shops two years previously.  In those days the idea of a ‘doll’ for boys was a huge risk, and the marketing material referred to ‘action figures’ and ‘moveable fighting men’ rather than using the d-word.

More than half a century later, Action Man is still going strong, now marketed by Art & Science International, but early Action Man figures remain very much sought after in the saleroom.  In 2009 a prototype GI Joe sold for $200,000.  Our sale next week has a 1960s Action Man figure, still in its box, which has a pre-sale estimate of a more affordable £70-£100.

Tinplate toys were a mainstay of toyboxes in the first half of the 20th century.  Often beautifully made, and robust, they would be unlikely to appeal to today’s young people, but for those growing up in a less technological age, they offered huge play value and a link to the wider adult world.

First introduced in the mid 19th century, tinplate toys came into their own between the world wars, when new tin ore mines in the US provided plentiful and cheap raw materials.  Production stopped almost entirely during World War Two due to a lack of materials, and although there was something of a renaissance in the far east after the war, more sophisticated toys - and the advent of plastic – meant they had really had their day.

We have a variety of tinplate toys in our sale next week, including some fine early German examples.

We are well-used to seeing new technology launched at a frightening rate, but that does not mean that the earliest personal computers have been consigned to the dustbin; in fact, there is a thriving market for them.

Designed in Bradford, and built in Telford, the Tatung Einstein personal computer was launched in 1984 by Taiwanese company Tatung.  It was popular with programmers as a development machine, but was not commercially successful, which makes it rare today.  It cost £499 in 1984 – equivalent to around £1,900 today.  Our sale next week has a boxed example from the launch year, with an estimate of £80-£120.

Finally, teddy bears retain their appeal in the saleroom, and not just the ‘big names’ such as Steiff and Bukowski. 

Yootha Rose was born in Australia in 1899 when her singer father Charlie Rose was touring with Nellie Melba.  The family came to England when Yootha was 18, at which time she joined a concert party and entertained troops during the First World War.  She later went on to design sets for the West End and during Worl War Two became a teacher in Dorset and began making toys.

She created 16 original toys for the Britain Can Make It Exhibition (London 1946) and later received orders for around 40,000 more.  She provided toys to notable members of the Royal Family, including a roundabout for Prince Charles and dolls for Princess Anne.  She used a variety of materials including wood, paper and fabric.

Our sale next week includes one lot of miniature felted teddy bears which through style and provenance could well have been made by Yootha Rose.  The ten charming bears have a pre-sale estimate of £40-£60.

Keys’ Vintage and Modern Toys, Dolls, Games, Video Games and Computers Sale takes place on Tuesday 6th December at its Aylsham salerooms and live online.  Full details, including an online catalogue, at

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