All photos courtesy of James Julia Auctions, Fairfeld, ME

Lehman Masuyama wind-up tin toy.


Pre-war Japanese windup airplane.


Lehman Tut-Tut wind up tin toy with original box.




News Article

Old Tin Toys Did Amazing Things

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, June 2009

Whenever an auction catalog  containing old tin toys comes to my mail box I can hardly wait to check out what tricks they could perform. The James Julia November 20 catalog didn't disappoint me. Those offered were late 19th to early 20th century. Among them was a Lehman Masuyama wind-up with a Coolie pushing a rickshaw with an Oriental woman. When wound, the coolie's feet shuffle, the umbrella twirls and the woman fans herself. Another has a warrior holding a club in each hand. When wound he does summersaults.

These days with prices of sometimes $6,000, these toys are strictly for adults.

Tin toys are made from sheet iron plated with a protective later of tin to keep them from rusting. In the 19th century with the development of powered machinery and the invention of chromolithography it was possible to turn out thousands of toys inexpensively. Nuremberg Germany became the chief maker and exporter. However that changed after World War I. By the 1920s and 30s, with Germany recovering from defeat, the tin-plated toy market had shifted to other countries as well as Japan and the United States. However, their products weren't as well made as Germany's earlier toys.

Just before World War II, Germany was once again making quality toys. After World War II, once again Germany began producing tin-plated toys. Up to the 1950s they were marked "Made in the US Zone". Those made in post-war Japan were marked "Occupied Japan". These toys are considered serious collectibles since they were made with those marks for such a brief time. They sell from $500 to over a $1,000 at auction.

CLUES: Japanese toys made in the post-war 1950s, marked "made in Japan" keep going up in price. What makes them so special are the innovations that included robot toys with flashing lights, loud noises and battery operated or clock-work cartoon characters.

There are several categories that are collected; transportation, that would include horse and carriage, buses and locomotives, cabs and early airplanes. There are also hot air balloons and nautical toys. Others are jack-in-the-box, farm animals, circus clowns, dolls and robots.

Reproductions can be a problem with the early German toys. If the paint is too bright the piece is either a repro or has been touched up. Moveable toys should move and if key wind have the key. Some 50s toys have been re-issued. Among the makers are Paya of Spain and Schuco toys made under the German firm trademarked GAMA. They are racing teams.

Beware of "married" toys. This means new parts have been added that didn't originally belong.

Toys with original boxes usually doubles their value.


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