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Collectible Toys

Find out which collectible toys are in high demand.

Collectible toys are generally worth more if they are in mint condition, were popular in their day, are still in the box and are rare. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Collectible toys are generally worth more if they are in mint condition, were popular in their day, are still in the box and are rare.

Collectible toys don't have to be very old to be valuable -- they're valuable because they tap into the nostalgia that purchasers have for their childhoods. According to USA Today, toys can become valuable when they are only a few decades old. Therefore, a childhood toy from 20-30 years ago might be worth a lot of money. Collectible toys are generally worth more if they are in mint condition, were popular in their day, are still in the box and are rare. Collecting toys can be very lucrative if done right; in fact, toys can even be an investment.

Some toys are more valuable because of their manufacturer. For example, Marx Toys sold almost one-third of the toys in America in the 1950s, but the West Virginia company went out of business after its owner sold it in the 1970s, according to the Marx Toy Museum. As a result, Marx Toys, which many purchasers remember playing with as children but can no longer buy new, can be very valuable. In 2008, one collector sold a Marx Toys' wagon train play set from 1960 for more than $15,000, according to bidtrenz.com, a site that monitors trends in collectible toys.

Many resources are available for toy collectors -- from magazines devoted to their specialties to a plethora of Web sites to books and pricing guides. Magazines such as Toy Fare offer pricing guides for toys including action figures. Entire conventions revolve around some collectible toys because many collectors specialize in a specific line. Collectors of die cast model cars can attend such conventions. The online auction site eBay, one of many Web sites where collectible toys are sold, has a detailed buying guide for collectible dolls and other collectible toys. Collectors sell everything from cloth Raggedy Ann to Barbie dolls. The Internet has breathed new life into the collectible toy market. Many Web sites, such as What's It Worth to You, appraise collectible toys or allow collectors to sell them online. Collectors who specialize can also join collectors' clubs, such as the Transformers' Collectors Club and the G.I. Joe Collectors Club.

Classic Toys in Demand

Action figures are always in demand, and they are worth much more if they were kept in the original box. Early Star Wars figures are particularly valuable. Toys that are unique -- such as a Jawa action figure with an unusual plastic cape -- are worth more than the same action figure with a cloth cape, which was more common, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. Thus, researching the toy's uniqueness is important. G.I. Joe action figures are also popular with collectors; the Hasbro G.I. Joe was the first action figure on the market. Female figures are especially valuable because they are rare. For example, G.I. nurse is a rare action figure that can sell for several thousand dollars.

Space and mechanical toys are popular with baby boomers. According to USA Today, one battery-operated robot retails for several thousand dollars. Transformers, which date back only to 1984, are another sought-after collectible toy.

Toys associated with superheroes have had staying power in the collectible toy market; Superman and Spiderman toys are always in demand. Interest in toys often increases when movies are released featuring the characters.

The Web site What Sells Best tracks the top selling collectible toys on eBay and provides a good barometer of the most valuable classic toys.

Some of the most popular collectible toys are:

  • Star Wars figures (as well as other pop culture figures, such as Lord of the Rings). The most valuable Star Wars toy is Vlix, a short-lived character from 1983. According to the Star Wars Collectors Archive, Vlix is a sought-after toy because it is the rarest Star Wars action figure; it's believed that only 20 are in the hands of American collectors.
  • Pez dispensers. eBay has a detailed guide to selling Pez dispensers, as do many other Web sites devoted to the collectible toy specialty, such as collectingpez.com
  • Hot Wheels and other die cast model cars.
  • Transformers. The Web site botcollector.com offers specific suggestions for rating the value of Transformers.
  • Space toys and robots.
  • Japanese toy lines, especially tin toys.
  • G.I. Joe. One G.I. Joe prototype sold for $200,000. G.I. Joe figures are worth more if they come with accessories, are in mint condition and are wearing the original clothes.
  • Wooden toys, such as trains.
  • Classic Barbie dolls.
  • Rocking horses.
  • Smurf toys.

"Investing" in a Toy Collection

Some people invest in collectible toys instead of putting money into stocks or pensions. Collectible toys can bring investors a 15 percent return over 20 to 30 years. Toys that are often sold at auctions or online can bring in thousands of dollars. Toy Collector magazine reports that the collectible toy market has generally been on the upturn even during tough economic times, with multiple auction houses in the market for toys.

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