Updated: Oct 10
Ask anyone if they remember the toy they loved as a child; odds are, they'll be able to tell you exactly what it was and why it mattered to them. Nostalgia is an emotion near and dear to the hearts of many, and something about the playful joy of our old childhood toys embraces that feeling. Whether you stored them away for safekeeping or passed down your beloved Hot Wheels collection and Barbies to your children, these collectibles have always been and will always be cherished. But not just by children—collectors love them, too!
From the rare toys of the early 1900s to the more recent 2000s toys and even figurines, these collectibles are coveted by many communities that spend time and money hunting them down. Learn more about the collecting world and discover if some of your prized possessions could be valuable!
Why Do People Collect Toys?
For some people, collecting comes from a deep-rooted sense of nostalgia and yearning for a simpler time. When we're children, all we have to worry about is the imaginary world we create using our favorite toys. In adult life, there's a whole lot more to worry about. Taking a step back and indulging in a hobby that makes you feel young again is a fun way to relive that childlike joy.
For others, collecting one-of-a-kind items is a chance to own a tangible representation of their passions and hobbies. From displaying beloved action figurines from a favorite franchise to setting up scenes of your favorite My Little Pony horses, dedicating time and effort to collecting vintage toys and collectible figurines is a way to express your interests and connect with other lovers of valuable collectibles.
Some antique toy collectors are in it for financial gain. With the right research and intent to sell, people can turn a profit online or at our antique mall events. Some items can be a worthwhile investment if you know where, how, and when to sell them.
Who Can Collect Toys?
Anyone of any age or gender can collect toys! Whether they realize it or not, most people have been collecting toys since childhood—and there's still no age limit! From children saving up their allowance to buy Lego sets or grandmothers collecting antique dolls from thrift stores, people of all ages can have a passion for fun and rare toys and figurines.
What Makes a Childhood Collectible Valuable?
When it comes to the value of antique toys, the condition is always a factor. But there are many different condition options to consider. Many collectors will only buy mint condition toys from unopened boxes or with no visual issues. But those collecting for sentimental reasons may not mind a few scratches or if it's unboxed as long as it's the one they're searching for. Companies that do appraisals can value your toy based on its condition if you're interested in selling it.
Another factor to consider when valuing your toys is their rarity. As in most collecting, the rarer a product is, the higher the demand—ultimately increasing the price tag. If a toy was manufactured for years or in a high quantity, chances are that it won't be highly valued. But, if only a few were made or the vintage toy is rare, you can make more money.
Not all collectibles are created equal depending on the year it was made and the toy type, the value can differ drastically. Remember that 2000s toys and antique toys can have drastic differences, from the quality of the material to the amount produced. When searching in your old toy chest or amongst the antique store’s vintage furniture aisles, take stock of what types of toys you own before assuming you have anything of value.
How to Get Childhood Collectibles Appraised
If you're interested to see if the value of your beloved childhood toy has increased over the years, certain businesses offer appraisals to give you an accurate price. Many online appraisal sites can help you, such as Noel Barrett, Vintage Toy Authority, and Value My Stuff. For an in-person appraisal, search your area for local mom-and-pop services or traveling antique shows.
You can manually check old toy price guides for another hands-on approach. There are a few different companies that offer these, considering current market values as well as grading systems. If you want to sell your vintage toys or barter with a collector, you can use a price guide as a place to start.
3 Places to Find Childhood Collectibles
You can start your toy collection from anywhere! If this hobby sounds up your alley, start perusing these three locations to find valuable toy brands and figurines of your own:
Browse Online for Collectible Toys
Start your search for toys online from the comfort of your own home. If you're looking for expensive items currently in production, like certain Lego sets or limited-edition figurines, you can buy them straight from retail store websites.
If you're interested in rare figurines, there are many different online avenues to follow. Auction websites like eBay can be a helpful resource, allowing you to bid on any collectible listed. Other sites like AntiqueToys.com specialize in authenticating and reselling old and rare toys that are difficult to find. You can even find online forums for the toy-collecting community or personal websites of individual sellers and strike a deal!
Search Antique Malls and Thrift Stores for Rare Toys
Experience the thrill of hunting down collectibles in person at your local antique mall or thrift store. Plenty of unsuspecting people donate their old stuffed animals, action figures, and play sets to the thrift store without thinking about the surprisingly valuable items in their homes. Do your research and bring your old toy price guides to determine the value of each intriguing item as you visit the thrift stores near you, and you could stumble upon an antique, rare toy!
Take a stroll and shop at antique malls to find curated collections of figurines and toy brand items created by our passionate vendors. With endless rows and booths and a constant rotation of wares, there will always be unique options and rare toys to find. As you're hunting down the perfect toys to add to your collection, you can make friends with like-minded sellers who love collecting vintage toys as much as you do.
Who knows—as your collection grows, you may even be inspired to set up a rental booth and become a seller yourself!
Find Childhood Collectibles At Home
Sometimes, you may not have to travel at all! As you start your search, don't forget to check your own home. Unpack the storage boxes at your parents’ houses, ask your aunts and uncles if they have any toys they need to get rid of, and take stock of the 2000s toys from your childhood. You may have an expensive toy in your house without even knowing it!
How to Determine the Date of a Toy
If you're unsure how old an antique toy is, a few methods exist to determine the year it was manufactured. Certain companies have specific symbols to help collectors identify the date it was made, like Fisher Price's model numbers. Other toys, especially the older ones made with out-of-date technology or uncommon materials, will have a maker's mark, patent, or country of origin. From there, you can use online resources and antique toy guides to look up the specific mark and help accurately identify the date the toy was made.
Popular Toy Companies and Their Most Valuable Items
If you're going to join this nostalgic and exciting world of collectible figurines and toys, you should have a baseline understanding of some of the most popular toymaking companies. From their humble beginnings to their decades-long success, these three toy companies have been around for ages, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon:
1. Mattel Toys
Mattel has been one of the most successful toy companies since 1947, thanks to the invention of the "Uke-a-Doodle." Since then, it has designed timeless collectible toys adored by children and adults alike. Its best-sellers include fashionable Barbie dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Hot Wheels, the Magic 8 Ball, Fisher-Price sets, and many more. Not all Mattel toys are highly valued, but almost all have dedicated collectors worldwide.
Most Expensive Collectibles Made By Mattel:
Most of these toys cost under $15 when they were first made. Nowadays, collectors will pay anywhere from $1,000 to over $10,000 for these sought-after collectible items:
1969 Pink, Rear-Loading VW Beach Bomb Hot Wheel
Samantha Parkington, the American Girl Doll
Polly Pocket Compacts
Bat Signal Batman
2. Lego Sets and Minifigures
The Lego company was the first of its kind. Starting as an extremely popular wooden toy company in 1930s Denmark, it found fame and fortune when the founders invested in a plastic injection molding machine. From there, the first classic plastic brick was born—and the rest is history.
Lego sets are being made to this day, and even the current ones can become valuable overnight, depending on rarity and demand. Many collectors spend their days searching for rare Lego minifigures or collecting every Lego set from one franchise, like Star Wars or Harry Potter. With intricate designs and unlimited imagination, just about any Lego set you find at the antique store or online will have value sentimentally and monetarily.
Rare and Valuable Lego:
Many of the most expensive sets and figurines from the Lego company are out of production and extremely rare, with varying prices from a couple hundred dollars to tens of thousands:
Solid 14K Gold C-3PO Minifigure
6399 Airport Shuttle Lego Set
Ole Kirk's House
Space Command Center
"Mr. Gold" Lego Minifigure
3. Hasbro Incorporated
Three Polish brothers invented Hasbro in Rhode Island in 1923. Though it began as a textile business, it produced modeling clay and doctor kits as its first toys. Met with much success, the company has been making different iconic toys for the last few decades in partnerships with big-name brands, including Universal, Disney, and Star Wars to create iconic characters such as Mr. Potato Head, G.I. Joe and other action figures, My Little Pony, Easy-Bake Oven, and Littlest Pet Shop.
Hasbro's Most Valuable Collector Items:
Hasbro is a household name for a reason, but these incredibly valuable, collectible figurines and toy sets may be hard to find:
G.I. Joy, 1963
The Razor Crest, Star Wars Collection
Optimus Prime Auto-Converting Robot
Millennium Falcon, Legacy Collection
Galactus Marvel Legends Action Figure
How to Store Childhood Collectibles
Whether you're collecting low-price Barbies you remember from childhood or extremely valuable Lego sets, you'll need to consider how to properly store them. Your method may depend on the type of collectible, so it's worth asking local and online collectors about their preferred methods for keeping your prized possessions safe.
In order to protect the condition of your vintage collectibles, you should store them away from direct sunlight to avoid fading. If you decide to keep your figurines in their original packaging, you can create a secondary layer with plastic wrap to preserve the box's condition. While many collectors store them out of sight in a cool, protective space, there are safe ways to display them in your house for all to see.
Don't let any imaginary rules for storing your collectible toys define you. If you want to collect 2000s toys from your childhood and part of the fun is playing with them like you used to—go for it! As long as you know the value could depreciate if used; you can always take toys out of the box, scuff them up, and have fun. Your collection is for your enjoyment, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
It doesn't matter if you're 5 or 95—anyone can enjoy collecting toys! From digging up old treasures in the attic or browsing online auctions for hours as you wait for the Barbie you always dreamed of, indulging yourself in collecting is a fun hobby.
Research the most popular toys of the top toy companies in the world, pick your niche, and walk down memory lane by collecting the items of your childhood. Join us at one of our antique mall locations in Algonquin, Highland, or Melbourne today for a vintage collecting adventure you'll never forget.