Tin Toys

A tin toy is a mechanical toy made out of tinplate. There are many categories a collector can choose from when it comes to tin toys. Trains, boats, planes, cars & trucks, animals, pull toys, clockwork toys, friction-drive, age, etc. Some collectors stick with Halloween or Christmas toys. Some like to collect toys from only one manufacturer. It all just depends on what you like.

Tin toys are made out of tinplate which is steel that has been rolled out into thin flat sheets and plated with tin.

Tinplate was great for making toys because it was lightweight and easy for the machinery to cut and shape. Before 1880 the pieces were soldered together. After 1880 tabs and slots were stamped directly into the pieces then the toys where fastened together that way. By the 1880’s, lithographic presses were used to print various colors and details onto the tinplate before the toys where stamped out.

Tinplate has been used by tinsmiths in Europe since the late 1700’s to make kitchenware and toys. Its first use for toys in America was around the 1820’s but production really took off in the 1840’s when tin ore mines were opened in Illinois. By the 1920’s America had become the leading manufacturer.

Louis Marx and Company, an American firm, was the largest and most successful company producing tin toys from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.

Production of tin toys in America was discontinued during World War II because the raw materials were needed in the war effort. After the war ended, Japan became one of the top manufacturers until the late 1950’s. By the 1960’s plastic had taken over. It was cheaper and considered safer for playing with. Today, China is the largest producer of tin toys.

If you are starting a new collection or adding to one you already have you might browse about at the upcoming, “Antiques in the Streets” sale on September 10th. With approximately 50 dealers showing their wares you are likely to find something special. And of course, you can always find something unique at the Albany Antique Mall on 2nd and Ellsworth, a proud sponsor of the Points for Profit program.

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