Today I’m going to talk about vintage toys. Using a few examples of some iconic brands, I’m going to debunk a few myths about what’s hot and what’s not, while arming you with a few general pieces of advice about plastic playthings.
I can’t tell you if you are sitting on a goldmine, and I can’t tell you about vintage toys worth millions, but I can equip you with information. This in turn should give you a better understanding of the market place when it comes to buying or selling toys.
And just so you know, I am toy collector and a big fan of collectables. I’ve been collecting toys for longer than I care to admit, I regularly attend toy fairs and conventions, and I am an habitual eBay watcher/browser.
The discussion I’m about to have comes from my experiences, the tips and advice I’ve been given (and have picked up), as well as some general common sense and rules of thumb.
OK, so to ease you in to this lengthy discussion, let’s start with perhaps the most obvious question of all:
Are all vintage toys worth a lot of money?
Nope, nope, nope.
While there is a good amount of money in old, vintage, retro toys and collectables, not all of them are worth money. Being an old toy doesn’t mean you hold a lot of value, it can just mean you’re old!
Let’s use the toys from the 1997 movie, Warriors of Virtue as an example. These figures are now old enough to be classed as vintage (no, seriously), but do you know anyone who would want to buy them?
Come to think of it, do you know anyone who is a particular fan of the Warriors of Virtue movie?
My point here is that just because a toy line is old it doesn’t mean it is worth something. Many, many toy lines exist, and many are now classed as vintage, yet some of them are just not that appealing.
It’s also worth pointing out that not all ‘sure-fire’ hits are going to sell well if they are a little worse for wear. For example, you might be sat on a truck full of vintage He-Man figures, but if they’re all missing their heads then the value is going to drop considerably.*
*Although there may still be some value in dishevelled toys. I’ll come back to this later.
The value of vintage
When looking at the resale value of vintage toys there are a number of factors to consider:
- The interest
- The packaging
- The condition
- The accessories
- The timing
I’ve covered ‘the interest’ in the section above, but it’s worth reiterating (just to be clear) that for a vintage toy to be worth something there needs to be some interest. If no one wants the toy, as sad as that may seem, then it’s not going to be a money maker.
You could have countless toys from the ’70s stock piled in your shed, but if they are from obscure properties that no one has ever heard of, then they are going to remain in your shed. Do some research and find out who is buying what you have to sell.
Where can you do research? Try eBay, Amazon, Gumtree and Google for starters.
With regard to the packaging this can be important for two reasons:
- If a toy is sealed it usually guarantees it is in good, unplayed with condition.
- Some collectors LOVE box art/packaging.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that a toy in its original packaging is worth more than one without its packaging, but even the condition of the box/case can impact the value. So, if you have a battered box vs. a box in pristine condition, the one that looks brand new is always going to be more valuable.
If its an action figure, some collectors will even pay more if it has an ‘unpunched’ hook, which is the loop at the top of the packaging. If the packaging is ‘unpunched’ then it often means the toy has not been on display and therefore is likely to be in a much better condition.
If a toy has been on display then it may also include price tickets/labels. These can be a source of frustration to some collectors, or a window to the past for others.
While it’s pretty much a given that labels look unsightly, some people actually like them as they offer a little history about the toy. And if the label is for a defunct store like Woolworths or Toys R Us then it can be appealing for buyers of vintage toys from the ’80s. So, while that Tesco toys label might not look great now, who knows what the future will hold.
This goes without saying, but vintage toys in good condition are worth more money than ones in a bad condition. It’s the same principle for anything really – people will pay more for something that looks good and is in good working order.
When it comes to condition, toys can be sold in mint condition in packaging and mint condition loose (i.e. without packaging). Just because a toy doesn’t have its original box it doesn’t mean it is not going to be worth a lot of money.
Loose figures can be worth lots of money if they are in excellent condition. The better it looks, the more money you can make.
Oh and a word of advice if you are selling toys: presentation is key! If you have old toys and you’re looking to sell them, then make sure they look as presentable as possible!
If your toys are dirty then give them a clean (without damaging them). A bit of elbow grease makes a huge difference.
Most action figures come with accessories – from swords and shields, to gadgets and gizmos. Thing is, these accessories can get misplaced or binned very easily.
Some accessories might not seem that important, but others can be vital. What is a Lion-O action figure without the Sword of Omens? What is a Captain America toy without his shield?
If you have accessories then make sure you bundle them up with your toys. And if you don’t have the accessories, then see if you can find them!
Accessories can add value to your sale. Don’t forget this.
Interest, packaging, condition, accessories – these are all important factors in making a sale, but sometimes timing is also just as important. The old saying ‘strike while the iron is hot’ is very true and applies to selling toys.
If you have a stash of Batman toys in your basement and you want to sell them, then try and coincide your sale with a Bat-themed event. This could be the release of a new Batman movie, TV show, game, or even an anniversary.
It is worth waiting until people are feeling nostalgic for a property – that’s when you should strike! And it’s also worth bearing in mind that something which might not have sold last year could sell this year if the timing is right.
What toys are worth money?
I’m now going to use three examples of toy lines which many people believe to be worth something: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beanie Babies, and Star Wars. I’ll look at each property individually and give you an understanding of why they may or may not be profitable.
The idea behind these three discussions is to give you a line of thought that you can apply to other brands. I’ve used these three examples as they are fairly well known, but I could have easily used others.
OK, so let’s start with those pizza-munching Turtles…
Are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys valuable?
It really depends on what you want to sell and what you consider valuable. In terms of being a consistent earner, then yes, TMNT toys do sell and in most cases you will make a sale on them, but what that sale will be could differ considerably.
The original run of figures from the 1980s through to the 1990s are collectable and there’s also a market for TMNT toys based on the 2003 cartoon, the 2012 cartoon and the current animated series, however, prices will vary. The older toys tend to sell better overall, but don’t rule out any of the other eras of the Turtles.
Since its debut in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand has retained its popularity. There have been peaks and troughs, but the fan base is very loyal and with each new generation there are new fans ready to maintain the interest in the property.
However, this doesn’t mean that all Turtles figures are worth thousands of pounds/dollars. So, if you’re sitting on a pile of Turtles toys and you see this as an easy route to early retirement then you might want to think again.
Some of the early figures are worth decent money (if carded and in great condition), but it’s some of the more obscure toys that you really want to look out for, such as Scratch. Scratch is a character that was included in the original toy line but is not so well known amongst casual TMNT fans.
If you have a Scratch figure on a card (or even loose), he is worth a healthy dose of dosh! Collectors and most seasoned toy sellers know this, so if you’re a buyer then expect to pay through the nose for him.
As for the rest, well that’s for you to look into. What I can tell you is there is a lot of beat-up Mikeys, Raphs, Dons and Leos out there and they are very common.
The trick here is to become familiar with the brand, learn what sells (and what doesn’t), and what figures are very common/uncommon. Oh and don’t forget to apply the ‘timing’ rule to the TMNT brand.
In a few years’ time, kids who grew up during the early ’00s will reach their twenties, a time when the nostalgia-factor really kicks in. This is around the time when young adults will want to revisit the Turtles ‘toon of 2003, and its accompanying toy line.
Put it in your calendar.
OK, so that’s the Turtles, now let’s talk Beanie Babies!
Are vintage Beanie Babies worth anything?
As a general rule of thumb, no, Beanie Babies are not as valuable as you might think. As with many toy lines there are a few exceptions – the initial assortment might hold some value – but for the most part vintage Beanie Babies are not big sellers.
The reason for this can be traced back to the 1990s, when everyone was under the impression that Beanie Babies would be worth millions. As such, people went out and bought a lot of them purely to make a quick buck.
This was a bad idea, as buying lots of Beanie Babies created two rather significant problems.
1) If a lot of people bought Beanie Babies, and kept them in pristine condition to resell in the future, then they were never going to become rare.
2) Beanie Babies as a property never really took off with kids in the same way that say, Transformers or Power Rangers did. Sure, some kids of the ’90s really liked them, but the fan base simply wasn’t that strong, which means that nowadays there isn’t a big nostalgic connection to the property.
If you own Beanie Babies toys then do your research to see if you have one of the few that are rare. It’s possible that you might have something of value, but I’d advise you not to get your hopes up.
The lesson to learn here is that if everyone thinks a toy line is going to be valuable then chances are it won’t be. That’s not to say that modern Beanie Babies won’t be worth anything in the future, but tread carefully.
And now for Star Wars…
Are Star Wars toys worth money?
Some Star Wars toys are worth a lot of money, some not so much. The important thing here is that as a brand, Star Wars always has a lot of interest.
A big reason for this is the nostalgic connection people have with the original trilogy. That nostalgic connection extends to the Kenner Star Wars figures that were produced from 1978 onward.
Look on eBay and you will see hundreds if not thousands of vintage Stars Wars toys available to buy. Prices will vary greatly, but those from the early days (’70s-’80s) in packaging will carry a bigger price tag.
I can’t stress this enough: Do your research on Star Wars toys. There are slight variations in the figures that can make all the difference to price.
And now a warning.
Some toys can be big sellers because they are rare, while others do well simply because a lot of people have a connection to the property/brand. But bear in mind that the Beanie Babies rule also applies to Star Wars.
Back during 1999, ahead of the release of The Phantom Menace a lot of people presumed they could make a quick buck by investing in Episode I toys. A lot of toys were sold, but that means they are not that collectable now.
Star Wars is a popular brand and with the right toys you can make money. So do your research and don’t get lumbered with a stack of Jar Jar figures.
New vs old
OK, so before I continue with my discussion on vintage toys, here is a quick Q&A session for new toys.
Are new toys better sellers than old toys?
There’s no hard and fast rule for this. While some people presume the older the toy the better the value, this isn’t always the case. If a modern toy is an ‘exclusive’ then it can be harder to come by and can be worth money! So weigh up its rarity, it’s cost and how good it is.
Do kids buy toys anymore?
Yes, kids do buy toys, but modern tech has changed the landscape as well as their buying habits. Action figures aren’t as popular with kids as they were during the ’80s and ’90s and this is worth bearing in mind for the future. Smart phones have changed things considerably.
Are new toys worth buying as investments?
Again, no hard and fast rule. Marvel Legends have been around for years (and are very popular), so could be a decent investment for the future and of course LEGO is always a strong seller – but who really knows?
I’m pretty sure you’re more than familiar with LEGO, but should you want to check out what Marvel Legends are all about, you can head on over to Amazon to check out the range, including this Mysterio figure.
Initially produced by ToyBiz from 2002 until 2006, Marvel Legends have been a part of Hasbro from 2006 onwards, so between the two companies that’s what, 17 years of continuous toys? During this time the brand has produced countless figures and has made a lot of fans in the process.
I’m not saying investing in Marvel Legends is the next big thing, but it is a line of toys that has an in-built fan base and a legacy. It’s certainly a line with a lot of figures to choose from.
The thing to remember here is that today’s generation play in a different way to previous generations, so if you’re making an ‘investment’ make sure you do your research first and ask yourself the question ‘will the kids of today want to buy this again in the future?’.
OK, back to vintage.
Are McDonald’s toys worth anything?
Take a look on eBay. How many auctions do you see for McDonald’s toys? Quite a few, right?
McDonald’s toys can be quite collectable, but they’re not always big earners. I attend a lot of conventions and toy fairs and I regularly see dump bins filled with McDonald’s toys, usually for a couple of pounds a bag.
Some of the toys are popular – the Changeables have maintained their appeal – but not every collection is a winner. So maybe look at restaurant toys as added extras, rather than huge earners.
The sum of his parts
Remember those headless He-Man figures I mentioned at the beginning of the discussion? Well, if you do happen to be sitting on a truck load of decapitated beefcakes then don’t just chuck them out!
While many collector’s are on the lookout for figures in good-to-mint condition, some will simply be looking for old toys from the past that they can use for spare parts. Your truck load of headless He-Man figures could simply be waiting for some to pull up with a truckload of He-Man heads.
There is a market for spare parts – especially amongst the customising crowd. A lone Skeletor leg might not look that special to you or I, but to the right person it could be exactly what they need.
Learn your lines
Right it’s time to wrap things up (for today). Here’s my last piece of advice – it’s important, so pay attention.
With toy collecting and selling, the best piece of advice is get to know your toy lines. Pick a toy line you’re interested in and find out what sells, what doesn’t, what is rare and what is ten a penny.
Some toy lines are not worth much, while others can pay off through being consistent sellers. Find what works and go from there!
You could sell every toy under the sun, or you could simply focus on the Star Wars vintage collection. Whatever works for you, WORKS FOR YOU!
I do hope this discussion has been useful to you. As mentioned at the beginning, this post is purely to give you some tips and advice, but hopefully it should point you in the right direction.
If you’ve found this helpful then please leave me a comment, hit ‘like’, or share this post on social media.
Until next time, happy toy hunting!
Disclaimer: I earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.