Duck Tales and Dinky Toys
A revision from Monday’s post:
Dinky Toys can be worth a lot of money, but like most things in this business, collectors are extremely picky. The right ones are worth thousands.
I inaccurately described them as Cars and I undersold their peak values. A pre-war “type 22 WE Boyce” delivery van sold at auction for $34,700 (Canadian). WE Boyce was a cycle shop in England that eventually went out of business sometime in the 1960s. The van was a promotional tool and is thought to be the only one of its kind.
Still, thirty-five grand? You could buy a 2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris - an actual delivery van - for less.
The delivery van is an outlier, but I found dozens of examples worth hundreds and low thousands. It seems that the formula for mind-boggling value is simple:
Condition + Rarity = Money
It pays to have the original box. Better still, a box that’s in mint condition. It’s more important for the actual toys to be pristine – which is tricky – especially since some of the earliest models suffer from zinc rot caused by metal impurities. Condition is also affected by general wear. Some people actually played with Dinky Toys (the nerve!), which led to scratches, paint chips, and dents. My father once bought a collection of immaculately maintained diecast toys. He made the mistake of sending me, a then five-year-old, out to the truck with them. Some time later he emerged from the home, horrified to find me racing the cars and trucks through a chunky gravel driveway – completely oblivious to my transgression.
Dinky Toys become rare for different reasons. Some were quite expensive or produced in limited quantities. Time matters, too. The longer these toys exist, the more likely they are to be lost, or handed to a small child who will ruin them. If the collection is old enough, though, the joke is on junior, who is potentially playing with toys cast in toxic lead.
The net has made discerning which toys are the rarest a bit more manageable. There is an active, dedicated community of Dinky Toy collectors who have published a startling amount of information – most of which is free and easy to access. That’s great when you’ve purchased a box of toys for ten dollars, like I did. But, if you’re expected to pay larger sums, the ability to recognize the difference between a dump truck worth hundreds and one worth ten is critical. To me, an admitted non-collector, it seems insane.
Consider the Terex Dinky Dump Truck, which recently sold for a thousand dollars.
And, the Euclid Dinky Dump Truck, which sold for fifty.
One of these blue Sedans is worth seven hundred dollars. The other is worth forty.
Why? I don’t know. But the answer is likely something close to “they made less of the second one” (and it's in better shape).
Unless you’ve memorized the thousands of names and nuances that determine value, buying Dinky Toys from non-collectors is a minefield. I would err on keeping offers relatively low. Most Dinky Toys are not worth thousands. You could try using a digital reference guide before purchasing. Checking your phone during a transaction is risky, though. It indicates that you don’t know what something is or what it might be worth. And, since everyone except my father has a phone, your search might inspire your seller to re-think the sale (in the event they hadn’t checked online already).
I found the toys I bought with relative ease. Most Dinky Toys are labelled on their underside with enough details to make identification simple.
Chances are, you’ll find the exact model on eBay. If you don’t, maybe you’ve got something special. Four of my finds sold for between twenty-five and fifty dollars apiece. Nothing worth thousands. That’s okay. It lessens the stress sessions like these might cause.
Vintage toys have a certain quality that my children find magnetic. There’s a level of craftsmanship and ingenuity that seems to be missing in the sea of plastic they normally tread in. Don’t worry, I’m at least ninety percent sure these ones aren’t cast in toxic lead.
I called my mother’s cell and was surprised to hear my father’s voice.
“Dad? What are you doing?”
“I’m a phone freak now. I’ve got so many likes.”
It’s like my father’s an alien who was sent to earth to study human interaction, but gave up after ten minutes.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“With your mother. I’ll be home in twelve minutes and thirty-six seconds.”
That’s quite specific. He almost seemed hyper. Maybe Hortons added another sugar to his standard triple-triple.
“I’ll call you soon,” I said.
“Well, we can talk on the radio. Your mother can set it up.”
By radio, he meant blue tooth. And by set up, he meant press a single button. God love him.
I told him that I’d wait until he got home. When we talk “through the radio”, he sounds like he’s a member of an artillery crew mid-creeping barrage.
When I finally reached him, I asked him how it’s possible to make money at a flea market like the one I visited on Sunday. As far as I could tell, it was hopeless. Here’s what he told me.
Get there super early. If it opens at nine, they’ll be setting up at seven – maybe earlier. Get a coffee and wait until you see someone start to unpack. That’s when you move.
Stalk your prey. Wait. Pounce. Got it.
When did you show up?
Twelve? *disappointed silence* Yeah... twelve's no good. Twelve? *more disappointed silence*
He took a second to refocus.
You need to work quickly. You can’t shoot the shit. It’s not time for friends.
Avoid unnecessary social interaction? That I can do.
Things unravelled after this.
You’ll need to know great when you’re looking at it.
Can’t say that’s going to happen.
You’re looking for something they found on Saturday – accidentally. And it’s great.
Say, by any chance, did you purchase this yesterday? By accident? Perfect.
I know what he means. You want to find something that hasn’t been on the field yet AND, something rare enough to exist in a dealer’s blind spot. The problem for me is that I often share those same knowledge gaps.
Sometimes people are reluctant to sell things they just bought. They want to show their friend, another collector, or maybe a buyer they have some kind of arrangement with. You have to be careful not to appear as a specific dealer. If you present as a professional, it scares people. Show interest in multiple things, the less [predatorial] you look, the more likely you are to convince someone to sell something to you.
Not an issue. No one has ever feared my professional-ness.
He then proceeded to tell this gem.
I once came across a dealer with a great bowl. He wanted to show his buddy before he sold it. As I left the table, I heard this guy’s wife say “You’ll never sell that duck plate. What the hell were you thinking paying eighty dollars for it?”
“Yeah. A plate with a duck on it,” he said, only slightly annoyed with my interruption.
A composite sketch.
Anyway, So, I waited and then came back and picked up the duck plate. "What do you need out of this?" I ask.
He says "80".
So I ask for a price with the bowl and he says "110".
I walked a few booths over and literally THREW THE PLATE IN THE GARBAGE.
“What? How much was the bowl worth?”
“I got four hundred for it, it was ice blue carnival. Hard to find.”
“Why throw out the plate?”
“Son, it was trash. That guy paid eighty bucks. I wouldn’t have paid eighty cents.”
Against all odds, Phil Collins has defeated Celine Dion for the right to be our official good luck charm. I haven’t broken the news to my mother yet. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep her around if he proves successful.
If you’re curious about the history of Dinky Toys, check out this video by YouTuber Little Car.