Skip to main content

Tinplate Toy & Car Auctions

Auction houses, such as ours, are well-known for having a range of antique and vintage toys, covering many different eras, some of which are very valuable. Tinplate toys certainly fall under the more popular side of this category and, if you’re a collector of toys from auctions, investing in tinplate toys and cars could be an ideal investment idea.

At Cullens of Surrey, we understand the value that comes with the intricate world of toys, models and collectables. Our team, led by our seasoned valuer Derrick, have extensive knowledge of vintage and antique toys, aiming to help you at every stage of the auction process. Let’s delve a little deeper into the valuable world of tinplate toys and cars…

About Tinplate Toys & Cars

Tinplate toys have roots dating back to the 19th century when tinplate, a thin sheet of steel coated with tin, became widely available and affordable. Initially, tinplate was used for practical purposes such as containers and household items, but manufacturers soon realised its potential for creating toys. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century brought significant advancements in manufacturing processes, including the mass production of tinplate toys. Toy manufacturers in Europe, particularly Germany and England, led the way in producing intricate tinplate toys and cars.

Tinplate toys gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, becoming prized possessions for children around the world. These toys often depicted trains, cars, aeroplanes, and other vehicles, reflecting the technological advancements of the era and the fascination with transportation. As technology advanced, tinplate toys evolved as well. Lithography techniques allowed for more intricate and colourful designs, whilst clockwork mechanisms enabled tinplate toys to move and perform actions. However, as time advanced into the mid-20th century, tinplate toys faced competition from die-cast metal and plastic toys, reducing their popularity.

High-Value Sales

Tinplate toys and cars have been sold for high prices at auctions over the years, particularly if they are from notable names such as Bing (1863), Lehmann (1881) and Fleischman (1887) - all German giants of the tinplate industry. Germany dominated the tinplate toy industry, so it is no surprise that they are responsible for many of the highest-priced tinplate toys & cars produced.

The most expensive tinplate toy ever sold also happened to be the most expensive toy ever sold back in 2012 (though this has since been surpassed). The BBC reported that the tinplate toy HMS Terrible, made by German toy maker Marklin, was sold to an overseas collector for £76,000, despite having an initial valuation of £40,000 to £60,000. This staggering sale was part of 340 lots of toys which were sold for a total of £284,552 at an auction, originally owned by the late Ron McCrindell from Berkshire.

Many of the most recent highest-value toy sales at auctions globally have also been tinplate toys and cars, although they were not quite as pricey as HMS Terrible. In an article published by LoveMoney in 2019, tinplate toys such as the lithographed tinplate Japanese battleship made in 1905, which sold for £12,000, and Bing’s tinplate four-seater Tourer, which sold for £13,500, are amongst the most expensive toys ever sold.

Looking to Sell With Us?

If you have any tinplate toys and cars that you’re looking to sell, or any other toys and models, we offer various routes, such as at auction, direct purchasing or third-party sellers. You can read about each selling route in more detail on our “Selling At Auction” page.

Are You a Collector Looking to Expand Your Tinplate Collections?

If you are a collector of toys and models, including tinplate toys, keep an eye out for our upcoming auctions, such as our vintage and retro toys, models and trading cards live auctions. We offer a range of different auction formats, so you can get involved with the bidding process in a way that suits you.