Vintage automotive toys

Cardboard is the cash crop
Publish date:

A young lad rips into the wrapping paper that forms the thin barrier preserving the mystery of what’s underneath, followed by sheer glee at discovering in wide-eyed amazement that he got ‘Just what I always wanted.’ A dream come true. At least until next Christmas.

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Another Nosco product, this Roaring Roadster is a
NOS toy, but its box is showing significant edge wear.
It still makes a great display piece, and finding a box
in any displayable condition will add to the value
of the toy.

And along with the remnants of torn wrapping paper that end up in a heap on the floor is the next object of interference: the original box in which the automotive toy is stored. Most likely, that, too, is shredded in the exuberance to unleash the wheeled toy inside and discarded onto the floor.

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This particular Nosco Vizy Vee-8 Stock Car Racer is
a new-old-stock (NOS) toy in a mint box (views from
front and back), which is a collector’s most sought-
after combination.

When this scene was played out decades ago, there was little or no thought given to preserving an automotive toy’s original packaging. Future (instant?) collectible? Not a chance. To the sandbox with the toy where it endured abrasive grit and moisture and sun. The toy’s scratches and dents were earned via a child’s imagination of driving his scale-model car or truck through the pretend streets of a city made of sand.

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This Elegant Miniatures box is small (compared to
a five-cent piece), but it’s a type of toy packaging
that’s colorful, inexpensive and a great way to start
a displayable collection on a budget.

Eventually, when the newness of the toy vehicle wore off, it most likely was traded to a neighbor kid for a grass-stained football or handful of baseball cards (possibly having served some time as noise-makers in the neighbor kid’s spoked bicycle wheels).

And long before recycling became the norm, all those ripped-open cardboard boxes — with carefully planned artwork to entice purchase with claims of friction motion or bump ’n’ go or wheels that really steer — that so tightly housed these wheeled miracles and allowed for orderly stacking on a store shelf, well, if landfills could only speak....

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The graphics on this Ace “T” Rod kit box are
spectacular. This was a box-only purchase, which is
another option for acquiring needed toy packaging.

In many ways, the importance of preserved packaging to the value of vintage automotive toys is vindication. Kids of the past who carefully opened their toys to continue displaying and enjoying the original packaging were ahead of their time. Most likely, future value increase was not even considered as the reason for this preservation. Rather, it was an appreciation of the box’s vibrant graphics, just as automotive toy collectors today cherish that same aspect of original packaging.

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Vintage model kits are a great source of display-quality
packaging. This vibrant, good-condition Monogram
1934 Ford kit box-only purchase was a bargain at $5.
Automotive swap meets are a great source for early
automotive toys and their packaging.

I include myself in that group of admirers of original packaging artwork. So much so, that my fascination of vintage automotive toys comes with the purchase policy of generally only buying what retains its original box. While my budget dictates that said packaging might be less-than-perfect (stained, worn corners or missing flaps), as long as its display quality remains intact I’ll consider buying it.

Because excellent condition of a vintage automotive toy equates to maximum value, collectors can correctly assume that a mint toy in its original packaging that is also in fine shape will greatly increase the value of that particular set. The ultimate prize is finding a new-old-stock (NOS) toy in its mint original packaging. That combination will always command the highest level of value. In the latter instance, a doubling or tripling of asking price is not unreasonable. The key to what original packaging adds to the price of a vintage automotive toy’s value lies in the condition of that packaging. Something that is so damaged or stained as to be useless in either housing the toy or showcased in a display mode should be avoided if a seller is seeking a premium above the value of the toy itself.

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One of the interesting aspects of collecting Japanese
tin toy cars is the often strange translations in either
the toy’s appearance or description. This toy box
houses a Go-Kart Soap Box Derby. Who needs gravity!

In select instances, it’s likely that vintage packaging that has superior graphics or houses a particularly desirable toy, but is hard to find could actually have more value than the vintage toy it contains. In this category, due to the aforementioned high amount of discarding when new, it’s a guarantee that demand will greatly outstrip supply. It’s also not uncommon to find sellers who have only the original packaging — in a range of conditions —without the toy. Buying the set on separate occasions is certainly an option, but keep in mind that seeking display-quality packaging, with or without a toy enclosed, is always the best strategy.

This situation also leads to a word of caution. As with currency, works of art and just about every other collectible worth acquiring, it’s caveat emptor (translation: buyer beware). Counterfeit cardboard packaging made to look either NOS or aged and original is not beyond the means of modern computer systems and/or a talented artist with low morals. Certainly, if the re-issued packaging is promoted as being reproduction, this allows for those who are not “purists” to have packaging for display at a reasonable price.

It’s always best to know lots of detail about what are key elements in the appearance of the original packaging of any vintage automotive toy you desire before you buy. Buying from known, reputable vintage automotive toy dealers also is recommended, or having someone of this caliber act as a consultant to a potential purchase is an option, to avoid problems after the purchase.

Hot Wheels Classics: The Redline Era
By Angelo Van Bogart

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This big and bold book proudly showcases more than 500 stunning color photographs of some of the finest Hot Wheels from the original crew. In addition to the up-close-and-personal photos, each car is identified, along with the name of the designer, and a concise but intriguing background story about each car. Plus, you'll find Rarity Alerts and Hot Wheels historical points featured throughout the book, adding yet another unique touch to a one-of-a-kind tribute to the Hot Wheels Redline revolution. Read more>>


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Where to Bid


Henderson Auctions' October 30th Collector Motor Series Auction

Henderson Auctions' October 2021 Collector Motor Series Auction to offer over 100+ vehicles including the complete Mike Drury collection on October 30th.