Why you need to check the toy box after your children have flown the nest

Vintage Toy Story has its own rewards...

Your children may have flown the coup leaving a peaceful calm in their cosy little bedrooms. The silence round the house makes you feel empty.  But here’s at least one reason to be cheerful...

Carefully check their toy boxes you might find you are sitting on some valuable hidden treasure worth a fortune. 

That jumble of plastic toys you were thinking of dropping at the local tip might just hide a future family heirloom. Plastic might have a bad name for the environment but some of the plastic stuff from the sixties and seventies has an intrinsic value. It can command sizeable price tags at auction or for sale through the internet.

So which old toys are worth money? 

The McDonald's toys worth $899! 

I was amazed that McDonald’s Happy Meal toys are selling for £25 and more in some cases - to think they came free with a chicken burger. You can check out the value of individual items online. But beware, it might have you tearing your hair out at your failure to protect and keep this endangered toy species!

Image: mentalfloss.com

McDonald's wholeheartedly embraced the Furby craze of the late '90s. From March 22 to April 22, 1999, collectors could get 80 different mini-Furbys with their Happy Meals. A whole set was put up for sale for an incredible $899!

The way it is with old toys and how they are perceived years after their job entertaining your children is over.

According to research from Zurich, the average value of items stashed away in toy cupboards is £584. The survey found that Barbie Dolls, Action Men and Fisher Price toys were popular attic inhabitants. Merchandise from Star Wars, Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter was also stored by people who answered the survey – and these could be particularly valuable.


People who find boxes of toys when a family member passes away, often just want them to go to a good home. But experts like John Ennals urge caution. John, who runs a website Tortoys, advises people to focus and examine what might have value. For example, toys that were never heavily marketed but which are linked to their time often become the target for investors.

John, who started collecting Dinky Toys nearly 30 years ago, identifies two strands to the market in collectable toys. There are investors, who want pristine models in their boxes with all the information and marketing material.

Toy Story 2 did slightly undermine the reputation of such investors. Remember how the characters of Stinky Pete and Al, the odious owner of the Toy Barn with big investment plans were the bad guys in the plot. But don’t be put off by their behaviour. If we are honest everyone loves to see a vintage toy still fresh in its original pristine box after fifty years.


John said: "Investors want boxes and any leaflets too. Half the value of an item can be accounted for by the box.”

The other side of the market are those hungry for nostalgia who remember playing with them when they were young and just want to revisit their past and that includes most of us. 

A good friend of mine has a sizeable collection of toys. She had four children and being a bit of a hoarder she kept most of their toys. Among them was a long-forgotten collection of about 40 Corgi toy cars. Her own dad had started buying them for one of her sons believing they would be worth something one day.

He was a really keen collector and so the son, much to his annoyance, wasn't allowed to play with the cars. This is why they are still in their boxes which obviously seriously enhances their value. We laughed when I told her that her dad had been an early version of Toy Barn Al in Toy Story 2.

The Dinky toy collection that sold for £180,000! 

Dinky and Corgi models are not immune from the economic climate – or indeed the effect of the media coverage on prices. Several years ago, a boxed-up model version James Bond Aston Martin DB5 - the Goldfinger car - would have sold for more than £300. When Blue Peter featured this it people started rummaging through their old toy boxes and attics and the market became alive. The DB5 price fell by 50 per cent. Still £150 isn’t to be sniffed at for a toy car.

Steve Bonney's collection of Dinky toy cars, buses and military vehicles sold for £180,000 image:express.com

My friend has other gems too. Scalextric, Action Man, Barbie and she somehow had the foresight to hold on to Happy Meal toys given.  There is an element of luck in the collecting game but my friend finds herself looking in charity shops for more stock to add to the collection even though her boys have all grown up. Incidentally she’s insured the collection on her home insurance policy so she is becoming a serious collector.

The market for vintage toys is insatiable. Leigh Gotch, expert in toy valuation at Bonhams Auctioneers believes classic toys such as Scalextric "will always be collectable and Hornby trains never diminish in popularity”.

What should we be looking out for?

Leigh says early Eighties hand-held electronic games are becoming very popular. With toys in your attic, the most collectable and valuable in the future will probably be the one that you least expect rather than the toys that were heavily advertised and promoted.

His main tip is to remember original toys collected by adults will be toys that have a connection with both their childhood and their adult life.


Whether you have a fortune in your loft or not, why not take a look at our range of hand-picked collectibles here >> and secure yourself a future classic!


Original Star Wars figures 

Meccano sets 

Handheld electronic games from the Eighties 

Toys given away by fast-food outlets 

Thunderbirds puppets from the Sixties or early Seventies 

Original Barbie and Action Man costumes 

Hornby trains 

Dinky cars and other die-cast models