Vintage Toy Collecting Tips to Relive Your Childhood

Feb 20, 2024 / Kastle Waserman

You’ve gone from kid to vintage toy collecting adult.  As a kid, you loved your toys. You took them everywhere and knocked them around, then as an adult you see them on eBay or in an antique store. “Hey, I had that!” you squeal.

Now you want to either keep what you have left or buy them back.

Collecting toys can revive a wealth of memories and in a few cases, slip some extra dollars in your pocket.

One place that often echoes with the sounds of, “hey, I had that” is the aptly-named Big Kid Collectables in Sherman Oaks, CA. Owner Dave Levy gave up working in the corporate world in 2004 to open a store where people can relive childhood by enjoying some toys of the past. Sometimes they can even find that prize addition to their Star Wars, Pop! doll, or sports memorabilia collection.

Vintage Toy Storage

vintage pop dolls

Whether you’re collecting for personal pleasure or because you hope it will be worth money someday, you’ll want to keep your hard-hunted treasures in the best condition possible. Dave says the two most important things to remember are to keep them clean and dry.

He provided tips for specific vintage toy items:

Barbie Dolls – can get what’s known as “rubber rot” if not stored correctly. Keep them, and any toys made of rubber or plastic, in a temperature-controlled setting. With older Barbies, such as those from the 1960s, you’ll want to remove their earrings before what’s known as “green ear” sets in, where the metal jewelry causes discoloration to the doll skin around the ears.

Metal Toys – can be prone to rust so keeping them dry is especially important. But, Dave says, sometimes it’s hard to know how much moisture they’ve already been exposed to. “When I was a kid, we played with our toys in the mud and left them outside in the rain!”

Diecast Cars – can be kept like new in the cases made for storing them.

To clean toys, don’t use chemical solvents, just gentle soap and water will usually do the trick.

“You can tell when someone comes in here to sell a collection that they took care of their toys,” Dave says, adding that some buyers will inspect every little thing on the toy and may not buy it if it shows the slightest wear.

Toys in Their Original Package

Then there is the question – if you want the toy to maintain its value, should you even take it out of the packaging? Dave says the packaging doesn’t make it worth that much more. It’s more important to him that toys are enjoyed and played with.

“I hate when a parent comes in here and tells their child, you can have the Batman doll but you have to keep it in the package. No kid wants to do that!”

Star Wars action figures in and out of boxes

He says the only toys he knows of that are worth drastically more in the packaging are the early Star Wars toys, which can be worth thousands of dollars.

Estimating the Value of Vintage Toys

Dave says with so many toys being mass-produced in China in recent decades, it’s getting harder and harder to find those that are limited-edition, rare items that increase in value over the years.

If you really want to know the value of a toy or collection you have, Dave suggests looking on websites such as EBay, Worthpoint or taking them to your local store that sells antique toys. He says if you see numerous similar items on EBay and they’re not selling, they may not have any value. In those cases, he suggests “just keep them and enjoy them!”

After all, they are toys, their whole purpose is to light up your face and experience the simple pleasures of childhood. You can’t put a price on that!

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