Antique Toy Appraisals: What to Expect

Updated March 16, 2022
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Whether you collect antique toy trains, cast iron cars, tin windups, or any other type of antique toy, commissioning a few antique toy appraisals will help you parse out your special childhood treasure's values. Toy appraisals make for great gifts, too, if you've got a great aunt or grandparent in your life who's kept onto their childhood favorites and want confirmation that holding onto them for so long was worth the wait.

Collecting Antique Toys: Reasons for an Appraisal

Collectors with a passion for antique toys often build their collections with playthings that bring back fond memories from their past. Sometimes, collections begin because of a special find in a garage sale or flea market, or from rummaging through an attic or basement. To many of these collectors, their toys represent more than just antiques with a monetary value. Despite this sentimental connection, knowing the value of their antique toys is important for several reasons, including:

  • Self knowledge
  • Insurance purposes
  • Estate valuation
  • Tax and probate purposes

Tips of What to Do Before Hiring an Appraiser

Vintage Antique Toys

If you know nothing about antique toys--and you're absolutely not alone if you don't--hiring the right appraiser can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there's a ton of toy appraisers--both free and paid--that're easy for you to access. Before you reach out to any appraisers, there are a couple of things you should do and information about your toys that you should collect, including:

  • Take a lot of pictures of your toys - Especially if you're hiring an appraiser online, it's really important to take a lot of pictures of your toy(s). These appraisers might want to have a preliminary look before taking on your item, and pictures that include manufacturing information and its condition can be really helpful.
  • Determine how much money you're willing to spend - Before even looking for an appraiser either online or in your area, you definitely want to determine exactly how much you're willing to spend. Depending on the appraiser, having multiple toys that you want appraised can quickly wrack up some fees, and you want to have an idea of your limit before being hit with a bill.
  • Check the reviews - If the reviews of any appraising business or professional aren't up to par, then it's not worth your time to even reach out about becoming a potential client.
  • Determine if you want to sell or keep your toys - It's a good idea to know if you're interested in selling or keeping your items before getting them appraised as some appraisers who're also collectors might undervalue your toys if you've told them beforehand that you're interested in selling.

Appraisal Services for Antique Toys

Although there're many excellent appraisal services for antique toys both on and offline, some professionals in the antiques field feel online appraisals are not as reliable as those performed offline. Other professionals feel that online antique appraisals are equally as good as those performed in-person. Either way, some kind of appraisal is better than no appraisal at all.

Locating an Appraiser

There are many types of appraisal services ranging from the highly publicized traveling Antiques Roadshow and to mom and pop local appraisers. There're also antique professionals, such as Dr. Lori, who travel around the country checking out people's items and appear at community events and lecturing in their areas of expertise. Sometimes, general appraisal services are offered free or for a nominal fee as part of the event.

To find an antique appraiser in your area, ask around with local antiques dealers in your area or see what a quick Google search can come up with.

Online Appraisal Services

The online landscape offers many excellent appraisal services for the antique toy collector, and many appraisal companies offer various informational services, such as outlining the item history or auction value. These are a few of the top digital appraisal services currently available:

  • Noel Barrett Antiques and Auctions - Noel Barrett Antiques and Auctions offers appraisal services from one of the in top internationally recognized antique toy specialists in the business, and the titular collector's appeared on the Antiques Roadshow and has been the on-call auctioneer for many important collections of antique toys including those for the Toy Museum of Atlanta. After appraising your toys, you can arrange to place them in one of Noel Barrett's antique toy auctions. Although initial contact is made online, this company does not offer a flat fee appraisal service.
  • Vintage Toy Authority - The Vintage Toy Authority, run by a private collector, offers free appraisals for toys made before 1980 and will even offer to buy your toys if they want to add them to their collection.
  • Value My Stuff - Several different types of appraisal services are offered at Value My Stuff. The types of appraisals include: classic, deluxe, express, collection, and opinion of authenticity.
  • WorthPoint - WorthPoint is an online antiques and collectibles community that offers antique toy appraisals from their group of trained appraisers, called Worthologists.

Average Costs of Antique Toy Appraisals

Unfortunately, there's no set price for individual toy appraisals, with all of them varying depending on the type of appraisal you commission and what business or person performs the service. That being said, there're are a few places that you can head to for free appraisals, though these businesses usually don't give you any concrete appraisal documentation that you can use for future insurance purposes or for increasing resale value. Other appraisals, such as those from Antique Toys, can cost anywhere between $0-$500+, a price that's determined during the pre-appraisal process.

So, if you just want a baseline idea of if the antique toys in your care are worth keeping around, then a free appraisal is probably the best option for you. However, if you've done some preliminary research on your toys or have documentation proving their rarity, then it'd be a good choice for you to commission a paid appraisal since these usually provide a more in-depth work up on your toy's evaluation.

Never Stop Toying Around

Whether you're thinking about keeping or selling a few of your family's antique toys, it's a great idea to have some sort of appraisal completed on them, as a thorough antique toy appraisal might even change your mind on passing the toys down or finding a collector to take them off of your hands. There's no such thing as having too much information when it comes to your collectibles, and getting an antique toy appraisal is one way to get to know your antiques better.

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Antique Toy Appraisals: What to Expect