Long before the days of mass manufacturing, children were making balls and skipping ropes from grasses, dolls from not very hygienic old bones and marbles from stones. The toy shop itself did not appear in Britain until the mid 19th century, but as early as the 18th century, travelling pedlars carried an obligatory stock of carved animals and dolls with which to entice youngsters.
The 19th century was a boom time for toys. Whilst educational toys were encouraged in Victorian and later Georgian houses, such innovations as the mechanical lathe revolutionised toy making and brought play things into a much wider range of homes. The need for self improvement was evident in the indoor toys. Board games, jigsaw puzzles and instructional card games, featuring historic events or garden flowers were perhaps more popular with parents than children..
One of the most popular materials for toys was still wood. Cheaper wooden animals and dolls were made from cembra wood whilst better ones could be made of limewood. Noah’s Ark and his host of animals was a more popular theme for animal menageries than a farm.
As well as wooden animals, soft toys made an appearance. Stuffed animals were becoming increasingly popular. (The teddy bear did not appear until the 20th century). The Victorians’ love of the inventiveness and innovation also led to a wide variety of toys which of course aroused great wonder. Zeotropes, kaleidoscopes and magic lanterns were, at that time, greatly sought after toys.
Mechanical toys were imported from Europe with Germany being one of the main manufacturers. Tin plate mechanical figures are immensely collectable today. Victorian examples in working order could easily be worth hundreds
The only way to enhance the future value of a collectable is to keep them in their box, wrap them in brown paper and put them in the loft! Your children will hate you, but they will almost certainly increase in value! Collectables toys of the future will, no doubt, include The Simpsons merchandise, Thomas the Tank Engine and almost anything by Disney.