Vintage Toys and Playsets...research before buying!

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As you shop on eBay for older collectible toys, and you see a wonderful old item or set that you possessed as a child, it is great fun to try and add these to your collection. You find yourself wandering down the leaf-strewn paths of Memory Lane, back into your childhood, with the simple little toys that you can often pick up for a song (or more often, a symphony!).

I started building my own collection that way, and now it has expanded to several thousand items, all boxed and stacked in my closet, my overflowing garage, and then into my two storage sheds! Obviously I am a collector who has an addiction to old toys, and didn't know at first what was genuinely old and what was a newer reproduction! :)


This 1950's original Marx Mineral City Blue Buckboard had a rubber harness that went on the walking bareback mustang horse.  It will sell for upwards of $75!  Often, you will see large batches of toys with a flash of blue, and a yellow wheel.  Or a batch of toys with a similar buckboard in red or yellow.  This is the genuine article.  If it doesn't look like this, it's a later issue or a repro.

It took me several years, and many boo-boos to learn what was really "vintage", and what was recently purchased at the dollar store and fobbed off on eBay as "vintage"! I have literally spent thousands of bucks buying "antique" or "vintage" playset pieces and toys, only to later discover that many of these were recent reproduction pieces. Often, a seller will list these pieces as "vintage", when they are only a few years old, or even more recent, simply because they picked them up in an old box at a yard sale or estate auction! "Vintage" should mean that an item is at least 20 years old. Some dealers insist that "vintage" means that an item is over 30 years old!

When I started buying, I knew that these items were the same ones I had played with 55 years ago. I simply didn't know that Marx and Stuart and Lido and MPC sold the old molds to companies in Mexico or Japan or Hong Kong, and that these companies pumped out replicas of those wonderful old items all the way into the last decade! And I would often bid on a large lot simply to get one item I thought I saw in the lot, only to discover that the coveted item was broken, or not even the item I thought it was! Wow! What a heartbreaker! Of course, once in a great while I would luck out, and manage to pick up an item worth a great deal in a cheap lot that cost only a fraction of what the single item was actually valued at. But now I have 500 pounds of junk sitting in boxes, that I couldn't even sell on eBay if I tried, for the amount I spent on it all! >:(

I have become far more careful and discerning over the years, but that did not save me in the early years of "bidding frenzy" when I indiscriminately poured over $10,000 into eBay merchandise that reminded me of things from my early childhood! (I think I actually paid the CEO's sales bonus for over a year!)

We have all read about "auction addiction" and "spending addiction", but I think I took the cake for a while there. I was not wise enough or knowledgeable enough to know how to research! After a couple of years, I found reliable sellers who would honestly answer my many silly questions, and who would give me pointers on what was good stuff and what was just "filler junk". I learned that some sellers who have bought more junk items than they wanted often dumped large lots on eBay with a few good pieces "salted" into the junk so that buyers would bid. Many sellers who want search engines to find their auctions add the words "Marx?" or "Auburn?" to almost anything, even if there isn't one single Marx or Auburn item in the lot.

If you are interested in collecting older playsets, remember to ask lots of questions. Reputable, knowledgeable sellers will be more than happy to answer.  Don't hesitate to buy reference books and the old Playset Collector magazines. If you are looking at a vast pile of odds and ends that look like junk, and spot one small figure that you genuinely know is valuable, by all means, bid...but be careful, because that small item may be broken or misleading.

Let eBay be a rewarding experience for you, and don't spend more than you can afford. Enjoy bidding, but don't go completely crazy like I did. Don't automatically believe everything the seller tells you unless the seller has a very high feedback rating. I have made it a point to review the feedback of many sellers on eBay before buying. If almost all the feedback is from sellers, you can't really tell if the seller is a good seller. All you can tell is that they buy a lot and are a reputable buyer!

And please, when I begin to dump the 500 pounds of filler junk that I have picked up over the years, be sure to bid heavily! I can use the money to pay off those credit cards I charged to the hilt to bid!

Have a ball! And happy bargain hunting.

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