Vintage and Antique Tin Toy Vehicles

While many mass-produced toys have been introduced into the market, antique tin toys have added value since they also represent a slice of history. They show the evolution of the industry, which started from handmade toys crafted from materials such as tin, to mass manufactured items.

What are vintage tin toy vehicles?

Antique tin toy vehicles were manufactured throughout the 19th century, leading into the early 20th century using tinplate. As a substitute for wood, tinplates are tin coated metal sheets which are assembled into the desired toy shape or form. To add the distinct details of each toy, they used lithographic methods to transfer the design by hand onto the tinplate. Due to their material base, these vintage tin toy vehicles are known for their lightweight properties. They were also known as penny toys and are considered as an alternative to cast iron and wood toys.

What are some examples of these vintage tin toys?

Aside from toy car and trucks, these tin-made items also include toys made to represent various models of boats and ships, motorcycles, and airplanes. In short, these vintage toys covered vehicle types that travel via air, land, and sea. Locomotive train pieces were also introduced at that time. The toys started out as items that were handcrafted and painted by hand. Later, toy car and truck models made of tin were integrated with mechanical components. These vintage cars and trucks were able to move by using friction.

Which countries produced vintage tin toys?

More than a century ago, Germany was one of the major producers of vintage tinplate toys. German toy makers introduced details such as wind-up turnkey and spring loading action into some of their items. Craftsmen from France and England also started producing and exporting tin toy vehicles or penny toys around this era. Spurred by the growth of the tin ore industry in the country, the United States also saw a number of toy makers exporting their tin based products. Some of the antique tin metal toys that originate from the U.S. featured early greyhound buses, trucks, and other utility vehicles. Another major tin toy vehicle producer was Japan, which entered the market during the mid 19th century. While World War II halted the production of tin toys due to the scarcity of raw materials, the industry boomed right after. After the war ended, Japanese toy manufacturers started developing tin metal vehicles that utilized friction-based movement. Some of these antique Japanese-made tin items were replicas of American cars and other types of vehicles.