Antique toys: See what kids played with a long time ago

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Antique toys

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

A look back: Some of the best buys in antique toys

Article from American Home, December 1974

Antique toys are double-barreled delights. They arouse pleasant remembrances and reflect good design. If you’re Christmas-gift shopping and are willing to spend $10 to $95, the choices are rich.

Look for toys made between 1860 and 1920. Earlier ones are too hard to find; later ones, less appealing.

The examples we show [black & white images only] are from the antique toy department of FAO Schwartz, New York.

Vintage monkey toy bank

The monkey, a mechanical bank, tips its hat when a coin is dropped into the slot.

The bank, made sometime after 1880, is of stamped iron — a budget substitute for heavier cast iron. 

Antique toys - monkey mechanical bank

Antique spinning optical toy for kids

This museum piece is a bit broken, but you can see a round spinning pice here on the front, and a round piece within the box, too. 

Antique optical toy for kids

ALSO SEE: How to make old-fashioned apple head dolls: Get vintage shrunken apple DIY craft directions, details & photos

Antique stuffed animals: Early Winnie the Pooh characters

Photos courtesy New York Public Library

Antique Winnie the Pooh story toy

Antique Winnie the Pooh story toy - Eeyore

Antique Winnie the Pooh story toy - Tigger

Antique Winnie the Pooh story toy kangaroo

Antique toy from 1892 – Star Bell Hoop rolling hoop

Antique toy from 1892 - Star Bell Hoop rolling hoop

ALSO SEE: Rolling hoops used to be the coolest toys around

Toy soldier

$10 buys this toy soldier dressed in 18th-century uniform, though he’s probably a product of the 19th century, when historical models became very popular. He could as easily be a drummer in the French and Indian Wars as in the American Revolution.

Aside from rare earlier examples, toy soldiers are part of a tradition begun in the 1700s. Germany made flat models; France, dimensional ones.

Tin and lead alloys were used until [the 1970s]. The hollow-casting technique, which made metal figures lighter and less costly, was introduced by an English manufacturer about 1890.

Antique toys - toy soldier

MORE: About Tiddlywinks: The history of the old-fashioned game people keep rediscovering

More vintage soldier & battle toy figurines

Antique foreign soldier figurine

Antique soldier toy - Man with a sword figurine


Vintage dancing man toy from around the 1840s

Vintage dancing man toy 1840s

Antique board games

$30 is what you’ll pay for Autograph Authors, one of innumerable card and board games introduced after 1860.

For this price, you’ll receive an impressive supply of portraits of significant American authors of the 1880s. All are sure to be as enjoyable to look at now as the game was once to play. They are done in a realistic style typical of magazines of the period.

An old game may not be practical for playing, but owning it provides an appealing — and amusing — interpretation of the styles of yesterday.

Autograph Authors antique board game

Antique letter game toy set

ALSO SEE: 50+ old-fashioned games: Take look back at what people played 100 years ago

Antique dollhouse furniture

$70 is the price of this set of mini “bentwood” furniture. It was designed for a child to use when playing with dolls and is beautifully inconsistent in detail — a refreshing contrast to the more sophisticated work intended for adult appreciation.

Besides using wood, turn-of-the-century toy furniture craftsmen occasionally used paper and metal. This set reflects the charm of life-size designs that were fashionable in rustic country cabins.

Antique toys - Mini bentwood dollhouse furniture

Antique furnace stove metal toy for dollhouse

Tony vintage schoolhouse bell toy

Antique ceramic baby dolls

$70 is not unreasonable for a realistic ceramic baby doll from the period just after World War I.

The idea of making children’s dolls dates from about 1850, but first efforts were simply small-scale versions of adult figures, extremely well-dressed.

[Around the 1920s], a number of sculptors took pains to determine what was characteristic of babies physically, and dolls like this one were the result. Early examples of doll figures are rarer and more costly.

Antique toys - Ceramic baby doll

old doll toys

Miniatures & more antique scenes

$75 would be a good buy for this barnyard scene in miniature, because it shows off the wood-carver’s skills so beautifully.

We picture only a portion of the set, which includes other trees and people and many more pairs of farm animals, all of which have the charm of folk art.

These wood figures were a specialty of German carvers of the late 19th century, but American and Scandinavian craftsmen did similar work on occasion.

Antique barnyard scene toy made of wood

Antique puzzle blocks

$90 is a fair price for a set of picture blocks that children played with as puzzles and also as building blocks in the 1880s.

Each wood square is covered with six different picture pieces, which when put together create six city scenes. New York, Venice, London and Paris are readily identifiable, but others from the Near and Far East are not easy to recognize — or put together.

The scenes — lithographs done in the spirit of such printmakers as Currier and Ives — appealed to the public’s expanding interest in color.

Antique 1880s picture block puzzle

Mini tea set for kids

$95 will purchase this particularly attractive mini tea set from the mid-19th century. It duplicates both a shape and a pattern that were popular in the 1790s.

The wide interest in doll houses, beginning in the late 18th century, inspired potters everywhere to produce small-scale wares.

If there is a collector on your Christmas list and you have time to shop widely, you will find antique miniatures of just about every type of pottery made.

Antique mini tea set for doll house

MORE: 47 dangerous old playgrounds that our great-grandparents somehow survived

Antique toy drums

Antique toy drum (3)

Antique toy drum (1)

Antique toy drum (2)

Vintage paper doll costume

A blue formal dress with white trim and red flower garlands

Vintage Paper Doll Costume in Blue with White Trim and Garlands

Toy-size child’s antique pocket watch

1929.8.245.66 1.tif

Little girl riding on an antique hobby horse

Little girl on a hobby horse

MORE: Wonder horses! See vintage ride-on spring horse toys from the ’50s to the ’80s

If you liked this, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, plus see retro-inspired products in our shop. Thanks for visiting!

More stories you might like

Because the fun never ends

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Choose your next adventure

Join the fun

Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest vintage stuff!

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.