There’s not a week that goes by that our auction house is not cataloging or selling collectible toys. Of all the estate items we auction, toys are one of the largest categories. While we sell modern-day toys, it’s the antique and vintage toys that savvy collectors are most interested in.
Earlier this month, we auctioned a cool toy that got me thinking about how a parent’s love for their child could inspire them to invent a toy. That’s exactly what happened when Fred Lundahl, founder of the Moline Pressed Steel Company, created a miniature dump truck in 1920 for his son, Arthur, whose nickname was “Buddy L.”
Lundahl’s company made fenders and cabs for International Harvester, and he used scrap metal from his firm to make “Buddy L” toy trucks, cars, trains and tugboats that were so large and durable, kids and parents alike could sit and ride on them.
The “Buddy L’ line of steel toys were in so much demand, they were ordered by prestigious retailers such as FAO Schwarz and Marshall Field. Unfortunately, the company was sold after Mr. Lundhal died in 1930 after surgery. Toys sales then declined during the Great Depression and during World War II, when it was difficult to obtain steel.
Fortunately, collectors are still enthralled with “Buddy L” toys. On August 1, we auctioned a C. 1927 Buddy L #208 Pressed Steel Passenger Bus Transportation Coach that measured approximately 29 inches long. It hammered at $3,750.
Samuel Leeds Allen was another entrepreneur who was inspired by having fun with his children. The founder of S.L. Allen & Company in Philadelphia, his company manufactured farm implements. But in the late-1880s, he designed the Flexible Flyer and Fairy Coaster sleds. The Flexible Flyer, which was patented in 1889, featured a pair of steel runners with a flexible spot halfway down the slide. Sales took off when he marketed the sleds to the toy departments of Wanamaker’s and the R.H. Macy Company. Today, these antique sleds can realize between $500 and $1,000 at auction, depending on condition.
Sometimes, a parent can inspire a child to create a toy that later becomes another of many valuable collectible toys.
Beatrice “Madame” Alexander became a famous doll manufacturer after learning the craft at her stepfather’s doll hospital in New York. Alexander’s company created more than 5,000 different dolls over six decades, and her company received international acclaim for many industry firsts, such as replacing porcelain with cloth to encourage play, creating the first doll of a young Queen Elizabeth, and creating the first plastic face mold. Some of the rare Madame Alexander dolls can be worth thousands of dollars.
A parent-child bond is unique, as is the bond between siblings. With so many families stuck at home right now waiting for the end of the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder what ideas may develop into innovative products. Who knows? The next big collectible toys could be in the early stages of creation right now in your neighbor’s living room.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.