Be Aware of Price Anchor with Vintage Toy Boats

When you think of how many people here in Arizona have boats and love to relax on one of our many lakes, it’s not surprising that we often see antique and vintage toy boats and ships come through our auction house.

Speed boats, sailboats, ocean liners, steam boats, battleships, pop up boats, cargo ships…people love to collect a variety of toy boats, ships and nautical toys.

Collectors will remember when the pristine antique toy collection belonging to the late Malcom Forbes went up for auction in 2010 at Sotheby’s in New York. It was quite a collection from the “Golden Age of Toys,” a period of time from the 1870s to the 1950s, and the majority of the collection included toy boats and ships from well-known toy makers, such as Bing, Fleischmann, Märklin, Carette and others. Overall, the collection, which included toy soldiers, motorcycles and classic board games, realized more than $2.3 million.

These were highly-coveted collectibles. To give you an example of what collectors were willing to pay, a Märklin “Lusitania” German Ocean Liner, circa 1912, that measured 37 ½ inches sold for $194,500.

Of course, not everyone is fortunate to have so many rare, notable antique and vintage toys in their collection – which leads me to the topic of price anchors.

A price anchor occurs when you are relying on information that may not be accurate today. For example, you might have inherited a collection that 20 years ago was very valuable, but because of societal changes, it’s no longer in demand today. Often, we see people come in with their original receipts and appraisals, which are all good to prove provenance, but times and collecting behaviors change. So, just because an item was appraised at a price 10 years ago, doesn’t mean a collector will pay that today.

Whether you’re selling a vintage or antique toy boat or ship, or you want to add to your collection, do your homework by researching past auction prices on the internet. Take advantage of free appraisal fairs and talk with other nautical toy collectors.

Keep in mind that vintage toy parts for boats can also be valuable. Last month, we sold a vintage Johnson 25 Seahorse toy outboard motor for $150. Some of the rare toy outboard motors can command prices of $800 and higher. Other antique and vintage toy boat parts that collectors seek include everything from battleship guns, towers and chimneys to boat anchors, cabin hatches, steering columns, diecast port holes, windup cranks and more.

As someone who loves to spend time at the lake, I think antique and vintage toy boats and ships will continue to captivate collectors for many years to come. If you love to collect nautical toys, just remember how price anchors can sink your hopes and expectations. Do your research and be realistic about supply and demand, and it should be smooth sailing when you’re ready to sell.


Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale.

Contact:, or call (623) 878-2003.


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