A Guide to Antique Cast Iron Toys' Value by Type

Published January 26, 2021
Antique train locomotive toy

While little kids favor products from leading brands like Little Tikes and Fisher Price, many adults prefer the enjoyment of antique playthings, and antique cast iron toys values in particular have continued to rise as the years have gone on. These low-cost toys are annually sold for thousands of dollars to avid collectors, but you may be asking yourself how to separate the wheat from the chafe of these childhood playthings. Use this detailed guide to help instruct you as you look to either buy or sell one of these beloved toys.

Antique Cast Iron Toys in History

By the 19th century, the process to cast iron ore into useable items had been established, and manufacturers quickly began making all sorts of goods out of the sturdy, long-lasting material. Children's toys were no exception, and cast iron animal figurines, vehicles, and piggy banks could be found in homes across the western world. With the developments of the industrial revolution in the early 20th century came an increase in cast iron toy production. Manufacturers were able to produce incredibly low-cost, lucrative recreational items for anticipatory families. However, as these toys grew more affordable, unemployment rates rose, and the Great Depression ravaged families' abilities to spend money on nonessential items. The cast iron toy industry took another significant hit in World War II, and they never quite recovered from it, with most of the well-known toy makers of the period going out of business or merging with other companies in the coming decades.

Toy cast iron hose reel wagon of Gainsville swanks

Most Popular Antique Cast Iron Toy Manufacturers

At its peak popularity, there were a multitude of cast iron toy manufacturers. However, a select few companies stood above the rest to become covetable even in the modern age. In fact, many antique cast iron toy collectors are manufacturer specific so discovering that one of your family's toys that has been passed down from child to child comes from one of these makers could change the way you store or insure these family heirlooms.

  • Hubley Manufacturing Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Arcade Manufacturing Company of Freeport, Illinois
  • A.C. Williams Company of Chagrin Falls, Ohio
  • Dent Hardware Company of Fullerton, Pennsylvania
  • Kenton Lock Manufacturing Company of Kenton, Ohio

Types of Antique Cast Iron Toys

Practically anything could be cast out of iron, making the possibilities nearly endless for the types of toys that could have been created in the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet, as with children today, historic kids begged to have their own copies of the latest technological gadgets that their parents owned. Thus, a parent's toy could easily become their kids' toys as well. In fact, these are a few of the most desirable types of antique cast iron toys collector's bid for today.

Skoglund and &Olson bus

Antique Cast Iron Toys Value by Type

Given these antique's hearty nature, it's unsurprising that collectors don't mind a few dents and scratches that come from the wear and tear of child's play. However, ensuring that your cast iron toys have imperfections like bumps and cast marks are important when trying to estimate their value since there are innumerable quality reproductions which can disguise themselves as valuable antiques. Similarly, toys in mint condition (seemingly having experienced no play at all) will have the highest estimated values out of all those for sale.

Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Emergency Vehicles

As the automobile industry grew exponentially in the 20th century, so too did little kids' wishes to have their very own cars to race and crash. These little kids grew into big kid collectors, and antique cast iron automotive toys can be sold for anywhere between $40-$500 on average. For example, a Hubley Popeye the Sailor motorcycle from the 1930s is priced a little over $400, and a green Arcade wrecker tow truck is listed for a little over $300. Emergency vehicles are also highly desirable antiques and can be worth quite a significant amount of money, like this 1910 hook and ladder fire truck from Dent that was evaluated by an antiques toy dealer for a bit over $3,500.

Cast iron toy hook and ladder wagon

Rare Cast Iron Toys

Unlike some niche collectible markets, antique cast iron toy collectors are very willing to pay heart-attack inducing amounts of money for specific, rare toys. Here are a few examples of these well-performing antique cast iron toys; and you should plan a trip to your grandparent's house if you suspect that they might have one of these hiding in their attic.

  • Mary and Her Little Lamb Bell - This nursery rhyme toy, which came attached with a bell, is the first known example of such a design, and it sold for almost $14,500.
  • Hubley Mack Ingersoll Rand Truck - For the vintage truck lovers, this rare toy is difficult to find and was bought for almost $11,000 by one lucky collector.
  • Kenton Speed Truck - This specific truck is another incredibly difficult to find items and was sold for a little over $12,500.
  • Arcade Yellow Cab - Arcade's yellow cab was the toy company's first successful toy, making it an elite collector's item today, and Bertoia Auctions sold a mint condition yellow cab in the early 2000s for just over $20,000.

The Toy Story Principal and Antique Cast Iron Toys

A beloved millennial film, Toy Story, outlines the inherent connection that people have with their childhood toys, and toy collectors understand how these bonds don't have to change when they grow older. Therefore, the antique toys that have survived to today deserve the same attention that your child's favorite stuffed animal gets. So, if you find yourself in the care of one of these quaint relics of the past, be sure to keep it dry and dust it every day because you never know what it might get up to while you're not watching.

A Guide to Antique Cast Iron Toys' Value by Type