This article was originally published in Antique Trader
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Characters and graphics make collecting vintage Fisher-Price toys an easy choice
By Bruce Fox
With their colorful paper lithography attached to sturdy wooden toys, vintage Fisher-Price toys conjure up nostalgic images for four generations of collectors. These toys have been woven into the fabric of the country’s childhood tapestry.
More than 80 years after the production of their first toys, Fisher-Price is still the first choice of parents and grandparents seeking safe, well-made toys for their children and grandchildren.
Founded by Herman Fisher, Irving Price, and Helen Schelle on Sept. 9, 1930, in East Aurora, N.Y., the company was determined to create toys with a matchless charm and unprecedented quality.
Sixteen toys, known as the “Sixteen Hopefuls,” were introduced at Toy Fair in 1931. They included Doctor Doodle and Granny Doodle, a pair of whimsical ducks that initiated the use of animal characters as a staple in the Fisher-Price line.
The foundation of Fisher-Price Toys’ long-term success has been the timeless application of the Fisher-Price Five-Point Creed introduced at Toy Fair 1931: Intrinsic Play Value; Ingenuity; Strong Construction; Good Value for The Money; and Action.
Most collectors are familiar with the look of vintage Fisher-Price toys with their crisp, colorful paper lithography glued onto Ponderosa pine. Fisher-Price quickly realized the value of licensing, and in 1935, the company issued the Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Band, featuring Mickey and Pluto.
This piece can command more than $2,000 in Mint condition. Other Disney characters and Popeye also became favorites and are very desirable in today’s market. Musical toys, especially items featuring bells or xylophones, became perennial favorites.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2009, the Fisher-Price Play Family first appeared in 1959 in the yellow wooden Safety School Bus. With bodies made of wood, the Play Family could be removed from their vehicles. Their body styles and compositions have changed over the years, and today, the Little People (trademarked in 1985) are larger, poseable, made of plastic, and have names like Eddy, Sonya Lee and Sarah Lynn.
Fisher-Price Brands, a division of Mattel, Inc., has grown from its simple beginnings in 1931 to become the largest preschool toy company in the world.
The Fisher-Price Collector’s Club is an excellent resource for collectors.
Note: Some Fisher-Price toys had more than one variation, which may mean different values on vintage toys. The date on the toy is only a copyright date, which is earlier than the actual date of manufacture. Especially important to note is that the values are determined by rarity, desirability, and condition. And prices noted include all original parts and accessories.
The recent downturn in the economy has created the opportunity to purchase hard-to find Fisher-Price toys at reasonable prices.
Of special note is the significant reduction in demand and value for Disney and comic character toys. Some vintage toys will always hold their value because of their rarity and desirability, especially with the original box.
Bruce Fox is a contributor to Toys & Prices 2011. In 2009, he retired from Fisher-Price after 30 years, winning multiple sales awards during his career. He has co-authored two books on Fisher-Price history, including toy values. As the company’s spokesperson for the 75th anniversary in 2005, he appeared on ABC television and hosted a satellite media tour.
In 25 years of searching, Bruce has acquired the largest private collection of vintage Fisher-Price toys, including the 1931 “Sixteen Hopefuls” and every company catalog.
Bruce lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Becky. He can be contacted through his website: www.FisherPriceAuthor.com.
The Top 10 Fisher-Price Toys
(In Mint Condition)
- Push Cart Pete, 1936 ………………….$9,500
- Skipper Sam, 1934………………………$6,500
- Donald Duck Bak-Up, 1936…………..$6,000
- Bunny Scoot, 1931………………………$5,500
- Penelope Penguin, 1935……………….$5,000
- Donald & Donna Duck, 1937………….$5,000
- Road Roller, 1934…………………………$4,500
- Raggedy Ann & Andy, 1941……………$3,750
- American Airline’s Flagship, 1941…….$3,500
- Tricky Tommy, 1936………………………$3,500