Antique Wooden Toys Buying Guide

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Antique Wooden Toys Buying Guide

Toys have been produced since the dawn of time. As infants, they help us to develop numerous abilities, not least our sense of imagination. Having been created for thousands of years, there's a rich history behind these childhood objects, with the world’s inventors having given birth to some miraculous specimens.

One of the joys of eBay is the extensive range of rare, vintage and collectible items that are listed that cannot be found elsewhere. Antique wooden toys surface all the time in attics and spare rooms the world over, and eBay allows you access to a spectrum of truly special examples. This guide will serve as a short introduction to some considerations to make when shopping for antique wooden toys.

Only Limited by Your Imagination

As one of our most abundant of natural resources and due to its versatile properties, wood has been used to craft the objects we surround ourselves with for thousands of years. There's no more precious a member of the family than a child, so it's of little surprise that this warm and familiar resource has so often been turned into wonderful gifts with which to delight our young ones.

Antique wooden toys are available in a seemingly limitless variety of permutations:

  •  Jigsaw puzzles
  •  Dolls houses
  •  Pull-along toys
  •  Building blocks
  •  Ships that float
  •  Boats that don't
  •  Cars
  •  Dolls
  •  Farmyard animals

Buyers of antique wooden toys usually fall into one of two categories;

  •  collectors buying antique toys to treasure
  •  parents or friends keen to gift a young child with a beautiful gift that they'll tussle with as much as they'll treasure

Depending on your reason for buying an antique wooden toy there are different things to consider.

Buying Antiques for Children

The most critical thing to think about when buying anything for a child or infant is safety. Antique wooden toys can make beautiful additions to the lives of children, but it's very important to check they're safe for a young one to play with before leaving the two to play.

In times gone by, they were not always as focused on health and safety as society is nowadays. This shines through in a lot of aspects, not least toy design. Modern standards are stringent in dictating a number of factors our forebears may not have considered important. So it's often crucial to be vigilant in checking over the toy. Key safety aspects to consider include:


The Victorians didn't see any problem in dusting their faces with lead powder or running their water through lead pipes, nowadays both are something we avoid. Similarly, paints would often contain lead, and the chemicals used in varnishes could be dangerous if put in mouths. It's not always easy to tell the chemical composition of each part of a toy, but bear toxicity in mind when assessing a toy's safety if you're going to give it to a child.

Small Parts

Infants especially are notorious for their desire to put anything within reach straight in their mouths.  Details attached to a toy that come lose can pose a choking risk to eager young mouths. Check over an item's pictures to see if you can spot any protruding items that might be snapped off by strong young fingers.

Sharp Objects

Nowadays, modern wooden toys are sanded smooth across all surfaces, and especially edges, so that there are no sharp lines that a child could injure themselves with. With antiques this wasn't always the case.

Always use informed judgement when assessing a toy's suitability before handing it to a child. If in doubt, consult a professional.

Buying Antique Wooden Toys to Treasure Not Touch

The key issue for collectors buying antique wooden toys that they'll treasure, not hand to children to play with, is the item's condition.

Time can take its toll on toys. Although wood can be a very long lasting and resilient material, if it is not properly cared for it can degrade and weaken with time.

Sellers of rare and antique toys should go into detail about the item's condition, noting any restoration work that has been done to the toy and illustrating any damages with pictures. From these descriptions you should be able to tell the condition of the toy.

The value of an antique toy is decided by its:

  • rarity
  • age
  • condition
  • craftsmanship
  • how much demand there is for it in the market

 If you're unsure as to the value of a toy, it's always worth searching “Completed items” in the advanced search function on eBay to look at similar items.

Of course, antique toys in disrepair can make for great projects to work on. Restoring toys can be a meticulous process, as many older toys were painstakingly produced by expert craftspeople.

If restoring an antique wooden toy you may need to sand the toy down, reapply varnish, repaint details or even replace entire parts completely by crafting replacements yourself. Of course, if you've got your heart set on a particular antique toy which is clearly in need of a little tender loving care, but don't have the dexterity or time to perform the work yourself, it's usually fairly easy to find a local specialist to take on the job.

Take care; much of the value of any antique is vested in its patina. Restoring it in any way requires really careful research.

Wood you believe it?

One final consideration when buying antique wooden toys is the material the toy is made from. It doesn't matter if you're buying an antique wooden toy as a collector or a parent keen for the toy to withstand the playfulness of a child, the common concern is that the item will last. Of core importance to this is the wood it is made from and the way that wood is cared for.

Woods are generally categorised as either hardwoods or softwoods.

  • Softwoods grow quickly and by virtue of this are often cheaper and softer than hardwoods.
  • Hardwoods on the other hand typically come from trees which shed their leaves once a year and mature slowly.

The woods they produce are hard and resilient, but often cost a lot due to their relative scarcity. Any wood can last a long time untreated if it's stored in the right environment - direct sunlight can dry out a wood, leading it to crack and disintegrate. Conversely, damp conditions can cause the wood to swell and warp as it soaks up moisture.

So it's crucial to think about where you'll store an antique toy when thinking about its preservation. Also useful to consider is that varnishing, staining or oiling a wood can help protect it from picking up dirt or soaking up moisture. Varnishes deteriorate over time, and when damaged can expose weaknesses in the wood, which, left unchecked, can begin to decay.

How to Buy Wooden Toys on eBay

Now that you've worked out which wooden toys you want, find them quickly on eBay. To start shopping, go to the Toys & Games category. Click the Wooden Toys portal.

Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links to shop for Kids or Collectors & Hobbyists. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder: Use the Wooden Toys Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by type of Sub-Type, Brand, Character Family, Age Level, Gender, Condition, Price and Item Location.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Wooden Toys with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know Your Item

Read the details in the item listing carefully.

Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.

If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.

Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.

Know Your Seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.What is the seller’s Feedback rating?

  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback?
  • Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer Protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection covers your purchase price plus original delivery cost.

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