In the 20th and early 21st centuries, mass-produced franchises of toys have shaped the childhoods of people the world over. From Lego to fidget spinners, children have been writing to Santa to send them the latest and most popular toys. As the toys lose popularity, their production runs stop which sets up, for decades later, a vibrant scene of buying and selling these icons of past childhoods. The nostalgia they bring has added to their value, and today, many of our vintage toys can be worth thousands of dollars. Here are 10 examples of vintage toys worth a lot of money. If you find them in the attic, don’t throw them out!
1. Star Wars Action Figures
Star Wars Action figures are among the most valuable vintage toys ever made. In 1977, the Star Wars franchise exploded into the public scene, creating a huge fan base overnight. Along with the movie came action figures, and that first line of action figures is extremely valuable today.
As with all action figures, the value increases significantly if the toy is still in its unopened original packaging. In 2015, a Japanese collector decided to auction off his Star Wars collection, and his 1978 Luke Skywalker figurine fetched a very respectable $25,000. His whole collection sold for a total of $500,000.
A $25,000 price tag, however, is small change compared to the value of the Rocket Firing Boba Fett produced in 1979. This variant was recalled because it posed a hazard. That means there are very few of them still in existence. If you have one, bear in mind that in 2019, one of these particular vintage toys sold for $185,850.
2. Where the Wild Things Are (1963)
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It’s not just vintage toys that are worth a lot of money. Some books are worth a small fortune, especially first-edition copies. In 2012, AbeBooks sold a first-edition copy of Where the Wild Things Are (1963) by Maurice Sendak for $25,000, making it the most pricey children’s picture book that AbeBooks has ever sold.
Although the copy that was sold was a signed copy in mint condition, first-edition copies of books are always valuable, and one should always check how much they are worth before donating them to the local second-hand bookshop. Even books that aren’t in mint condition can fetch a fair price.
3. Pokémon Trading Cards
Many in the western world, especially those who know of Pokémon as a kid’s trend, don’t realize how old the franchise actually is. Created in 1966, these trading cards became an instant success, creating a phenomenon that would become the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
The trading cards were the foundation of this franchise, and if they’re in mint condition (as card collectors know to keep them), then they can be worth an incredible amount of money. The Japanese version holographic Pikachu illustrator card is one such card. Printed in 1998, only 39 were ever produced. In 2022, one of these cards sold for $900,000.
While it’s unlikely your Pokémon cards will be worth that amount, it’s worth getting them valued. But then, if you own Pokémon cards, you probably already know that!
The figurehead brand of Mattel, Barbie has been a toy influencing childhoods for more than six decades. As far as vintage toys go, Barbie dolls are one of the most valuable. Specifically, the original 1959 version. Barbara Millicent Roberts (Barbie’s full name) was the first mass-produced doll with adult features. The original stood 11 inches tall, had blond or brown hair, and came with a black and white swimsuit and heels.
An original Barbie from 1959 in mint condition and still in the box sold for $27,450. Barbies from 1959 and through the 1960s can easily be worth $5,000 to $10,000 each.
With all the different variations of Barbie dolls, this toy has a huge following, and it has become very collectible. Mattel estimates there are more than 100,000 Barbie doll collectors around the world.
5. My Little Pony
Launched in the 1980s, My Little Pony was a huge hit on the worldwide market. These vintage toys produced by the Hasbro toy company are collectible, and people are willing to pay a fair amount of money for them.
While the rare “Firefly” pony from 1983 is one of the most valuable, able to garner several hundred dollars, depending on the condition, other ponies are also sought after and worth a tidy sum.
Mimic the Twinkle Eye Unicorn is rare and easily worth several hundred dollars. Other rare ponies are the mail-order ponies, which you could send off with the proof of purchase of other ponies.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In the late 80s and 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze was in full swing. The comic books spawned a hit TV show, and along with it came a plethora of merchandise. The creators of the toys went through so many iterations of the same characters that there are many versions that are extremely rare and worth a lot of money.
Of course, keeping them in mint condition and in their original packaging is recommended for those wishing to make a decent amount of money by selling them.
Some of them are worth a few hundred dollars, even without the packaging. And some are even more valuable. A mint condition “Undercover” series Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Leonardo (1994) or a “Scratch the Cat” (1993) are likely to be worth several thousand dollars. As a result, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are some of the most sought-after toys on the market today.
7. Masters of the Universe
Before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. In 1976, when the CEO of Mattel saw the licensing fee of $750,000 for the Star Wars figurines, he decided that his company would make a rival toy to steal the hearts of children. It worked, and Masters of the Universe was born.
With a wide range of action figures accompanying the TV series, some of these vintage toys are worth many thousands today. “Scare Glow,” “Ram Man,” “Laser Light Skeletor,” and “Faker” are just some of the figurines worth a few thousand.
Most of the figurines were produced in Taiwan and Malaysia. But if you’ve got a He-Man made in Argentina, it could be worth considerably more.
8. Beanie Babies
During the Beanie Baby craze of the 1990s, Ty Toys realized it had created a massive market for their pellet-stuffed toys. Hundreds of individual designs went into production. People rushed to stores to acquire the most diverse array of Beanie Babies and then sold them on the burgeoning internet. At the height of the Beanie Baby craze, 1 in 10 sales on eBay was a Beanie Baby. The value of these plush toys skyrocketed to insane heights.
Then the bubble burst and the toys became virtually worthless overnight. Some people kept their toys anyway. Now, over two decades later, the toys have become increasingly valuable again.
“Large Wallace,” along with his squad of four regular-sized Beanie Babies, are the most valuable Beanie Babies in a set, worth around $680,000, but there are many other versions of these vintage toys worth several thousands of dollars.
9. Tipp & Co. Mickey Mouse Motorcycle
Invented in 1928, Mickey Mouse has brought us millions of tons of merchandise over the decades. Some of the older vintage toys are worth many tens of thousands of dollars.
The Tipp & Co. Mickey Mouse Motorcycle from 1930. The toy was made of tin and featured Mickey and Minnie on a wind-up motorcycle. It was manufactured in Germany for the UK market.
In 2022, one of these vintage toys sold for a staggering $222,000 after a bidding war at the auction of former New York gallerist Monique Knowlton’s antique toy collection. Only 18 are known to exist, so if you find one, you’re really in luck.
10. Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels cars have been screaming across the floors of our homes for many decades. With thousands of individual designs, some production runs were longer than others. Some of these vintage toys are extremely rare.
One rare Hot Wheels car is the 1969 Pink VW Beach Bomb. It’s so rare, in fact, that only two are known to exist. The prototype is owned by Bruce Pascal, who paid “in the region of the asking price of $72,000.” The value of these pink microbuses could easily be upward of $150,000.
They were produced in many colors, and Mattel decided to paint some of them pink in an attempt to get the cars to appeal to girls. Predictably, the pink run was more limited than the other colors, which is why these particular versions are so rare and valuable.
For some of us, toys were just things we played with when we were children. For others, toys are a business, created for the sake of profit. And for some people, toys are items of great worth, fulfilling our human desire to collect things. For these people, vintage toys are not just something they love, but a remarkable investment in something that increases in value by several orders of magnitude every decade.