A toy that is 40 years old may be worth more than something similar that is 70 years old, so it can be confusing trying to figure out just how valuable a particular toy is. Since many people collect toys, a wealth of information exists to help determine value, including collector clubs and websites, online auction websites, and even books dedicated to specific types of toys, such as tin toys or posable action figures.
Collector Site Comparisons
Collectors are so enthusiastic about some types of toys that numerous websites dedicate a good deal of time to detailing values of specific pieces, as well as which versions are common and which are prized. Star Wars collectibles, Strawberry Shortcake figures and playsets, and vintage Barbie variations are just a few items collected by many people. Seek out collector clubs online, especially sites with forums in which posting pictures and questions is allowed. Look for your specific toy on collector sites for detailed information, such as whether it is common or an obscure variation. Email the site's manager, if they welcome such emails, or post questions about current values in the site's forum, where others may offer their opinion. Values may vary from one year to the next, so if you find a price online from 10 years ago, it may not be accurate.
Online Auction Averages
Online auction sites -- especially sites that allow you to search through ended listings -- offer a general idea about current prices for old toys. Look through as many completed listings as possible, comparing prices on items that actually sold: An ended auction listing with no bids on it is not a good gauge of price. Check other well-visited sites that allow sales of vintage goods for your specific toy. Some of these sites only show active listings, so compare high and low ranges for your toy to get a general idea of its potential value.
Toy shows feature numerous vendors, some specializing in specific toy types, such as tin toys or building sets. Check out the offerings, asking vendors about potential values of your favorite old toys. Prices at a toy show may even be higher than the going retail value, because toy-show attendees may be looking for a specific item to round out their collection, even if it comes at a high cost. Items at a toy show may also be in exceptional or like-new condition, which increases their value.
Books dedicated to collecting specific types of old toys often feature a price guide that helps you narrow down a toy's value. Read the fine print to determine whether the prices listed are top retail values or average retail prices -- some books list high prices that may seem inflated based on real-world sales. A current value book is best, because prices fluctuate greatly. Prices for some items have dropped significantly in recent years. The Internet offers a global marketplace, making it much easier to find multiples of the same toy for sale. If the market becomes flooded with a specific toy, the value drops, so keep in mind that book-listed prices are just a general guideline.
Condition greatly affects the value of some types of toys, such as collectible action figures. A toy still in its original packaging, with even the packaging in good condition, may be worth many times more than the same toy in "played-with" condition. Consider whether the item has all of its pieces as well: An action figure complete with all of its original accessories is worth more than one without any -- sometimes those tiny extras are worth quite a bit, comparatively, since they are often the first pieces lost. If a toy is extremely rare and desirable, it may be valuable even in somewhat poor condition.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.