Childhood’s Precious Metal For Sale At Bonhams

All that glisters is not gold. Tin can be more valuable – and – there has never been a better time to invest in tinplate toys. Bonhams’ next Sale of Toys on 14 May in Knightsbridge, London will provide investors and collectors with a golden opportunity to acquire some of these rare and valuable playthings from a bygone era.

From model airships and aeroplanes to tanks and torpedo boats, as well as cars, fire engines, wagons and lorries the sale will cater for most tastes.

The largest selection of tinplate airships to be auctioned in the last 20 years will feature no less than 25 different examples of model dating from 1910 to the 1930s. Starting with the most highly-prized model is a rare 5403 clockwork Zeppelin by Marklin, painted in cream and silver with black lining and featuring two gondolas, side and rear propellers and the German Empire flag. Valued at £2,000-3,000, this toy would have once hung from a child’s bedroom ceiling and fully wound it would have whizzed around in circles high above the child’s head – a glorious sight to behold even today.

Another German Zeppelin to be sold is a TippCo clockwork model of the world famous Hindenburg airship, which, in its second year of service, went up in flames and was destroyed while landing at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, U.S., on 6 May 1937. Thirty-six people died in the accident, which was widely reported by film, photography and radio media.

Along with its sister-ship, the full-size Hindenburg was the largest rigid aircraft ever built – 245m (804ft) long and 41m (135ft) in diameter, longer than three Boeing 747s placed end-to-end, and only 24m (79ft) shorter than the Titanic. Construction began on the Hindenburg in 1931, but when Luftschiffbau Zeppelin went bankrupt funding was sought from the Nazi Party to complete the project. In 1935, building work resumed but, in return for the money, the airship was forced to display swastikas on its tail fins. It officially made its first flight on 4 March that year and flew 308,323 km (191,583 miles), carrying 2,798 paying passengers, over 160 tons of freight and mail from Germany to the U.S.

The Hindenburg model to be sold by Bonhams features a forward gondola, two rows of passenger windows, four suspended engines with propellers and is complete with the Nazi Party emblems to the rear fins just as they would have been seen on the life size version. It is expected to fetch £500-800.

The largest model airship that was produced was the TippCo clockwork R100, measuring 63cm (25in) long, and one of these will also feature in the sale at an estimate of £1,500-2,500.

Head of Bonhams’ Toys Department, Leigh Gotch, says: “This has got to be one of the most comprehensive collections of Toy airships I’ve seen at auction. Even with these models it does not take much imagination to see what a gracious way of travelling this would have been. At the time, it was looked upon in awe.”

Other items in the spotlight include a 1920s JEP (Unis) clockwork Seaplane in red and blue with black and cream detailing, which has detachable twin floats and a pilot figure. Valued at £400-600 it will sit alongside a Bing 155/344 c/w three funnel Liner with portholes, tan decks, lifeboats, and masts at £2,500-3,000. A similar liner is estimated at £1,500-2,000 and a Bing c/w four funnel Torpedo boat is expected to fetch £2,000-3,000.