Toys are objects for the imagination, the physical things children manipulate in the real world as their minds race with fantastic scenarios and secret adventures. Toys don’t have to be complicated in design or made of expensive materials. Indeed, the best toys are often the simplest, used way past their breaking points, which makes collecting vintage toys in good condition a challenge.

One of the most popular categories of vintage toys encompasses toys that move. Pull toys on wheels are powered by the user, while wind-up toys—which are sometimes called clockwork toys for their internal similarity to the movements in clocks—walk, crawl, or roll along a floor or flat surface when cranked or wound with a special key. Friction toys are propelled forward when a spring in the toy is wound backwards, while battery-operated toys are powered by cylindrical cells that are, as every parent knows, usually not included with the toy when it’s purchased.

Then there are doll-like toys, but please don’t call them dolls. We’re talking action figures here, from G.I. Joes to “Star Wars” figures and playsets. Other examples of figural toys include My Little Ponies (collectors go for the first-generation ones made between 1992 and 1995), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and tin robots (Lilliput, Atomic Robot Man, and others made in mid-20th-century Japan are especially rare).

Building toys such as Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and LEGOs have long been popular with kids, as have toys targeted to toddlers, and even infants, from companies such as Fisher-Price, Playmobil, and Playskool. These toys are designed to give a child’s imagination a kickstart, as are the playsets made by Marx and other toy manufacturers. At the other end of the play spectrum are toys that are positively elegant in their simplicity yet require a certain amount of dexterity and skill to enjoy, the yo-yo being a good example of this type of toy.


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