Collectors of antique desks in Lancashire and Cumbria may well find there’s value to be had in downsizing. Antique toys and childhood memorabilia are achieving record profits at auctions, with nursery and model furniture proving especially collectable. If your loft is hiding a set of miniature Victorian dining chairs , a Preston antique dealer may well be interested.
The craze for all things childhood is demonstrated at Sotheby’s New York headquarters, where this month the largest collection of European toys and model trains ever assembled is on display – for sale as a single lot. Even though it takes up an entire floor, the display represents only a fifth of the 35,000 items in the collection, rumoured to be worth up to £31 million.
The toys and models, made between 1850 and 1940, were amassed by 67-year old Jerry Greene, a Pennsylvania music executive whose company specialises in the reissue of vintage recordings. Around half the pieces are by the German company Märklin, and includes every one of the tinplate hand-painted railway stations they ever made. However, all the major European and American toy manufacturers are represented in the collection, which was assembled over 50 years.
The value of the pieces comes both from their rarity, and their perfect condition. The collection also has historical importance, as Märklin copied real-life buildings, many of which no longer exist. They are of exquisite detail; for example miniature ticket-masters’ offices, complete with tiny antique desks. Preston antique dealers often have miniatures of this kind, while in Beatrix Potter’s Cumbria, Victorian dining chairs and other dolls house furniture are widely popular. Though best kept locked away in an antique cabinet, out of the children’s reach!
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