A treasure in old toys


Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 13, 2003 at 10:18 p.m.
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Appraiser Mark Leinberger looks through a collection of dolls, including foot-tall troll dolls from the 1970's.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

FYI: Toy Roadshow

  • WHAT: FX Toy Roadshow appraisal of toys and childhood collectibles from the mid-1970s and earlier.
  • WHERE: Sears courtyard inside The Oaks Mall.
  • WHEN: Today and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • COST: Appraisals are free.

  • Bevies of Barbies, Hot Wheels by the carrying case and the occasional odd plaything helped on Monday to turn the Sears Courtyard inside The Oaks Mall into a marketplace of childhood memories.
    Shirley and Al Underwood lugged a cardboard box of toys that belonged to their two children - now adults - to the FX Toy Roadshow, a toys and collectibles appraisal event that continues today and Wednesday at the mall. Most of what the Underwoods brought had little collectible value, but they did leave with $200 for two items.
    "They were really impressed with 'Dino,' " Al Underwood said of "Fred on Dino," a mid-1960s plush purple, battery-operated dinosaur from "The Flintstones" TV show. "They were amazed that it was so colorfast, and they couldn't believe it still worked."
    The couple were paid $200 for "Fred on Dino" and "Buttons," a mechanical puppy from the 1960s.
    "We're satisfied," Shirley Underwood said, adding that they were glad to get something for toys they've been moving from garage to garage for years and that their grandchildren showed little interest in.
    Kevin Cook was more than satisfied with the money he got for a fleet of Hot Wheels miniature cars he played with as a boy in the 1960s.
    "I brought 23 cars, and before I came I thought my best-wish price for all of them would be $600," said Cook, 42, who attended the event on his lunch hour. "But I got $507 and I still have 12 cars left."
    Some of the 11 cars he sold were pink, which the appraisers told him was a very unusual color for Hot Wheels of that era. He also had "muscle" cars of the '60s - such as Camaros and Mustangs - that are prized by Hot Wheels collectors.
    Regina Whitsett said she was a little disappointed in the $40 she received for three items from her girlhood - a Mystery Date game, a "Family Affair" puzzle from the 1960s TV show and a "Laidlaw Basic Readers" book.
    "He told me if the Mystery Date game had its original box, that would have made it worth $100," said Whitsett, who had help carrying her two bags of items from her 4-year-old son, Matthew, and her 3-year-old grandson, Dakota Westfall.
    "I threw the box away a couple of years ago," she said. "It was pretty beat up."
    Mark Leinberger, general manager of the road show, and fellow appraiser Joel Magee were kept busy all day, appraising toys and childhood collectibles from the 1920s to the mid-1970s for more than 165 people. By the end of the event Wednesday they likely will have seen about 500 people, Leinberger said.
    One man brought in a suitcase stuffed with 40 to 50 Barbie dolls and relatives, including boyfriend, Ken, and little sister, Tutti. He said he had been collecting them for 40 years, buying many at garage sales. His curvaceous dolls were in various stages of dress and completeness, and some, Magee informed him, had the wrong heads with the bodies.
    "This one has the bendable legs, which didn't come with pony tails," Magee said as he popped off one head and exchanged it for the correct head.
    The man left mulling over an offer of about $300 for more than a dozen older Barbies and an assortment of clothes Magee valued at about $470.
    Kim McKnight of Keystone Heights brought in a 29-inch-long German-made doll that her grandmother was given in about 1915 when she still lived in Czechoslovakia. The doll featured an elaborate dress typical of the Czech village her grandmother came from.
    Almost as intriguing as the doll to Leinberger was a photograph postcard from 1917 that showed McKnight's grandmother holding the doll.
    "The picture adds probably 20 to 30 percent to the value because it shows the doll actually in use by its original owner," Leinberger told McKnight.
    He valued the doll at between $1,500 and $1,800, and said it possibly could fetch $2,000 from the right collector. McKnight said she was pleased with the value, but the doll wasn't for sale at any price.
    "I really just wanted a value for insurance purposes," she said.
    Leinberger said 90 percent of the time people choose not to sell it's because the item has such strong sentimental value.
    "And I can't compete with sentimental value," he said.
    Leinberger said the hottest market today is for items from the 1950s and '60s, as middle-age collectors seek out the Barbies, early GI Joe action figures and Hot Wheels of their youth.
    "Collectors basically are big kids who want to buy back their childhood," he said, adding that the market for items after about 1975 hasn't yet developed.
    By Monday evening, the biggest find of the day was a cast-iron steamroller made by the Hubley company in the 1920s. Its market value is about $500, Leinberger said, and they paid $375 for it.
    The FX Toy Roadshow, based in Palm Beach Gardens, differs from public television's "Antiques Roadshow" and most similar shows in which experts appraise antiques and collectibles. In addition to assigning values, the toy appraisers also offer to buy items on the spot for their own collections or for people in their network of about 20,000 dealers and collectors.
    Although Monday produced some interesting treasures, none quite matched what Leinberger called their biggest find ever. It was a salesman's sample of an early GI Joe, brought to a roadshow in Council Bluffs, Iowa, by the son of the salesman.
    "These rare samples were given to salesmen who went to local stores promoting GI Joes before they became popular," Leinberger said. "The guy was very surprised and pleased when we paid him $12,000 for it."
    Bob Arndorfer can be reached at (352) 374-5042 or arndorb@gvillesun.com.

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