Star Wars Fans Awaken

A fine collection of: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi action figures, vehicles and accessories, including Palitoy
A fine collection of: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi action figures, vehicles and accessories, including Palitoy

I am as excited about the release of the Last Jedi this weekend as I was as a boy when the original Star Wars trilogy came out.

In those early films George Lucas combined wonderful storytelling with breath taking visual effects set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. His was a believable galaxy; where spaceships and robots carried the patina and dirt of far-off worlds; where chivalry and light sabres stood against blasters and the storm troopers of an evil empire in a battle between the light and dark sides of the Force. We felt a real connection with the characters.

Jabba the Hutt, the Rancor, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian with other characters from The Return of the Jedi
Jabba the Hutt, the Rancor, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian with other characters from The Return of the Jedi

Some critics complained that the story line of the first film in the new trilogy, The Force Awakens, was too close to the originals. However, I think the director J. J. Abrams was inspired to return to the roots of the franchise bridging the original trilogy to the new. The story telling was once again exceptional, the characters three-dimensional and the effects visually stunning. Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey was beautifully crafted. It is tremendous to see the story centre around a female protagonist supported by characters old and new, with Harrison Ford as Han Solo and John Boyega as Finn to name but a few.

The Last Jedi, released on Thursday 14th December, has been directed by Rian Johnson. Trailers and interviews have left fans with more questions than answers. Who is the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke? Will Rey stand with the light side of the Force or will she join Kylo Ren on the dark side? Who were Rey’s parents? What role will Luke Skywalker play and who is the mysterious Rose? Will the Force finally be brought into balance? One thing is certain Rian Johnson has promised to surprise and shock the fans.

The Millennium Falcon with original box
The Millennium Falcon with original box

I was thrilled when Father Christmas brought me C-3PO, R2 D2, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader but my brother hit the jackpot when he was given the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo and Chewbacca.

I was delighted to see that the Star Wars fan’s excitement in the early toys and action figures illustrated remains undiminished. They realised hundreds of pounds at Toovey’s specialist Christmas toy sale. It was very evocative to see Luke’s X-wing Starfighter, the Millennium Falcon, an Imperial At-At Walker and the original characters. Entries for Toovey’s next specialist toy auction on Tuesday 20th March 2018 are being accepted from the beginning of January.

No doubt today’s Star Wars fans will be queuing up this Christmas for the latest action figures of Rey, BB-8, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Finn, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker, as well as First Order and Rebel Starfighters, Star destroyers and light sabres.

I am excitedly booking my Last Jedi tickets at an independent cinema near me as I write! I hope your Christmas parcels this year contain a Star Wars surprise. It remains to say “May the Force be with you.”

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Toys and Fundraising at Horsham Museum

Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale, with some of his favourite recent discoveries
Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale, with some of his favourite recent discoveries

Toovey’s toy valuation event in support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is becoming an annual event. Toovey’s specialist toys valuer, Christopher Gale, will be at the museum on Saturday, 18th February 2017, between 10am and 12noon providing free auction valuations and advice on your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys.

Chris Gale says: “A third of the seller’s commission for items subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated by us to Horsham Museum to help with its important work.”

A Hornby ‘Princess Elizabeth’ O Gauge electric train with original box
A Hornby ‘Princess Elizabeth’ O Gauge electric train with original box

I ask Chris about his favourite recent discoveries. He shows me a Hornby O Gauge electric train with original box. He says ‘This is one of Hornby’s finest models and reflects the design of the original steam engine. The original Princess Elizabeth locomotive was designed by Mr W. A. Stainer and was built at the Crewe Works in Cheshire. It was one of the first 4-6-2 engines built by The London Midland Scottish Railway (LMSR). The Princess Elizabeth became the most famous of the giant LMSR locomotives when, in 1936, she covered the 401.4 mile run between Glasgow and London at an average speed of 70mph whilst hauling a train. The toy train was produced with the guidance and advice of LMSR.” The model, dating from 1937, looks resplendent in its ‘crimson lake’ livery and the detailing is marvellous.

A Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 and Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car both with their original boxes and an array of sports cars
A Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 and Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car both with their original boxes and an array of sports cars

I love the Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car, both with their original boxes. Bristol and Connaught both raced at Goodwood in the 1950s. Chris comments “Toy cars and tin plate toys always have a strong following. Dinky cars, for example, delight grown-up collectors as they did when they were boys. And they love rare models which aren’t too play worn!”

Chris Gales’ enthusiasm is infectious and his knowledge of toys never fails to impress.

The toy displays at Horsham Museum are marvellous. Bring your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys to see Chris Gale between 10am and 12noon on Saturday, 18th February 2017, for a morning of fun and free pre-sale valuations at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 21st March 2017. A third of the seller’s commission for items seen at the event and subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. Sellers will receive the full amount they would normally get but they will know that they have helped the Museum as well.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Toys, Planes and Automobiles

A Corgi Toys No. 261 James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 with diorama box, two bandits, secret instructions and envelope
A Corgi Toys No. 261 James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with diorama box, two bandits, secret instructions and envelope

As Christmas approaches, across the county trees are brought in, cakes iced, turkeys ordered and Carols sung. Parents search toy shops and online to find this year’s must have toy. The excitement of receiving a new toy at Christmas has never changed over the generations.

This week I’m in the company of Chris Gale. We have been friends and worked together for some 32 years. Chris, a talented valuer and auctioneer, is also a gifted specialist in collectable toys.

Alongside the Queen’s Christmas message many families will have gathered to watch the Christmas James Bond film.

Our conversation turns to Aston Martins and James Bond. Chris reminisces and says “I saw Goldfinger at the old ABC cinema in Horsham when I was seven or eight years old. A friend of mine had a Corgi Toys James Bond Aston Martin DB5 and I managed to lose the bandit from the ejector seat.”

I remark that beyond their aesthetic appeal people collect toys because they are so evocative of childhood memories, Chris agrees.

On the shelves of the toy department is a Corgi Toys No. 261 James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with its diorama box, two bandits and secret instructions which has just sold for £130 in Toovey’s Christmas Toy sale. Chris explains “It was released in October 1965 just over a year after the film Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery and the Aston Martin DB5, was released. The reason for the gold finish on the car was that whilst Corgi had gold paint the silver hadn’t been developed. They sold more than 100,000 in only the first few weeks and they made nearly four million of them.”

Chris reveals how Corgi Toys was owned by Mettoy. It came into being in 1956. The Corgi range was produced in Swansea, hence the Welsh Corgi dog logo and name.

A boxed Britains No. 1656 Railton New Wonder Car with separate chassis
A boxed Britains No. 1656 Railton New Wonder Car with separate chassis

But children of earlier generations also delighted in toy cars and planes. Chris shows me a beautifully made Britains No. 1656 Railton New Wonder Car with separate chassis and its original box which made £220. Chris puts the toy into context “John Cobb’s Railton won the Land Speed Record three times over many years in competition with Captain George Eyston’s Thunderbird.”

Seven Dinky Toys post-war model racing cars
Seven Dinky Toys post-war model racing cars

Chris shows me a collection of Dinky post-war racing cars which have just realised £220 and comments “After the Second World War people wanted to get back to motor racing and Dinky toys were not far behind them with this range of model racing cars. Here you have some of the most famous racing marques of the era including a Cooper-Bristol, an HWM, a Ferrari, an Alfa Romeo, a Talbot Lago and a Lotus.”

A Dinky Toys No. 704 Avro York air liner 'G-AGJC'
A Dinky Toys No. 704 Avro York air liner ‘G-AGJC’

Finally we turn to the Dinky Toys No. 704 Avro York air liner ‘G-AGJC’ from 1946 which, with its box, made £75. Chris describes how this plane was part of a large range produced by Dinky Meccano before and after the war.

Chris Gale already has some exciting entries for his next specialist Toy sale to be held at Toovey’s on Tuesday 21st March 2017. If you would like Chris’ advice email auctions@tooveys.com or telephone 01903 891955.

No doubt these toys are going to make some grown-up boys and girls very happy this Christmas. Best of luck with your Christmas shopping!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Bring your toys and come and play

Toovey’s toy specialist, Christopher Gale, offering advice on a collection of toys
Toovey’s toy specialist, Christopher Gale, offering advice on a collection of toys

Toovey’s specialist toys valuer, Christopher Gale, is returning to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery this coming Saturday, 21st May 2016, between 10am and 12noon. He will be providing free auction valuations and advice on your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys. Chris Gale says: “A third of the seller’s commission for items subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated by us to Horsham Museum to help with its important work.”

A Märklin for Bassett-Lowke gauge O electric 4-2-0 locomotive
A Märklin for Bassett-Lowke gauge O electric 4-2-0 locomotive

I ask Chris what toys he hopes to see this weekend. He replies “I’ve discovered some fine toys at these Horsham Museum valuation events like the Steiff teddy bear which Toovey’s sold for £1800!” He pauses and continues “We have had a number of exceptional Bassett-Lowke toy models come to auction recently.” Bassett-Lowke were toy retailers from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. Their knowledge of British railway design and influence over the market was huge. They often commissioned these toys from German manufacturers like Märklin. Chris comments “These models were wonderful in their proportion and expensive so they were usually looked after. Condition and originality is really important to today’s collector but even playworn examples fetch a good price. A toy’s box and packaging will also have a positive effect on value.” The Bassett-Lowke O gauge electric train shown here in Southern livery was manufactured by Märklin. It came with a reproduction box and realised £460.

A Bassett-Lowke live steam model 'Fast Motor Boat Streamlinia'
A Bassett-Lowke live steam model 'Fast Motor Boat Streamlinia'

Chris explains that although Bassett-Lowke is famous for the toy trains it commissioned and made it also produced battleships and model boats. The Bassett-Lowke live steam model ‘Fast Motor Boat Streamlinia’ had a wooden deck, cream painted superstructure and hull with brass fixings and working rudder. Measuring 100cm in length and complete with its original box it made £1800.

A pre-war Dinky Toys No. 28h delivery van 'Sharp's Toffee Maidstone'
A pre-war Dinky Toys No. 28h delivery van 'Sharp's Toffee Maidstone'

Chris continues “Toy cars and tin plate toys always have a strong following. Dinky cars, ships and planes, for example, delight grown-up collectors as they did when they were boys. And they love rare models like the pre-war ‘Sharp’s Toffee Maidstone’ van which Toovey’s sold for £460.”

Bring your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys and come to play with toys specialist Chris Gale between 10am and 12noon this Saturday, 21st May 2016, for a morning of fun and free pre-sale valuations at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. Who knows, your old toys could just be your hidden treasure! A third of the seller’s commission for items seen at the event and subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. Sellers will receive the full amount they would normally get but they will know that they have helped the Museum as well. The toy displays at Horsham Museum have just been refurbished so there is much to delight and see as well!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Timeless Appeal of Steiff

A mid-20th Century Steiff mohair Record Peter monkey
A mid-20th Century Steiff mohair Record Peter monkey

Steiff has become an international household name synonymous with the finest toy animals. The company was started as a domestic enterprise in the late 19th century by Margarete Steiff.

An early Steiff mohair clockwork teddy bear with button in left ear

Margarete Steiff grew up in the small German town of Giengen in the Wurttemberg countryside. Born in 1847 she contracted a fever as a very small child which left her wheel chair bound with a severe weakness to her arms and legs. Nevertheless she was determined and became a skilled seamstress working with her sister, Pauline. In 1868 Margarete opened her own ladies apparel and clothing store. It was around 1880 that she discovered a pattern for an elephant in a fashion magazine and began to make felt elephants stuffed with the finest wool as gifts for adults. They were intended to be used as pin cushions but they delighted the children as much as the adults. They proved very successful and by 1895 the first toys were being shipped from Germany to England. A variety of animals were produced including purring cats, dogs, monkeys and pigs. The first patterns for pull-along toys were produced as early as 1886. That these toys were made with such love and care was readily apparent. Margarete Steiff said “Only the best is good enough for our children” and it was no idle boast.

An early 20th Century Steiff mohair mechanical elephant
An early 20th Century Steiff mohair mechanical elephant

Margarete was joined in the business by her six nephews. Amongst these was Richard Steiff who is credited with designing the first bear. He is said to have been inspired by the playful brown bears in the zoo at Stuttgart whilst studying there. The first bear was made from plush fur with moving flexible arms and legs. The American President, Theodore Roosevelt had a passion for hunting bears. Steiff began importing their toy bears into America during his presidency and they became a symbol of his hunting passions. Theodore was fondly shortened to Teddy. Famously the bear became the Teddy Bear and 12,000 Steiff bears were shipped to America at that time.

A Steiff mohair bear on wheels, with gilt button and tab in left ear, on cast metal axles and spoked wheels
A Steiff mohair bear on wheels, with gilt button and tab in left ear, on cast metal axles and spoked wheels

Output and production were severely affected by the two World Wars but today Steiff animals are still being produced and collected. But it is the early Steiff animals which attract the most attention and highest prices. I ask Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale, about this and he explains “The early Steiff animals were handmade so each toy is unique which has great appeal to the collector.” Chris shows me a selection of Steiff animals which to my eye all seem to be rather playworn. Chris says “There is obviously a premium for toy animals in exceptional condition but they are rare as Margarete Steiff insisted that they be played with!” Amongst the array of Steiff animals sold in Chris’s specialist toy sales is a Steiff mechanical elephant and a Record Peter Monkey which sold for £1000 and £100 respectively. I have to own that my favourites are the bears. There is real character in the hand stitched face of the seated Steiff teddy bear with his boot button eyes. His fur and pads are worn, a sure sign of having been loved over many years. The Steiff pull-along bear delights with his head sewn at a jaunty angle. Chris tells me that Toovey’s sold them for £500 and £460 respectively. All these Steiff animals would have been made in the first twenty-or-so years of the 20th century and are marked with a Steiff button in the ear.

If you are interested in collecting or selling Steiff toy animals Chris Gale is always pleased to offer advice and can be contacted on 01903 891955 or by email at auctions@tooveys.com.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 6th January 2016 in the West Sussex Gazette.