Paper Toy: Name of Game Is Condition

Question: In collecting paper toys, how important is the condition factor to collectors?

I have several good examples of paper toys, such as paper houses and whole villages, which were produced more than half a century ago. Some of the items are a bit frayed, and I wonder if deteriorating condition can impact on my collection’s value.--E.C.

Answer: Condition, according to collectors and dealers, is probably the primary factor in evaluating paper toy collectibles.

A paper toy in top, or mint, condition is far more valuable than one with cracks or marks, even though it appears to be in good condition. Colors and printing should be practically flawless for the item to attract collector interest.


To be sure, a rare example of this type of collectible can be sold even if it’s aging, but you surely won’t get the price of mint-condition items.

Paper toys were popular for a number of years--particularly from near the close of the 19th Century through World War II. For example, paper soldiers were produced by the thousands as American manufacturers took a cue from Europe, where the colorful warriors had been popular throughout the 19th Century.

A leading American company in the field, and one that attracts collector interest, was McLoughlin Bros. of Brooklyn, N.Y., and, later, Springfield, Mass. The firm’s roots went back to the 1820s.

By the 1920s, McLoughlin was turning out boxed sets of beautifully lithographed cardboard soldiers on wooden stands, which now are highly collectible if you can find them.


Because of a shortage of other materials, paper toy companies had their heyday during World War II. As an example, Lionel, the model train company, even produced a complete train set made of cardboard.

Catching up on the summer mailbag:

Mrs. Charles W. Morris of Los Angeles, commenting on a column on collectible jigsaw puzzles, writes: “Many, many of these were produced in Elizabeth, N.J., by my husband’s parents, Grace and Charles R. Morris.

“We have at least a dozen (jigsaw puzzles) in their original labeled boxes and many others are with family in New Jersey. These puzzles were produced in the mid-1920s and were both sold and rented. Special customers ordered huge puzzles for themselves.”


Morris says she would be pleased to hear from jigsaw puzzle collectors at (213) 472-4312.

More on wooden puzzles: Bob and Winnie Symons of Upland say they have this genre of puzzle available at their establishment--American Heritage Boutique, 934 N. Mountain Ave., Suite E, Upland, Calif. 91786. Telephone: (714) 946-1677.

--For collectors looking to re-create toys, wagons and other items of their youth, Gene Slattery of Oxnard says he re-creates such playthings of another era from sketches or drawings. “They possess the charm of yesteryear,” he writes. His telephone number: (805) 983-7756.

--Aida Monte of Los Angeles says she owns a complete collection of “Opera News” dating back to the magazine’s inception in 1940. She’s interested in donating her collection to an organization with interest in such a collection. Her telephone number: (213) 851-0271.


--William Broka of Chatsworth wants to contact individuals who collect business cards of famous people. His address: P.O. Box 4298, Chatsworth, Calif. 91313.

R. L. Pettys of Alhambra wants to locate people interested in old tobacco tins. His telephone number: (818) 284-1690.