There’s something so charming about antique and vintage wind-up toys. The mechanics and functions seem simple and outdated when compared to today’s toys, but you’ll never get the craftsmanship and quality. Wind-up toys come in so many varieties that they’re one of the more popular collector’s items.
This history of wind-up toysbegins in the mid 17th century, but really began to take off around 1738. European aristocrats bought their children the early versions of these toys, inspired by Jacques de Vaucanson’s humanautomatons exhibition in Paris (specifically, a mechanical duck that could eat, drink, quack and swim). At the beginning of the 19th century, mass production made wind-up toys more widely-available, with manufacturers like Lucien Bontemps, Fernand Martin and Lehmann. Around 1860, manufacturers in the U.S. including George Brown, E.R. Ives, and Blakeslee & Company began production as well.
Popular designs ranged from circus-themed toys such as trapeze performers, elephants and clowns, to transportation methods such as trains, bicyclesand boats. While clock work toys in the U.S. were discontinued around the beginning of the 20th century thanks to cheaper European models, it wasn’t until the 1940s when toys made of plastics and other synthetic materials slowed the production of wind-up toys to a near stop.
Check out some of our favorite, user-submitted wind-up toys below, and let us know if you collect them!
from: Sabrina Bailey: “My adorable find at Laswells Antiques!! A wind up elephant. He has all metal interworking. His legs walk, his ears flap, and his trunk curls up and down! He is now my favorite in the house! Elephants are good luck!”
from: Jimmer Young: “I would love to see some vintage wind up toys like this old German tin beauty I have owned for many years, cheers to all you pickers like me.”
from: Terri Halamek Egleberry: “Found this Wind Up Train and Track in a local Antique Store during a 40% off sale “
from: Sarah Stone: “I’m not sure if this is allowed or not, but if not just let me know and I will delete it. smile emoticon we received some old vintage toy trucks from a neighbor who has passed away. In the tote I found this train. It’s different from all the other toys and I’m interested to know more about it, if anyone knows anything? I’m not looking to sell it, just wanting some info. It is solid and weighs about 4-5lbs. There are no markings on it at all that I can find. The crank does turn but it doesn’t “wind up” like I assumed it would. Thank you! (I will try to post more pics in comments)”
from: Vanessa Jent:
“I found this toy several years ago but no nothing about it. Any info on it would be great. It is a very old wind up toy. The Mickey Mouse is celluloid (plastic) the horse is wooden and has a wind key on the side to make the horse rock”
from: Laura Butner Hardon: “A well loved toy a bit worse for wear. Still winds up and goes.”