Cast iron toy and Antique cast iron collecting
Cast iron toy collecting seems to consistently create a love hate relationship. Love them for beauty; hate them for rarity. Love them for the history; hate them because the historic ones don’t get offered for sale often. Love them for their craftsmanship; hate them when you get a bootleg cast iron.
Love the antique toy history; hate the rarity (if you don’t have one). So I purchased a few Hubley cars as a reference toy on bootlegging.
Lately I’ve been studying the antique cast iron toy bootlegs to keep expanding my knowledge. Often my best source on bootlegs is our local outdoor market on the weekends. We constantly get vendors claiming “Oh, this one’s old and authentic” or “That came from an old lady and is real.” -Sorry, things like this require experience and not conjecture.
Cast iron toy collecting and Bootlegs
One of my early bootleg purchases where I gained respect was a yellow Hubley cast iron piston racer. Inside the casting, the bootleggers kept the Hubley name intact and artificially aged the toy. This antique cast iron toy gives others a bad name. The toy is good in proportion, however marginal on the casting smoothness. The surface of the cast iron has more grain in it that expected (a bootleg tipoff). It wasn’t smoothed and tumbled like the originals for long enough time. The toy is close, but not quite as smooth as the original. Then the toy’s wheels and action were not quite right, with straightness problems. Rust wasn’t dark enough on my example and had an orange coloration.
Brimming with ideas about newer bootlegs, I went to state swap meet and hated the travel, but loved a nice little find. Was it a cast iron fake or the real deal? Sitting inside a glass case was an animal cart with trailer. I asked about the toy, was offered a fair price, then got the “Oh, that’s right….. there is a driver with it.” Incredible! How odd is it to not display a toy with all its parts. Anyways, it was a delightful visit and beautiful toy for the collection. Smoothness, paint detailing, casting preciseness and other items confirmed it was the authentic toy.
Currently, I’m waiting for the historic cast iron toys, the pre 1900 ones, to become more available. I keep tracing back the history of 50’s toys, to the 30’s, to the teens, and then notice the super-sizing of pre-20th century toys. I’ll pretend that a nice Carpenter or Buffalo Iron Works carriage will come my way with all the craftsmanship. -Love the hunt, hate the waiting.
Have a great week & happy toy hunting too!
P.S. Below are some cast iron toy examples in original condition. The one exception is the antique cast iron Kilgore coupe (car) at the bottom; it has overpaint. Often cast iron toys were re-used around World War 2 when metal toy production stopped. They often received an overpainting to refreshen them and give them another kid and another generation of toy life. Even as Antique toys, they seem to have hundreds of years of toy life in them.