In the toy collecting heyday of 1997, Alan Jaffe and Schiffer Books partnered to make J. Chein & co. A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker. The results are quite spectacular and illuminating for modern collectors that appreciate history. The book helps piece together the innumerable Chein toy details and production history. This guide is a beautiful color book and price guide all in one. My used copy was an extreme value at under $12 shipped.
Chapter one woke me up to the almost tragic history of the namesake founder. Julius Chein came to New York but almost didn’t make it in the first place. The Young Jewish emigre arrived in the U.S. with only one arm; the other was lost in a fireworks accident when Julius was a boy. Then readers follow his rise, death, and successors like Samuel Hoffman.
Chapter three, “The Fleet” was a favorite for me. I enjoyed seeing all the Hercules toys that are rarely found today in a detailed photo catalog. The racers particularly grabbed me as a collector.
Straight from the Funny Pages, chapter four starts off with Popeye toys and the first No. 254 shadow boxer. At 7″ high it was a very popular toy and these days commands a big price spread depending on condition and its box. Popeye puncher is next shown along with the No. 256 Heavy Hitter. At the time prices for the carnival style hitter & bell sit struck up $4,000 to $9,000. The historical details on No 258 really struck me as the Popeye and Barrel walker had deeper symbolism. It was made during the tough economic times of the Great Depression; the toy commiserated with the poor of the U.S.
Later I learned more about Chein and George Borgfeldt & Co. Toy collectors have chased Felix and Crazy Kat scooters and pull toys for decades. To my surprise I learned that Chein was actually the toy maker behind these sturdy toys & simply didn’t put their logo on them; it was a likely commission. My collection could use one of these, but I digress.
Chapter five covers summer toys, six covers Easter toys, 7, musical items and the book digs deep all the way through chapter 11 and miscellanea.
I heartily recommend buying a copy of J. Chein & Company, A Collector’s Guide as Alan Jaffe and Schiffer did an incredible job. The resource is invaluable and it gives a great appreciation for the great American toymaker and its founders.