Treasure trove of toys - the art of collecting

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:24 03 June 2019

David Burton of Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3653. Picture: Terry Ife

David Burton of Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3653. Picture: Terry Ife

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The toys of childhood can prove to be valuable. Collector and business owner David Burton spoke to the Resident about the art of collecting.

The Six Million Dollar Man's rocket at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3663. Picture: Terry IfeThe Six Million Dollar Man's rocket at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3663. Picture: Terry Ife

For some, the toys of childhood are fondly remembered, but they can also prove to be valuable in financial terms, so for those who are collectors, they could have a treasure trove in their house.

David Burton, who trades in Exmouth, has been an avid collector for almost 50 years - with his passion starting thanks to his nan, a former cleaner at Bristol University between 1958-78.

Responsible for tidying the American dorms, David's grandmother would bring home comics for David and his brother, which proved to be the foundation for his lifelong thirst of collecting.

Mr Burton, who owns Wonder Years, which sells vintage comics, toys and memorabilia for TV and movies, has revealed how anyone can start collecting toys - while locking in or increasing their value. However, there is an art to it…

Farrah Fawcett-Majors as one of the Charlie's Angels at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3669. Picture: Terry IfeFarrah Fawcett-Majors as one of the Charlie's Angels at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3669. Picture: Terry Ife

"If I was going to buy toys and keep them, I would look for obscure and interesting toys," he said.

"For example, there are hundreds of Batman figures of varying qualities and grades.

"The most interesting piece I had in recently sold very quickly, for £30.

"It was from a very good Batman story where villain Hugo Strange pretended to be Batman. The figure was beautifully done, and really interesting.

The Six Million Dollar Man at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3667. Picture: Terry IfeThe Six Million Dollar Man at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3667. Picture: Terry Ife

"If you pulled back Batman's mask, it would have Hugo Strange's face beneath."

Mr Burton said wrestling figures have also rocketed up in price since they were first put to market.

"The prices that early Hasbro figures are going for now are unbelievable," he added.

"A really nice Mego figure, which is very rare, in the box would cost £300 roughly."

Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3659. Picture: Terry IfeWonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3659. Picture: Terry Ife

Mr Burton said it is important to follow the trends, as things are always going in and out of fashion.

"Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer for example," he said. "When all the series finished and there was no TV coverage, you could buy original figures for not a lot of money.

"Then it started to be replayed on two or three channels - now you would not be able to pick up a carded figure for less than £12 unless you're lucky.

"If something is quality and it appeals, it has a good chance of being cross-generational. This will be reflected in the price.

A Lady Penelope annual at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3661. Picture: Terry IfeA Lady Penelope annual at Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3661. Picture: Terry Ife

"For example, in 1990, you could have bought Star Wars figures for 50p each.

"Now, with new films still coming out and the appeal still being there, a lot of the same figures are now worth around £6.

"If you are looking to buy, look for things that are coming round again."

Mr Burton has chosen his six top picks for toys and merchandise which could be worth a pretty penny - all while collecting dust in a forgotten corner of your loft.

Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3657. Picture: Terry IfeWonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3657. Picture: Terry Ife

1960s Bubblegum cards

Produced by AB&C Chewing Gum Ltd throughout the 1960s, these cards were given away free in their packets of chewing gum.

The prized set to look out for is series one of the Batman issue, which in good nick can fetch as much as £150.

Wonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3649. Picture: Terry IfeWonder Years in Exmouth Market. Ref edr 18 19TI 3649. Picture: Terry Ife

Called the Black Bat, the series was followed by two more - the Blue Bat (a complete set can sell for £70-£80) and Red Bat (around £50).

War-time Beano annuals

The prized annuals were released between 1940 and 1947.

At present, the 1942 book is being sold on eBay for just shy of £1,000.

Mr Burton said: "If you have an annual dated between 1940-45, you are probably looking at anything up to £3,000, depending on condition."

The Six Million Dollar Man toys

While the market is saturated with figures of superheroes, Barbies and Action Man, there are not many of The Six Million Dollar Man.

Only a smattering of figures and merchandise were released to the public markets, before drying up, so an Action Man-sized figure and costume can fetch around £20 in today's market.

If boxed, the cost would be five times that.

Early Lego bricks

Before exploding and becoming the second-most popular toy globally, Lego was a minnow in a vast toy pond.

The first plastic bricks produced by Lego were in 1949 - at the time they were known as Automatic Binding Bricks.

Mr Burton said a friend of his sold a very old Lego brick for £18 - so you can imagine the price tag you could command should you find a box of them!

Old wrestling figures

Mr Burton said: "Carded [still in original packaging] wrestling figures can command a good price.

"An original Hasbro figure with card can sell anywhere from £25 to £400, depending on the wrestler and condition of the card."

Grading is the process of thoroughly examining a product and highlighting any flaws or imperfections and an ungraded and out-of-card Sgt Slaughter figure, dated 1992, sold for £60 at auction.

Honourable mentions

- Old packs of stickers, brands including Panini and Merlin. Price: Up to £10 per pack.

- Vintage football programmes. Look for programmes dated in the 1930s and '40s. Price: Between £20-£30 each depending on age.

- Original Spectrum ZX 81 computer, boxed. Price: £100-£120

- Vintage horror toys - Freddy, Jason and the Terminator figures do have some value. Price: N/A

- Vintage tin-plate O-gauge railway sets. Dates should be 1930s to early 1950s. Prices: Single carriage, as much as £140; engine, tender and few carriages: Between £1,500 - £2,000.

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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