Toy buyer Joel Magee says many toys turn out to be worth more than their owners think, especially ones in good condition. Here's what's hot right now:
• Barbie -- A "No. 1" Barbie from 1959 can fetch $5,000 or more, depending on its condition. Other Barbies are valuable as well, particularly "ponytail" Barbies -- those with a top-knot ponytail and tightly curled bangs.
To tell if your Barbie is an original, look for several distinct features -- round holes with copper tubes in the bottom of her feet; eyes with black outlines and a bit of blue eye shadow; arched, not rounded, eyebrows; and irises that are white, not blue, as in later dolls. The No. 1 Barbie, the first one ever made, wore a black and white swimsuit.
• Hot Wheels -- Hot, hot, hot. Although not all Hot Wheels cars are valuable, the going rate for cars issued between 1968 and 1973 is between $40 and $100. Rarer cars can trade for $500 and more. (Again, though, condition is everything.)
• Metal lunch boxes -- Old-style tin lunch boxes, with or without the Thermos -- particularly those featuring television or movie characters
• Superheroes -- Anything featuring vintage Batman, Superman, Green Hornet, Avengers and the like
• "TV" toys -- Anything that features characters from television shows of the 1970s and earlier, such as "Lost in Space," "Leave it to Beaver," "Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Star Trek," "Gilligan's Island" and "The Addams Family"
• Saucy Walker dolls -- These dolls, manufactured by the Ideal toy company, can fetch hundreds of dollars. At a recent show in Topeka, Magee paid $500 for a Saucy Walker doll in the original box.
• Random parts -- Even broken toys can be valuable. Collectors often seek heads, limbs and random parts from vintage dolls, action figures or playsets to complete their collections.
UP AND COMERS
The toy market fluctuates greatly, so you never know what might turn out to be a hot collectible. Even so, Magee said some toys' value is almost certain to grow. Among them:
• Fisher-Price Little People (older wooden characters and playsets, as well as plastic ones from the 1970s and beyond)
• Star Wars action figures, playsets and anything related to the original movie
• Specialty dolls from the 1970s and beyond, such as Baby That-a-way and Cathy Quick-Curl
• Television character toys, such as Steve Austin ("Six Million Dollar Man")
Just because something is old doesn't mean it's valuable, Magee said. If a company makes millions of the same toy without changing it over the years, such as Monopoly, its value diminishes.
Here are some examples of toys you probably shouldn't bother getting appraised:
• Old board games, such as Monopoly and Scrabble
• Beanie Babies
• Generic versions of collectible dolls (most vintage dolls are identifiable by a distinct mark on the back of their necks)
• "Knockoff" toys, such as Lego-style building toys that aren't actually Legos.
• Riding toys such as rocking horses, tricycles and scooters, don't have much resale value, Magee said. Old pedal cars and tractors are more popular.
• Promotional or trinket dolls from the 1930s and '40s. Many of these dolls, such as the All-American Girl series, were given away as promotions in almost every small-town grocery store in the country, Magee said. They may be old and look "vintage," he said, but they're not rare.