Field Trip: Antique Motorcycle Toys
HOST: (motor humming) People who ride motorcycles say there's nothing else like it. They say they do it for the rush, the peace, the solitude. They say they do it because it makes them feel adventurous, because it's thrilling. And going down the road on a vintage 1959 Harley-Davidson Servi-Car, it feels a little bit like riding a time machine--a really cool time machine. The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum is full of amazing motorcycles, and after checking out their collection, appraiser Noel Barrett and I took a look at some pocket-sized bikes. Noel, here we are standing amongst some pretty special big kid toys here. A lot of big kids would want to be where we are. But you brought some little kid toys that are motorcycle themed. Tell me about this one.
Well, this is a policeman's cycle. And it's typical of the only kind of motorcycle that a kid would see in the streets in America in the '20s and '30s. And this one is the generic policeman motorcycle made by the Champion toy company. And this was a classic cast-iron toy. And it's interesting to note that cast iron as a material for making toys for small children was almost uniquely American. HOST: So what's the value of this toy today?
Well, this is a particularly good example. It has great paint on his face, and it has great nickel on the wheels. And at auction today, an example in this condition would sell for around $300 to $400. HOST: I understand you've got a couple of examples of toys that are based on actual motorcycles.
Yeah, I'd like to show them to you. HOST: All right, terrific.
These two were made by Hubley, the Hubley Manufacturing Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And they made the best of the best of the iron motorcycles. I mean you can see the difference. The detail, the color, the paint on the Champion, it was all blue. Look at the paint on the cap and the gloves and the face. Just amazing detail. And these are particularly good examples. The smart thing that Hubley did was they went to Harley-Davidson, they went to Indian, and they said, "We want to license your names, and that would help both people." It would help them sell their toys and help popularize the brand name. So they actually had decals that look just like the ones on the Harleys. Here it says Harley-Davidson. And here it says Indian. These are very realistic models of the actual thing. HOST: What would you say is the value on the Hubley Indian?
Well, this one, which is extraordinary condition, would bring easily $3,000 at auction. HOST: And the Hubley Harley?
Well, it's another kettle of fish because it is extraordinary, it's much more complex and much rarer. This one would bring at least $6,000 at auction. HOST: Well, Noel, it's been fun looking at these toys and hanging out with all these big kid toys all around us. Thanks a lot.
It's been fun.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
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