Think of it as Antique Roadshow meets vintage Barbie.
Toy and doll memorabilia is big business, and the organizers of the Savannah Antique Toy & Doll Buying Show, which runs today through Saturday, are hoping area residents will go through their attics and closets to see what treasures they may have gathering dust.
“Our last few Antique Toy & Doll Buying shows saw a number of people get more than $1,000 for their toys,” said Bruce Zalkin, one of the country’s leading authorities on vintage toys and dolls.
Zalkin said a mint condition original Barbie still in the box can be worth up to $5,000.
“Condition is everything,” he said, adding that sometimes layers of dust or dirt can hide an item in excellent shape.
“I recently had a lady bring in an old cast-iron piece she had been using as a doorstop. When she looked at our written offer, she thought it was $11,” Zalkin said. “She was disappointed, but ready to sell.
“When we explained her item cleaned up to be a collectible William Tell bank worth $1,1oo, she was delighted. She decided not to sell, but to move it from the door to her mantle.”
The most expensive single item he’s ever bought, Zalkin said, was a French Bru doll from the late 1800s.
“It was clearly a child’s plaything, but in really good shape,” he said.
“I paid $27,000.”
He’s paid more than $100,000 on several occasions for large collections, including slot cars and original Barbies.
But the majority of things that come in fetch from $50 to several hundred dollars, he said.
The show will neither sell nor swap items as some events do, Zalkin said.
“This is strictly a buying show,” he said. “We’re interested in old toys and dolls from the mid-1960s and earlier. We buy everything from single items to huge collections and resell them to collectors across the globe.”
It’s an excellent opportunity, especially for seniors who may have vintage toys and dolls they don’t realize are valuable, he said.
No Beanie Babies
Among the items Zalkin said he is particularly interested in buying are “1960s and older Barbie-related dolls and clothing, antique French and German bisque dolls, Lenci dolls, Madame Alexander dolls that pre-date 1965, Shirley Temple, Ginny and most dolls before the 1960s.”
Toys that can fetch a pretty price include pre-1970 Hot Wheels, cap guns, plastic models, tin wind-up toys, battery-operated toys and robots, super hero figures, cars and trucks, Tonka, Buddy L, cast iron toys, slot cars, PEZ dispensers (no feet, please) and Lionel and Flyer electric trains.
What’s new is old
Zalkin also buys original Star Wars toys and figurines.
“There are so many types of toys we can’t list them all,” he said, adding that LEGOs and pre-1990 Transformers are especially popular.
“But the LEGOs are interesting in that the ones from the last 20 years, especially the ones that are part of character sets like Harry Potter, are more sought-after and valuable than older LEGOS,” he said.
“On the other end of the spectrum, we don’t buy marbles made after 1905.
“And we definitely don’t buy Beanie Babies.”
In addition to old toys and dolls, sellers can bring Tiffany items, sterling silver, old costume jewelry, Hummel, Lladro and Royal Doulton figurines, advertising items, old signs and other unusual antiques, he said.
IF YOU GO
The show runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Clarion Inn & Suites, 6800 Abercorn St. Admission and parking are free.