11 Childhood Toys That Are Worth Thousands
There might be an action figure or toy vehicle hiding in your parents' attic that could bring in the big bucks at auction. Here's what's worth opening those dusty boxes for.
Matchbox cars might not exist today if it weren’t for a little girl in 1953 who could only bring toys to her London school that fit inside a matchbox. Her father, a partner at a die-casting firm, scaled down a previously designed road roller to comply with school rules. The miniature car was a hit among her friends, and the Matchbox brand was officially launched later that year. The most valuable Matchbox car, according to comparison website GoCompare and toy car expert Neal Giordano, is a tan and orange Magirus-Deutz Truck from 1971 that’s currently valued at $11,822. Plus: Check out the 25 craziest toy fads in history.
Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler worked with a GM car engineer and a rocket scientist to create a new line of die-cast toy cars that would capture the excitement of custom hot rod culture. When Hot Wheels raced onto the scene 50 years ago, the cars were faster and cooler looking than any other die-cast cars on the market, including Matchbox. The first car released from the “Original Sweet 16” series in May 1968 was a Custom Camaro, but GoCompare found that the most valuable Hot Wheels is the Olds 442 from 1971; it’s worth $4,682.
Pokemon Trading Cards
American kids first discovered the enchanting world of Pokemon in 1998 as a video game for the Nintendo Game Boys. The trading card game debuted the following year, and the card that everyone wanted from the 1999 1st Edition (Base Set) was the holographic Charizard card (#4). What made it so desirable? Charizard was the most popular Pokemon from the video game, and his fire-breathing dragon card was one of the most powerful in that first set. Collectors are still hoping to get their hands on Charizard cards today; a near-perfect card recently sold for more than $55,000 on eBay.
According to eBay sales data and auction figures, the most valuable home video game cartridge is Stadium Events for the Nintendo Entertainment System. You might remember the game by the name Nintendo gave it after it purchased the right from Bandai: WorldClass Track Meet. It used the Power Pad controller, originally called a Family Fun Fitness mat, to make the players walk, run, and jump. Stadium Events is crazy valuable now (approximately $42,000!) because it’s so rare: only 200 cartridges sold before Nintendo pulled them off the shelves to make room for the re-named version.
Before Barbie, little girls played with two different types of dolls: They had baby dolls to pretend to be mommies and paper dolls to act out other grown-up dreams. Realizing that girls needed a toy that would allow them to imagine their futures in a different way, Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel with her husband, Elliot, created Barbie Millicent Roberts. Toy stores were initially wary about stocking a three-dimensional adult woman doll, but Barbie exceeded expectations, selling 300,000 dolls in its first year. Sold for $3 when she debuted at the 1959 American Toy Fair, an original Teenage Fashion Barbie in mint condition is worth more than $23,000 today.
The Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon started breaking records back when it was released in 2007. It was the most expensive Lego set ever at the time ($499.99), weighed the most (over 22 pounds), and had the second-most pieces of any set (5,192). Now it’s the most valuable Lego set of all time, with an average resale value of $2,406.71, according to the Lego investing site Brickpicker. The second most valuable? The enormous 5,922-piece Taj Mahal. You need to see the lake toys available this summer!
The first Superman comic book was published in 1939, but the Man of Steel actually made his debut one year prior in the inaugural issue of the Action Comics series. Originally selling for 10 cents, Action Comics No. 1 has sold for more than $3 million, according to research put together by GoCompare and comic expert Duncan McAlpine, making it the most valuable comic book of all time. The record was previously held by a copy of Action Comics No. 1 owned by actor Nicholas Cage that sold for $2,161,000. Don’t miss the 15 fun facts you never knew about your favorite superheroes.
If you were a fan of professional wrestling in the 1980s, you might own memorabilia that’s worth thousands now. The most valuable wrestling figure, according to eBay listings, is the LJN Black Series version of Macho Man Randy Savage from 1989, which can fetch up to $10,000. LJN was the first toy company to produce World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) toys; when they closed in 1989, the action figure license went to Hasbro, Jakks Pacific, and finally Mattel.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game quickly gained popularity among players of the Pokemon Trading Card Game in 2002 when it made its way from Japan to America. Kids were drawn to them because they looked cooler and were more powerful than Pokemon cards. One Yu-Gi-Oh! Card, Harpie’s Feather Duster, was so powerful that it has been banned from tournaments! It’s also one of the most valuable Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards, selling for $1,500.
Mint-condition figures of Optimus Prime, the Autobots Commander, have sold for more than $12,000, making it the most valuable Transformer figure. If you didn’t grow up in the 1980s and aren’t familiar with Michael Bay’s 2007 blockbuster movie Transformers, here’s the gist of these robot toys: The Autobots and Decepticons are two factions of a prehistoric alien race that crash-landed on Earth and lay dormant for millions of years. When they all awoke in 1984, the Decepticons wanted to overtake human society, and the Autobots took it upon themselves to protect us under the leadership of good ol’ Optimus Prime. Here are even more retro toys we can’t get enough of.
Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles Figures
In 1984, a new self-published comic book called “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” sold for $1.50 a copy. Almost 30 years later, that single-issue black-and-white comic is worth more than 2,000 times its cover price, in part because only 3,250 copies were printed. TMNT toys, on the other hand, were produced in mass quantity, but many of them have appreciated in value to incredible amounts. At $1,200, a mint-condition Scratch the Cat, one of the last action figures from the original toy line, will fetch you the most money. Cowabunga, indeed! Find out which of your childhood toys to keep—or toss.