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    Auction Finds

    Readers ask about Louis Armstrong toy & Ford Model T

    Fridays at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of their items. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values based on prices I find on the web, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    This week’s questions are about a Louis Armstrong wind-up toy and a handmade model of a Ford Model T.

    Louis Armstrong wind-up toy
    Louis Armstrong wind-up toy from the 1950s/1960s. Photo from lutherauctions.com.


    Sherry, I have this Louis Armstrong wind up same as in this article. Mine works. And clothes are good – but it is gathering dust. How do I move it and what do you think it is really worth?


    I was attending a special auction of vintage toys two years ago that included several Black Americana toys, and among them was a Louis Armstrong wind-up tin toy. I wrote about the auction and the toy, which my auction buddy Janet was drooling over but lost in the bidding.

    Unlike the reader’s toy, the one at auction only worked sporadically, according to the bid sheet. The toy’ s body moves back and forth, the hat tips, one leg juts out, and the sound of a horn emanates from within. Here’s a moving toy with no sounding horn.

    The toy was first made in the 1950s by a Japanese company called TN Toys (or Nomura), among the largest toy makers after World War II.

    Armstrong had been performing since the 1920s, and around the time the toy was made, he was on the back end of a prominent career as a band leader, trumpet player and entertainer known the world over. It would be 10 years before he made a comeback with “Hello, Dolly” and 20 before he died in 1971. I went to see a wonderful play last year about Satchmo’s last days that offered an insightful look beyond his trademark smile.

    The Satchmo toy at auction, which was lithographed tin with a rubber face, sold for $90. Interestingly, the Black Americana toys did not sell for as much as some of the other toys. Usually, Janet can’t touch anything Black Americana because most buyers push the most popular and hard-to-find items beyond her reach.

    Auction prices can be notoriously low, so I suspect your toy is worth much more than $90. The toy in apparent good condition sold at an auction in 2010 for $243. In a 2001 answer to a query like yours, the toy was given a price between $250 and $300. I found one that sold on eBay in February for $183.

    I always suggest a search of eBay and Google first to see what the toy is selling for (just about everything gets sold or is offered in both those places). You could also search auctionzip.com by using your zip code to find a reputable auction house near you whose staff could offer you an eyeball estimate.

    Model T car kit instructions
    A 1964 instruction sheet for a Model T Ford from 1925. Photo from bunkybrothers.com.


    I have a very old antique model car my uncle made. It’s a Model T. Where can I get it appraised or who should I contact?


    Don’t you just love those vintage cars – even if they are the ones that can fit in your palm. I came across someone’s collection of model cars – nothing beats a 1957 Chevy! – at auction once, and these presumably had been made from kits.

    I had asked this reader to send a photo of her uncle’s model car and answer some questions about it: when it was made, why he made it, did he own a Model T, did he work at a Ford Co. plant, was it made from a commercial kit or by hand. I’m always just as interested in the story behind the items. I never heard back from her; maybe she didn’t expect to get an answer and didn’t check her emails.

    Anyway, Model T’s were the poor man’s car, an affordable vehicle made especially for everyday people by the visionary Henry Ford and his  workers from 1908 to 1927. I saw a wonderful PBS documentary about Ford, his company and his legacy, and his estranged relationship with his son.

    Since I have so little to go on, let’s assume that the model was not a kit but a car made from scratch by hand. Since that would make it one of a kind, it’s going to be hard to appraise it because there’s no other car to compare it with.

    Maybe it would fall into the category of tin or cast-iron model cars that preceded the kits. That’s a good place to start your search through Google or eBay. You may find that the value is purely sentimental unless you find a buyer who collects model cars. One hand made and old (or perhaps old) may be the thing that person is seeking for his/her collection.

    As for kits, AMT apparently leads the pack, and has been making Model T kits since the 1960s, according to showrods.com. The company – Aluminum Model Toys – got its start in 1948 making small promotional cars and placing them in Ford dealerships.

    Based on what I found on eBay, a number of new kits were made of early cars but most contained later models. I found a 1934 Ford from a kit selling for $45.

    As for your uncle’s car, you’ll need to pick it apart to determine where to start looking.



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