Wind up may bring tin toys to mind, however, this name can be used to cover a large group of toys manufactured in different materials. It can be said that wind-up toys are defined as being operated by with winding of a mechanism thus producing an action or actions. For Marx toys in the period 1920's - 50's, this action would most often by through the use of a removable key. Some other toys used a spring-type lever that would have been pushed or pulled.
The two most popular materials for construction wind-up toys was tin and celluloid. Tin obviously offered many advantages for the production of wind-up toys - sturdy, inexpensive, could be lithographed and finished with a shiny coat. Celluloid was lightweight and inexpensive - a precursor to today's plastic. However, celluloid did have some flaws in that it was brittle, fragile, and flammable. These flaws meant that toys made from celluloid were destined for destruction and difficult to find today.
Collectors should be cautious when buying wind-up toys. While tin wind-ups can be repaired, celluloid in most cases cannot be fixed and should be avoided. If you must purchase celluloid - demand mint.
By David Moncrief
Need more information? Check out the Wind-up Toys Guides on Amazon.