15 Most Valuable Cast Iron Toys: An Identification and Valuation Guide

There was a time when cast iron toys were a thing, they still are somehow but for a time in modern history, these playthings were the crave. Now, while some people may consider them baubles today, antique enthusiasts like yourself (you’re here right?) know that to find a valuable cast iron toy is to find your heart’s or little one heart’s joy.

If you are new in this antique toy world or an antiquarian wondering how to go about buying your next antique cast iron toy, this article talks about the history, identification and valuation of antique cast iron toys.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

What Is An Antique Cast Iron Toy?

For cast irons to be made, steel had to be melted and poured into sand castings. Cast parts were riveted or bolted together to make cast iron toys. At first, these cast iron toys were brittle but with time, they used more sturdier steel material that could last longer.

History of Antique Cast Iron Toys

Iron casting dates back to the 5th century in China BCE. It is one of the earliest forms of metallurgy and was especially needed to manufacture cookware. Towards the start of the 15th century and in Europe, a sturdier steel iron alloy was combined with forging sand and they made cannons and trinkets.

By the 19th century and with the industrial revolution, the manufacture of more usable items boomed following technological innovations and availability of fuel. From cast iron toys of animal figurines to piggy banks and vehicles, every playful little kid could own lots of cast iron items.

Things changed for good in the 20th century as it saw an increase in production of cast iron toys. For a while, business was good until the Great Depression and people couldn’t afford spending on leisure due to the hard economic times. This meant that cast iron toys weren’t a priority anymore and the market for these toys hit their lowest point. Some of the toy manufacturing companies went down for good while others merged to salvage themselves from getting out of business.

Some of these companies in the U.S. and beyond that stood the test of time thanks to their consistency in making high quality antique cast iron toys include:

  • Arcade Manufacturing Company in Illinois
  • Williams Company of Ohio
  • Dent Hardware Company, also in Pennsylvania
  • Hubley Manufacturing Company of Lancaster in Pennsylvania
  • Kenton Lock Manufacturing Company based in Ohio

They made fire trucks, Wagons, Motorcycles, Automobiles,and cast iron horses and carriages until the 1920s and ‘30s when the Great Depression and World War years came about.

Common Types of Antique Cast Iron Toys

Here is the thing, anything imaginable could be made out of cast iron, meaning the toy possibilities back in the 19th and 20th century were bottomless too.

Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Emergency Vehicles

The 20th century saw an exponential growth in the automobile industry which quickly translated into the toy industry. Just like today, kids wanted to have toys of their favorite car models and their fathers weren’t spared too.

We’re talking green Arcade wrecker tow trucks or Hubley Popeye the Sailor motorcycles. These will bring in anything between $40 – $500. Emergency vehicles too like the ones from Dent were and still are a thing among antiquarians and may be valued up to $3,500.

Rare Cast Iron Toys

Now, have zero doubts when it comes to selling your antique cast iron toy because collectors know how valuable they are and are willing to pay anything for these rare playthings. Some of these include any Mary and Her Little Lamb Bell, any Arcade Yellow Cab, and Hubley Mack Ingersoll Rand Truck. These will go for anything between $11,000 and $20,000.

How to Tell a New From Old Cast Iron Toy

Given newer cast iron toys are made in the same way as vintage ones, you might need to look beyond the material of the cast iron toy and consider whether it is really old or a reproduction. Here are a few differences to look out for so you’re able to separate old from new and tell cast iron toys.

  • The casting sand used when making original molds was in most cases finer than the one in new toys so look out for toys with a much smoother touch in look and feel. Modern cast iron toys will usually have tiny prickly bumps on the surface or pits underneath.
  • Old castings will have sharper lines and more details while new ones are less sharp, blurred and lackluster in detail.
  • Check to see that the two mold halves fit tightly together which is not the case for reproductions. These will have what is called finning, that is, there are lines of molten metal running through the gaps where the mold halves meet.
  • Old cast irons were cast from an original master pattern mold while modern vintage toys are made from antique toys and therefore have lost their detail through distortion from shrinkage. In short, reproduced cast iron toys will be smaller compared to the original so you might want to know an original’s measurement. Make good use of reference books
  • Most antique cast iron toys have hand finishing to them while many reproductions have none or obvious grinding marks from high speed production tools. For this reason, they will appear bright and shiny without a patina.
  • Paint in a cast iron toy is indicative of its age. For old toys, look out for heavy oil based enamel paint while new toys have a much thinner water based acrylic paint used for the decorations.  
  • Modern cast iron toys and old ones will also often have a difference in their paint application process.Antique cast iron toys were dipped in paint and tend to wear differently while reproductions are painted with a brush. The paint on modern cast iron toys doesn’t chip but for an old one, you might see several thick paint layers.
  • Old cast iron toys tend to have a black or dark brown color while reproductions are usually dirty silver or gray. Be careful because color alteration is also a thing. An old toy will be uniformly painted and not dull.
  • Having gone through repairs, antique cast irons have parts made of brass, aluminum and epoxies. Unlike cast iron, these have no magnetic attraction. You might want to go over your toy with a magnet or look out for repaints.

Are Antique Cast Iron Toys Worth Anything?

Yes they are! Seeing the production of these items went down, it means if you come across an old original antique cast iron toy that is in mint condition, you can be sure to mint a good amount from it. Actually, there are two important things to always look out for so you are not robbed of your money’s worth.

If you are still having doubts about whether these playthings are worth anything, the most expensive original cast iron toy ever sold was an “Old Woman in the Shoe” cast iron bank that went for a whopping $426,000.

antique cast iron toy
Image source: Pinterest

Hot Tips For Determining Value

The value of antique cast iron toys will be determined on these four main factors that affect the value of any antique and collectible.


You want to sell or buy an original cast iron toy because the more rare it is, the more valuable. The concept isn’t any different from any other collectible out there, as long as you keep your eye out for the toy’s reproductions. We have already shared how to separate antique cast iron toys from forgeries.

The maker’s skill and quality of work will separate highly sought-after true original cast iron toys from new ones as it will be quite evident as long as you know what to look out for. The more rare a cast iron toy is, the more desirable it is by collectors.


Here is one thing to remember about a cast iron toy’s condition. Despite its rarity, if the toy is in poor condition, it will almost be of little or no value compared to a common toy in great condition. The Fine Tool Journal Classification System will offer you excellent insights into determining the condition of a toy.

Note that condition alone is also not a good way for determining a cast iron toy’s value and all other factors must be checked. It goes without saying however, that the better the condition, the higher the price.

Desirability or Demand

Any antique item seller wants to have something that buyers want and this influences its value. More so if it is rare, in excellent condition and from a known brand, that is always a win for both the collector and the buyer. A toy may be listed at a high price, but if it isn’t desirable by buyers,it ends up not finding a new owner or costing way less.

History of Ownership

It is important to know a cast iron toy’s history of ownership because it affects the toy’s value. If the toy was once owned by a maker or known individual, that inevitably raises its value, unless it is dinnerware. Check for names or initials on the tool and take advantage of it.

Most Valuable Antique Cast Iron Toys

1930s Dent Lasalle Complete Set 
Mid-Century Modern Cast Aluminum Fairground Horse Sculpture 
Late 19th century Pair of Cast Iron Andirons
An Antique 1860 Childrens Tricycle Horse
A 19th Century Popcorn Maker
19th Century Glider Rocking Hobby Horse
1884 CARPENTER Cast Iron Horse-Drawn Wagon Toy
Cast Iron Gnome Doorstop
 Kyser & Rex Cast Iron Mechanical Bank .
Limited Edition Hubley Cast Iron “Lindy” Lockheed Sirius Seaplane .
Hubley ca. 1920s #791 Royal Circus Calliope Horse Drawn Circus Wagon .
19th Century American Black Cast Iron Piggy Bank
An Early 20th Century Cast Iron Miniature Farm House .
 Cast Iron Scotty Doorstop .
Antique Cast Iron Toy AC Williams Car Carrier 

#1 1930s Dent Lasalle Complete Set

1930s Dent Lasalle Complete Set

This complete set of rare cars with wood stands is going for $7,840 on eBay. Better join other watchers here!

#2 Mid-Century Modern Cast Aluminum Fairground Horse Sculpture

Mid-Century Modern Cast Aluminum Fairground Horse Sculpture
The cast aluminum fairground horse sculpture on a wrought iron stand is worth $6,103 on 1stDibs.

#3 Late 19th century Pair of Cast Iron Andirons

Late 19th century Pair of Cast Iron Andirons

This pair of large cast iron andirons in the form of Tweedleddee and Tweedledum from the late 19th century is going for $4,940.

#4 An Antique 1860 Childrens Tricycle Horse

An Antique 1860 Childrens Tricycle Horse

The horse, which has glass eyes and is made of wood and metal is worth $3,458.

#5 A 19th Century Popcorn Maker

A 19th Century Popcorn Maker

This rare made in 1893 figural “Toasty Roasty” American toy is going for $2,650 on 1stDibs.

#6 19th Century Glider Rocking Hobby Horse

19th Century Glider Rocking Hobby Horse

The antique American primitive handmade gliding hobby horse is worth $2,500.

#7 1884 CARPENTER Cast Iron Horse-Drawn Wagon Toy

1884 CARPENTER Cast Iron Horse-Drawn Wagon Toy
This 1884 CARPENTER Cast Iron Horse-Drawn Wagon Toy with Figures is going for $1,800 on eBay.

#8 Cast Iron Gnome Doorstop

Cast Iron Gnome Doorstop

This cast iron Gnome doorstop from the early 20th century is worth $1,800.

#9 Kyser & Rex Cast Iron Mechanical Bank

Kyser & Rex Cast Iron Mechanical Bank

The Mechanical Rooster Bank is going for $1,750.

#10 Limited Edition Hubley Cast Iron “Lindy” Lockheed Sirius Seaplane

Limited Edition Hubley Cast Iron “Lindy” Lockheed Sirius Seaplane

The Ironman toys seaplane is worth $1,750.

#11 Hubley ca. 1920s #791 Royal Circus Calliope Horse Drawn Circus Wagon

Hubley ca. 1920s #791 Royal Circus Calliope Horse Drawn Circus Wagon

This J.H. Hartman antique wagon is going for $1,498.

#12 19th Century American Black Cast Iron Piggy Bank

12 19th Century American Black Cast Iron Piggy Bank

This animal structure money box is worth $1,200 on 1stDibs.

#13 An Early 20th Century Cast Iron Miniature Farm House

An Early 20th Century Cast Iron Miniature Farm House

This miniature cast iron farmhouse with rust surface patina is going for $1,195.

#14 Cast Iron Scotty Doorstop

Cast Iron Scotty Doorstop

The early 20th Century Scotty Doorstop is going for $1,150.

#15 Antique Cast Iron Toy AC Williams Car Carrier

Antique Cast Iron Toy AC Williams Car Carrier

This vintage cast iron toy from the 1930s is only $1,099 on Etsy.

Tips For Buying and Selling

Research and Learn

Explore various reference materials which will often have a value guide you can use to determine how much an antique cast iron toy will cost or bring in. These reference materials include Antique Tool Collectors Guide to Value by Ronald S. Barlow and  Antique Trader Tools Price Guide by Clarence Blanchard.

Attend trade shows, auction previews and antique fairs to learn everything you can about buying and selling antique toys.

Make good use of online stores

When it comes to buying or selling any antique item, authentic online stores are your number one friend. These sites where you can list your old cast iron toys are many ranging from popular sites like Etsy, eBay, 1stDibs Bidsquare, and antique toys will offer relative prices for the item depending on what is available or already sold.

Also, ensure you pay attention to images and description of the toys listed online because condition will always trump rarity where antique toys are concerned.

Personalize Your Antiquary Taste

What would be the benefit of personalizing your antique taste, you ask. There are so many benefits! Two of those are you get value for your money and you end up with a toy that you truly love so there won’t be any regrets down the line. Decide if you want to collect based on specific makers or from a wide range of makers.

Packaging and Shipping

It goes without saying that both antique buyers and sellers value the items a great deal and will want to see that it maintains good condition during ownership change.


Every time you provide feedback after buying an antique item, it acts as a guide for other antique collectors to find genuine sellers which means the sellers also benefit from being credible.

How to Maintain Your Antique Cast Iron Toy

Whether you are a buyer or seller, the cast iron toy you get or sell ought to be in great condition in order for you to reap its full benefits. So, how do you ensure this?

  • Ensure your antique cast iron toy remains dry and dusted every so often for it to remain in the best state for a long time.
  • Use a stiff wire brush to gently brush off loose paint and rust
  • Spray a bit of lubricating oil over the toy to protect it from damage while cleaning it.
  • With a fine-grit emery cloth and in soft circular rubbing motions, rid of any remaining rust from the cast iron toy.
  • Finally, with a smooth cloth dipped in white spirit, remove all the dirt, rust and oil before wrapping it in newspaper and storing in a warm, dry place.
  • Allow the cast iron toy to dry for a few days before transferring into an air-sealed display case. Not that it will say it, but the toy will thank you for it and reward you immensely with its value for all of the hard work you do for it.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve examined the history of cast iron toys, as well as their potential value, how to tell old from new cast iron toys, and tips on buying and selling. There’s even a bonus part on how to effectively maintain your antique cast iron toy.

Knowing how hard to come by most true originals of antique cast iron toys are, any surviving original is very much invaluable and desired. Do your due diligence and of course, we are here to answer any questions you might have.

Talk to us in the comment section, we’d love to hear from a fellow antique enthusiast!

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