|Antique Toy Airplanes
Few really consider these items to be of any antique value -- it's more of a pilot buff's collectible hobby than that of a monetary attempt to build great collections. After all, as vehicles go, the airplane is one of the last in out history. Many, many years from now the plane could be considered more "antique" and sought after the same way collectible cars and trucks are today. Only time will tell to just what level of popularity vintage toy airplanes will rise.
That being said, there are still avid collectors of toy airplanes and a small bit of history on the manufacturers. If a vehicle ever existing its a given that American toy makers created a miniature toy of it in cast-iron -- airplanes were no exception. Most of these were made prior to World War II. However, a few toy airplanes and even dirigibles appeared in the 1920s.
A Few Historical Specifics
Although they were made for a relatively short period, toy airplanes, dirigibles, helicopters, rockets, and spaceships exist in profusion today. Most planes were designed as pull toys, but some, especially lithographed tinplate models, were powered by spring-driven motors.
Many toy airplanes date from the 1920s. Cast iron and lithographed tinplate were the preferred materials for planes prior to World War II, but since then white metal has also been used. Another common type produced between the 1920s and World War II was the large sheet-steel plane. Those examples by Keystone and Glendon Wheel were more than 24" long and so sturdy that a child could actually ride on them.
The Most Collectible of Toy Airplanes
The "airship carousel" with planes are among the most popular of all 20th-century toys, and thousands of examples have been produced. However, the early tinplate ones, which were either hand-painted or lithographed, are hard to find since few survived the battering children gave them. Few collectors will be lucky enough to find these on the market today, especially in working condition. If you do locate one it will likely be well worth the money to have it repaired (by an antique professional only... please) and put back into good mechanical working condition.
GasolineAlleyAntiques has some wonderful listing of antique toy airplanes, many of which are for sale by individual collectors -- definitely a place to visit in you search. eBay stores abound, but we are always a bit shy to recommend online auctions. If you do chose to go the online auction route in a search for collectible toy planes, please be careful and find some expert guidance to assist in your search. Collect Air Vintage Airplane Toys has some great pictures of old toy airplanes and a tiny bit of information on each, but nothing for sale.