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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK


Treasure in TV's toychest

A Magic Roundabout playground from the 1970s

The BBC's Karen Bowerman is in TV heaven at Christie's
Making money is child's play at Christie's in London on Thursday with an auction of cult TV-inspired toys and dolls.

The TV Generation sale brings together some of childhood's greatest smallscreen stars from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, featuring a host of well-loved names.

[ image: Barbie girls put on a good show (Value: £200-£800)]
Barbie girls put on a good show (Value: £200-£800)
Andy Pandy, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett, Noddy, Popeye, the Flintstones, Barbie, Action Man, even the clockwork robot Mr Smash (from the legendary Smash adverts) are just some of the characters on the bill.

Many of the toys are in mint condition. Some are even in their original box.

With prices ranging from £100 to £40,000, these relics from the start of TV and commercials are out of pocket money's reach.

Sentimental value

But according to Christie's toy specialist Daniel Agnew, the value of the toys goes deeper than pure cost.

"Of course they are worth a lot because you can't get them today. But they have great nostalgic meaning too. They capture a segment of history when TV was exciting and new.

[ image: Fred Flintstone on his tricycle (Value: £200-250)]
Fred Flintstone on his tricycle (Value: £200-250)
"It developed and the characters acquired great worldwide appeal, more than china or art could ever do. Everyone can appreciate TV, even if they don't value it," he explains.

With more than 140 items under the hammer at Christie's on Thursday, both collectors and enthusiasts can find something to their taste.

Action Man springs into combat in all his various guises from commando and polar explorer to intrepid scout, with each doll costing around £300 each.

Then there the gentler types. A set of Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Loo figures from 1951 is expected to fetch up to £800.

[ image: Action Man: Always ready for anything]
Action Man: Always ready for anything
Another trio, the Flowerpot Men, Bill and Ben, and friend Weed bring back memories of time spent at the bottom of the garden at around £600.

A musical Magic Roundabout grinds into action, complete with Dougal, Dylan, Zebedee and friends, valued between £500 and £800.

There's faithful Muffin the Mule who, still in his original box and without a scratch, is likely to fetch £150.

But perhaps the most precious toy on sale is a special Barbie, decorated with 160 diamonds and made to celebrate the doll's 40th anniversary.

Diamond Barbie, as she is aptly called, is expected to fetch up to £30,000. Meanwhile, a Japanese robot from 1958 could fetch up to £25,000.

Survival guide

The prices may seem steep but there are, it seems, plenty of people willing to pay.

[ image: Diamond Barbie for expensive tastes]
Diamond Barbie for expensive tastes
"I'm a collector myself and I know what it is like. If you have been looking for a particular item to fill a gap in your collection you just have to get it," says one Christie's auctioneer.

It is not altogether clear how these toys have survived in such good condition. After all, many of us would admit to having loved our own literally to bits.

But, says Mr Agnew, it is unlikely to be down to calculated foresight by their owners.

"It's just luck really, because at the time no one ever really dreamed that these toys would be worth anything later on.

"It could be that some children had too many toys so didn't play with them. Or they may not have been liked. Or some may have belonged to children from poor families who were under strict orders to look after them," he says.

[ image: The rare 1950s' Japanese Masudaya Machine Man]
The rare 1950s' Japanese Masudaya Machine Man
The ironic thing about all of this is that toys are, of course, meant to be played with.

But if you are prepared to keep yours wrapped up they could be a lot more valuable - if not a great deal of fun.

Mr Agnew advises that toys can start to be valuable once they have reached 30 years old.

But he is not making any predictions for the future: "It's hard to say what will be the toy treasures from today's market because we've seen it all now and people are just not so easily charmed as they were in the days of Bill and Ben."

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