Lady Penelope's car fetched £460
With just a few days to go before Christmas, millions of people are shopping for toys, but few realise they can be much more than just gifts, they can also make great investments.
Vectis is the largest toy auction house in the world. At a recent auction in Buckingham, die cast Dinky, Matchbox and Corgi toys from the 50s and 60s were everywhere.
Bidding was fast and furious, and among the items sold were Lady Penelope's car from the Thunderbirds series, which fetched £460; and Batman's Batmobile, which made £320.
David Nathan of Vectis is adamant toys of this period have proved to be a terrific investment.
Speaking to the BBC's Money Box programme he said: "Most were actually discarded, broken, thrown away... But those that survived have done incredibly well.
"You would have expected over a 20 or 30 year period to have gained at least 10 to 20 times the original value"
A classic example, he said, is the Corgi James Bond car. Originally selling for around 25p, a car in the original condition, still in its box with figures and instructions, would now make between £500 and £800.
But without the box, even if the toy is in the same condition, that value would halve.
However, there are costs at an auction that would not be present when trading on the internet or going direct to someone who buys and sells toys in a shop.
After all, Vectis charges both buyers and sellers 15% commission. So what is the advantage of a Vectis auction?
The big advantage, Mr Nathan says, is its huge database, and he insists that everything is carefully checked from both the buyer, and the seller's point of view.
If you are considering investing in toys, it is of course worth remembering that when you eventually sell, you will be liable for capital gains tax; and if you leave toys in your will, they will be subject to the usual inheritance tax.
On this Mr Nathan said: "We have had collections of up to a million pounds. So you do have to think about it."
Kids at heart
Toys from the 50s and 60s are very popular at present
David Barzilay is a keen collector of toys and he agrees that auctions are a good place to start.
He told the programme: "It gives you a chance to see what the prices are, to walk around, talk to others and actually view the toys.
Mr Barzilay started investing as a hobby, spending just £20 a week on a couple of toys. He did that for about seven years, and managed to turn £7000 into £50,000
He told the programme: "It is worth paying a little bit more for an item that is in its original box, and is in mint condition, because those are the items that will go up in price."
Andrew Read is one of the people who checks the toys as they come in for auction. Money Box's Chris A'Court asked him which toys would make the best investment for the future.
Surprisingly he said: "Probably not the ones that are sold as collectables, but more the ones that are actually sold for the kids to play with, as they are the ones that in 20 or 25 years time, the kids will remember ripping open on Christmas Day.
"If you make 1000 of something a kid opens, the next day there is only 100 left, and the day after that only 10 left. Therefore they become much more collectable."
He believes there will always be a market in toys, as every generation that grows up is sentimental about the toys they played with as a child.
And he said, "Even if it is not die cast collectibles in 20 years time, it will be things like Harry Potter and all the current kids' toys that will be collectible."
He is certain the market will get stronger and stronger in the coming years, and that it keeps going because "we are all kids at heart".
His advice to a beginner is simple: "Go out, try not to pay too much, buy something that you like yourself, and it will make money."
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 20 December, 2003.
The programme was repeated on Sunday, 21 December, 2003, at 2102 GMT.