Antiques and appraisals: Toy ferris wheel

Joe from Tunkhannock writes: “I have an old, tin toy ferris wheel still in the original box. It has a name of J. Chein on it. What could it be worth?”

Joe, thank you for visiting the Kitson and Company Gallery and sharing this wind up tin toy, which is a great example from the “Golden Age” of toys. This era ran from roughly the early 1900s through the 1930s, and was known for great quality and uniqueness.

The manufacturer of this toy, J. Chein, started humbly in New York City around 1903. In the late 1920s, rival businessman Samuel Hoffman took over, and the company began to create many wonderful circus and amusement park-themed toys like ferris wheels and roller coasters. They continued manufacturing them through the 1930s but, like most companies during World War II, toy manufacturing was put aside. During that time, they produced nose cones and tail units for bombs. By the 1940s, Japanese manufacturers were producing tin toys at much lower prices, and also introduced popular plastic toys. J. Chein held on because the American market loved the pressed tin lithography, so much so that the F.W. Woolworth Company provided J. Chein with a series of orders. The stamped metal and lithographed color tin toys were made throughout the 1950s. After moving into housewares, and even wastebaskets, the company was sold in the 1980s.

Ferris wheelYour toy is one that helped J. Chein become very well-known, and this one was made in the 1930s. A few flakes of the lithography are missing, but almost all of it is still there, and the windup mechanism spring works well. You also mentioned having the original box, which could increase the value of the toy 50 to 100 percent. Considering the condition of the wheel and the less-than-perfect shape of the box, this ferris wheel would, on average, bring $300–$450 at auction.

Thanks to Joe for visiting the Kitson and Company Gallery. Anyone can stop by and see the ferris wheel in person and watch it work. We are located at 34 E. Tioga Street in downtown Tunkhannock. Our entrance is at the corner of the building, next to Lenahan & Dempsey. Until next month, we look forward to seeing more of your finds.


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