In the early years of the 20th century, Germany was the leading producer of tin toys. Nuremberg's pewter trade was likely to have founded the tinplate toy industry for which the town was to become eventually renowned. Soon Nuremberg products were pouring out of Germany and flooding the markets of the world. Other local firms joined in (for example Trix, Kellermann, Gama, Schuco, Fleischmann, and Arnold), making Germany the toy supplier of the world.
German tin toys were innovative and well made and they dominated the market up to the outbreak of World War II. Once the toy industry was (back) in full production, assumed the lead and began to control the market with the addition of many new novelties. Not just wind-up and friction driven, some Japanese tin toys were powered by batteries and able to provide flashing lights and sounds. In the 1950's and early 1960's, the Japanese had flooded the market with many appealingly designed tin toys and a large percentage of them were aimed at the USA with items familiar to Americans. But despite tin toy popularity in the post-war era, tin toy manufacturing was faced with increasing difficulties. They included changing consumer demands, new safety regulations and competition from plastic toy makers. By the 1970's, Japan had reduced the tin toy output so dramatically that many factories had ceased production altogether.
Tin Toy Yellow Race Car #8, ms642y(W)
One of the favorite tin toy racers. Always high in the standings.
The wind-up tin toy cars and motorcycles comprise one of the most popular themes of many tin toy collections. The tinplate construction and lithographic creativity are mind-boggling. Study the details to appreciate the artistry of the craftsmen who dreamed up these tin toys. Then marvel at the operating mechanisms and manufacturing processes, much of which is accomplished by hand, with skills passed down through generations. No wonder these are so sought after.
Following the tradition of American toy trains, Lionel made big, sturdy, stylized toy trains in a non-standard gauge, 2 1/8 inches, which it cleverly branded as “Standard.” Before long, it was. In fact, by the , Lionel products dominated the tinplate toy train market in the U.S.