Early wind-up toys included dancing couples


The tango was introduced in Argentina about 1902, but didn't become the latest dance craze until about 1916. It spread to Paris, the United States and Europe, and remained a favorite until the 1920s.

The tango was popular in upper-class dance parlors and has gone in and out of favor. Early tango dances were very daring, and in some countries they were restricted by law. But dancing couples were among the first wind-up tin toys for children in the 1800s.

Around 1916, a dancing toy with figures of a man in tails and an elegant woman in a pink dress was made by the German Gunthermann Company (1877-1965). Wind the key hidden under the woman's dress, and the couple dances in random patterns. Although the toy was sold in a box labeled "Tango," it is sometimes called the "Waltzing Couple" or the "Dancing Couple." The toy, in excellent condition with the box, sold at a James Julia auction in Maine in June for $3,851.

Several other dancing couple toys have been made. In the 1930s, there was a Japanese key wind 6-inch-tall celluloid toy by Masudaya. The woman has a red dress. The toy sells today for about $40. In the 1960s, a Japanese company, Tokyo Plaything Shokai, made a dancing toy for Hikari Toy Products. The figures are tin with vinyl heads and the woman has a blue dress. It sells for about $360 to $400. The idea continued, and modern dancing toys have modern clothes, the latest dances, music and electronic controls.



Q: I have a collection of Chinese mud figures and would like to know their value. Are there collectors interested in these figures?

A: Mud figures are small partially-glazed pottery figures made in China in the 20th century. They originally were made for fish tanks or planters. Most figures are of farmers, scholars, workers or merchants. Other pieces are trees, houses and similar parts of the landscape. The figures have unglazed faces and hands but glazed clothing. They were made by hand, often by members of the village where they were made. Reproductions have been made. There isn't a big market for mud figures. Price depends on size, condition and interest in the design. They sell online and at auctions for about $10 to over $100.



Q: I collect memorabilia connected with movie cowboys including Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and Tom Mix. A friend who moved here from Australia gave me his childhood collection, a box of Hopalong games and ads. None were items I have seen. Many were made in Australia. Were his movies seen in Australia? When?

A: Hopalong Cassidy was a character in 28 books, starting in 1907. The character was in movies from 1934 to 1948. Sixty-six films were made. In 1948 William Boyd, the most famous star who played Hopalong, bought the television rights to the character from the author and the producer of the Hopalong Cassidy films. He later made 52 new TV shows. That gave him the ability to license the name to hundreds of products around the world. He toured Australia in 1954, so it is not surprising that later in the 1950s Australian companies made board games, many types of candy often in collectible boxes or wrappers, Hoppy Cola (a drink), cake decorations, trading cards with pictures of Hoppy, pistols, holsters and other toys. The Hopalong Cassidy craze lasted just a few years after his 1954 tour, and Australian Hopalong items rarely are seen in the United States.



Q: I have about four vertical inches of old credit cards dating back the mid-1960s. What is the best way for me to find their value?

A: Credit cards, metal charge plates, phone cards and other similar collectibles that replace money are now part of the numismatic collecting hobby. The earliest paper or cardboard credit cards were issued by airline and gasoline companies in the 1920s. Early and rare charge plates and credit cards can sell for hundreds of dollars. The book "Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide," as well as the free online price guide at Kovels.com, has a credit-card category with prices of credit cards that have actually sold. There also is a club, the Credit Card Collector, that publishes a monthly newsletter and can help with rarity and value information.



Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

n Chestnut roaster, brass, incised star, geometric pan, hinged lid, wood shaft, 43 1/2 x 12 inches, $95.

n Silver cigarette case, Art Deco, shield cartouche, enameled design, Austria, c. 1920, 3 x 4 inches, $130.

n Furniture, church pew, oak, embossed, cutout accents, cross, fleur-de-lis, 25 x 40 inches, $150.

n Crosley clock radio, Model D-25WE, tabletop, AM, white plastic, gold accents, 1951, 7 1/2 inches, $210.

n Tool, perforating machine, cast iron, black, red, pinstripes, Cummins Co., c. 1892, 17 x 17 inches, $270.

n Advertising tin, candy, Zingo Sweets, race car logo, round, blue, orange, red, 10 x 12 inches, $345.

n Peanuts, Schroeder with piano, Beethoven bust, vinyl, c. 1960, 7 1/2 inches, $480.

n Tiffany glass, vase, Favrile, pulled feather, gold, green, mauve, opalescent ivory ground, 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches, $860.

n Scrimshaw, whale's tooth, eagle, stars, arrows, crossed flags, shield, ship, maiden, 1800s, 6 inches, $1,560.

n Stoneware chicken feeder, cobalt-blue leaves, ear handles, dome top, tiered finial, 16 inches, $2,480.


Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. Write to Kovels, Tyler Morning Telegraph, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, New York, 10019.




THIS PAIR OF TIN figures can dance across the floor when wound with a key. It was made about 1916, when the tango was the most popular dance. It sold at a June auction for $3,851.


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