Toys are one of the most collected items in the world with toy collectors being amongst the most knowledgeable and fanatical of all collectors. Perhaps they are compensating for a lack of toys during childhood or a part of them inside will always remain child, who knows. However the market for antique and vintage toys remains strong with the success of various movie blockbuster franchises only spurring it on.
Early toys were generally made of wood, clay or other natural materials (for example an inflated pigs bladder used as a ball) these normally depicted animals, toy soldiers or dolls. Toys didn't really change in terms of materials or manufacture until the Industrial Revolution when mass production techniques allowed toys to be produced in much greater numbers and they became cheaper to buy.
In the early Twentieth Century toys like Meccano (first sold in 1900) and Teddy Bears (named after American President Theodore Roosevelt) became popular and are still popular today. Food for thought a Teddy Bear sold at a charity auction in Monaco in 2000 for $2.1 million. we currently have this Steiff 'Rumbler' Bear available at Top Banana for a lot less!
Tin Plate toys, literally toys made from stamped sheets of thin steel coated in tin, first appeared in the mid 19th century and reached their hey day in the first half of the twentieth century. These cheap, colourful and mass produced toys are very collectable today.
During the 1960's plastic became the predominant material used in the manufacture of toys, with battery as opposed to earlier clockwork mechanisms also taking over.
It was merchandising linked to the Star Wars franchise which dramatically changed the toy landscape, these films were a huge hit and toy figures, vehicles and merchandising in general where hugely popular. Since 1977 $32 billion worth of Star Wars merchandise has been sold and this figure increases by $1.5 billion every year. Now blockbuster films all have their own line of toys and merchandise, and indeed toys are now being made into blockbuster films like the Transformers franchise.