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The five best childhood collectibles

Cover of  by Toby Walne

The five best childhood collectibles

From Superman to Scalextric models, we explain why your attic could turn into a real treasure trove

If the rollercoaster ride of the stock market leaves you feeling a little queasy, and the rock-bottom rates on savings accounts make you feel decidedly unwell, perhaps it is time to consider an alternative home for some of your cash.

Investing in a hobby may seem an unusual strategy, but it can provide a fun way to make a profit.

Curious collectibles such as comics, toys, board games, sports memorabilia and penny-farthing bicycles have as much as quadrupled in value over the past decade.

A key appeal is that enjoying the experience is priority ? enthusiasm is essential to help you with the necessary homework. Nostalgia is fuelling much of the market demand, with collectors keen to own a piece of their childhood memories. Here Times Money looks at five areas of alternative investments.


Many superheroes, including Superman and Batman, were born during the golden age of comic-books in the Thirties and Forties. The 1938 issue of Action, in which Superman first appeared, is the most valuable and can change hands for up to £600,000. This is more than three times what it was worth a decade ago and a spectacular return for an initial 10 cents of pocket money.

The silver age of American comics in the Sixties is also highly collectible, with the birth of characters such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

A near-mint 1962 copy of Amazing Fantasy 15, in which the spectacle-wearing Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider to become Spider-Man, can cost £30,000.

This is double the value of a decade ago; the result of movie spin-offs boosting interest and ? crucial to such investments ? renewed appeal to younger generations.

Luckily, the best of British doesn?t cost so much. ?Pilot of the Future? Dan Dare shot off into space in the first issue of Eagle in April 1950, a 3d comic that can now fetch £850. Condition is key for all alternative investments and comics are no exception. Well-thumbed copies fetch only half the price of top examples.


Another childhood favourite often brought out at Christmas ? and broken by Boxing Day ? is the Scalextric racing set. Scalextric was an instant success when it was launched in 1957 and an original boxed set can sell today for £500.

The tin-plated cars changed to become plastic models in the Sixties, but the early ones, vulnerable to damage in crashes, are worth more. The holy grail is the Bugatti of 1964 ? which was pulled from the shelves as it broke too easily ? and is now worth up to £3,000. But rarity is not the only consideration. A 1964 Austin Healey can still sell for £150 because it looks so good. A few years ago it was just a novelty item.

Board games

Board games offer another fun way to make money. Prices are soaring as collectors become nostalgic for an era when families played games together, rather than vegetating in front of the television or playing computer games.

The board games that have stood the test of time include a Fifties set of Buccaneer, or a Sixties game of Escape from Colditz. Both sell for around £80, about £60 more than they fetched in the late Nineties.

Monopoly is the most popular board game in history with more than 200 million sets sold worldwide since 1935 when it was first marketed by Parker Brothers. Prewar editions in top condition can fetch more than £100, although later ?limited editions? are usually worthless.

Sports memorabilia

Prices here have soared, particularly for items connected with football and cricket.

The oldest football programmes do particularly well, with a single-sheet team selection of Manchester United versus Walsall at The Chuckery in 1890 ? before Old Trafford was built ? now worth £10,000. Its original price was 1d.

FA Cup Finals also hold special appeal and the 1923 programme for the first final at Wembley, which originally went for 3d, can sell for £1,000 today.

For cricket fans, anything to do with the legendary names such as W. G. Grace, Fred Trueman, Denis Compton and Donald Bradman command top prices.

W. G. Grace was the first true sports star and the 19th-century bat he used to knock up his first top-class century is valued at £80,000. Even his hand-written notes can fetch £500.

But the most popular cricket collectible is Wisden Cricketers? Almanack, which has published all the scorecards of first-class matches since 1864.

A complete set could be picked up for about £20,000 a decade ago, but sets in good condition now go for as much as £100,000. Individual early copies sell for thousands of pounds, although a later post-war edition can still be picked up for less than £100.


Daredevil sports lovers might prefer sharing vintage thrills first-hand by investing in a penny-farthing.

Modern enthusiasts keen on an exhilarating ride have rediscovered these Victorian bicycles. Models that often have been rusting away for the best part of a century now sell for £5,000 or more. Invented in 1870 by James Starley, the twowheeler earned the inappropriate nickname ?the Ordinary? after 1879 when modern chain-driven ?safety bicycles? arrived.

Provenance ? as with all alternative investments ? is key, as few of these bikes have stood the test of time without significant repairs. You need to take care and look out for the many fakes. As with any extraordinary investment, it is better, initially, to pay over the odds through a reputable dealer than trust to luck on an internet gamble.

Toby Walne is the author of 101 Extraordinary Investments ? Curious, Unusual and Bizarre Ways to Make Money

How to avoid a hammer horror

Buying and selling offbeat investments and collectibles never has been easier. Most specialist sellers and auction houses now have internet sites that let you browse through their stock. Collectibles also appear frequently on eBay and similar online sites.

However, buying alternative investments is not for the faint-hearted. Prices can be highly volatile as they are prone to the whims of fashion. Scams are also rife, with the internet making it easy for fraudsters and criminal gangs to sell fakes.

Established sellers and auction houses should ensure that items are what they claim to be. However, the cost of buying and selling through established dealers can be off-putting. Booksellers, galleries, wine merchants and antique dealers generally take a commission by offering a lower price to sellers than buyers.

Auction houses are also costly. Christie?s charges buyers a 25 per cent premium on the first £25,000 of the hammer price ? the price at which an item sells ? 20 per cent between £25,001 and £500,000 and 12 per cent thereafter.

VAT is payable on all premiums and charges, and, depending on the item, there may be costs for shipping, packaging and storage.

Insurance also can be high if your purchase is valuable and rare. And there will be further commission to pay if you then sell it through an auction house.

In many cases you will pay capital gains tax (CGT) on profits over the annual allowance ? £10,100 in this tax year. Some collectibles, such as wine and antique clocks and watches, are normally exempted from CGT because they are regarded as ?wasting assets?. However, if HM Revenue & Customs decides that they will improve in quality and value after 50 years, the exemption may not apply.

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