I've been getting requests from collectors,
school teachers, and students who are researching old toys. I try to help
with information that I have. There are several avenues of investigation
you might take to find out about a toy or toy company:
1. If there is a city
name on the toy, contact the city's library to see
if they have a folder on the company or if they have old business registries. I
have found that libraries are very helpful. You should provide them with any
information you are able to compile. You will probably have to visit the library
to conduct the research yourself.
2. If there is a patent
number on the toy, then you can find out the
inventor or designer's name, the company the patent is assigned to, and the
unique feature patented. You can visit a patent repository to go through volumes
of patents. To view a list of repositories in your state, go to:
The US Patents and Trademark office is getting their patent database on
line, but they don't have a searchable database for patents older than
1976. However, they do have images of older patents on line.
You will probably have to install a TIFF viewer for your browser to see
the images. If you don't see the images on their image viewing page after a
search, click on HELP and follow instructions for downloading a viewer. It
worked for me.
Note that many, if not most, patent numbers you will see on toys are
Design patents. Design patents show the form or artwork of the toy rather than
the unique functionality of the toy. A regular or Utility patent shows the
unique functionality of the toy - usually the operating mechanism. You could see
either a Design or a Utility patent number or both on the toy. The patent number
will also help date the earliest possible production date of the toy. Most toys
were produced a year or so before the patent is issued.
You can find a list of patents with their issue dates at:
3. If you have a company name, you could go
through the microfilm repository of magazines at the Library of Congress. The
best magazines are toy trade magazines including:
Playthings - started in 1902, this is the toy
trade magazine of the industry. Almost all of the important toy manufacturers
advertised here. They published monthly and may still be publishing.
Toys and Novelties - published since at least
1914, this is another great resource for toy research. Also a monthly.
Share your research with us! I'll put your
paper on the site for all to read.