BBR Auctions: Who says collecting is child’s play?


With Alan Blakeman of BBR Auctions, Elsecar

It’s that time of year again. No more ironing uniforms, no making up packed lunches, no dreaded school run. Just six summer weeks of pure family bliss.

A time for BBQs, family days out, and long walks in the country, there are plenty of things to do and see right on our doorstep. But with over a month of school-free time, the calendar needs to inspire, educate and continually interest.

Antiques and collecting – now that could sound like the worst possible activity for children. But you could be pleasantly surprised if you concentrate on the magic of collecting.

Think back to when you were a child; the days when you begged your parents for another pack of football stickers, hunted for pebbles on the beach, or spent hours rifling through the post in search of undiscovered stamps. Shelves lined with dinky cars, stuffed animals or old coins in a glass case.

Children can find an interest in anything and everything, be it fairies or football, penguins or pigs. Inquisitive to learn more, some are simply excited by a hard-earned collection that’s theirs. Collecting instils certain life skills, like taking care of possessions, and is a good way to teach, investigating more deeply into a subject.

While museums and antiques fairs can seem a trifle stuffy, why not start a summer collecting project to keep the kids busy and learn about the world while having fun.

The thrill of collecting is often uncovering single new finds rather than stockpiling everything at once. A treasure hunt around antique or charity shops will encourage them to think of the history or story behind each individual piece.

But where does the trail begin?

We must temper all suggestions of collecting with a note of caution. Collectables are no different to stocks and shares; everything can be trendy one minute, out of favour the next, or can reduce value along the way, as well as potentially increase over the years.

However, with collectables you get the advantage of years of pleasure and joy in putting such together and generally, if tempered with some shrewdness and wisdom, you won’t actually go far wrong.

Remember, children’s collecting interests will probably change direction as they grow up. As long as their interests are not harmful or too costly, let them make their own choices and find their own passion in life.

Let’s look at some of the more popular collectable items:

Toys and Games

Perhaps the most obvious choice, toys bring memories of happy days. Most parents have old toys in the loft or storage, even from their own childhoods, which are often well-loved and played with.

Present day limited editions kept MINT and BOXED are always found on selling sites, especially those ‘must have now’ toys that disappear instantly off the toy shop shelves.

Compare old items with what you might find today. Different eras bring different crazes; today, children love Furbies and Hatchimals, compared to older toys like Evil Knievel action toys from the 70s – I would love a mint and boxed myself for my eldest son.

When today’s youngsters become cash rich adults, perfect examples from their childhood can be a rich person’s pleasure to remind of their past favourites.


Crawfords biscuit tin

Victorian and Edwardian tin toys can be extremely expensive, but more modern examples, like tinplate robots, can still be found for ‘saved up pocket money’ buys. Once more – teach your child to be selective; better to save hard for a fine example than go low and simply amass lots in bad condition.

Children’s books

Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh, or any all time classics such as Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in top condition are almost certainly likely to hold their value and be a sound investment for sure. After reading the magic of Hogwarts, watch out for the rising collectability of the Harry Potter series.

Old comics

A natural collecting area, youngsters always like reading comic magazines. Great to compare the styles of older titles such as Beano and Dandy.

Sweets paraphernalia

Chocolate – always a favourite – for both young and old. Unopened bars of chocolate turn up from time to time, somehow surviving the clutches oforiginal buyer who never opened them.

Down at Elsecar Heritage Centre there’s a well stocked antiques centre to explore, a monthly antiques fair and even specialist toy fairs. At our BBR saleroom down by the red phone box, come in for a browse to spot anything with a child theme.

You never know, 20 years down the line you may have a grown-up son or daughter with a collection of any of the above or more that has risen in value and worth cashing in – perhaps to pay for higher education as one girl did with BBR many years ago.

We sold a large gathering of Wade Whimsies ceramics which her mother suggested she parted with as she was leaving

Rare tinplate biscuit lorry

home for University; 15 years of pocket money resulted in a single auction – earning her just short of £11,000. Imagine how much of that ended up in the till behind the Student Union bar!


Happy collecting and have a great family fun summer.

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