An interesting and rare toy turned up in the saleroom recently. A plain old brown cardboard box that, at first glance, did not seem likely to cause any great excitement. The box was opened to reveal a tin omnibus pulled by a pair of wooden horses. Despite careful packing, the horses and figures had suffered over the years with detached and missing limbs.
Not immediately recognisable, with none of the usual maker’s marks, a label on the lid of the box provided a clue to the toy's history. It had been posted in 1901 by a French lady in Manchester to a young Miss Wright in Biggleswade. One can imagine her joy at receiving this present, perhaps for her birthday? Intriguingly the box was inscribed ‘Not to be opened’! It would have been an immaculate and brightly painted representation of a modern omnibus of the time.
The handwritten date showed that this toy was earlier than the many later lithographed toys made by the German and British companies in the early 20th century. A higher degree of craftsmanship was involved in making this, including the carving of the horses and the driver and the painting of the tin body and coach lined wheels.
Distler, Carette, Bing and Gunthermann were all German toy makers of the time and it could be attributed to any of these. These companies would have exported their wares to the UK, but they would have been an expensive luxury! The painted destinations on the sides refer to wealthy areas of London, including Chelsea and Sloane Street. This perhaps was to target residents of those areas, although the locations of the sender and recipient do not back up this theory!
It will be entered for our next Country House Sale on 27 June, with an estimate of £600-800.