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Wind Up Toys

Wind-up mechanisms were first seen in the 15th century. They were designed by Karl Grod, a German inventor whose creations included a unique mechanical fly and eagle. In 1509, Leonardo da Vinci created a wind-up lion as a greeting for Louis XII, King of France when he visited Italy. In early times, mechanical wind-up toys were made only for royalty, as they were highly elaborate and highly expensive.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, large scale and toy-size automaton figures were created. They used wind-up motors to produce lifelike motions in carved figures, bisque dolls, and early carved or metal toys. After large-scale automatons went out of vogue, wind-up toys were created during the early stages of the 18th century throughout Germany and various regions of Europe.

During the later part of the 1800s, numerous European toy makers began creating and mass producing some of the first wind-up tin toys ever made. This eventually created a large influx into America during the Industrial Revolution, which garnered hundreds and even thousands of makers over the next 150 years of toy production history.


Quick Facts

  • A rare Marklin wind-up mechanical side-wheeler “Chicago” toy boat sold at Bertoia Auctions in November 2012 for $264,500
  • With the introduction of battery-operated toys in the ‘50s, the demise of wind-up mechanical toys was inevitable
  • René Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist built several automata figures, including a wind-up human girl. The girl automata was discovered while Descartes was on a ship to Sweden. Appalled, the ship’s captain ordered the philosopher thrown overboard

Recommended Items at Auction

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Antique German School Boy Windup Toy
Dec 03, 12:00 PM EST
Antique German School Boy Windup Toy
by Blackwell Auctions LLC
Est: $200- $400
$5506 Bids
ROULLET DECAMPS CLOCKWORK KNITTING CAT
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
ROULLET DECAMPS CLOCKWORK KNITTING CAT
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5005 Bids
Vintage STRUCTO Gasoline Truck Windup Toy
Dec 03, 12:00 PM EST
Vintage STRUCTO Gasoline Truck Windup Toy
by Blackwell Auctions LLC
Est: $200- $400
$1004 Bids
Vintage Zilotone Windup Clown Xylophone
Dec 03, 12:00 PM EST
Vintage Zilotone Windup Clown Xylophone
by Blackwell Auctions LLC
Est: $400- $800
$2003 Bids
LINEMAR TIN WINDUP PLUTO DRUM MAJOR w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
LINEMAR TIN WINDUP PLUTO DRUM MAJOR w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1402 Bids
MARX TIN WINDUP DONALD DUCK DIPSY CAR
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP DONALD DUCK DIPSY CAR
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1402 Bids
MARX TIN WINDUP MICKEY MOUSE DIPSY CAR w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP MICKEY MOUSE DIPSY CAR w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2102 Bids
LINEMAR TIN WINDUP LUDWIG VON DRAKE w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
LINEMAR TIN WINDUP LUDWIG VON DRAKE w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1402 Bids
JAPAN TIN & CELLULOID WINDUP DRUMMER BOY
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
JAPAN TIN & CELLULOID WINDUP DRUMMER BOY
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
MARX TIN WINDUP POPEYE & OLIVE OYL JIGGER
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP POPEYE & OLIVE OYL JIGGER
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
M&K HAND-PAINTED WINDUP WALKING BLACK DRUMMER
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
M&K HAND-PAINTED WINDUP WALKING BLACK DRUMMER
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $1,000
$3001 Bid
MARTIN HORSE DRAWN HANSOM CAB w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARTIN HORSE DRAWN HANSOM CAB w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5001 Bid
MARX TIN WINDUP MILTON BERLE CAR w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP MILTON BERLE CAR w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
MARX TIN WINDUP CHARLIE McCARTHY WALKER w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP CHARLIE McCARTHY WALKER w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
CHEIN TIN WINDUP POPEYE FLOOR PUNCHER
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
CHEIN TIN WINDUP POPEYE FLOOR PUNCHER
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$3001 Bid
JAPAN TIN WINDUP MP MOTORCYCLE & SIDECAR
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
JAPAN TIN WINDUP MP MOTORCYCLE & SIDECAR
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
KO TIN WINDUP HIGH-WHEEL ROBOT w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
KO TIN WINDUP HIGH-WHEEL ROBOT w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
Group of 2 Vintage Alps Wind-Up Kitten Toys
Dec 03, 9:00 AM CST
Group of 2 Vintage Alps Wind-Up Kitten Toys
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $50- $150
$251 Bid
METTOY TIN WINDUP CIVILIAN MOTORCYCLE
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
METTOY TIN WINDUP CIVILIAN MOTORCYCLE
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
LINDSTROM TIN WINDUP BARNUM BAILEY CIRCUS WAGON
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
LINDSTROM TIN WINDUP BARNUM BAILEY CIRCUS WAGON
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
MARX WINDUP DONALD DUCK DRUMMER w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX WINDUP DONALD DUCK DRUMMER w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
MARX TIN WINDUP DONALD DUCK DRIVER w/ BOX
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
MARX TIN WINDUP DONALD DUCK DRIVER w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
GERMAN HAND-PAINTED WINDUP MONKEY w/ CELLO
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
GERMAN HAND-PAINTED WINDUP MONKEY w/ CELLO
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $1,000
$3001 Bid
GERMAN HAND-PAINTED WINDUP MONKEY BELL RINGER
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
GERMAN HAND-PAINTED WINDUP MONKEY BELL RINGER
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $1,000
$3001 Bid

Sellers Who Sell Wind Up Toys


Milestone Auctions

Milestone Auctions

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Blackwell Auctions LLC

Blackwell Auctions LLC