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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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Marx Tin Windup Amos N Andy Fresh Air Taxi
May 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Marx Tin Windup Amos N Andy Fresh Air Taxi
by Atlee Raber Auctioneer
Est: $10- $1,000
$405 Bids
(5) Marx wind-up racers
Apr 24, 3:00 PM EDT
(5) Marx wind-up racers
by Chupp Auctions & Real Estate, LLC
Est: $50- $200
$2255 Bids
Vintage c. 1948 Marx Toys Tin Litho Motorcycle Cop Windup Toy w Siren WORKS
Jun 10, 6:00 PM EDT
Vintage c. 1948 Marx Toys Tin Litho Motorcycle Cop Windup Toy w Siren WORKS
by One Source Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$653 Bids
Schylling Motorcyle with Sidecar Wind-Up Toy
Apr 26, 10:00 AM EDT
Schylling Motorcyle with Sidecar Wind-Up Toy
by Nye & Company
Est: $20- $40
$102 Bids
Early Clockwork Parrot
Apr 24, 11:00 AM EDT
Early Clockwork Parrot
by Apple Tree Auction Center
Est: $0- $0
$152 Bids
LEHMANN TIN WINDUP ZIKRA
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
LEHMANN TIN WINDUP ZIKRA
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
Unique Art litho tin wind-up toy Lincoln Tunnel,
May 04, 10:00 AM EDT
Unique Art litho tin wind-up toy Lincoln Tunnel,
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
ANTIQUE GERMAN FELT COVERED WIND UP TIGER TOY
Apr 24, 9:00 AM CDT
ANTIQUE GERMAN FELT COVERED WIND UP TIGER TOY
by Jackson's International
Est: $50- $75
$401 Bid
MARUSAN TIN WINDUP WONDER MG CAR w/ BOX
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
MARUSAN TIN WINDUP WONDER MG CAR w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
MARX MORTIMER SNEED WINDUP TOY
Apr 28, 3:00 PM PDT
MARX MORTIMER SNEED WINDUP TOY
by Midnight Sun Antique Auction
Est: $150- $200
$1000 Bids
Vintage 1940's Occupied Japan Young Boy on Tin Windup Tricycle Celluloid Toy WORKS
Jun 10, 6:00 PM EDT
Vintage 1940's Occupied Japan Young Boy on Tin Windup Tricycle Celluloid Toy WORKS
by One Source Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$250 Bids
Antique Marx Tin Wind Up Ford Jalopy Car
Apr 25, 6:00 PM EDT
Antique Marx Tin Wind Up Ford Jalopy Car
by Orion Antiques
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
FRENCH CLOCKWORK LADDER FIRE TRUCK
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
FRENCH CLOCKWORK LADDER FIRE TRUCK
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
DISTLER TIN WINDUP MERCEDES BENZ w/ BOX
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
DISTLER TIN WINDUP MERCEDES BENZ w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
DISTLER TIN WINDUP MERCEDES BENZ w/ BOX
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
DISTLER TIN WINDUP MERCEDES BENZ w/ BOX
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
HESS CLOCKWORK #1021 HESSMOBILE
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
HESS CLOCKWORK #1021 HESSMOBILE
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
NIFTY TIN WINDUP AUTOMATIC DUMP TRUCK
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
NIFTY TIN WINDUP AUTOMATIC DUMP TRUCK
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
FISCHER CLOCKWORK CABRIOLET
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
FISCHER CLOCKWORK CABRIOLET
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
BING CLOCKWORK OPEN TOURING CAR
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
BING CLOCKWORK OPEN TOURING CAR
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $800- $1,000
$4000 Bids
OROBR TIN WINDUP LIMOUSINE
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
OROBR TIN WINDUP LIMOUSINE
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
GERMAN TIN WINDUP HAND STAND CLOWN
May 11, 10:00 AM EDT
GERMAN TIN WINDUP HAND STAND CLOWN
by Milestone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Wind Up Toys


Milestone Auctions

Milestone Auctions

One Source Auctions

One Source Auctions

Midnight Sun Antique Auction

Midnight Sun Antique Auction