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Collector Shows Off Lithograph Toys

Posted 3/23/2017

KEN Holmes shows a busy bridge toy at his presentation last Saturday in Halstead.KEN Holmes shows a busy bridge toy at his presentation last Saturday in Halstead.By Pilar Martin

HALSTEAD—Toy collector Ken Holmes of Wichita, stopped by the Halstead Heritage Museum and Depot in Halstead on Sunday to share his collection of tin lithograph toys. Holmes said he began collecting the toys in 1985, and he has hundreds of them.

“When people get in their forties, they start to think back to times when they were younger and start collecting things that once brought them joy,” Holmes told the crowd. Holmes tried to find toys he had played with as a child. “In those days, when you outgrew playing with certain toys, they ended up in the trash, or maybe mom gave them to a neighbor if they could still be played with,” he said.

Those old toys can bring in anywhere from just a few dollars to thousands for the hard to find collectibles. Holmes’s favorite toys to collect were the tin lithograph toys from the 1920s through the 1940s that had some kind of action to them.

Holmes started out his presentation with a tin toy made by Unique Art that featured an airplane, complete with pilot on one side, and a dirigible or blimp on the other side of a wire.

“When you wind it with the key, that actually winds up a spring inside very tightly, and as the spring unwinds the tension moves the parts of the toys,” Holmes said.

Most of the toys were manufactured in the eastern United States, such as New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. But there was a toy manufacturer in Clifton, Kansas, about 15 miles east of Concordia.

“The Kansas Toy Company at one time had 65 people working two shifts to produce its toys,” Holmes said.  Holmes had a couple of the toys with him like a small plane, a racing car and a tank.

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