Rare toys offer playful insight into NZ's past

By Steve Deane

Auction of post 1940s, mainly locally made playthings a history lesson for young at heart.

Hamish Coney says toys like these Fun Ho! pieces have stood the test of time.
Hamish Coney says toys like these Fun Ho! pieces have stood the test of time.

A collection of rare toys that will go under the auctioneer's hammer tomorrow provides a novel insight into New Zealand's history.

The Kiwi-made toys from the Maryanne Wealleans Collection, on display at Art + Object in Newton, include a Fun Ho! cap gun, Parro-Toy farmyard animals and toy soldiers, Hercules tractors and bulldozers and even hand-knitted golliwogs.

"[The collection] talks to New Zealand history, it is not just about toys," Art + Object managing director Hamish Coney said. "It is all part of a growing trend of New Zealanders collecting New Zealand history."

While toys such as golliwogs were now considered to be culturally insensitive they were commonplace in New Zealand throughout much of last century, Mr Coney said.

Many of the auction items were the result of Kiwis setting up small scale backyard operations where they produced replicas of toys brought into the country by American soldiers stationed here during World War II.

"Inventive and entrepreneurial New Zealanders would set up little factories - small, backyard fabrication factories - the New Zealand way," Mr Coney said.

Many of the pieces were surprisingly intricate and had stood the test of time. The display would appeal to dedicated collectors rather than people hoping to pick up bargains for their children.

"It's the best assemblage we've ever presented of New Zealand toys," Mr Coney said.

"These date to the 1940s. It's the rarest of the rare to ... have them all together.

"They have a charm and simplicity that many recognise. These toys have the patina from doing the hard yards in the sandpits and schoolyards of the nation. They speak to the concerns of the times with lots of tractors, trucks, trains and motorcycles being very popular."

International toys complemented the locally produced items. Highlights included a German Lehman Brothers Masyama - a geisha being pulled along in a hand cart by a coolie, with a guide of $1500-$2500 - and a Sooty handpuppet from the BBC children's television series, tipped to sell between $1000 and $1500.

Rare toys auction

Tomorrow, 5pm
3 Abbey St, Newton, Auckland
View the toys online at www.artandobject.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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