Hundreds of toys which generations of pre-video-gaming children would have put high on their Santa lists are being unpacked for a bumper auction in Auckland next week.

The cornucopia of vintage fun and games being assembled at Art+Object's Newton auction rooms from two large collections includes cars, trains, boats and planes mainly from the 1920s to the 1960s.

It includes early items from New Zealand's Fun Ho! brand which used sand-cast aluminium to fashion toys for sandpit play by children growing up under war-time rationing.

Lincoln toys and Britain's Dinky brand, including an early-1960s Holden Special model still in its box and with toy luggage in the boot, are also well represented.

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But although price estimates for some immaculate German items such as a 1920s "faux crocodile skin" tin-plate limousine range as high as $3000, the star of the show for auction-house managing director Hamish Coney is a 55-piece "New Map of the World" educational puzzle that he dates to about 1790.

It was bought at auction in the early 1990s by Auckland art gallery owner Warwick Henderson, who is farewelling his toy collection because he is moving premises.

The item, which Mr Coney calls a "dissected puzzle" because jigsaws had not been invented when it was made, shares the maddening fate of many modern versions in having several pieces missing.

Otherwise, he would have put an estimate of about $2000 on it.

But even with a large chunk of Africa missing, the puzzle remains "materially" intact, and has the bonus of tracking Captain James Cook's three round-the-world voyages including their convergence on New Zealand.

"It is one of the rarest items of New Zealand-related material we have handled," said Mr Coney, who expects it to fetch between $500 and $750.

Mr Coney said New Zealand had a thriving toy-collecting scene.

"Toy collectors are passionate and knowledgeable with a great sense of humour and appreciation for the childhood joys that toys bring," he said.

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The second collection being auctioned belonged to the late Bob Geerligs, who left most of the toys he brought back to Auckland from frequent visits to Europe in their original packaging.

Playtime

• Vintage toys auction - 1pm, Wednesday, December 10 at Art+Object, 3 Abbey St, Newton.

Items previewed by the Herald yesterday included:

• 1953 open-top Pontiac with driver ($800-$1000)
• Late-1940s Fun Ho! roadster with driver and passengers ($500-$750)
• 1960s Cadillac sedan, one of the largest tin toy autos made ($350-$450)
• Late-1940s clockwork (American zone) German Schuko tinplate motorbike and rider in original working condition ($200-$250).

On the web: artandobject.co.nz.