I’m sure you all had a rocking horse when you were kids. Some of us were lucky enough to inherit the one that was in the family for decades. But did you know that a beloved toy can be worth much more than you think?
The rocking horse is a truly antique toy since the first one is made in the early 17th century, and up until the mid-19th century, all rocking horses were made by hand. Now imagine how beautiful and valuable these specimens are.
We understand that rocking horses are not the IT thing nowadays, miniature cars and bikes took their place, but we do recommend you check your grandparent’s attics. In the past few decades, the demand for this toy among collectors jumped significantly, which means their value jump as well.
In this article, we will be talking about the antique rocking horse value and how to recognize a true vintage toy.
The Brief History About The Rocking Horses
Equestrian-themed toys were very popular in medieval times. This is only natural since horses were a part of every days life at that time. Almost every home had a horse and children usually adore them.
As I already mentioned the first rocking horse was made somewhere in the 17th century inspired by rocking cradles and hobby horses. If you aren’t familiar hobby horses were simple sticks with a fake horse’s head on one end that children used to play with. Anyhow the first rocking horse was made purely from wood and it usually had a problem with tipping over since the center of gravity was high.
Luckily in the Victorian period, artisans took over the production of toy horses and prevented further tippings and injuries. For many families, a rocking horse was a treasure. Woodmakers designed rocking horses in different designs and qualities depending on their knowledge and abilities. Some were decorated with ornaments some were simple and plain, however, they were all hollow, which made them more stable and lighter.
With time design and demand changed and these toys soon became a true piece of art. Somewhere in the 19th-century production of these toys became industrialized. The toy was mass-produced and unfortunately, they lost their previous charm and uniqueness. However, these toys were still very attractive and beautiful it’s just they were now all the same.
Unfortunately, with WWI and WWII many rocking horse manufacturers stopped their production. Today these pieces are very rare and sought-after among collectors.
Different types of rocking horses
There are three main different types of antique rocking horses that you will come across on the market, or maybe you already own one.
- Antique bow rocking horses – This is the first and improved design of the rocking horse. It features two separate wooden curves that are convenient and comfortable to ride. Since this was the first model ever produced, some pieces are very expensive, especially the early examples that appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. Well-preserved toys from this period are very valuable, some collectors are prepared to set aside up to a few thousand dollars for them.
- Antique Marqua rocking horses – During the Victorian era the Marqua rocking horses design was born. These toys were trendy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the first model appeared in the 1880s. The main difference in design was the size, these ones featured a frame system that made them sizable. Well-preserved and functional pieces are expensive, especially the early English version which can reach up to a few thousand dollars on auctions.
- Antique metal rocking horses – The third type is antique metal rocking horses. These are not considered collectible items because of the low-cost tin material they were made of. Even though some examples are very beautiful and old most of these rocking horses won’t fetch you more than $100.
Famous antique rocking horse manufacturing companies
In the early times, rocking horses were crafted by talented artists and carpenters. The handwork and personal style were those things that made every rocking horse unique and beautiful. Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers never included maker’s marks, initials, or logos on their horses. This will later make the identifying process a very complicated task.
Their horses can only be identified by maker-specific characteristics like paint color, bridle material, ornaments, etc. The list of manufacturers is quite exhaustive, bu these are the ones that you probably came across if you were looking to buy an antique rocking horse:
- R. Smith
- H. Ayers
- G & J Lines
- Brassington & Cookie
- Baby Carriages
- Collinsons & Sons
- Crossley Brothers
- Stevenson Brothers
- Lines Brothers
- Ragamuffin Toys Ltd.
- Haddon Rocking Horses
- Parker Brothers
How To Identify A True Antique Horse
As you can see from the paragraph above there were numerous manufacturers that designed rocking horse toys. The most famous workshops were located in England, like Lines, Ayres, Baby Carriage, and Collinson.
However, to be able to determine if the rocking horse is true or fake, besides the maker’s mark and the decade of production you should pay attention to other signature features that were specific for each brand.
Collison Brothers’ rocking horses
They produced rocking horse toys from 1836 to 1990 in Liverpool. You will easily recognize their rocking horses by a few typical characteristics:
- Paintwork – Collison Brothers mainly used dark colors and very often pure black. They enhanced the design with bold paint that they used for details like bright red mouths, garish eyes, and nostrils.
- Hair – The majority of their horses feature curly manes and tails.
- Eyes – All their horses have upholstery pins for the eyes.
- Tack – The saddle was made from leatherette, and the saddle middles were made from red corduroy.
- Stand – They used standard rectangular linear pillars with a diamond cut on their top.
G & J Lines Brothers’ rocking horses
This was a London-based company that operated from 1850 to 1931. You can recognize their rocking horses according to the following features:
- Paintwork – This company preferred subtle colors for both horse’s face and body.
- Hair – They created manes and tails of natural horse hair.
- Eyes – All their horses featured eyes made of glass.
- Tack – Saddles are classically shaped, removable, and with angular pointed corners. Made and padded with leather, accompanied by a colorful blanket below it.
- Stand – You will easily recognize their work on the stands. All of their horses feature elegantly turned pillars and hinges with three screw holes, and company initials engraved under brackets.
F.H. Ayres’s rocking horses
The first company that started manufacturing rocking horses in London was Ayres. It was founded in 1864 and unfortunately, it stopped working in 1914 with the beginning of WWI. Today these horses are extremely rare and valuable! These are their characteristics:
- Paintwork – They used subtle colors on the bodies, while the heads were colored in some bolder colors. No other manufacturer could achieve the technique and coloring they did.
- Body shape – These horses were delicately shaped and carved, with elegant heads that are usually turned to one side.
- Hair – They used long brown, dapple, or light grey horse hair in most cases.
- Eyes – Their horses always came with highlighted painted glass eyes.
- Tack – Every horse had a padded saddle and bridle made of natural leather. The horse’s blanket has unique round corners with a characteristic white braid.
- Stand – The pine stand came with classic turned pillars and hinges with four bolt holes. The curiosity was that the company often mounted their horse toys on bow rockers.
Norton & Barker’s rocking horses
A company founded in Birmingham in 1890, created beautiful rocking horses for kids until 1947. Their toys were unique, so you will easily recognize them by following:
- Paintwork – Almost all their toys are colored with subtitles and basic colors like white, pearl, brown, and rarely back.
- Body shape – The bodies are elegant with a vertical narrow head attached.
- Eyes – The eyes are their signature feature! All their rocking horses have painted glass eyes outlined with a red line.
- Tack – A padded leather saddle without a saddle block.
- Stand – Horizontal rails always have elegantly rounded ends.
Baby Carriages LTD’s rocking horses
This company originates from Liverpool. The production started in 1906 and lasted until 1963. Pay attention to the following details since a lot of people confused their toys with the Collison Brothers. Look for the following:
- Paintwork – Their horses feature bold black shades and dappling.
- Hair – All their rocking horses have curly manes and tails.
- Eyes – Their horses just have glass eyes.
- Tack – Almost all their horse have saddles made from fabric, very rarely from leatherette. They come without saddle blocks and with a cotton horse blanket.
- Stand – Linear posts are rectangular with rounded ends and three screw holes.
Leeway’s rocking horses
The company was founded in London, they were in production from 1890 until 1947. You can recognize their style by the following features:
- Paintwork – All their toys carry basic dappling.
- Body – Their horses are best known for having straight and shapeless legs. The head is vertically attached to a stocky body.
- Tack – Saddles are padded with leather and without blocks and blankets.
- Stand – The stand has thin and round-ended horizontal rails.
Brassington & Cooke’s rocking horses
This company’s toys are among the rarest since they produced horses only in 1920. Their design is pretty unique, and you will easily recognize them by the following:
- Body shape – All their horses have forward-facing heads, stocky slender bodies, and atypical legs.
- Hair – They only used natural horse hair to make manes and tails.
- Tack – Their toys came with two saddle models. Ones are made of leather, others are padded.
- Stand – Classic pillars with a bracket pair on both ends. The rails have stylish rounded ends.
How To Determine The Real Value Of Antique Rocking Horses
As with most antique and collectible items factors like date of origin, condition, type of material, design, and craftsmanship quality will determine the value.
Antique rocking horses could be highly valuable so make sure you learn as much as you can and avoid being scammed or selling your toy under the price. Collectors appreciate different types and styles, however, the most important things for them are:
- Brand and date of origin
- Craftsmanship quality
- The material used (natural hair and glass eyes enhance the value)
- Used paint and the current condition
- Saddle and bridle materials
- Frame design and quality
The Most Valuable Antique Rocking Horses
If you decide to invest in rocking horses you need to know that you will need to put aside a significant amount of money. In most cases, antique rocking horses will cost you above $2,000. However, this as well depends on where you chose to buy your rocking horse.
Some specialized shops and auction houses hold a bit higher prices than the ones you can find on online platforms such as Etsy, eBay, 1stDIBS, Ruby Lane, Live Auctioneers, and so on.
Also, my advice is to visit local antique and pawn shops as well as flea markets and garage sales since many people try to get rid of old and unwanted items without knowing their real value.
Here is the list of currently most valuable antique rocking horses on the market:
- Antique horse, 19th-century folk art, rocking horse, pine horse, glass eyes, 1800s primitive, vintage decor selling for $9,000
- Antique American Dapple Jumper Track Carousel Rocking Horse, Charles W Dare Attributed, Early 20th Century, Carnival Folk Art currently selling for $5,095
- Stunning F.H. Ayres extra large and carved English antique rocking horse currently selling for $4,852
- Stunning large original antique rocking horse by F H Ayres circa 1910 currently selling for $3,587
- Rare antique spring rocking horse by Hooper Invicta of England currently selling for $3,334
- Antique English rocking horse by Lines Bros. Restored by Stevenson Brothers Kent – circa 1910 currently selling for $2,448
- Extra carved antique rocking horse by G & J Lines currently selling for $2,132
- Rare F.H. Ayres antique rocking horse London England glider antique 44″ currently selling for $1,450
- Lightly restored English antique rocking horse by Baby Carriages of Liverpool currently selling for $1,183
Should you restore your antique rocking horse?
This is a bit tricky question since some collectors say that your antique rocking horse should stay untouched, while others want it to be restored to its finest condition. In the end, this means that if you restore your item for some people this will mean you diminished its value while others will want to pay more.
If you decide to restore it make sure you hire a professional who already did this type of repair. These toys feature some delicate works that should only be handled by a proven professional.
So Are Antique Rocking Horses Worth It?
The prices of antique rocking horses are in rais for the past few years, so the answer depends if you are a seller or a buyer.
If you are a seller and you found an antique rocking horse just sitting in your grandparent’s attic then yes. In fact, you just hit the jackpot since you might be looking out to earn a couple of thousands of dollars without moving your fingers.
If you are a passionate collector I’m sure your love for these toys is great so you won’t mind spending some extra money on purchasing the toy you always wanted to own.
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