Hubley Manufacturing Company Toys
Brief history and description
Hubley Manufacturing Company was a company formed by John Hubley in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The company first began production in 1909, when Hubley began to make a variety of cast-iron toys, several of which have become desirable and sought-after collectables.
The company is particularly well-known for its metal car-kits, and also, somewhat fatefully, diversified its production line to include plastic toys. In the early 1940s the company began creating bookends and doorstops, whilst continuing to create children’s toys. It wasn’t until 1960 that many of the cast-iron toys Hubley produced began to be viewed as archaic, as stronger lines were drawn between the materials and processes used to create items for children and items for adults.
As a result, the company began to produce a few plastic toys so as to remain a competitor in the market, but they ceased operations as a company around 1980, after a steady drop in profits. Some of Hubley’s designs, however, remained in production after being purchased by different companies.
Guide for collectors
When considering purchasing a Hubley toy, collectors will come to realize that it is exactly the cast-iron toys which were considered outdated by contemporary consumers that collectors find so appealing; with their vivid colour schemes and intricate attention to detail, the toys have a unique charm which the avid collector recognizes.
The prices paid for these items will vary quite radically dependant upon their condition and size, though generally a cast-iron Hubley figurine in good condition can fetch $100’s at auction, whilst minimal wear and tear can often reduce this cost to around $30-80.
Amongst Hubley's cast-iron creations is a wide selection of toy planes, many of which are amongst the most affordable items to any budding collector.
Notable auction sales
The desirability of Hubley’s cast-iron creations amongst collectors has only increased with time; the most expensive such item to sell at auction is a ‘Monkey Bank’ dated from 1930, wherein a cast-iron mechanical monkey springs forth to deposit coins into the bank. With bold colours and in mint condition, the piece sold for $5,000 on 4th June 2011 at The RSL Auction Co., far exceeding its $2,000 - $3,000 estimate.
Similarly, a Hubley cast-iron Ferris wheel mechanical bank, circa. 1950, sold for $4,250 on 15th August 2009 at Morphy Auctions. The same auction also featured a Hubley cast-iron elephant mechanical bank, which sold for $2,000 in near-mint condition.
Not all Hubley toys sell for such large sums of money, however, and some fall within a more affordable price range; from Hubley’s cast-iron ‘Give Me A Penny’ bank, sold at the aforementioned Morphy auction for $600, to Hubley’s cast-iron hall clock still bank, which featured alongside this and sold for $550.
At the lower end of the price scale, a Hubley cast-iron figural still bank featuring a kitten in a blue neck tie was auctioned on 24th June 2011 from Richard D. Hatch & Associates for $75, and a ‘Wise Pig’ Hubley cast-iron still bank was auctioned from Conestoga Auction Company for $60 on 22nd January 2010, alongside a cast-iron sitting bulldog still bank by Hubley, which sold for $40.
Additionally, Hubley’s cast-iron sing engine plane, auctioned from Homestead Auctions on 22nd November 2008, sold for just $20.