Marklin Model Boats



2015-06-26 10:38:49

Märklin model boats are collectible models manufactured by the German toy company, Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH.

Background and company history

The company was established in 1859 in Göppingen in Baden-Wurttemberg, southern Germany. Although today it is synonymous with model trains and technical toys, originally the company specialised in doll houses.

Noting that model trains had the potential to be just as lucrative as doll houses, in 1891 the company manufactured its first model trains on an extendible track. While there were already toy trains that ran on rails, Märklin’s success lay in the ability of offering a track system that could be added to piece by piece. This new line defined the standard 1-5 gauge and was introduced at the Leipzig Toy fair. The company created several of the most common model railroad scales such as the O gauge, introduced between 1895 and 1901, the H0 scale in 1935 and in 1972 it created the diminutive Z scale.

Although Märklin are better known for their model trains than for their model boats, Märklin model boats carry a great deal of prestige among collectors - who consider them some of the finest toy boats ever produced.

Rare model boats in good condition can fetch extraordinary sums at auction.

Collecting information

A rare Märklin ‘first series’ tinplate toy ’HMS Terrible’ (pictured) was the jewel in crown of the Ron McCrindell collection, which was sold by Special Auction Services of Greenham, near Newbury, on April 20, 2012.

The exceptional 2ft 1in (62cm) spirit-fired, steam-propelled model of the British battleship, which was involved in the relief of Ladysmith in 1899 and served in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, was made at the height of the Göppingen factory's creative genius c.1904. Save some minor replacements and the absence of the lifeboats, it was in exceptional condition.

The sale underlines some essential points relating to collecting Märklin model boats: age, condition and rarity are key concerns. Further to this, Märklin model boats were originally sold boxed - if you find a mint condition Märklin model boat in its box, snap it up.

'HMS Terrible' was also pictured in David Pressland's 1976 book The Art of the Tin Toy and appeared in the 2010 Toy Boats exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, adding further credo to the toy.

The vendor, a pioneer of toy collecting in the UK who died in 2011 year aged 91, was also filmed firing her up for a run on Hampstead Ponds as part of a 1972 BBC programme titled Ron McCrindell's Toys.

Special Auction Services had estimated it at £40,000-60,000, but on the day it sold to a Belgium telephone bidder for £76,000. Although not all Märklin model boats will achieve such substantial sums at auction, the brand remains of pre-eminent interest among the vast majority of serious model boat collectors.

While tin plate boats have made more in the US (a Märklin model of the cruise liner the Lusitania c.1909 sold for $160,000/£106,650 as part of the Forbes collection at Sotheby's in December 2011), SAS toy specialist Hugo Marsh believes 'HMS Terrible' was the most expensive single tinplate toy to be sold in the UK.

Price guide

A Märklin No.16150 Viktoria large tinplate Boat brought £800 to Vectis Auctions LTD when it sold in December 2005.

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