Toys are wonderful category. Actually, it should include dolls, models, rail-roads, and possibly sports. Toys are like the Collectables category because toys -particularly those from our childhoods- are not antiques -yet. They do inspire the same sentimentality though. I plagiarize myself from my page on Collectables as follows:
There is another element to 'collectables' and it has to do with sentimentality. In this case it means -or I take it to mean- things of our childhoods, and the older we are, the older these things are, and the more poignant we might feel if we were to happen across, for example a Polaris Submarine lunch-box from 1961 that I had when I was in 1st grade.
This is not to say that there are not collectors who collect toys that are genuine antiques -from 100 years or more ago. Note the cast iron mechanical bank collectors below.
There are a couple of important issues involving toys & preservation. Vintage dolls are particularly tricky. Most old doll-heads were usually made from porcelain -and a pretty damn permanent material porcelain is being as once it's fired, it's an artificial rock. But sometimes plastic was used and old plastic means celluloid. From my article on Cleaning Collectables & Antiques, this is what I have to say about celluloid:
Vintage Plastic (celluloid):
Interesting stuff celluloid, but not at all nice. It was invented in 1856 and was the first plastic to hit the market, largely as a replacement for ivory. Pretty much went out of favor by the 1950's. Only place you find it now-a-days is ping-pong balls.
What is interesting is that it starts out life as cotton waste which is processed to become either celluloid, cellulosic lacquer, or gun cotton. Gun cotton is what they use to shoot big shells out of cannons on battleships. Yep, gun cotton is explosive as is celluloid! (And -for that matter-lacquer burns like a som'na-bitch too.) Additionally, if it gets wet -and stays wet- it oozes nitric acid. Nitric acid is not only corrosive as all hell, it is a powerful oxidizer as well.
There are stories (?) of celluloid queue-balls exploding and killing people. Men's collars used to be made of celluloid. But the most important celluloid for collectors is dolls.
So here is what the pros have to say about celluloid. It will break down. Can't be helped -it can only be slowed down. As it breaks down, it out-gasses camphor -the stuff that makes Campho Phenique smell like it does. Store celluloid dolls in (swear-to-goodness) explosion proof cabinets or the freezer. Clean it with distilled water, but understand the even water hastens the break-down into corrosive nitric acid.
Now more modern plastic does not usually explode, but it deserves some care even so. Protect it from excessive heat, (I need to tell you this, already?), and light. Understand that the older plastic is, the older it is AND the less sophisticated is the chemistry is that went into it.
Having gone on and on about plastic, I have to recognize that there are toys made from stouter stuff, (metal etc.), but I also have to recognize that it may be the original box the toy came in that is the more valuable part. So what I'll do is simply suggest you read all my articles on Preservation, and be done with it.
Storing & Displaying Toys.
First thing you need to do is ask yourself if you want it to be handled or not. Depending on your decision, consider a locking drawer case -for the small things, or a locking display case for larger things. Otherwise, toys is so broad a category that I can't really offer any perfect solutions. Depends on what'chu got. None-the-less, I can offer some generic suggestions:
For Parental Units:
1. Start by reading Children & Collecting.
2. Before it becomes collectable, but after your child looses interest, collect it up and tuck it away for posterity. A little editing might be a good thing, especially if your kid has one of every dang Transformer / Skippy-Doll / Bubie-Baby / action figure / what-ist ever made.
3. If they want to know what happened to their what-its, tell them they are too old for what-its & you gave it to the Good Will, and the dog ate it, and besides, it's not your job to keep track of their toys. (Arguably, you are not doing all this for your kids, but rather for your grand-kids-to-be.)
4. As you ponder what to tuck away, think about your own youth and what it would be like to come across something from this, (let us hope) happy & sunlit time. Remember my lunch-box from above.
5. Label it. Yes, LABEL IT! Date, what it is, and who it belongs / belonged to. Memory will fail and what is too trivial now, will be essential when your kid wants to show it to their own kids.
For Big Kids:
If you are lucky enough to have a parent who has done the above and you find a box full of your childhood in the attic, congrats! You have some fun ahead of you. Start by reading Daniel Arnet's article on Why we Collect. She explains baby-boomers and the lunch-box phenomenon vividly.
You might start by cleaning it. You were not one of those fussy tidy children were you? Then do a little research online. Astounding what's out there. You might even be able to find a instruction booklet, critical bit, or box to replace the one that is missing.
Antique Toys sets out to help people learn more about toy collecting. They do a pretty good job of it too!
Remember Girders and Panels? Boys of a certain age, (old-ish), will remember this particular soy. Sort of Tinker Toys for older kids. If Erector Sets were for engineers-to-be, Girders and Panels was for kids that grew up to be Architects. In any event consider Girder and Panel Collector's Club. It has lots of other interesting stuff too.
For neat toys that are even older then I am -have a look at the Tin Man's Tin Toy Site. (I don'now on how old the Tin Man is.)
This site is not so much for collectors as it is for buying quality toys that will be collectible in a generation or two, but toys2buy.com has some excellent articles on the subject of toys, toy safety, buying toys, selecting the right toy, and just everything toy related.
Robot 1968 is commercial, but well organized, all inclusive and a total blast from the past -all the way back to 1968!
The Mechanical Bank Collectors is a non-profit organization consisting of around 400 members dedicated to expand the knowledge and availability of Antique Mechanical Banks. (Not all of them are as scary as this clown I stole off their web site.)