DANSVILLE — A local man has been collecting antique toys for several decades, and has no plans on stopping any time soon.
Dick White, 78, of Dansville began collecting antique toys in his teen years when his grandmother gave him a late 1800s cast iron owl from the attic.
On April 4 the Dansville Area Historical Society hosted Dick White’s cast iron antique toy collection at the N. Dansville Town Hall. His collection spans from the 1850s to the 1950s with hundreds of toys from all over the nation.
White traveled all over the world collecting toys at each place for 20 years when he worked for The Gleason Works in Rochester. White worked for the family-owned company for 42 years before retiring.
“I have found that so many people are still a kid at heart,” he said. “I have brought only a small portion of my toys to share. I can help identify toys, but I am not a toy dealer. I am a toy collector.”
“Most of the toys I like collecting are cast iron toys. It took real craftsmanship to make these toys. They took real pride in making them,” White continued. “The kids took care of these toys, since back then they only got one toy a year. Most of these toys are about a hundred years old or more.”
In the 1800s it was very rare to find colored toys, especially the color yellow. White enjoys finding colored 1800s toys from the Civil War era. Most of the toys he has are made in America. The only two he brought for the program that were not made in the U.S.A. were from Russia and Australia.
“I would buy toys from the foreign companies I would go to when I traveled for my company a few years ago,” he said. “ I went to Russia and saw they made these toy trucks for kids. I asked if I could buy one, and they told me it would be impossible. I found a whole box full of them, and I bought one that cost about six dollars inAmerican money. I had no problems brining it back home.”
“A few years later I was in Australia and I found this Boomaroo Toy truck in a museum. I asked if they had any I could buy to bring home. They told me they would get back to me about it,” White continued. “I got a call back from them, and they gave me one I could take home.”
Arcade was a big maker of cast iron toys during The Great Depression since no one had much money. Most of these toys were not too expensive. This was also the time colors were being used since they would be tested on childrens toys.
White collected a lot of cast iron toy banks as well, since his first toy to start the collection was to cast iron owl bank from his grandmother.
“The first toy in my collection is from my Grandma White. She had this owl bank up in her attic for a long time, and she asked me if I wanted it. I didn’t know what it was until a friend told me it was a mechanical bank. You put a coin in and it moves its head to take the coin. They made these in 1890. They were called trick banks to trick kids out of getting their money back,” he said. "These were made until 1925, and were very expensive at the time. It is my most treasured toy, since it was given to me by my grandmother.”
White is often looking for parts for his antique toys as well.
“There are a lot of people who will bring me toys or parts for toys over the years,” he said. “I would go to a lot of junk shops for parts for my toys when I traveled. The fun in collecting is the search.”
One of the local toys he has in his collection came from a man in Atlanta. It is a Nunda Fire Department cast iron toy from the late 1800s. It was sold in a fire department auction one year.
White said that nowadays most of the antique toys are found at auctions. In the early days of his collection he would gather at yard sales, but those days are few and far between.
“If you find that an old toy is found in mint condition still in the box it has a sad story attached to it,” White said. “Since they only had one toy to play with a year, and they would play with it and cherish it. If the toy never got out of the box it was because the boy or girl passed away before they could play with it. These stories often bring tears to my eyes.”
White said these toys will go on to his children and grandchildren someday, and they have brought him a lot of joy over the many years.