Dear Helaine and Joe:
I am hoping you can provide me with information about the hobby horse I received as a Christmas gift in either 1956 or 1957. I have searched online and found my toy ranging in value from $20 to around $115.
However, most examples I have found do not include the strings or the stand. As you can see from the photographs, mine has both the springs and the stand and is in good condition. Do you have any ideas about the value and would you suggest trying to sell it to a vintage toy collector, or putting it in a yard sale? Or should I donate it to a thrift shop?
Dear A. G.:
Today’s children (and many adults for that matter) find toy cars, trucks and airplanes endlessly fascinating. But in days-gone-bye when the horse was king of the road, the hobby or rocking horse was a favorite diversion.
Hand-painted hand-carved Georgian or Victorian examples can bring thousands of dollars when sold at auction, but 20th century examples can bring much less.
To be sure, certain Scandinavian and other European examples from the early years of the 20th century (up until World War II) can still bring over a thousand dollars at auction. Danish modern examples by Kay Bojesen and English pieces by makers such as F. H. Ayers can still fetch more than $1,000 at auction if they are in excellent or fully restored condition.
But, unfortunately, essentially mass-produced, post-World War II pieces can bring very little and can go begging for a buyer. Still, when the hobby horse in today’s question was manufactured, the cowboy (and cowgirl) was big on television and every little tyke wanted to spring into action and ride like the wind on a horse like the one belonging to A. G.
The label on this particular object reads (in part) “Hi-Prancer The Delphos Bending Company, Delphos, Ohio.” The history here is that about 1899 two firms — one a sawmill in Delphos, Ohio, and the other a hoop company in Bluffton, Ind. — merged to manufacture barrel hoops, and in 1912 the company name became The Delphos Bending Company.
In 1934, the company began manufacturing tables, chairs, desks, toy chests, rocking chairs and other useful pieces for young people. They also made toys including the teetertot (some people call it the “teetertoter”) rocket ships and yes, rocking horses. They used bent and straight wood or metal frames coupled in many instances with plastic animals.
Most of the rocking horses were made between 1945 and 1979 with little or no changes to their design. It is hard to distinguish between those made right after the end of World War II and those produced in the late 1970s. Interestingly, the company also manufactured traffic cones and chemical tanks!
Recently, a horse like the one belonging to A. G. sold on eBay for $100, and that would be the approximate value of the piece. There are a number of ways to dispose of the item, but we feel a children’s hospital might be nice. This would allow the good times to rock on.