eBay Sleuth: The Perfect Toy Refrigerator - The Leafcutter Blog


eBay Sleuth: The Perfect Toy Refrigerator

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How to Find the Perfect Vintage Toy Refrigerator
Have you coveted our toy refrigerator at a recent craft show? Do you know a little person that likes to play chef? No make-believe kitchen is complete without a toy refrigerator, and some of the best ones out there are the vintage ones. There’s an art to finding the real thing at the right price and this post will show you how to sleuth your way to a good one.

Our Wolverine toy fridge in action at the KPFA Holiday Craft Show

Our Wolverine toy fridge in action at the KPFA Holiday Craft Show

The detail in the lithography is really fantastic.

The detailed lithography on some vintage fridges is really charming.

What am I Looking For?
As far as I can tell, the golden age for toy refrigerators runs from the 1940s until the early 1960s. We’ve  been using the vintage refrigerator pictured above as a fun, playful way to display and sell our Recipe Dice at craft shows. It’s a Wolverine brand, made of tin, and is about 20 inches tall. We get lots of compliments and more than a few people have asked to buy it from us. (Of course, it’s not for sale!) How awesome are those color lithographed food illustrations on the interior of the door? And the swinging shelf! These vintage metal toys are playful, thoughtfully detailed, and made to last.

eBay Is Your Best Bet
As always, the main challenge with searching for vintage items on eBay is zeroing in on the subset of listed items that are truly vintage, in good shape, and reasonably priced. Here are some tips to get you started…

Suggested Search Terms
Keywords: vintage, antique, toy, fridge, refrigerator
Filters: -magnet, -magnets (to eliminate refrigerator magnets from search results)
Also consider including: lithograph (but keep in mind not all sellers use this term to describe the inside of the toy fridge)

I’ve seen great toy fridges go for as little as $15 and as much as $150. With a little patience and focus, a beautiful one in excellent shape should be found for about $50. You’ll pay a little more for one with the lovely lithography inside, but I think it’s absolutely worth it. Once in a while, you’ll even see miniature toy food items or tiny toy ice trays included.

What to Avoid
The plastic toy fridges simply don’t have the same charm. Also, when shopping for antiques, always avoid any listings that say “new reproduction” or “vintage-inspired” or “vintage style.” If there aren’t photos of all sides of the fridge, keep in mind that you’re only seeing part of the story. Ask for more photos—of the back and the inside—if you want to be sure the quality is good all the way around.

Signs You’re On the Right Track 
There isn’t a bunch of rust, the weight seems substantial (the good ones are fairly heavy) and there are at least a few other bidders. Wolverine and Marx are two classic brands. If the item description doesn’t say whether there is rust, scratches, bends, etc., feel free to message the seller and ask. You might also want to confirm whether the door handles still work. (Mine don’t, but I don’t mind.)

Wolverine brand - made in the USA!

Wolverine brand – made in the USA!

Good luck, and be sure to check out all these great toy fridges we’ve found especially for you that are currently available on eBay >>>

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Lea Redmond is always looking for the poem hiding inside things: a salt shaker, a clothes tag, a hand gesture, a cloud. She is infinitely intrigued by the way experiences can slip from the ordinary to the extraordinary and she endeavors to design things that hold this possibility. Leafcutter Designs, her creative studio in Berkeley, CA, makes the world more playful and peaceful one little experience at a time.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa

    February 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for these tips, Lea! My friend owns a fridge similar to this–it’s original, and hers, from childhood. She has a little stove with it, too. The quality and durability of these toys are a thing of the past, unfortunately…Thank you for sharing your sleuthing experience & knowledge. I love the things you find–like the swiss army bubble blower! : ) So cool!

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