Monday, April 22, 2013

Oh Happy Days!

QUESTION: I found a box of old McDonald’s Happy Meals toys in my attic that once belonged to my kids. Do these have any value as collectibles or should I just toss them?

ANSWER: You may or may not have hit upon a buried treasure in your attic. Depending on the age and condition of the toys, they may be worth a little or a lot.

Of all the McDonald’s collectibles, Happy Meal toys and related display memorabilia remain the most popular. Each Happy Meal has a specific and variable number of toys, including a special U3 toy which meets particular standards for children under three. The boxes and bags in which the food came in are also collectible. Display items include counter boards, banners, posters, and signs.

The McDonald brothers opened their first drive-in in 1948, and by 1954 they were well on their way to franchising success. A 1950s McDonald’s item could have a hefty price tag.

A beginning collector could amass hundreds of Happy Meal toys in a short time. In a typical year, McDonald’s produces nearly 100 different toys and issues millions of each. Recent ones sell for $1-2 each, but a manufacturing variation or a recall may create a toy with a higher value.

Because McDonald’s produced millions of these toys, they must be perfect to have any value. Loose ones thrown in a box have little or no value since the paint rubs off and parts disappear. Paper items need to be clean and unmarked to bring top dollars.

Figurine Happy Meals toys are the most popular, especially those featuring well-known characters. Special packaging can also increase their desirability. The idea behind Happy Meals is to get the little ones to collect a particular set. Parents usually order by character needed rather than by what the food offering may be. This keeps the kids dragging their parents back for more.

Happy Meals featuring books, buckets, or little-known characters are of lessor interest to collectors.  But there are exceptions. The four small soft-cover Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit books from a 1988 Happy Meal, in mint condition with the mint Happy Meal box are worth about $80 as a set since this Happy Meal was distributed only regionally.

So depending on the age and condition of the Happy Meals toys in your box, they may not be worth all that much.

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