Marx toys started in 1919, when, at the age of 23, Louis Marx was fired from the Ferdinand J. Strauss company where he worked and started his own business, Louis Marx & Co. to make his own tin toys.
He started with basically empty hands and no money. David, his younger brother, joined him and by 1955, the company had tin toy factories in ten different countries, including Japan, with divisions such as Linemar.
It would eventually grow to be the world's biggest toy, playsets, trains, tin space explorers, rockets and toy soldiers producer. They firmly stood for their two policies: "Give the customer more toy for less money" and "Quality is not negotiable".
They were able to produce independently and with their own toy designs from 1921. Louis got some space in a factory in Erie, Pennsylvania, and from Strauss he bought two dies for the Zippo climbing monkey and Alabama the minstrel dancer. The next year, in 1922, these two tin toys had sold over eight million apiece, making Louis and his brother millionaires. Success steadily increased and within a decade Marx had sold millions of whistling Lumar yo-yos. To keep costs low, the company would often re-use dies, using it for multiple different tin toys. Wind-up train 'The Honeymoon Express' became the 'Mickey Mouse Express' (Marx produced many Disney tin figurse) and later the 'Subway Express'. And for example the 'Tidy Tim Street Cleaner' toy from 1940 was known originally as 'Popeye pushing a barrel of spinach'.
Louis was an expert at designing toys, but he was also very good at marketing. A gof combination! Quality at the lowest price possible, Marx toys became so popular that he rarely needed to advertise.
After WW2, the firm worked hard to became again the number one largest toy manufacturer in the world: Louis Marx, The Toy King.
Unfortunately, Marx didn't pick up on new markets and failed to join the electronic toys era.
During the 1960s, Marx toys began to accept and make TV commercials. He started with one of his most famous toy: 'Rock-Em, Sock-Em' robots with a commercial featuring Rocky Graziano, the Heavyweight World Champion. Marx ended the 1960s by introducing the all-time greatest ride-on toy The Big Wheel.
In 1982, at the age of 85, Louis died and on the 11th August 1992, Louis Marx & Co. dissolved, even after a few attempts to keep the firm going.
Marx toys are one of the most popular among today's tin toy collectors. Their toy cars had often unexpected features. For example 1932 jalopy 'Comic Car', curved forward, halted and then drove backward in an arc. Like the 1940 'Charlie McCarthy Buggy', this Marx toy car had big rear wheels, which could also be used for a toy tractor. The 1932 'Amos ‘n’ Andy Fresh Taxi' drove forward, then halted, and shake! These were mass-produced toys, so to have any value the lithographed tin has to be in extremely good condition.Marx failures are the most rare and collectible today. For example 'Bunny Express', a 1936 tin toy train with a rabbit-shaped engine and open cars instantly flopped when they released it for the Easter season. Only few were made, so you can imagine that collectors are always on the lookout for this one!
What's your 'Marx Train 1930s' worth? Here are some recently sold items (UK).
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Do you want to know more about collectible tin toys, and want to learn about value and identification? Take a look at these books on old toys on Amazon.