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The Curious Case of the Toy Ballet Dancer

Even if you’re not a toy collector, I’ll almost guarantee you’ve seen a Marx toy at some point in your life.  Marx was one of the most successful American toy makers of all time. Spanning across most of the 20th century, his company produced scores of toys in almost all categories. 

This particular toy, the Ballet Dancer, is quite unusual however. The piece is a bit of mystery, but seems to have a consensus of 1939/1940 being the date of introduction. It functions as a dolled up spinning top, or gyro toy.  You use the rip cord to engage the internal weight and off she goes spinning on her “tip toes.”

These toys aren’t super rare, but they’re also not all that common either.  There are a few variations of lithograph out there, and even two different box designs I’ve seen so far.

ballet 4

Later in the post-war 1950s, Line-Mar (Marx subsidiary in Japan) used the toy as a base for a Popeye themed Olive Oyl Ballet Dancer toy.

Photo from Hake's Auction
Photo from Hake's Auction

Being essentially a spinning top, when you find these toys there is typically associated wear from falling or bouncing into objects. So examples in “Mint” or exceedingly nice condition will assuredly command a bit of a premium.

Check out the video of ours spinning (and even bringing a modern day child to laugh, despite being a toy almost 80 years his senior):

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