If you’re looking for a toy that has a long and fascinating history, you should definitely explore vintage balancing toys. These unique artifacts were designed to use counterweights and centrifugal forces to entertain Victorian children and grownups alike. But what are they, exactly, and why do some many people collect them?
In this article, I will tell you how vintage balance toys became popular and track their progress in history. I will also show you some incredible examples that combine mechanics and magic to delight anyone watching them in motion. So, let’s get started, shall we?
What is a Balancing Toy?
Balancing toys were first made popular in Victorian times (the period between the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837 and her death in 1901). The, they were considered quite an attractive decorative item and not necessarily a toy like we’d think of them today (typically focused on children).
How did Vintage Balancing Toys Work?
The principles that rule all balancing toys (vintage and modern) are the same: They, as the name suggests, distribute their weight in a way that they can remain upright and steady without much posture sway.
Victorian and vintage balancing toys were typically mechanical gadgets; they used different counterweights and parts to create the illusion that they were defying gravity. They looked like they were held by pure magic! So what were vintage balancing toys made of? Usually, sheets of metal that were carefully cut and painted to depict mystical creatures, royal figures, and futuristic machines.
Are Vintage Balancing Toys Collectible?
These metal toys are highly collectible. In fact, vintage balancing toys continue to be manufactured today – and keep attracting children of all ages. One of the reasons they are still sought after is that they make excellent gifts for special occasions. Not to mention, they invoke both nostalgia and fascination, still making us wondering how on earth they are able to float!
Pictures of Vintage Balancing Toys
If you haven’t come across these toys and you’re wondering what they are like (or if you’re looking for beautiful creations or ideas and inspiration to make your own), here is a little gallery with some of my favorite balancing toys from times gone. Click to see them in higher detail and read their description.
Finding Vintage Balancing Toys Today
There are still a lot of original balancing toys from Victorian times you can find today, second-hand. These might be in different states of disrepair, as they can be well over 150 years old! If you’re looking for original vintage balancing toys, it’s always a good option to check eBay. They show up relatively frequently, and you can get some good deals if you’re willing to spend a little time refurbishing them.
As we mentioned, there are also some companies creating new balancing toys but still using antique techniques or approaches. If you’re in the United States, some popular manufacturers I like are:
- Treasures 2 Remember: This company is based in California and creates beautiful balancing toys using recycled metal. They forge it, paint it, and wax it to give it a subtle shine. Definitely one to check out, in my opinion.
- Blue Ocean Lighthouse: This company has a lot of new balancing toys that just look fantastic. I’d check out the rest of their home accessories and decoration, as the selection is very nice.
If you are in the UK, you can check out:
- Pavilion Broadway: Pavilion Broadway is a family-run furniture retailer in the Cotswolds. They offer a broad selection of designer items and include a beautiful collection of balancing toys. Last time I checked, they had reduced their offer to just two models, but you can visit their site and see if they’ve added more.
- 1st Dibs: This company offers some beautiful balancing toys (new).