Antique Santa Car Toy

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Christmas has arrived early at DFW Elite Toy Museum with the acquisition of a rare, pre-World War II toy featuring Santa on his way to deliver toys in an open-wheel car. What makes this addition even more exciting is that it is the museum's second wind-up tin car from this era featuring Santa at the wheel.

japanese santa car toy

With only two known to exist, the CK Santa Car is an ultra rare pre-WW II Japanese toy on display at DFW Elite Toy Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

A company named CK manufactured the Japanese-made tin car, and it is similar to a model produced by German toy maker Tippco during the same era. DFW Elite Toy founder Ron Sturgeon has owned the Tippco Santa car for about 10 years, but he only recently acquired the rare CK model. Both toy cars are approximately one foot long, and both have electric lights. Although the lithograph finish on both cars shows a parade of toys, the CK model's toys are much more colorful.

"It's just a fabulous piece to see," said Rodney Ross, curator of DFW Elite Toy "As far as Japanese-made tin cars, this is the only one with an electric light," noted Ross. "We have a lot of rare toy cars, but this one is probably the rarest in our collection," said the curator.

Rex Barrett, an antique toy dealer from Chicago, Illinois, said, "I know of only two of these [CK Santa] cars that are left - and I own the other one."

The original Santa figure behind the wheel was lost years ago, so the CK Santa car's former owner had one created by Joe Freeman, a Pennsylvania craftsman who is known among toy collectors as the best person to recreating missing parts or make delicate repairs. The replacement Santa was copied from the Santa figure that Barnett had commissioned Freeman to make for his version of the car.

"I made a photocopy of a picture of the car in a magazine and had him replicate that Santa," Barrett said.

The fact that visitors to the DFW Elite Toy Museum can see both vintage Santa cars side by side is an unusual experience that Barrett said should delight everyone from children to serious antique toy collectors.

"Not much is known about the CK toys, because the Japanese were just interested in making money; they weren't interested in preserving the history behind the cars," Barrett explained. "Everyone assumes that the Japanese copied the [idea from the] Germans, but there's no proof it wasn't the other way around."

He said the German-made Tippco cars were distributed throughout Europe, while the Japanese-made CK cars found their way to Great Britain, the United States and India.

"Before World War II, the Japanese were exporting these things as fast as they could," he said. "American toys at that time were very crude by comparison, so they were very popular here. The Japanese were even more prolific than the Germans at making these cars, but only about five to 10 percent of those toys hit the shelves in Japan. The rest were exported - and now they're almost all gone," said Barrett.

(source: DFW Elite Car Club)

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