TRENDING COLLECTIBLES: Take A Ride Back In Time With A Coin-Operated Kiddie Ride

Credit: Original article published by Barrett-Jackson.

Written by Nicole Ellan James

LOT #9488.1 – DISNEYLAND DONALD DUCK RIDE – SOLD! $172,500 AT THE 2022 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION.

 

What if you could buy a time machine? Something that could transport you back to a specific moment or memory in the past. Baby boomers and Gen Xers will remember such mechanical amusements. Coin-operated, they were usually found outside shopping centers, in malls or even at amusement parks.

These machines came in many forms, including cars, flying saucers, cows, rocket ships, boats, horses and dinosaurs. For just 10 cents, the rider could become a “spaceman” on the way to the moon, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers or a racecar driver. That’s a pretty exciting notion for any kid.

At Barrett-Jackson’s automobilia auctions (held each day before the collector car auctions), numerous examples of vintage kiddie rides — er, time machines — have made their way across the block, where interest in them has been growing.

The origin of kiddie rides can be traced back to 1931 when Missouri inventor James Otto Hahs built a mechanical horse as a Christmas present for his kids. Realizing he had a potential hit on his hands, Hahs developed a coin-operated version, which was an immediate hit. In 1932, he won an award for the best new piece of equipment from the National Association of Amusement Parks.

The rides gained even more traction at the 1933-’34 World’s Fair in Chicago – and later the 1939-’40 New York World’s Fair.

In 1953, coin-operated kiddie rides were considered one of the fastest-growing businesses. At its peak, more than 20 manufacturers were creating the rides. Billboard Magazine called the phenomenon “a rare combination of wholesome fun and clever merchandising.”

Shopping centers, department stores and supermarkets were eager to get the latest models because they encouraged parents to shop longer and enter the store more frequently in order to satisfy their children’s desire to go on the rides.

All good things must come to an end, though. Despite massive popularity in the 1950s and ’60s, the kiddie ride craze faded into obscurity as quickly as it rose due to the machines’ maintenance and a lack of reliability.

“Coin-operated rides have become one of the more unique and popular items featured in our automobilia auction,” said Rory Brinkman, longtime Barrett-Jackson Automobilia director. “Ten years ago, we were selling them for less than $10,000, but lately, that’s considered a low starting bid for most of the rides we offer.”

A look at previous auctions confirms the growing trend.

A beautiful Chris-Craft coin-operated speedboat kiddie ride (Lot #9443) brought in $16,675 at the 2017 Scottsdale Auction. A nifty 1950s restored “Ride Sandy the Horse” coin-operated kiddie ride (Lot #6374) sold for $18,400 during the 2018 Palm Beach Auction. A unique vintage Esso Tiger coin-operated kiddie ride (Lot #9469) sold for $19,550 at the 2020 Scottsdale Auction, and a 1950s “Ride The Champion” horse kiddie ride (Lot #9472) sold for $23,000 at the March 2021 Scottsdale Auction.

Brinkman added that, oftentimes, grandparents were purchasing these rides to entertain their grandchildren. Still, many early coin-operated kiddie rides have become highly sought-after due to their rarity.

“Kiddie rides foster childhood memories for most of us,” Brinkman said. “They’re becoming more prominently displayed in respected collections because of their iconic value and collectability.”

The 2022 Scottsdale Auction proved to be an excellent example of this. Notable sales included a 1950s Chris-Craft Woody Speed Boat Ride (Lot #9383) for $46,000, a Vintage Horse Race kiddie ride (Lot #9584) for $63,250, Borden’s Elsie the Cow Kiddie Ride (Lot #9383.1) for $86,250 and, perhaps one of Barrett-Jacksons top-selling kiddie-rides to date, a Disneyland Donald Duck ride (Lot #9488.1) for $172,500.

There are sure to be many fantastic kiddie rides, with and without a coin slot, at the upcoming 2022 Palm Beach Auction, held April 7-9 at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

 

LOT #9383 – 1950S CHRIST CRAFT WOODY SPEED BOAT RIDE – SOLD! $46,000 AT THE 2022 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION

Lot 9383.1 – LATE 1950S-EARLY-60S RIDE BORDEN’S ELSIE THE COW KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $86,250 AT THE 2022 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION

Lot #9584 – VINTAGE HORSE RACE KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $63,250 AT THE 2022 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION

LOT #6374 – 1950S RESTORED “RIDE SANDY THE HORSE” COIN-OPERATED KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $18,400 AT THE 2018 PALM BEACH AUCTION

LOT #9442 – CHRIS-CRAFT COIN-OPERATED SPEEDBOAT KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $16,675 AT THE 2017 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION

LOT #9469 – ESSO TIGER COIN-OPERATED KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $19,550 AT THE 2020 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION

LOT #9472 – 1950S “RIDE THE CHAMPION” HORSE KIDDIE RIDE – SOLD! $23,000 AT THE 2021 SCOTTSDALE AUCTION