Belle Epoque Toys

Belle Epoque Toys objective is to give to collectors, dealers, experts and scientists an easy access to information on antique toys. Our prefered domain is the French toys market from 1875 to WW1, the manufacturing and distribution of toys in France more than 100 years ago. This period marked in France by social, economical, technological and political progress, has been named retrospectively La Belle Epoque (Beautiful Epoch) hence the name of this publishing company.

Our publishings are the result of researches and analysis of various documents, all from that early period, found in specialized libraries or archive services, or forwarded by collectors, experts or auctioneers. We warmly thank all of them for their collaboration, and for allowing us to publish excerpts from their rich collections. If some of our readers have ancient documents about toys, like invoices, manufacturers catalogs, antique postcards, or pictures of pieces of their collection with shop or manufacturers marks, we are interested to receive a copy of them, in order to improve the knowledge on antique toys. New edition of our publications could be proposed if a significant number of new information is available.

You can contact us using the Contact us button on this web site.

The Christmas Toys Collection

The Etrennes are new year's gifts, exchanged in the first days of January. The origin of this practice dates back to ancient Rome, and was perpetuated in France until today, even if the exchange of gifts moved towards Christmas day in the second half of the 20th century. To make it easier for our english spoken readers, we will translate Etrennes by Christmas. So this collection will be called Christmas Toys in english.

Catalogue d\

The Parisian department stores, which appeared in the second half of the 19th century, quickly understood the commercial interest of the Christmas presents and, as early as the 1860s, they published their first Christmas catalogs. These catalogs were distributed from the end of November. The toys appeared there around 1875, to quickly take an important place. The catalogs have been published in increasing numbers; they were distributed to Department Store customers but also gradually sent throughout France as mail-order catalogs. They offered for sale several tens, even several hundreds of games and toys, and are today the main source of information of the time on ancient toys.

It is always a pleasure to read one of these catalogs, but it is difficult to find a specific toy in them. However, it is often the unique way to determine the precise period of manufacturing of a toy and to check that no part is missing, what may be useful if you want to buy or to sell an antique toy, or simply to take an insurance for your collection. The Christmas Toys collection aims to address this problem and brings together, in each publication, the toys of a given type throughout these catalogs of gifts. The collection focused on the period 1875 to 1919, end of WW1. You will be able to follow the evolution for example of skittles, doll toilettes, optical toys, etc. throughout these 45 years.

Catalogue d\

To date, the collection has compiled more than 140 catalogs from this period. Each catalog has been scanned, each page has been cleaned of its graphic imperfections, each game or toy has been “cut out” and classified in a category. More than 20,000 images have been classified in more than 100 categories. For each category, identical images had to be duplicated. For each image, the text was typed and translated into English. Finally, the images of the category were formatted within a digital book, which presents a chronological view of the toy throughout these 45 years, often supplemented by a sub-category view, with hyper-links facilitating navigation within the entire publication.

All of this represents a very important work, which took several years, and which we want to continue to enrich. The aim is to publish one to two books per month, while at the same time continuing the integration of new Christmas catalogs. The price of our publications, very reasonable given the scope of the work carried out, will allow to finance the search for new information, and we thank you in advance to avoid duplicating or sharing our publications, protected by copyright.

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