Rare Rocking Horse

A rare rocking horse | Antiques Expert

by Allan Blackburn

Dear Allan,

I am hoping you might be able to help me? I was wondering if you could offer any further information in relation to a family friend! Our lovely rocking horse has been in the family for over 80 years and has been passed down through at least three generations. I believe it was purchased in Halifax and has been restored once to its original colouring, style etc. If you can help me out that would be great.

Mrs Judith Walker, Cullingworth, West Yorkshire.

Well this is exciting. I value a lot of things every week and it’s rare that something comes to our attention that is worth a lot of money, and I am very pleased to say that your rocking horse is one such item.

I love rocking horses; in fact I have two of them at home! It’s very rare that we get a special one in the centre to buy, as (and it’s true what the old saying says!) they really are quite rare, especially one of good quality or manufactured by a well known and respected producer.

It pleases me greatly that you say it was purchased in Halifax, as Yorkshire has always had a great reputation for rocking horses and one of the best manufacturers I know is in Halifax, so this shows your horse is of good pedigree, pardon the pun. Don’t worry that it has been restored. This does not affect the value in a negative way; in fact the opposite is true. It is good to restore an old horse. As the hair on older or the better quality horses was real, it was attached with great difficulty and therefore easy to pull it out if you wanted to give it a good yank, which is often what children do.

The first thing to go is often the leather ware and that’s because often people don’t treat it properly. The saddle, reins and stirrups crack over time and need to be replaced.

Other parts that tend to need repairing are the paintwork – hours of bumping it into walls and doors, especially when it’s rocking, will do the wood no good at all, so scratches and knocks need to be sanded and repainted. Finally, there’s the wear and tear on the actual rockers themselves.

There are two types of rocking horse and it’s very easy to determine which is which. English rocking horses have the traditional archshaped runners and the horse literally rocks on them. The other style is American made. It has a solid flat bottom with long straight runners that slide.

The English ones with curved runners at the bottom are easier to make, so this keeps the price down – the American ones can be worth twice as much. It’s the mechanism that makes them more expensive, but lots of people prefer them as they are safer. Fingers and especially toes cannot get crushed underneath.

American ones cost at least twice as much to buy originally when they are new and that value stands up over the years. If you are lucky enough to own an antique or very old American horse, you can still expect a much higher value for it; often double the price of an English one. With rocking horses, it really is a case of America does it best! For example a value of between £5,000 and £7,000 wouldn’t be unusual, if the horse was in exceptional condition.

Regardless of its country or origin, an old rocking horse from the Victorian era in good condition is worth thousands, not hundreds of pounds.

Your horse enjoys a high value due it being made in Halifax, as I mentioned before. It is lovely and very old. 80 years old is an excellent age for a rocking horse. So it’s late Edwardian, being made in the 1930’s. I would get this insured straight away (if you haven’t already) and I would insure it for a minimum of £2,000, as it would cost at least that to replace something of this calibre.

The everlasting love of rocking horses endures. Children of all generations still love a rocking horse. For us adults, surely there is no greater symbol of historic toys. They are examples of fine craftsmanship and provoke memories of gentler times. If I had more space in my house I’d have more than the two I already have, but I don’t think my wife would be too happy!

Thank you for sending this in to us – it’s been thrilling to see something so well looked after and of such high value. Insure it now!