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posted: 7/10/2011 1:00 AM

How much is this 'Doughboy Tank' worth?

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  • This is a fine example of the Louis Marx & Co. Doughboy Tank.

    This is a fine example of the Louis Marx & Co. Doughboy Tank.

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. The photo is of a World War I "Doughboy Tank" that is in perfect working order, and I also have the original box in mint condition. Any information or appraisal of value would be greatly appreciated.

A. When we hear the term "doughboy," most of us think of World War I infantrymen associated with the American Expeditionary Force. But the term actually predates that conflict by perhaps seven or eight decades.

No one seems to know precisely where the term came from, but one explanation is that it was used originally to refer to American soldiers fighting in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. During that conflict, soldiers became covered with white dust while marching through the arid Mexican landscape.

The troops were so covered with this whitish powder that they appeared -- at least from a distance -- to have been made of dough. Thus the term "doughboy." There are several other theories about the origins of the term. Another is that World War I soldiers wore white spats and had large buttons on their uniforms and soldiers from other nations suggested they looked like "gingerbread" man -- or "doughboys."

In any event, the "Doughboy Tank" in today's question is a great example of a Marx lithographed tin windup toy that is in absolutely phenomenal condition.

Louis Marx was born Aug. 11, 1896, in Brooklyn, N.Y. After graduating from high school at 15, Marx began working for toy manufacturer Ferdinand Strauss. Initially, Marx rose in the company, but was fired in 1916 because of a disagreement about sales practices. He entered the Army as a private but returned to civilian life in 1918, and later, he would make a lot of toys based on Army equipment.

In 1919, he and his brother, David, founded the Marx Toy Company. The company was very successful, and eventually would become the largest toy-manufacturing concern in the world. Louis Marx was waggishly called the "toycoon," and the "Henry Ford of the toy industry."

There is some disagreement as to when Marx made the "Doughboy Tanks," with some sources saying the 1920s and others the 1930s. We choose to say this example is circa 1930, and are absolutely positive that it predates the beginning of World War II.

This toy is charming, with a soldier that pops up out of the turret and a flag that ascends and descends. The soldier should shoot his gun and the tank should roll and pop (i.e., make noise).

These toys seem to have been manufactured in several designs and color schemes, but the configuration of yours seems to be standard and fairly early. It has the early color scheme and is essentially diamond-shaped, while later versions are more elliptical. Some later versions throw off sparks.

Examining the photographs we have, we see very little if any damage on either the toy or the box. There may be a scratch or two on the tank's lithographed surface, but we are not sure we actually see any at all.

This is a primo example of this toy and should have an insurance-replacement value in the $650 to $850 range.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.