Friction toys are driven by springs or a friction motor. This is a simple mechanism to propel toy model tin trains, cars, action figures, and other toys. The motor consists of a large flywheel which is connected to the drive wheels of the toy via a very low gear ratio, so that the flywheel revolves faster.

The drive spring of, for example, a friction-driven toy car is wound when the back wheels of the car are pushed backwards against a high-friction surface. Carpet, or even a wood floor, can work very well as a friction source, spinning the wheels backward and winding the spring. Glass or a wet surface work less well, failing to provide enough friction to move the wheels. In essence, the wheels and axle of a spring-driven friction toy car are being used in the same way as a winder for an old mechanical clock.

While many spring driven toys require a cog or series of cogs to change the direction of the force of the winder or the force of the spring, a simple friction toy car seldom needs any cogs. The axle serves as a spool to wind the spring; the backward friction rotates the axle to wind the spring. When the car is released, the spring unwinds again, spinning the axle forward and propelling the car. This use of a spring lacks elegance and control but is delightfully easy to understand.

Friction value and price guide

What's your 'Friction' worth? Here are some recently sold items (Australia):

Picture Title Date sold Price
Lehmann German Clockwork Tin Toy Clown 07/2019 AU $550.00
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Bandai Japan Tin Toy Volkswagen Vw 06/2019 AU $471.00
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1950s Boxed Tin Clockwork Happy Hayseed 08/2019 AU $280.00
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Batman 1989 Movie Billiken Mechanical 05/2019 AU $206.67
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Universal Monsters Bela Lugosi Dracula 06/2019 AU $221.38
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Red China Tin Wind Up Battery Toy 06/2019 AU $221.00
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Tin United States Air Force Usaf Bomber 06/2019 AU $201.50
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Marx 11 Tin Fire Dept Chief Car No 1 08/2019 AU $218.05
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Genuine Old Tinplate Tin Toy Windup 06/2019 AU $207.50
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Gescha Sixmobil Blue 356 Porshe Coupe 07/2019 AU $200.00
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Schylling War Of The Worlds Wind Up 07/2019 AU $207.79
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Ichiko Tin Mazda Savanna Rx7 08/2019 AU $150.00
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1 16 Tin Car Opel Rekord C 4dr Sedan W 07/2019 AU $110.73
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1950 Gm Cadillac Sedan Black Fifties Tin 06/2019 AU $129.99
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Ford Convertible Tin Toy Car Toy Car 07/2019 AU $150.00
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Sealed 1998 Osaka Tin Toy Tin Age 07/2019 AU $122.50
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Tin Toy Battleship Wind Up Boston Japan 06/2019 AU $130.49
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Rocket Ship Mars Patrol 2 Powered Tin 06/2019 AU $88.57
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Rocket Ship Mars Raider X 2 Powered Tin 06/2019 AU $88.57
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Aoshin Asc F104 Drive Tin Jet 1960 S 07/2019 AU $70.00
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Tri Ang Minic Toys England Wind Up Tin 05/2019 AU $97.36
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Tin Toy Wind Up Clockwise Baby Doll Girl 06/2019 AU $139.00
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Brimtoy Tin Wind Up Train King George 08/2019 AU $77.90
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1970 S Tin Toy Speed Boat Wind Up Toy 06/2019 AU $75.60
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Mettoy 1930 S Clockwork Tin Toy Single 07/2019 AU $88.10
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1930 S Hand Painted Yellow Color Car Tin 08/2019 AU $93.75
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1969 Go Go Mobile Powered Corvette Japan 05/2019 AU $82.00
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Tin Toy German Lehmann Wind Up Sea Lion 06/2019 AU $80.00
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1950 Gm Cadillac Sedan White Tin Toy 06/2019 AU $80.00
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1930 S Hand Painted Green Color Car Tin 08/2019 AU $93.75
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Daito Drive Tin F104 Jet 1960 S Japan 05/2019 AU $65.00
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Tin Wind Up Train Tracks 08/2019 AU $75.00
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Cc10 Tin Windup Tank Toy Working But 06/2019 AU $75.00
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Very Early Toy Small Wind Up Tin Car 05/2019 AU $75.00
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Schylling Neutron Robot Man Tin Wind Up 07/2019 AU $63.47
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Replica Paya Nos 1930 Avion Junkers Azul 06/2019 AU $57.58
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Franklin Mint Model B Tin Wind Up New 06/2019 AU $45.00
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Flying Saucer Space Ship X 11 Tin Toy 08/2019 AU $29.53
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1960 Japan Made Police Motorcycle 07/2019 AU $55.00
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Tin Plate Mars Patrol M P 1 Rocket 08/2019 AU $59.33
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1945 52 Occupied Japanese Tin Jockey On 08/2019 AU $49.99
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Triang Minic Loudspeaker Clockwork 08/2019 AU $65.00
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Tin Toy Collection Clockwork Retro Style 05/2019 AU $44.00
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Doctor Djangos Moon Robot Wind Up Tin 06/2019 AU $35.00
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Chinese Tin Toy Car Corvette Red 1 06/2019 AU $38.00
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Chinese Tin Toy Cars Corvette Green 4 06/2019 AU $38.00
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German Tin Wind Up Whale 06/2019 AU $58.90
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Dime Store Toys Of 4 Tin Litho Moving 07/2019 AU $51.60
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Tin Plate War Of The Worlds Martian 07/2019 AU $50.14
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Japanese Modern Toys 6 Tin Toy Fire 06/2019 AU $49.50
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1960 S Wind Up Tin Toys Rabbit On 06/2019 AU $27.50
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Japan Tin Toy Racer Race Car Toy 07/2019 AU $56.00
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Flying Saucer Tin Toy Wind Up Ufo Space 06/2019 AU $39.86
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Flying Saucer Tin Toy Wind Up Ufo Space 07/2019 AU $39.86
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Flying Saucer Tin Toy Wind Up Ufo Space 08/2019 AU $39.86
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2 Astronaut Space Toys Clockwork Tin 06/2019 AU $45.00
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Bender Futurama Wind Up Tin Robot Rocket 06/2019 AU $38.00
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Mohair Covered West German Wind Up Tin 08/2019 AU $39.00
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Osaka Tin Toy Wind Up Walking Astronaut 07/2019 AU $23.50
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Tin Wind Up Toy Schylling Horse Carousel 08/2019 AU $29.51
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Yellow Tinplate Toy Clockwork Wind Up 07/2019 AU $50.00
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Vw Beetle Tinplate Yellow Cab Taxi Tin 08/2019 AU $48.00
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Tin Overseas Airlines Plane Original Box 06/2019 AU $29.16
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Mechanical Clockwork Wind Up Metal 07/2019 AU $9.11
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Yoneya Yone Tin Toy Japan 60 S Drive 08/2019 AU $31.99
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Black Robbie Only Robot Tin Toy Windup 07/2019 AU $38.00
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Retro Tin Toy Wind Up Clockwork Musical 08/2019 AU $38.00
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Of 3 Star Wars Tin Wind Up Toys 07/2019 AU $19.18
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Old School Collectable Tin Toy Japan 06/2019 AU $30.00
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Retro Classic Firefighter Fire Engine 07/2019 AU $4.71
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Japan Tin Farm Tractor Driver Miniature 08/2019 AU $26.40
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Mtu Korea Wind Up Tin And Plastic 08/2019 AU $28.04
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Classic Wind Up Tin Toy Man On Trike 05/2019 AU $34.00
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Wind Up Tin Toy Clown Beating Drum In 07/2019 AU $32.40
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Schylling Atomic Ray Gun Tin Powered 08/2019 AU $14.76
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Tin Toy Classic Royal Air Force Chinook 08/2019 AU $28.00
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Tin Toy Motorcyle Sidecar Eton Wind Up 08/2019 AU $26.50
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Old Porsche 917 Type Racing Car Japanese 05/2019 AU $20.00
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Novelty Wind Up Robot Walking Clockwork 06/2019 AU $45.80
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3 Space Surveyor X 12 Tin Ufo Flying 06/2019 AU $18.50
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Lbz Tin Toy Woodpecker Bird Bank Wind Up 08/2019 AU $18.50
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Robot Racer Tin Toy Car Windup Clanging 08/2019 AU $14.76
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Atomic Raygun Sparking Tin Metal Blaster 07/2019 AU $19.12
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Bulldozer Wind Up Tin Model Retro Style 07/2019 AU $18.50
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Atomic Raygun Sparking Tin Litho Metal 06/2019 AU $19.18
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New Atomic Ray Gun Sparking Tin Litho 07/2019 AU $16.82
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Atomic Ray Gun Sparking Tin Litho 08/2019 AU $16.83
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Sprint Car Racing Tobar Race Tin 08/2019 AU $51.99
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Schylling Atomic Ray Gun Tin Toy Powered 06/2019 AU $17.70
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Schylling Atomic Ray Gun Tin Toy Powered 06/2019 AU $17.70
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Motor Cycle Wind Up Tin Toy 08/2019 AU $20.00
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Tin Toy Small Motor Cycle Sidecar Wind 07/2019 AU $18.50
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Hh Toy Windup Tin Cowboy Horse Whip 08/2019 AU $10.50
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Atomic Raygun Sparking Tin Litho Metal 06/2019 AU $22.13
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Tin Mechanical Planet Robot Black Fun 07/2019 AU $41.19
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Wind Up Tin Toy Acrobat Monkey Tn Japan 06/2019 AU $25.00
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Clockwork Merry Go Round Carousel 07/2019 AU $18.00
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Looping Tin Plane Wind Up Clockwork 07/2019 AU $22.00
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Atomic Ray Gun Sparking Tin Litho 07/2019 AU $16.56
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Clockwork Tin Train Track Wind Up Model 06/2019 AU $21.00
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Price guide temporarily unavailable... Sorry for the inconvenience. - 18 Aug. 2019

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Comments (2)

Lolly - September 25, 2018

I also have a tin race car set (4 cars with 2 pitstop tunnels and straight and curved track) Also US zone Germany. Also from my grandfather. Ex cond too. Would like to know its value. May also sell. Many thanks.

Steve - February 26, 2013

I own a Clark Hill Climber Friction toy,and want some in put as to what it is worth and who are collectors of these toys. Mine is the Fire Steamer mechinized and the exact one was on sale on e bay in October of 2012.
►reply: There are always collectors for nice toys from the past, and they're always looking on eBay, so you might try and sell it there.