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What Is Tin-Litho?

Colorful tin toys are more accurately call tin lithograph toys. Tin-litho, however, is actually tin-plated steel. The colorful designs on the toys were applied through a process known as chromolithography. This technique was originally used in the printing industry. A drawing was done on special stones with a grease pencil. When wet the ink would adhere to the drawing and not the wet stone. The drawing was then printed on paper similar to how a woodcut would work.

In the late 1800s a process of "offset lithography" was used to print designs on tin-plated sheets using a rubber roller. By the 1930s the process was further perfected and machines were used to print designs on fifty tin-plated sheets per minute. A wide range of colors was now available to the toy manufacturer. This was the real turning point for tin toy makers who could now produce colorful tin toys cheaply.

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