Q: When I was 6 or 7 years old in the late 1930s, I played with a small tin toy boat that held a bit of water and below it another compartment with a candle. When I lit the candle, it would heat the water and turn it into steam. The steam went through a small pipe to the water in the boat and propelled the boat forward. I think the toy was made in Japan and cost just a few pennies at the time. Can you give me more information about the toy?
A: Your toy boat has several different names. Most-common is the name “pop-pop boat,” but it’s also called a “puf-puf boat.” Its history dates back to France in the 1880s, but it was patented by Frenchman Thomas Piot in 1891. Heat is created with either a candle or a small oil burner. The toys were popular playthings in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, but they lost favor when plastic toys took over the market. Collectors hunt for toys like yours, but they don’t pay more than $15 to $25 for a used boat. If yours were in its original and unopened package, it could sell for up to $50.