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Toy Museums and Mechanical Toys Around the World

    Toys are not just the arena and entertainment of children. Many adults love and collect toys, and may possess a fond nostalgia for toys of a certain type or style, depending on their own childhood memories and adult interests.

    Mechanical toys, in particular, can be extremely collectible, and possess a fascination for children and adults alike which, many times, non-mechanical toys do not. 

    The first mechanical toys existed around 400 BC in ancient Greece. Since then, there have been several instances of mechanical playthings, very often utilizing bearings in order to create rotational movement, but it was only in the 19th century, with the industrial revolution, that mechanical toys in the US and Europe became more widespread. These toys were very often of the ‘wind-up’ type, and this type of toy is still considered very cool and collectible today.

    There are various museums around the world in which you can discover more about these intriguing playthings, too. 

    The V&A Museum of Childhood in London includes a Moving Toys Gallery that is interactive and showcases a range of push, pull, and wind-up style toys, as well as toys which create visual effects and those which operate by remote control.

    The National Train Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, is the premier place to see trains of all sorts and from all decades, including such classics as the American Flyer. It possesses a total of six stunning train track layouts as well as a library of toy trains.

    The Prague Toy Museum in the Czech Republic holds a number of interesting mechanical toys, as well as other toys from dolls and trains to cars and soldiers. The toys are very much iconic, and items include a Darth Vadar figure that is life-size.

    The Mexican Antique Toy Museum is in Mexico City. It houses mechanical toys such as robots and trains, as well as traditional Mexican toys and artefacts. The museum is curated by lifelong collector Roberto Shimizu and his son.


    The Strong National Museum of Play, New York, documents the history and progression of toys over time. Mechanical toys play their part in this tale, and the museum boasts over 400,000 toys in its huge dedicated space. Many exhibits are highly interactive.

    Suomenlinna Toy Museum, Helsinki, Finland, is a beautiful little toy museum set within a wooden villa. Its collection of nineteenth century mechanical toys is fantastic, as are its antique dolls and teddy bears. Also keep an eye out for some vintage Moomin memorabilia.

    Each of these museums is worth a visit, and has something of a toy nature - mechanical or otherwise - for everyone.

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