08 July 2013
Take a look round one of the world's biggest privately owned collections of toys, games and models. ...
Owning a toy museum must be a potentially heartbreaking occupation. You spend years and years collecting the best and most rare pieces available before locking them inside brightly lit cabinets… only for visitors to completely overlook them. This was proved perfectly during our visit to the House on the Hill Toy Museum in Essex while gazing at a packed display of superb diecast models. As we ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the mint condition Dinky No. 923 Big Bedford Heinz Delivery Van, sitting comfortably alongside a neat Corgi Gift Set No. 16 Ecurie Ecosse Racing Car Set, we were pushed out of the way by a family clamouring to try on a Darth Vader helmet. They waltzed straight past a cabinet containing thousands of pounds worth of wonderful models to muck about with something they could probably pick up for £20 at their local Toys R Us!
However, this lack of appreciation certainly hasn’t deterred Alan Goldsmith, the museum’s owner. Born during World War II, Alan didn’t have many toys as a child but in the years since he has certainly made up for that fact and is now the proud owner of more than 70,000 individual items on display at the museum – making it the largest privately owned toy museum in the world, according to Alan.
“I’ve been collecting since 1947,” explains Alan. “During the war poor children didn’t have any toys – you basically had to cut a stick out of a hedge and pretend that was a sword or a spear. So, if I look back I think I started collecting toys when I was about 12 or 15 to try and recapture my childhood. But as your readers will know, collecting is a disease and once you start, you can’t stop.”
And judging by the myriad of items on display, it appears that Alan’s collecting disease is certainly terminal! Consequently he kept collecting and collecting then had to open the museum in 1991 because his collection had grown so large. Most people probably dream about owning one rare piece of diecast or tinplate but Alan has cabinets full of them! We must have spent at least half an hour just looking at one diecast display… and there are at least five others in different parts of the museum.
This is an extract from the August issue of Collectors Gazette, to read the rest of the interview with Alan and his son Jeremy make sure you buy the issue in stores from 19th July or order now online. In the meantime, watch the video below to see some of the amazing collectables on display at the House on the Hill Toy Museum.
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