Eighteen years ago, the Hong Kong-born graphic designer Marvin Chan stepped into a small toy shop in Kota Tinggi, Malaysia, and bought a few old “made in Shanghai” tin-plate toys. Little did he know that it would lead to a lifelong passion for Oriental antique toys and that he would go on to collect 3,000 of them and open the Museum of Shanghai Toys in his adopted Singapore, a one of a kind museum solely dedicated to vintage Shanghai toys from the 1910s to the 1970s.
“At the beginning I collected any Oriental toys,” said Chan, 42. “But after I visited some toy museums in Japan, I was so impressed by the way the Japanese held on their cultural heritage. It reinforced my personal feelings about Chinese toys and the seed of the museum was planted.” Many of his toys were discovered in old toy shops in Southeast Asia and Europe, and were difficult to find because tin-plate and celluloid toys from the 1910s to 1940s were made in small quantities for the domestic markets. Unlike the strong antique collector market for European toys, there are also no real auctions or collectors’ markets for China-made toys, even though mainland Chinese are lately showing some interest in their childhood memories. [Full Text]