Tony Reich is president of the Toronto-based Canadian Toy Collectors’ Society, a not-for-profit organization serving individuals with a passion for toy collecting and a desire to preserve Canadian toy history for future generations. Reich talks about the mission of the Society and the appeal that toy collecting has for adults.
Tell us about the mission of the Canadian Toy Collectors’ Society (CTCS).
Our mission is to promote interest in collecting and collections of all types of toys and childhood memorabilia, particularly Canadian toys. Valuable Canadian toy history is leaving the country as overseas buyers purchase items for their collections. CTCS has a collection of approximately 850 vintage toys and memorabilia: transportation vehicles, games, dolls, books, steel and tin toys, and construction toys.
We’ve curated a very specialized Canadian collection. In fact, the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa approached us about our catalog and sent a specialist to view the collection. Pearson Airport’s Malton Airport Gallery featured pieces from our collection in a recent installation there. It was originally planned to run for three months but it drew so much interest that it was extended to over a year. There’s a lot of interest from the public; we want to ensure Canadian collectibles are available for future generations to experience.
What benefits does the Society offer members?
We offer the opportunity for toy collectors to meet, learn, and expand their knowledge and collections.
The Society formed in the early 1970s. A couple of Dinky Toy enthusiasts met regularly at Leonard’s Hobby Centre in Toronto. They put a note in the shop to see if other collectors had interest in joining the meetings and it grew from there. We hosted our first toy show in 1973; it drew more than 800 people from across Canada and U.S. That’s really something considering it was U.S. Thanksgiving and Grey Cup weekend!
Today, the Society holds monthly meetings with guest speakers, we host an annual CTCS toy show that draws people from all over Canada and the world, and our lending library is full of resources for members. We also have a summer barbeque and we visit museums and collections together as a group. Members with an interest in research can take advantage of our bursary, established to expand knowledge and awareness about Canadian toys and toy manufacturers. We have an amazingly rich history, particularly from the ‘50s and ‘60s with manufacturers such as London Toys, Lincoln Toys, Reliable, Viceroy, Brooklin Models, and Minitoys.
What areas of interest are represented at the Society?
Our collectors are a diverse group. Some collect die-cast transportation vehicles, tin and cast-iron toys, dolls, Fisher-Price, farm vehicles, science fiction toys and memorabilia, and highly-engineered Canadian-made mechanical toys. The antique mechanical toys are particularly interesting. We have items crafted by German immigrants who settled in the Kitchener, Ontario region. The toys are very rare; they weren’t mass-produced and can be fragile, so they’ve disappeared with use over time.
What’s your personal history with collecting?
My father was a collector. He was a refugee from Budapest to the United Kingdom. During that process, he lost all his beloved toys. He started purchasing the toys in the 1950s and eventually amassed a collection of 35,000 pieces. Friends suggested he open a museum, so he did! and I helped him build it. It was located in Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK. The name of the museum was The Tiatsa Model Transportation Museum, a combination of the names of my father, brother, and me. Collectors and casual enthusiasts came from all over came to see his collection which now resides at Coventry Motor Transportation Museum.
My personal collection includes model cars from European and Canadian manufacturers, such as Dinky Toys, Corgi, and Tekno Toys, among many others. I have a fondness for the esoteric diecast toy manufactures of the 1950s who didn’t produce toys for very long. Once World War II ended, manufacturers of war-related machinery had to find something else to produce to survive. Many of those manufacturers chose to produce model diecast cars. I have an appreciation for their rarity and aesthetic.
What is the benefit to adults of collecting?
The joy of collecting is indescribable. It’s nostalgic. Our experiences with toys as children have a lasting impact on us, whether we owned a toy and loved it or longed for a toy that belonged to someone else. The desire to collect is very powerful for many people.
Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.