In Disney’s animated film Toy Story, Andy’s toys come to life once everyone is gone. Imagine if that happened at MINT Museum of Toys, which has four stories of vintage toys and collectibles from the 1840s to the 1980s.
Located along Seah Street at the Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct, the MINT Museum of Toys is a private museum with a quirky, yet fascinating, collection.
In case you are wondering why MINT is capitalised, that’s because it is an acronym for “Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys”.
The museum, which opened in 2007, is the brainchild of toy collector Chang Yang Fa who grew up in the 1960s. Over a period of more than 30 years, he has amassed more than 50,000 toys and nostalgic collectibles in his personal collection, including some incredibly rare pieces.
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The MINT Museum of Toys is the way for him to share part of his collection with the public and other vintage toy enthusiasts.
Visiting the MINT Museum of Toys
The MINT Museum of Toys is located at a tall and narrow pre-war shophouse across from the east-facing side of Raffles Hotel. The building has been renovated and designed with slats along the facade to allow light in while still protecting the collection inside from sun damage.
Rooftop: Vintage Signs
You can start your visit to MINT Museum of Toys by taking the lift to the rooftop and making your way down via the stairs.
The rooftop top has a small gallery of vintage signs from the 1800s, set beside an open air bar space. The enamel advertising signs feature some brands that would still be recognisable to modern visitors such as Cadbury’s and Nestlé.
The other signs on display include Bear’s Brand Swiss Milk, Bradbury Cycles and signs from alehouses. An information panel provides more details about each of them.
Once you are done, you can make your way down to the collections below. We recommend taking the stairs between floors as the stairwells also contain displays of toys.
On the floor below the rooftop is the Outerspace collection. The toys here capture the imagination of children of the possibilities of space and technology.
Long before today’s talk of AI, drone and bots, toy makers were already dreaming up images of the cosmos and imagining a world of robots. This was further heightened by the space race of the 1950s and 1960s.
Amongst the toys to look out for at the Outerspace collection at MINT Museum of Toys is the Hook Robot made by Waco Toys, a rare toy that is friction-powered.
You will also find a collection of blasters, evoking memories of the Buck Rogers TV show that ran till the late 1960s.
The Characters collection presents some well-known comic and animation characters but in some of their earliest forms.
Meet a Mickey Mouse with four fingers and a wide grin with teeth. This Mickey Mouse Jazzer was produced by Dean’s Rag Book Company in the 1930s. It could be mounted to a gramophone and would “dance” along to the record.
Other characters represented in this collection include Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Felix the Cat and Batman.
It is not just the big-name movie character toys that get an airing at the MINT Museum of Toys. At the Childhood Favourite collection, there are vintage toys from all around the world.
Amongst the highlights on this floor is a Steiff Teddy Bear made in Germany around 1903. It is valued at at GBP 20,000 or S$34,000 at today’s prices.
Blink and you walk past it is the Smallest Doll in the World. Dating back to the 1930s, you can look through a magnifying glass to get a closer look at it.
There is also a collection of vintage Barbie dolls including one wearing the vintage black and white swimsuit. These ponytail Barbie dolls wearing the famous zebra striped suit were the first ever made and were sold between 1959 to 1961.
There is also a play space with supersized versions of games like Chinese chess.
The last level at MINT Museum of Toys is simply title Collectables. It contains a variety of vintage toys that can almost be viewed as historical artefacts.
One of the fascinating toys in the Collectables section is simply known as Chinese Stairs. It features a pair of figures holding poles that can shuffle their way down a flight of stairs.
What makes it especially fascinating is that it is powered by mercury. The poles are filled with the liquid metal, moving the toy downwards by gravity as it swishes back and forth. It is hard to imagine such a toy being made today.
Another section of the Collectables section has toys that reflect historical events, from the Nazi era in the 1940s to the JFK assassination and more.
Appreciating the Toys and MINT Museum of Toy’s AR App
It may be tempting to rush through the museum, moving from glass cabinet to glass cabinet, but to really appreciate it, you may wish to slow down and read through the accompanying description.
You can also join a free guided tour. This is conducted on Wednesdays at 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.
The MINT Museum of Toys also has a set of Augmented Reality Cards that can be purchased at an additional fee to the museum entry. Using an accompany AR app, you can scan the cards at 37 touch points around the museum to learn about the items on display.
There are also AR StoryColouring Books and programmes for schools.
MINT Museum of Toys
Where: 26 Seah St, Singapore 188382
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