When you were a kid, how did you treat your toys? Did you tear into a new toy and play until it broke, or were you the type who kept your favourites in mint condition with the original box? The Founder of the Mint Museum, Singaporean Chang Yang Fa, was definitely the latter and his collection of more than 50,000 toys has been turned into one of the city’s best niche museums.
The Mint Museum is the world’s first museum created specifically for toys. The clever name is an acronym for “Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys” and a description of their pristine condition. Though a toy museum sounds like the perfect place to take the kids on a rainy Singapore afternoon, the museum is more suitable for the young-at-heart than actual young people — the toys are behind glass and worth thousands of dollars!
The staggering collection is organised into four galleries each on a separate floor. The museum staff suggested I start at the top with “Outer Space” and work my way down. Appealing to my inner geek, this was my favourite gallery with its retro Star Wars posters, model rocket ships and, judging from the five-figure price tag, what may be the world’s first toy robot from Japan.
Whether you grew up in the east or west, you’ll find your favourite in the “Iconic Characters” gallery which covers everyone from Tin Tin to Mickey Mouse to Ultraman. The full collection includes toys from more than 40 countries and there are some very unique items like spring-activated tin figurines from Germany, dolls dressed in Mao suits from the Chinese Communist Revolution, and politically-incorrect Golliwogs from the USA.
The “Childhood Favourites” gallery feature toys that everyone is familiar with like board games, teddy bears, and toy cars from when they actually were sold in matchboxes. The “Collectables” gallery features some of the oldest toys (e.g. 100 year old handmade dolls) as well as some of the most recent (e.g. Beatles’ wigs). The cut-off period for inclusion in Mint Museum’s collection seems to be the 1970s, so many iconic toys from my ‘80s childhood were conspicuously absent.
To keep the irreplaceable toys in mint condition, the museum is completely windowless and flash photography is not allowed — the lighting is so dim in places we struggled to make much of some of the displays. Including all the time spent fussing with my camera settings, it took me about an hour to go through the museum. With admission costing S$15 for an adult it isn’t particularly great value, but that’s the whole point of a niche museum –- it doesn’t appeal to everyone. However, if the thought of an first-edition Batmobile toy in an unopened box excites you, or you want to see something truly one-of-a-kind, the Mint Museum of Toys is worth every penny.
Don’t leave without browsing the gift shop for nostalgic novelties like invisible ink, kaleidoscopes, and parachuting plastic soldiers. Or come after hours for a drink at the Mr. Punch rooftop bar.
You'll find the Mint Museum of Toys on Seah Street, opposite the northern side of Raffles Hotel. The closest SMRT stations are Bugis and City Hall, both of which are about a ten minute walk away.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 2nd May, 2015.