When Englishman Jeffrey Levy— who made Aliyah 4 years ago— opened “The Antique Toy Gallery” in Tel Aviv, he didn’t realize how popular his old collectables would be in Israel, granted he’s been in the antique toy business for 40 years. Levy’s shop, which is full of old and collectable toys from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, is situated within a mall at 62 Arlozorov between Ibn Gvirol and Dizengoff Streets.
For many collectors, toys represent a window to a particular epoch, giving an insight into social attitudes of the time and the political driving forces of the period.
One of the many toys on display is a monoplane made by the Jewish Firm Orobr in 1936, during a time in which toy manufacture was 90% in the hands of Jewish- owned companies. With the Nazis in power, the Orobr owners had to vacate the factory and leave everything behind. As an act of defiance in the last two weeks under their ownership, they changed the litho-printed artwork on the plane to include a Star of David on the fuselage and wings. About 20 of these models were made, and according to Jeffrey, it is poetic justice that a toy produced under such circumstances now assumes pride of place in a toy gallery in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
Toy railway enthusiasts will find German-made trains from the early-to-mid 20th century in the gallery, complete with signals, bridges, and tunnels. For the less technically minded, there is a large selection of early naive wooden toys made in 19th-century Bavaria. These pieces are stunning with bright colours and exaggerated features to appeal to the eyes of young children. Among these is a rare gunboat made during the Spanish-American War of 1898, and was designed to float and be pulled along water. With oversized funnels, masts, and cannons, not many of these survived as they were so often damaged by water. This particular example is in wonderful condition, with guns, mast, and rigging all in place, obviously never having touched water.
For Jeffrey, antique toys are a serious matter. “These are intrinsic works of art in their own right,” he says. “They have survived the test of time and represent a window into post-industrial revolution society. They are highly prized and collectable the world over.”
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