This project represents the next phase in the evolution of a lifetime collection of vintage toys, eclectic antiques and memorabilia, which have been amassed over 40+ years by avid collector and vintage enthusiast, Howie (How) Meyer.
Now, Howie is sharing this collection and passion with other like-minded people, as well as those new to the subject. As the collection continues to evolve, part of that will include selling off many of these collectable toys in our vintage toy shop.
Some would say Howie’s penchant for collecting started young, when things were put in his hands and he wouldn’t give them up!
Howie’s parents owned a dry-cleaning shop in South Bronx, where as a young boy he would collect the pennies that fell from the pockets of garments. At first he collected them with a candy store in mind, but a trip to the post office to pick up paper coin rollers gave young Howie a new perspective. The post office worker told him to pay attention to the years on the coins, especially the “Wheat Back Pennies”, and thus began Howie’s first collection.
Many of Howie’s collecting tendencies later in life were shaped by the city he grew up in. In the late ’50s and through the ’60s, his family would stop for a bite to eat and to play the games at the Adventurers Inn in Queens nearly every weekend, on their way to visit his uncle. At the arcade there, young Howie was dazzled by the pinball machines and arcade games, which sparked a lifelong infatuation.
Both Eastern-European survivors of World War II, Howie’s parents immigrated to New York in 1948. They arrived in America with nothing to their name, so everything they had was cherished. Most of Howie’s toys were hand-me-downs from his older brother, and there weren’t many of them. This Colgate Toothpaste premium Captain Kangaroo cup from c. 1960 was the first piece he could ever call his own. It maintains a special place in his collection to this day.
It was during those weekly trips from the Bronx to Queens where young Howie watched the progress of the building of the grounds for the 1964 New York World’s Fair unfolding at Flushing Meadows Park, as well as the building of Shea Stadium.
Howie spent his adolesensce in Yonkers, when his family moved there in 1967. A few blocks away was Nathan’s Famous (previously an Adventurers Inn location), where Howie lived on fast food while playing pinball machines and arcade games. It was also here that teenage Howie first fell in love with Indian Motorcycles (which he also collects), where motorcycle road rallies were held twice a year.
Captivated by anything with a motor, Howie became immersed in the world of slot car racing, as the craze swept through the nation in the 1960s. As the ’70s rolled around, he spent much of his time globetrotting and occasionally collecting eclectic mementos from his travels.
Howie moved to Canada in 1980. The only piece that he brought with him was a big old RCA antique radio, which he still has in his collection today. It didn’t take long for him to get back into collecting though, and soon he had completely filled the dining room of his first home with vintage pinball machines!
Strongly influenced by growing up in New York, some of the first things Howie began to collect after moving to Canada were New York related items such as 1939 and 1964 NY World’s Fair souvenirs and NY Yankees memorabilia. Howie was also drawn to Coney Island toys and collectibles, as his family used to drive by there a few times a year on their way to visit family in Brooklyn.
The collection’s emphasis on vintage and antique toys emerged when Howie was reintroduced to his childhood hobby of slot car racing by a friend in 1983. His search for more slot cars to add to his collection brought Howie to vintage toy shows and antique stores in New York, Florida, Atlanta and Toronto, where a passion for old vintage toys and other eclectic stuff began to grow.
Howie tried to keep his focus on the slot cars, but as fate would have it, vintage toys found their way to him anyway. On his way to work one day, he spotted two pressed steel toy trucks left on the side of the road with the garbage bins: a Minnitoy Shell tanker, and a Structo bottom-dumper. These two became the first non-slot-car toys in his collection, where they remain on display to this day.
At first, acquisitions consisted mainly of vintage toy trucks and construction vehicles, as Howie was working in construction at the time. Pressed steel trucks by toymakers such as Structo, Marx, Courtland, Lincoln and Minnitoy were strongly focused on during the early years and occupy a significant portion of his toy collection.
Schuco clockwork cars and figures were also part of his early toy collecting acquisitions. From the moment he first witnessed Schuco’s Limousine 1010 (with the iconic German toymaker’s patented “turn-back” feature which doesn’t fall off the edge of the table), Howie became intrigued with Schuco, as many toy collectors can relate.
Eventually, as Howie’s interests expanded and his knowledge base increased, his collection also grew to the scale and diversity it has reached today. With an innate fascination for these items and a keen interest in the history behind them, this collection has been curated and preserved with great care and attention over the years. Many of the thousands of objects therein are not only significant as valuable collectors’ items and artifacts of toy history, but as enlightening records of the eras from which they originated.
In addition to gathering individual pieces, at times Howie has also acquired entire collections from other collectors. In 2005, he acquired a large collection of vintage plastics, which remained mostly boxed until they were opened and re-catalogued in 2017.
Howie was drawn to the bright colours and material characteristics of the plastics, and felt a personal connection to many of the items in this collection. Only a few, however, were needed to round out and build on his own plastics collection. Many of the pieces from this collection can now be found in the Collectors Quests vintage toy shop.
After years of acquisitions, Howie is ready to begin reducing his vast collection and sharing the items which have given him so much joy over the past 40+ years with the rest of the collectors community. This will enable Howie to focus attention on the pieces which are most relevant to him, while allowing other treasures to go to fellow collectors who will appreciate them as much as he has. The Collectors Quests website provides a virtual space for this evolution, where we will be continually adding items to our vintage toy shop to achieve this goal.
In the future, perhaps this evolution may lead to a physical, museum-like space where visitors can see the collection in person, explore the history, play some pinball, race a slot car, and leave with a treasure of their own. We look forward to what the future holds for this historical collection!
WHAT’S IN THE COLLECTION?
The primary focus of this eclectic collection is vintage toys of the early to mid 20th century. Some areas of the collection include, but are not limited to: slot cars; clockwork cars & figures; tin litho wind up toys; diecast & pressed metal cars, trucks, planes & other vehicles; ice cream & delivery trucks; construction, army & emergency vehicles; vintage space toys & robots; circus-themed toys; tin lithographed beach pails & spinning tops; tin lithographed vintage lunch boxes; western toys; vintage plastics; Disneyana; and many more categories.
With Howie’s wide array of interests and fascination for oddities, there are many sub-collections in addition to the primary collection, such as: late 19th to early 20th century sewing notions, including rarely seen figural tape measures; New York World’s Fair 1939 souvenirs and other New York memorabilia; Advertising, TV and comic characters collectibles; WWI and WWII propaganda and Victory Bonds posters, as well as WWII anti-Axis paraphernalia.