A man who toys with history

Updated: 2012-02-06 10:59

By Li Xinzhu (China Daily)

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A man who toys with history

Zhu Yuxiang, 33, is obsessed with collecting toys that were mainly produced in China during the 1980s.

The Shanghai resident started collecting in 2003 and eight years later owns many of the toys from that era, which he stores in dozens of boxes at his home.

"The 1980s was unique in my opinion, as the society and economy experienced such rapid development," he says.

While much of his toy collection was bought at boutique stores, second-hand markets and online stores, many others were given by friends as gifts.

"The most valuable item in my collection is worth more than 100,000 yuan," he says, though he refuses to say what it is, only adding that it is rare, historic and he won't sell it at any price.

During the 1980s, just a few factories in China produced toys, so Zhu can easily recognize them.

Zhu says he didn't have much opportunity to play with toys as a child because his family could not afford them.

Window-shopping for toys, he says, was a bitter but interesting experience and he believes this is one of the reasons he started his collection.

"When I browse my collection, my memory opens and I feel very happy."

Zhu has learned a great deal about vintage toys from online photo albums or forums, as many young white-collar workers share their childhood memories online.

"The yellow pug-dog, a popular toy among the post-80s generation, appears frequently in photos," he says. "It is also one of the hardest items to collect."

The father of a 10-month-old son, Zhu works as a librarian in Shanghai's Jing'an district.

"The salary is not as high as my last job, a salesman at an IT related company, but I'm not unhappy about this as money is not everything."

Toys, however, are a source of endless happiness to him.

Zhu showcased his collection at an exhibition in Shanghai a few years ago, but his dream is to open a small museum to display to the public.

"It's my way of preserving history," he says.

In April, Zhu will participate in an iron-sheet-made toy exhibition organized by Shanghai Collection Association, while a personal exhibition will be held in August at the Shanghai Mass Art Center.