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Treasure trove of toys on show


Before smartphones and video games were a phenomenon, children worldwide were captivated by tin toys, wooden trucks and paper planes.

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Visitors to the David Roche Gallery in North Adelaide will have an opportunity to embark on this nostalgic journey of historic play once more through a new exhibition Australian Toys 1880-1965: The Luke Jones Collection, on show from June 1 to August 24.

Luke (pictured), a Saint Ignatius’ College old scholar who lives in Adelaide, has collected a fascinating range of Australian toys made between the 1880s and the 1960s.

The collection includes refined lithographed tinplate toys of the 1920s, such as a 30cm truck made by Melbourne manufacturer Leckie and Gray, mass-produced toys that emerged during the post-war period including a Glenn Holden Special, charming folk art creations and European and Japanese-made toys with local relevance.

The exhibition will also host a fun trail for children to participate to find objects along the display.

For Luke, what began as a nine year old’s passion for collecting antique toys has blossomed into a sprawling personal collection he has compiled over 40 years – each item with its own rich history.

“I was a newspaper boy earning some money and I saved that money for a year. I wanted to spend it on something that would increase in value,” Luke explains.

“A family friend from Italy told me antique toys were big in Europe, so two weeks before my 10th birthday, I went to an antique auction with my father, where I bought my first toy, an Italian-made Coca-Cola truck from the mid-1950s. It cost me $115 in 1983, and I still remember the strength of my emotion about how much I loved it.

“Since that moment, I’ve continued to grow my collection. A highlight for me is the Australian icon Holden cars from the mid-century and I also have a toy submarine made from the ballast of the submarine which sank in Sydney Harbour in 1942.”

The idea for the exhibition was sparked when museum director David Reason approached Luke after hearing him speak at an Adelaide’s Society of Collectors meeting.

“A lot of passion has been poured into my collection so for Robert to recognise that, and then to have a culmination of my toys on display in a museum, it’s a dream come true,” Luke says.

While Luke enjoys sharing his love of antique toys with his two children Teddy, 8, and Florence, 5, he says they both agree who the big kid of the family is.

“They understand my passion for collecting, but they also both think I have too many toys,” he laughs.

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