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Ralph L. Tomlinson Antique Toy Collection

 Digital Record


  • 1890 - 2001

Language of Materials

The materials in this collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this material.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Hannibal, Missouri, June 20, 1928, Ralph L. Tomlinson was one of this country’s premier collectors of antique toys. His collection of over 2,000 Victorian and early-20th century playthings was displayed in every room of his home in Newport Beach, California. 

In his early childhood Ralph’s parents gave him only clothes for Christmas. The absence of toys that year made more of an impact than even he knew. As a grown man in the early 60’s, he bought a vintage mechanical bank for 25 cents, which he sold a few years later for $350. Ralph was hooked, not so much by the profit from his first sale, as by the delight he felt in the toys themselves, and by the compelling idea of learning through play.

Ralph collected toys from all over the world. He ordered from catalogs, purchased from auctions, and attended conventions and antique stores looking another piece of history. Each toy reflecting the time period in which it was created. Ralph’s notoriety grew along with his collection and he was featured on KOCE and A&E and in many magazines and newspapers. An article in The Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying, “I love each one of my toys, and I still play with them all the time.” Jack Herbet, an antique toy consultant for the Sotherby's and Christy's auction houses, said Tomlin's collection is one of the best one the West Coast for variety and educational value.

Tomlinson kept his collection in pristine condition. “Since his earliest days of collecting, Ralph has always made sure that his toys were in excellent working order and looked their very best,” said Bertoia Antique Toy Auction House owner, Jeanne Bertoia. “Ralph likes for his toys to be shiny and clean, and because he’s mechanically inclined, nothing pleases him more than to retreat to his wonderful workshop to tinker with his toys and restore them to perfect working order. He has always been very particular about the presentation of his toys, and if he has made a repair to any of them – which he does with great expertise and subtlety –he will always point out the repair with pride.”

Ralph L. Tomlinson sat on both the Chapman University Board of Governors and the Leatherby Libraries Board. In 2008, his passion for community and generosity exceeding the love he had for his toys, Ralph donated over 100 pieces to Chapman University, along with a number of custom-made cabinets in which to display them. The resulting exhibit entitled “Learning through Play” is a tribute to Ralph’s passion and generosity, capturing as it does both nostalgia for childhood and an appreciation for human ingenuity.

Ralph passed away from a stroke on July 7, 2011 at the age of 83. The majority of his collection was sold at auction shortly after his passing.


Castan and Tomlinson collections step into the spotlight at Bertoia’s Sept. 23-24 antique toy auction. Retrieved 19 October 2011 from

Brewer, Melissa. (2011). Learning through play: An exhibit of children's toys, 1890-2001. Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives, Chapman University, CA.

Obituary, Ralph L. Tomlinson. Orange County Register. Retrieved 19 October 2011 from

General Note

This collection contains over one hundred antique toys dating from 1890 to 2001, the bulk of which originate from 1920 to 1940. The collection represents toys manufactured in Germany, France, Spain, England, Japan, and the United States. Various manufacturers are represented including The Automatic Cradle Manufacturing Company, Nuremberg Tin Toy Factory, Inc., JEP, Tech Specialties, Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Company, Schuco, Keystone Manufacturing Company, Kingsburg, Carerra Toys, Girand Model Works Company, Louis Mark and Company, Ferdinand Struass Company, Unique Art Manufacturing Company, Pava Hermanos, Wunder Manufacturing Company, N.B.K., Modern Toys, Buddy L. Manufacturing Company, Ichiko, Marunsan Company, Hadson, Line Mar, Metalcraft, Tri-ang Toys, Arcade Manufacturing Company, Dowst Manufacturing Company, Inc., John C. Turner Company, Hubley Manufacturing, and Mack Brothers.

Categories of toys include pedal riding toys, mechanical toys, image projectors, clockwork vehicles, construction sets, battery operated toys, friction vehicles, push & pull toys, farm toys, circus toys, military figures, steam engines, and train sets.

General Note

Finding Aid for The Ralph L. Tomlinson Toy Collection.


1. Automatic Cradle Flivver Pedal Tricycle, circa 1904-1929

2. Dan Patch Pedal Car, 1911-1913

3. Bicycle, circa 1920

4. NBN Crane, circa 1950

5. JEP Speed Boat, circa 1930

6. Tech Specialties See Saw Coaster

7. Wolverine Up and Over Coaster, circa 1930-1940

8. Row Boat

9. Wheeled See Saw

10. Unique Art Kiddie Cyclist, circa 1930

11. Unique Art Li’l Abner and His Dog Patch Band, 1945

12. Schuco Nautico 3001 Speed Boat, circa 1990

13. Mechanical Trapeze Artist, circa 1920-1930

14. Unique Art Sky Ranger, circa 1930

15. Wolverine Merry-Go-Round, circa 1930-1950

16. Wolverine Auto Lift, circa 1930

17. Magic Lantern, circa 1890-1900

18. Bing Magic Lantern, circa 1920

19. Keystone Movie Projector and Films, circa 1920

20. Kingsburg Aerial Ladder Truck, circa 1920-1930

21. Kingsburg Steam Pumper Truck, circa 1920-1930

22. Girand Fire Chief Car, circa 1932

23. Carrera Landaulette, circa 1920

24. Four-Way Roadster

25. Marx Tank, circa 1930

26. Marx Old Jalopy, circa 1930

27. Strauss Leaping Lena Jalopy, circa 1920

28. Marx Double Decker Greyhound Bus

29. Marx Amos ‘n’ Andy Fresh Air Taxi, circa 1930

30. Kingsbury Golden Arrow Land Speed Racer, 1931

31. Gunthermann Silver Bullet Land Speed Racer, circa 1930

32. JEP Race Car No. 3, circa 1930

33. Roadster

34. Burnett Touring Car, circa1920-1939

35. Unique Art G.I. Joe and His Jouncing Jeep, 1944

36. Payá Car Construction Set, circa 1920-1930

37. Wunder Lumber Construction Set, 1932

38. N.B.K. Streamlined Motor Boat, circa 1950

39. Modern Toys Baggage Cart, circa 1950

40. Buddy L Mechanical Magnetic Crane, circa 1930

41. Ichiko 1965 Mercedes Benz 300 SE, circa 1960

42. Fifties 50’s Cadillac Convertible, circa 1980

43. Fifties 50’s Cadillac Sedan, circa 1980

44. Marusan 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, 2001

45. M.F.D. Aerial Ladder Truck, circa 1950

46. Hadson Cadillac Coupe DeVille

47. Ichiko Mercedes Benz 250 SE Coupe, circa 1960

48. Line Mar Radar Jeep, circa 1950

49. Tri-ang Shell Tanker Truck, 1930-1937

50. Metalcraft White King Delivery Truck, 1931-1938

51. Buddy L Automatic Tailgate Loader, circa 1930

52. Buddy L Aerial Ladder Fire Truck, circa 1930

53. Chein Dump Truck, circa 1920

54. Arcade Yellow Cab, circa 1940

55. Arcade Weaver Wrecker, circa 1930

56. Arcade Model A Ford, circa 1920

57. Marx Coca-Cola Stake Truck, circa 1930-1940

58. Turner Ahrens Fox Fire Truck, circa 1935-1948

59. Tootsietoys Race Car No. 3, circa 1930-1940

60. Tekno Ambulance, circa 1930

61. Buddy L Railway Express Truck, circa 1925-1935

62. Chein Hercules Coupe, circa 1930

63. Hubley Horse Drawn Police Wagon, circa 1910-1920

64. Wyandotte Miniature Radio Flyer Wagon, circa 1930

65. Steelcraft Akron Zeppelin, circa 1930

66. Buddy L Motor Market Truck, circa 1930

67. Mack Steam Shovel Truck

68. Marx Tractor and Trailer, circa 1930

69. Tootsietoys Tractor, 1927-1928

70. Kenton Two Horse Dray, 1910-1914

71. Kenton Two Horse Dray, 1920-1930

72. Arcade McCormick-Deering Tractor, circa 1930

73. Arcade McCormick-Deering Thresher, circa 1930

74. Wyandotte Circus Truck, 1936

75. Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Figures, circa 1903-1930

76. Kenton Overland Circus Set, 1939

77. Semi-flat Lead Figures

78. Composition Figures, circa 1930

79. Britain Pot Metal Figures, 1946

80. Märklin Compound Steam Engine No. 4158, circa 1930

81. Doll Steam Touring Car, circa 1920

82. Doll Hammermill, circa 1900-1920

83. Weeden Electric Steam Engine No. 672, 1930-1940

84. Märklin O Gauge Train Set, circa 1920

85. Marx O Gauge Train Tunnel, circa 1930

86. Hubley Cast Iron Train Set, circa 1930

87. Lionel 152 O Gauge Train Set, 1917-1927

88. Bing 4460 O Gauge Locomotive, circa 1900-1920

89. Lionel Automatic Gateman, circa 1950

90. Hornby 50153 O Gauge Locomotive and Tender, circa 1920

91. Lionel Blue Comet Passenger Train, 1935-1938

92. Buddy L Outdoor Railroad, 1927-1934

93. Railroad Traffic Light

94. Lionel 390 E Train Set, 1929-2000

95. Wilesco Steam Workshop Accessories, 1980-2011

96. Buddy L Hook and Ladder Fire Truck, circa 1920

97. River Barge Push Boat Model

98. Buddy L FedMart Delivery Truck, circa1925-1935

99. Ertl Allied Van Lines Truck, circa 1990

100. Ertl John Deere Waterloo Boy Tractor, 1988

101. Lehmann Jolly Miller, circa 1920

102. Kingsburg Fire Chief Car, circa 1920-1930

103. A.C. Williams Buster Brown and Tige Bank, circa 1910-1919

104. A.C. Williams Saint Bernard Medical Dog Bank, circa 1920

105. Pride Lines Goofy Wrecker Bank, circa 1970

106. Ertl Texaco Northrop Gamma Monoplane Bank, 1994

107. My Bookhouse, 1920-1927

108. Outboard Runabout Motorboat, circa 1950

109. Miniature Singer Sewing Machine

110. SpecCast Wrigley’s Vintage Airplane Bank, 1992

111. Wilesco Werkstatt Steam Engine Workshop, circa 1980-2011

Repository Details

Part of the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives, Leatherby Libraries Repository

Chapman University
One University Drive
Orange 92866 USA US