Toymaking has for centuries been one of the principal manufactures of the Erzgebirge, the ore-mining region of Saxony, and since Johann Friedrich Hiemann took locally-made toys to the fairs at Leipzig and Nuremberg, the town of Seiffen, 32 km south of Freiburg, has been one of the principal centres of the industry.
The museum originated in a collection accumulated at the technical school for toy-makers, the Spielzeug-Werbe-Schau, which from 1936 was displayed to the public in a former hosiery factory. In its present form the museum dates from 1953. It has a collection of more than 3000 lathe-turned wooden toys and ornaments. The collection reflects the varied products of the region, boxes with sewing kits, yellow and red wooden apples and pears, miniature house utensils, geese feeding in stalls, scissors toys, needle cases and containers used by smokers of tobacco.
Many products were made expressly for Christmas markets. Ring turning, and important innovation in the manufacture of wooden toys, was introduced at Seiffen in the early nineteenth century. Changes in taxation in the early twentieth century, which taxed toys by weight, stimulated toymakers in the town to make smaller and smaller figures. The museum also features the products of the firm of S F Fischer, who pioneered the manufacture of toy building materials that reflected the theories of Friedrich Froebel. The museum holds extensive collections of documents and photographs relating to the toy-making industry.
In 1973 the Spielzeugmuseum took responsibility for the nearby open air museum in which 14 buildings illustrate the social history of the Erzegebirge. They include a miner’s home, a toymaker’s home and a water-powered wood-turning workshop.