Stiftung Zinnfiguren-Sammlung Alfred R. Sulzer

Information for English speaking collectors

The Spanischbrötlibahn .This first train in Switzerland was inaugurated in 1847 and operated between the cities of Zürich and Baden (Aargau). Contemporary tinfigures by Johann Rudolf Wehrli. Modern casts made out of the original slate moulds in the collections of the Swiss National Museum in Zürich.

As most collectors of flat tinfigures and flat tinsoldiers are found in German speaking countries, we have not translated the German text into any other language; this is also the case for the publications by Alfred R. Sulzer. The author and collector, however, has a good command of the English language and is happy to enter into any exchange with other collectors and dealers worldwide. Do take note that his interest is limited to «flats» manufactured as childrens› toys during the 18th and 19th centuries. Please make use of the «Kontakt» page.

Micro Worlds: Tin Figures
09.05.2024 – 26.01.2025

The Germanisches Nationalmuseum is celebrating an impressive addition to its Toy Collection: thousands upon thousands of tin toys and miniatures, also known in English as ‘Nuremberg flats’, from the unique, world-class Swiss collection of Alfred R. Sulzer, in donation of some 145,000 items in all. The ‘Micro Worlds’ exhibition now presents selected highlights from that collection.

The figures on display were mainly produced as children’s toys between 1750 and the end of WWI. The most important production sites were Nuremberg and nearby Fürth. At the turn of the 20th century, around 40 million pieces found their way onto the national and international market from this production center alone.

The exhibition is divided into twelve sections. The first is dedicated to the history of the collection and the collector Alfred R. Sulzer himself. The display provides a brief overview of production and distribution, before raising the curtain on a rich toy world featuring over 100 miniature scenes and individual figurines. Tin toys often visualized characters and objects from children’s literature and world literature. Also on prominent display are scenes of everyday life and popular entertainment, with many exquisite miniatures such as the Arc de Triomphe in tin.
While in the period following the Napoleonic Wars (‘the Biedermeier’), tin toys were rarely gender-specific, the second half of the 19th century saw a shift in production. Mass-produced knights, tin soldiers, and – later- depictions of colonial conflicts were aimed purely at boys. The exhibition concludes with royalty en miniature. One highlight here is Queen Victoria’s visit to the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace.
The tin figurines reflect many major media events and the cultural history of their day. Images of contemporary history and society were disseminated across Europe in the form of this mass medium. As playthings, these objects reveal how contemporary events and scenes from public life were translated into relatable imagery for children, and thus provide exciting insights into the contradictory and rapidly changing societies of the 1800s, as they entered the age of modern globalization.

The exhibition is packed with hundreds of small figures to discover and enjoy, and allows visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in the playtime of the past.

We sincerely thank the Foundation «Alfred R. Sulzer Tin Figure Collection» for their generous support of the exhibition.