Walk too fast and you’ll miss it: The Antique Toy Museum at 222 W. Read Street is a little like a toy itself. The front of the bijoux store houses Anne Smith Antiques and Fine Art, Anne Smith Gallery and Joseph Lehn’s Antique Frames. Enter the enchanting little shop, pay $5 and you’ll be allowed back behind the curtain and into a forgotten world. The floor creaks and a pleasantly musty smell pervades this dark little museum, which feels like a Victorian attic. Among the display cases with their dollhouses and tiny furniture, you can sense the ghosts of childhoods past. The museum’s pieces date back to 1800 through 1950, with the majority dating from 1880 to 1910—an unusual collection which makes this odd little museum one of Baltimore’s most offbeat, elusive pleasures.
Dollhouses of various shapes and sizes make up the bulk of the museum, but there’s also a doll-sized restaurant and a miniature general store, along with fans, hatboxes, tea sets, jigsaws, xylophones and spinning tops. There are children’s books, magic tricks, model trains, marionettes, masks, games, circus animals, vintage zoo sets, Noah’s arks and cut-out dolls with colorful paper wardrobes. There are paints, crayons, and vintage magic tricks. Everything is meticulously ordered, and the dollhouses have been finished and painted by Anne Smith herself, a collector of antique toys for the last 32 years. Sadly for us, Ms. Smith has recently decided to sell off her collection and move to Florida, so if you haven’t visited the museum yet, this could be your last chance. Ms. Smith hopes to keep her collection together, so anyone with a yen to purchase an Antique Toy Museum should explore this link.