Western Md. couple donate collection of antique toys

CUMBERLAND — After a lifetime of collecting, an area couple has donated their large antique toy collection valued at $40,000 to the Allegany Museum.

Walter Oster and his wife, Florence, who have been married for 52 years, spent much of their time going to auctions, exhibits and antique shops before establishing a collection of more than 90 toys.

Now retired, the couple want to put the collection in someone’s hands who can display the toys.

They find that the sentimental value is where the real worth lies.

“Everyone should come and look at these toys,” said Florence. “They will probably say, ‘My grandmother or great-grandmother had one of those.’“

All the toys in the collection are made in the USA and were obtained locally or in the mid-Atlantic region.

“We would go to many places in the tri-state area like Romney and Augusta (in West Virginia), Meyersdale and Springs (in Pennsylvania), and to Rehoboth (Beach, Del.) to see what was available,” Florence said.

Allegany Museum President Gary Bartik realizes what a collection like this does for a museum.

“The board members are ecstatic. It’s very rewarding that people such as Dr. and Mrs. Oster and their collection do recognize us,” he said.

The most valuable item in the collection, worth $6,000 according to Bartik, is a cast-iron Andy Gump made by Arcade.

Toys from that period are the mechanical type with Arcade being one of the most sought-after makers, according to Bartik.

“All of these toys work,” said Bartik.

The toys date to the early 20th century, especially the 1915 to 1930 period.

Items in the collection include a skating Popeye, Amos and Andy, steam ships, a Toonerville Trolley, various Lindy planes, carriages and much more.

“When the children got in high school, I really began collecting,” said Florence.

They got many of their items from one of the most prominent sales houses in the area at the time — the David Wright Auction Services.

Other toys with significant value are two of the Lindy planes, which have a value of $2,200 each.

Walter, a retired pathologist, began collecting toys when he was a young boy during World War II. He started with World War I soldiers and tanks.

The Allegany Museum is located at 3 Pershing St. in Cumberland and will have the collection on display until New Year’s Eve.

“After that, we are going to create a permanent area for toys with the Osters’ collection on display,” said Bartik.

“Knowing that a child long ago enjoyed the pleasure of playing with it, especially someone in this area, gives me the most joy of collecting,” said Florence.

“They’re our history,” said Walter. “I’m very proud of the collection.”

Additional items include a motorcyclist, a circus, World War I-era boats, cannons, a Conestoga wagon, 1920 Ford cars, an Amish driver and much more.

Florence said that a friend, Gloria Saville, gave her several toys, including a coal truck.

“It’s the history of our living in this community,” said Florence.

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