Hong Kong's Toy Museum: Giving old toys the gift of life

Hong Kong's Toy Museum: Giving old toys the gift of life

Old toys don't die and go to toy heaven. They get reborn, with the help of the 'Toy Doctor'
Hong Kong Toy Museum
Collectables make up a lot of the clutter at the Toy Musuem.

If you can fight your way through the clutter of the Toy Museum (which is really a toy store not a museum) in Hong Kong's Prince's Building, you'll find a man with a magical skill. Ambrose Lee is his name.

A kid at heart, the 46-year old store owner gets excited when you bring in a vintage toy for him to fix.  He remembers the time a customer brought in a 1960's Japanese robot and asked Lee to touch up the paint.
 
"It was an old vintage Japanese robot. It was very unique and very rare. I felt so lucky. For me, that was the only time I could play with such a wonderful rare robot," he says.


Over the past decade, word spread that Lee could fix old toys, earning him the nickname the "toy doctor."

This is an age when people often throw away things that break, but Lee notices people hang on to old, worn-out toys for sentimental reasons.

His starting rate is HK$500 (US$65) and Lee may charge more depending on the type of work.

"Before I do the repair, I need to ask the person what they want the outcome to be. It is funny. Often, they don't want it to look brand new. They want a vintage look, an old look and that's the effect I need to achieve," he says.


Lee brings out a small vintage teddy bear (seen above) and starts to sew the back seam closed. He uses a technique called a "leather stitch." He claims it's as simple as tying your shoelace.

Lee actually encourages his customers to try to repair toys themselves because it's more gratifying to work on something so sentimental.  He has been known to teach his customers how to stitch a seam on a stuffed animal and give tips on painting touch-ups.


He also gets some creative requests. He later shows us a golden teddy bear (pictured above) that he just finished working on. A woman brought in the teddy bear and a secret message in a capsule. She asked Lee to sew the message inside the tummy of the teddy bear. She wanted her daughter to someday find and read the message.  (I asked Lee if he read the message. "No," he said.)
 
"The most rewarding part is when I return the toy to my customer and I see their face shining with smiles," Lee says.
About the author: Pauline Chiou is an anchor and correspondent based at CNN's Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Hong Kong.