One of the first things that many doting fathers used do when their son reached the age of three or so, was to buy him a Scalextric motorcar racing set, not because son understood much of what was going on, but because dad used it as an excuse to revert to childhood and back to playing with toys. Probably in much the same way, Álvaro Noguera’s father bought him a beautiful set of toy soldiers for his third birthday in 1941, but whereas the Scalextric usually ends up in the back of a cupboard with wheels missing, that set of soldiers was the acorn that became the oak tree of the largest collection of minatures in the world, with over a million pieces.

This story of the fascinating  L’Iber Museo de Los Soldaditos de Plomo, the Toy Soldier Museum in Valencia, Spain, was first published at Smithsonian.com, the online magazine of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, under the title The Great Battles of History, In Miniature.  Read on... 

[A historical correction to the article. Queen Isabella wasn’t actually surrendering her jewels to provide funds for Columbus’ adventure, as the articles says (in an attempt, perhaps, to save American blushes over the financing of their country) she was putting them up as supposed collateral for the banker funding the trip himself, one Luis de Santangel, a Valencian of Jewish origin. ‘Supposed’ because if the voyage had failed you wouldn’t expect to hang on to the Royal family jewellery, would you, but an intreguing story, nonethless.]