Story of the Week

Posted: 04.11.2011
The Donald Kaufman Toy Story
By: Robert Tate
Mr. Donald Lewis Kaufman was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on October 8, 1930. He was one of three children of Harry and Ruth Kaufman. In 1922, his father and uncle started a wholesale company, Kaufman Brothers, which distributed a variety of goods, including candy, soda and stuffed animals. In the early 1950's Mr. Kaufman joined the family business and by 1958 the Kaufman brothers expanded into the retail business. In the 1960’s, the store became known as KB Toys which soon was a retailing operation in 1972. The Vice President, Mr. Kaufman, expanded the chain to malls in almost every state within the USA. Unfortunately, KB Toys was sold to the Melville Corporation in 1981 and went out of business in 2008.

Mr. Kaufman was one of the world’s largest toy collectors. Mr. Kaufman owned almost every known toy that was made from the late 1800's -1960's. More than 7,000 cars and trucks were parked bumper to bumper on plain shelving units that Mr. Kaufman had purchased at home Depot and assembled himself which where wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The collection was made of cast iron, tin toys, and pressed steel replicas. The pedal cars, within Mr. Kaufman’s toy hobby, have been clearly declared the most important person/collector the hobby had ever seen. Mr. Kaufman spent much of his time over the last 59 years searching through antique stores, biding in countless auctions and cultivating relationships with toy dealers. Mr. Kaufman and his wife spent vacations searching the market in Europe and attending nearly every toy show in the Northeast. Unfortunately, during March 2009, Mr. Kaufman died at his home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts at the age of 79.

Before his death, Mr. Kaufman began to sell off his collection and Bertoia Auction in Vineland N.J. handle the sale of the Kaufman toy collection. At the first auction about 1,400 of the 7,000 toys brought in 4.2 million dollars, well above the 3 million that had been estimated. A three foot long train of hand painted clown cars drew in the highest price at $103,500. At the second auction in September, about 1,100 toys were sold which brought in 3 million dollars. Mr. Kaufman said, “These aren't my toys, I am just taking care of them". Many other auctions followed and millions more dollars of toys were sold. Collectors traveled from all over the world to attend the auction and to purchase a piece of history. “He didn't just see a toy”, his wife said, "He would look at the toy, think about the history, and how the toy was made and who made it".

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating his story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program.  For further information contact Robert Tate at

If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at:

Print this PageGoto Top of PageShare This Article
Explore MotorCities:

Sign up to stay in touch!
MotorCities National Heritage Area
200 Renaissance Center, Suite 3148, Detroit, MI 48243
Phone: 313.259.3425  |  Fax: 313.259.5254