Beginning in the early 14th century, mining of silver, tin, iron and nickel fueled the economy of the Erzgebirge, the mountain range just north of the Czech Republic border in the German Province of Saxony, south of Dresden. When the mines began to play out around the middle of the next century, the miners turned to the cottage industry of woodworking to support their families.
By the late 17th century, making wooden wares for household use became a second significant source of employment. In the 18th century, in response to the growing demand for toys, more and more woodworkers became toymakers. Red and yellow wooden apples and pears filled with pretty miniature household utensils and riders and soldiers on scissors (known today as a "scissor toys") were found increasingly alongside the usual household goods.
Since the beginning of the 20th century miniature toys have been a speciality of the little town of Seiffen in the heart of the Erzgebirge. These miniatures developed in response to economic changes in the market place. A change in customs duties around 1890 - from calculation by value to calculation by weight - made it more difficult to export full-size toys. The change in customs regulations and an increase in the price of wood just after the turn of the century proved especially burdensome to the small woodworkers. The smart business move of miniaturizing their output delighted their customers!