The Walking Students of Ibi – Ibi, Spain - Atlas Obscura

The Walking Students of Ibi

Oversized versions of a beloved toy dot a children's playground in a Spanish toymaking town. 


Ibi, Spain, is known as the country’s toy manufacturing center. The industry’s history started when the Payá family’s tinsmith business switched from making domestic items to producing tinplate toys.

When the Payá family started making toys in 1905, the objects were quite simple. However, they quickly moved into self-propelled clockwork toys to compete with the famous factories operating at that time in Germany and Austria. One of the earliest and most famous of these toys was a walking figure of a student carrying two suitcases while heading to university.

In keeping with the fashions of the time, the student was dressed in a smart suit and wears a tie. The model was supported by small wheels on the base of the luggage, but propulsion was provided via the articulated legs. This model was so famous that in recent years, tinplate replicas have been produced for the collector’s market.

Ibi is proud of its toy making history, and is speckled with public art that celebrates the industry. One of the best places to see this is in the Toy Centenary Square (Plaza del Centenario del Juguete), which houses both the tourist information office, in the form of a colorful toy train, and a large bronze monument. The most striking and unusual items in the square are several fiberglass figures, about four feet high, that depict the famous Payá tinplate toy.

Know Before You Go

Unfortunately, there is no information about the figures provided at the square, but some is available at the local toy museum where the staff will also provide some verbal information. There is a depiction of the automaton on one side of the bronze monument.

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June 6, 2019

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