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Best Toy Store

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Dinosaur Hill
306 East 9th Street
212-473-5850

Pamela Pier loves secrets. She loves them so much that she hasn't got a sign above her seventeen-year-old East Village toy shop. "I want people to come upon us and be surprised," she says. Granted, if you're looking down, you may notice the name dinosaur hill spelled out in marbles outside the store, but as with all the wonderful, mostly handcrafted items inside, you need to awaken another sense in order to take it all in. There is nothing Disney, very little plastic, and only a tiny smattering of commercial knickknacks within these walls. An old-fashioned curiosity chest sits by the door, waiting for little hands to reach in and find little worlds. One drawer is filled with what Pier calls "subway sitters," German miniatures that appear to be riding the rails, $4.25 each. Another drawer is cowboy-centric. All manner of marionettes hang from the ceiling. The music shelf has a calypso steel drum, $100, and a harmonica, $9.50. Wind-up metal toys are here in abundance, as are wooden block sets. One particularly fascinating collection, Anchor Blocks, is made from sand, chalk, and linseed oil. These aromatic pieces, which create entire cities, were the childhood playthings for Walter Gropius ($78 to $82 for a set).Don't forget to say hello to day-worker Razzy, the schnoodle (schnauzerpoodle), who is, as expected, East Village-friendly.

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