Grand Illusions: A Personal Recommendation

Why I believe you should check out the YouTube channel Grand Illusions


Grand Illusions host Tim Rowett showing off a series of novelty vases he has collected over the years. The channel as over 900 videos all following a very similar format and presentation style. Photo from Grand Illusions channel.

Wesley Henshaw, Editor-in-Chief

Being locked up at home most likely has left you feeling a little isolated, socially distant, one could say. Whatever you’re filling your time with, I would like to recommend one more thing: a YouTube channel called Grand Illusions. 

What is Grand Illusions? Grand Illusions is actually an online store for toys. Yes, toys. Well, as their site says, “toys, magnets, optical illusions and more.” Yes, the site is a novelty toy shop, selling a wide array of toys, novelty items, magic tricks, and such. The online store has been around since 1996 apparently, which the about page reminds is “quite old for the internet.”

So why am I recommending some random online store’s YouTube channel? I mean, I like magic tricks and optical illusions as much as the next guy, but I’m pretty indifferent to tops, toys and other like things. So what’s the big deal? The answer is one man: Tim Rowett. 

Simply referred to as Tim on the channel, he is a 77-year-old British man who is a renowned toy collector. According to Tim, he has collected between 20,000 and 25,000 toys and novelty items over his lifetime of collecting. In each video, he chooses some kind of theme (like ducks, or something) and then calmly and carefully goes through a handful of toys from his collection that pertains to the selected theme. 

Tim was originally a mechanical engineer before finding his love of toys and becoming known as “Tim the Toyman.” He didn’t just collect them for himself, though. Tim was an entertainer at children’s birthday parties, bringing his collection of old toys for kids to play with and learn a little about science, math and history. Grand Illusions has the tagline “Where Science meets Magic, and Fun meets Education,” and Tim adheres to this educational purpose quite well. In the past, Tim has also donated many of his toys to children’s hospitals over the years.

But when Tim retired at the age of 65 in 2007, he became dissatisfied, stating in a BBC interview that he felt the toys were “dead” because kids were no longer playing with them and they weren’t bringing any joy to anyone. So, when the YouTube channel began the next year in 2008, he was happy that now an online audience could enjoy his toys and bring them back to life.

So for the past twelve years now, Tim has been presenting his collection on YouTube to a rather large viewer base of over one million subscribers.

This formula should be boring, it should be dull, but Tim is just a fascinating guy. Heralded in the comments as the cool British uncle you never knew about, his endearing eccentricity has established him as beloved by the internet. 

Once, he casually mentioned that he had a Rubik’s Cube box signed by Ernő Rubik himself after they met and chatted at Tim’s apartment once. Tim has traveled the world collecting toys and talks about inventors he meets from all over. This fascinating character combines with a very relaxing presentation and results in one of the most pleasant watching experiences. 

Tim is very much like Bob Ross or Mr. Rogers when it comes to wholesomeness and relaxation, and that’s probably the best compliment I can give him.

But again, why am I recommending him now? 

Well, I believe that in this trying time, it’s important to appreciate the simple things. Sometimes, it’s good to sit down, unwind, and watch in utter amazement as a British wizard shows you fruit-shaped balloons or something silly like that. With everyone being unable to see people right now, it’s nice to feel connected with this wizened old man from across the Atlantic telling you about a cool greeting card he got in the sixties.

You can check out the channel here.