E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Toyshop of Europe (The).
So Burke called Birmingham. Here toy does not refer to playthings for children, but small articles made of steel. Light toys in Birmingham mean mounts, small steel rings, sword hilts, and so on; while heavy steel toys mean champagne-nippers, sugar-cutters, nut-crackers, and all similar articles.
A whim or fancy is a toy. Halliwell quotes (MS. Harl. 4888), For these causes she ran at random as the toy took her.
It also means an anecdote or trifling story. Hence Latimer (1550) says, And here I will tell you a merry toy.