THE CHANGING WORLD OF MODEL CAR COLLECTING
Dinky Toys were very popular throughout the years before World War One which stopped their production at some point in 1941.
After the Second World War production of Dinky Toys resumed in 1945 but it was mostly with pre-war models. In 1947 the first ‘Dinky Supertoys’ appeared; these were larger than any previous models and consisted of a series of heavy commercial vehicles with a heavy price tag of ten shillings to match.
PACKAGINGWhereas the normal Dinky Toys were available either in boxes of six or separately with no packaging at all the Dinky Supertoys were packaged in sturdy if somewhat dull boxes and were clearly intended as more than the usual ‘pocket money’ toy cars.
In 1953 smaller Dinky Toy cars were given packaging in the form of a yellow box featuring a colour illustration of the model.
IN FRANCEIn France production of metal toy cars began in 1930 with the Solido brand. The company that owned the brand name, the "Fonderie de précision de Nanterre" championed the use of ‘unbreakable’ die cast metal, however the Zamac alloy that was used was subject to metal fatigue and the toys were somewhat fragile. Their models were confined largely to French vehicles with some Italian and German added.
Dinky Toys were marketed in France with a special range not surprisingly dubbed ‘French Dinky Toys’ featuring some models specific only to the French market. In later years Dinky Toys became very successful in America which became their largest overseas export market.
MATCHBOX ARRIVEThe world famous Matchbox series of 1:75th scale vehicles was the product of the London-based Lesney company, formed by the unrelated Leslie and Rodney Smith. It is the combination of their names that gave the company the name Lesney.
Matchbox Toys were introduced in 1953 and proved extremely popular due to their diminutive size and equally low cost. A large collection occupied much less space than their larger counterparts and the prices made them genuine ‘pocket money toys’.
THE ARRIVAL OF CORGI TOYSUntil Corgi Toys were launched in 1956 Dinky Toys had largely dominated the English toy car scene. A product of the Mettoy Company Corgi Toys were immediately successful and appealing as their models benefited from the innovative addition of plastic windows and each model was individually boxed.
Another feature that made Corgi Toys so popular was the clockwork motor that early models contained. Corgi Toys were made in 1:43rd scale and were the immediate main rival of Dinky Toys.
As Corgi Toys developed the introduction of ‘spring suspension’ detailed plastic interiors and features such as opening doors, boots, bonnets and other features made them enormously successful. Dinky Toys kept pace and both companies experimented with new features such as ‘jewelled headlights’ using artificial gems and unusual vehicles from the world of film and television.
OTHER MAKESDuring the 1950s and the 1960s a number of other makes joined the market: Spot On was a range of highly detailed models in 1:42nd scale produced by Tri-Ang Toys. When Dinky Toys was acquired by Tri-Ang in 1967 production of Spot On ceased.
The American company Mattel introduced their Hot Wheels series of 1:75th vehicles in 1969 with super low friction wheels that allowed them to be propelled along plastic track at considerable scale speeds. They rivalled the Matchbox series which were very popular in America to such an extent that Lesney experienced a dramatic loss in sales and Lesney introduced Superfast wheels to rival Hot Wheels.
English Budgie and Zebra Toys were both short-lived series of die cast vehicles produced between the mid 1950s until 1966. Both owned by the same company that suffered ongoing difficulties they failed to compete successfully with Corgi and Dinky.
The sheer number of highly detailed vehicles produced by Corgi and Dinky made them appeal not only to children who themselves grew into collectors, but to adults as well.
As collecting die cast model vehicles became hugely popular, models produced in limited editions and aimed specifically at collectors joined those that continued to be sold as toys. Both remain hugely popular and examples, especially from the early years of production, often command high prices if in good condition with original packaging.
Die cast scale model vehicles have also become marketing aids, being produced for distribution at trade fairs and other marketing events to promote individual companies. Often extremely highly detailed and of impressive quality these models can themselves prove highly collectible.
ABOUT SCALEToy cars have been available for some time in several scales. The majority, including Dinky and Corgi Toys, have been in 1:43rd scale. Matchbox toys have been in the smaller 1:75th scale with the exception of their famous Models of Yesteryear and King Size models that were around the 1:43rd scale.
Latterly models aimed at a more mature audience have been produced in 1:24th and 1:18th scales, but these have proved less popular in recent years as the amount of high detail required as well as size drove costs of production high.