Friday, 21 July 2017

Setting the scene for the Rocket Age.

While I have all the models, I thought I would try to re-create the scene on the box for the Rocket Age Gift Set No. 6.

Rocket Age

1108 Bloodhound missile and launch ramp

1117 Bloodhound missile loading trolley

353 Decca Airfield Control Radar 424 Scanner

Gift Set 3

352 Standard Vanguard III RAF Staff Car

1109 Karrier Gamecock Decca Mobile Airfield Radar Truck

Rocket Age Gift Set No.6

Some very nice models arrived recently from Corgi's 'Rocket Age'. Let's start with the ultra rare Gift Set No. 6. This comprises the models shown above and in the box illustrated below.

This came out in September 1959 but had a short life, being withdrawn in 1960 sometime. In the box were most of the military models out at the time. The Land Rover and Thunderbird missile had been the first released in May 1958, with the Bloodhound missile and associated pieces coming out later that year.

It also included the two radar equipment models - a Karrier adapted with a scanner and aerial and in remarkable orange stripes on a cream body. There are variations of the number of stripes - some have four, some have five. The second was a box scanner device that just sat there. You could turn a knob on both items to twirl the scanner very quickly. I am surprised the box unit, which really did just sit there and do little other than twirl, sold even as many as the modest 57000! 

The Rocket Age Set itself only sold 10000 we're told. That is really not very many at all and accounts for this being one of the most sought-after sets of all. At 57/6d (nearly £3) it was the third most expensive model in the Corgi range, being exceeded only by the Silverstone and Garage Layout Sets (and inflation driving later model prices up, of course).

This is the first that I've seen and whilst the models are not particularly hard to find, even in good condition, it is the box that no-one will have these days. You could find the models in top condition, after a bit of searching, for under £500 without boxes. Here in the original box, however, they become worth well over three times that. £1000+ for a box must seem a bit strange but it is the same across the range; add a box and the price will at least double.

What this particular set will sell for I really have no idea. I think that collectors who can afford the sort of sums this will involve simply decide that they need to fill that blank space, or investors see the potential for something to earn more than ½% interest by this time next year.

I will include a Rocket Age leaflet and some instructions too which will have to be reproductions as the owner was unable to find the originals.

Looking at the individual components again, three have slight faults. The scanner has a replacement aerial. The original is in the box too and a new owner may prefer to re-affix that. The Bloodhound Missile Loading Trolley needs a little assistance to move when the handles are turned. The Bloodhound Missile Launch Ramp is missing a support piece at the bottom but it does stay in an upright position. It may be that I have to swap these three for totally original and properly working items as part of a deal.

As well as The Rocket Age Set there are more lovely items. A Gift Set 3, fine models in a slightly tatty box but still an original box.

These were more popular and sold fairly well and are relatively easy to find these days.

The UK edition of 1118 has a better box with little signs of wear. It is, however, another quite popular model and not difficult to find. The next ones, though, are more interesting. These are the Corporal Missile items.

1112 is the Corporal Missile on a launch platform. The little platform just manages to hold erect the massive white missile. It is really well-engineered; the wheels come off so that the four stabilisers can be folded out and then turned to ensure the missile stands perpendicular. This comes with a pretty good original box. The box has signs of wear but the Missile and Launcher are as new. 

Only 26000 of these were reported as sold. That is a very low number and this is an item that should make a good sum. Whilst the box will add considerably to the price again, in this case the missile itself is quite rare in this condition. It has its original metal nose which would have taken exploding caps. That nose was available as an accessory and later sold fitted to these Corporal Missiles. The red rubber had deteriorated, however, so I have replaced that but Model Supplies only do the all-over nose cone. I have cut this one to fit better but it is not quite right.

The other item is the truly enormous Corporal Missile Erector Vehicle. This is 1113 and, at 36000, another low seller. This may have been expensive and beyond most parents' means at the time but it is a wonderful model and a great example of Corgi engineering.

I have included Emma Peel here just to demonstrate the size of the vehicle. It must have the biggest wheels of any Corgi model.

There are knobs to turn that will open and close the two grips around the missile. There is another knob that will raise part of the vehicle plus missile to a perpendicular angle. Then there is a third knob that can be turned to lower the missile on to the Launching Ramp if you have one.

The box for 1113 is another scarce item and this one is complete apart from one end of the lid which has been repaired and there are some signs of wear too.

All in all, though, these four boxed items are fascinating, an opportunity to see the models in almost 'as new' condition and, hopefully, someone will take them and keep them safe for another 60 years.

These were all by way of British militaria for a long time. It would be 1973 before we get the British Tank Transporter! The US Army, however, are well represented with several items appearing from 1963. But that's another story.

The items illustrated are for sale. Offers invited for the Rocket Age set.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Motor Museum at Bourton-on-the-water

I took my friend for a trip to The Cotswolds and discovered this excellent little museum in Bourton-on-the-water. Although the small town was littered with tourists, this museum was quiet and a real surprise with many wonderful old vehicles and lots of bits and pieces that are just piled up and all available for close inspection.

Here are a few photos from the day. They'll need captions to be added but that may have to wait for another day as I didn't take notes at the time!

Note that there were Corgis on display too. Well, I think we counted a total of five. I might offer to take down a  few more as they really should have more than five!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Standard Vanguard III RAF Staff Car

My collector friend from Germany visited this week and gave me this lovely example of the 352 RAF Staff Car. At first glance I thought it was something I had already but then I saw the grey base. It seems that, as with one or two other models of similar vintage, the early black base was replaced by a grey base. Interestingly, the rear axles still retains the bulge that would have housed the gearing for a friction motor but that was never fitted to this RAF edition. I suppose it does remain quite accurate as the real thing would have had a differential of similar shape.

The Standard Vanguard III was one of the 1957 releases in yellow as 207M and red over very pale pea green as 207. The RAF version appeared in late 1958. 

You may be very lucky to find a 207 or 352 with shaped fixed wheels but by far the majority had fixed smooth wheels.

Corgi Toys @ 60: Vanwall Racing Car

July 1957 saw just one new issue on the toy shop shelves: the Vanwall Formula 1 racing car, #150. This would be the first of a series of racing cars no doubt influenced by the many British successes on the track.

The Vanwall is a really simple model - very basic lumps of metal riveted together. It had a very shallow screen which often got damaged, a seat in either beige or silver and a steering wheel but no driver. Drivers only came with the second versions with suspension.

I think the very first 1957 issue was only available in green. There is a red version which I think will have been issued when the second racing car, a BRM, was issued later and that was also in green and, on first glance, may have looked very similar. So a colour change would help distinguish the two.

I have seen Racing Numbers 1, 3 and 7. Reproduction transfers, however, are very good and may give rise to several others! The wheels on #150 will always be the smooth fixed type. The only variation I have seen so far is in the display of text on the base. Some have the writing in line with the body, going back to front. Others have it across the base, side to side. I don't know which came first.

The rear tyres were slightly bigger than the front, although many examples now have the same 'normal' tyres all round which is probably the result of old ones being replaced. 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

That's ridiculous, Steed.

I saw this Avengers Set advertised recently and, coupled with a conversation with a correspondent who is far more expert than I am in matters of the TV series, decided that I needed to write something on the subject of reproduction models of John Steed and Mrs Emma Peel.

Just look at the stupid expression on Mrs Peel's face and there is something decidedly strange about Steed which could even get him a part in a Dr Who episode requiring Cybermen. These are dreadful, really quite bad and we need to stop buying them. Now, let's take a closer look at Steed.

In the image above the same reproduction character is in the driving seat of Bertie Wooster's Bentley, sitting next to Jeeves. Look carefully and you'll see that these are both from the same cast. Jeeves is an original, by the way, so looks better anyway but the jacket style, bowler inclination and arm positions are the same. It seems that these idiot suppliers of spare parts couldn't be bothered to find a real Steed to copy and just reckoned we would all be happy with Jeeves in a brown suit. Well, we shouldn't be.

Here is Steed as he should be, albeit in need of a wash and brush-up perhaps. This and the one below are originals and you'll see the distinctly different clothes - there's a waistcoat, no flower in the lapel, an angled bowler and a quite different expression on his face. Not visible here are his hands which are closed and not well detailed, whereas Jeeves' are more slender.

Steed can be found in both the sage-brown and grey shades. I suspect that the sage-brown is the older of the two but I have no evidence for this. Below are some more pictures that emphasis the differences and which may help you to avoid the reproductions for years to come. They also show something else that I am not sure about - the screens on Bentleys have pips at each top corner, presumably to help keep the hood in position on the 9001 and 9002 models. On the Gift Set 40 Bentleys and the 9004 Jeeves & Wooster Bentley they seem to be missing in many cases - but not all. The reproduction screens are quite easy to spot. They're not bad but are less well-finished and have more rounded corners and no pips. An example can be seen on the red Bentley below.

And here is Steed in a 9001 Bentley that didn't have racing numbers or a flag on the passenger door. This made it a good candidate for a set but the tell-tale pip remains on one corner! Of course, the sets would only have had a green Bentley with red wheels but I do feel the green one with normal steel wheels is an acceptable alternative for display.

Generally, reproductions of Mrs Peel that I have had myself have been pretty good. In fact, I am not sure I can tell which of these three is a reproduction. I used to think that it was only those with the triple line on the flared trousers that were original but now I am pretty sure that those with a single line could also be original. Sometimes she can seem to be just a little too white and that makes me suspicious but most are not at all obvious.

However, the dreadful attempt at painting illustrated at the beginning of this piece is, indeed, obvious and we need to avoid those like the plague. Another problem is that of size. Below you'll see a range of five Emmas: the two at each end being reproductions made the incorrect size. At least they were reasonably well-painted, though.

Whilst on the topic of characters, my correspondent also told  me that several characters were, indeed, recycled by Corgi and that was something I had not realised before. He tells me that the 215S Ford Thunderbird convertible driver was later chopped and fitted without legs in The Saint's Volvo P1800. I doubt that Sir Roger Moore would have been happy with that.

I also looked the 303S Mercedes-Benz300 Open Tourer and reckon that has the same chap driving too. There may well be several others where Corgi have used the same mould for more than one character. One thing is certain, however, and I hope suppliers will now take note - Steed and Jeeves are most definitely not the same character!