Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The new old Corgi Collection

I don't know how many times I have said to fellow collectors how much I wished someone would try making the original Corgi Toys again. Not with Vanguards style wipers, realistic wheels and troublesome mirrors but plain perspex windows, shaped wheels like they used to be and suspension. And rubber tyres. Models that really do look and feel right and which may even need a second look to check that they are not actually originals from the 1960s.

At last, it seems, someone has taken a chance and is making a start. Hornby Hobbies plc have licensed the oddly-named Blue 14 DTC Brands trading as Corgi Toy Collection to sell and distribute reproduced models in the UK. Interestingly, text in one of their leaflets states that Blue 14 DTC Brands have an exclusive license to sell and distribute Corgi Toys in the UK. That would imply that they're handling the new stuff too as well as these reproductions - indeed it makes me wonder whether I'm going to be in trouble for selling a few of the old ones! I suspect that statement may be a mistake but never mind that now; back to the models.

This does look like great news. The first model has arrived and it's the 474 Thames Ice Cream Van with music chimes. Although I never wanted one of these as a child or even now as I found the hugely out-of-proportion handle affair at the back ugly - and it never seems to work for long either, the delicate tines on the element producing the notes breaking easily - I do respect the fact that lots of people do like it and originals sell for a fortune.

The van is an excellent and very faithful re-make of the 1965 edition. I am particularly pleased with the shaped wheels and windows. The colours are exact and texture of the plastic and weighting of suspension seems right too. Even the chrome, whilst maybe a little too bright, is OK. I suppose, if anything, the whole thing is a little too 'perfect', with precise silver and red painting whereas the originals would have missed bits!

It has all the right original stuff in the box (except, of course, a membership form). There is a sheet of stickers, instruction sheet, plain reinforcement card and a further packing card featuring the 60s kids in full colour. A small chunk of polystyrene replaces the cardboard to prevent the rear handle piercing the box.

The box itself is pretty good in terms of design and colours. A good effort but marks lost for someone using the wrong font for the list of features and product name. It is also just too shiny, as if printed on photographic paper where a dull surface would have been preferable in my view. The designers have cleverly retained almost all the original text and illustrations, changing 'Made In Great Britain' to 'Designed in Great Britain' on one panel and putting all the necessary 'new' stuff on a bottom panel where it will be least obvious if on display.

With this first issue I received a really good reproduction of the original Corgi badge (without the hole element and with a tie-pin and clip fastening rather than safety-pin type of operation). Additionally there is a pile of leaflets promoting the Collection and a certificate of provenance for this model.

This is simply great value at £1.99 which is the most you would pay for this at this time. Indeed, as I have signed up for the next release I actually get the van free of charge! You might bear this in mind if you were thinking of bidding for one on Ebay where, of course, annoying people are trying to make a quick few quid, some not even declaring this as a replica. It is good enough to fool a good few, especially if they ditch the box and most accompaniments.

The next issue planned is the 339 BMC Mini Cooper. A leaflet also displays a 155 Lotus F1 Racing Car, 258 'Saint's" Volvo P1800, 267 Batmobile, 325 Ford Mustang Competition Edition, 330 Porsche Carrera 6 and 417 Land Rover Breakdown Truck.

With the Mini there will be a 1505 Garage Attendant Figures Set, 1966 Corgi Catalogue and a tin to hold our certificates. The tin looks deep enough for more than eight sheets so I'm hopeful this will develop . . .

Oh, I can now add too that the reproduction of the Ice Cream Van is so good that the chimes are already beginning to miss a note from time to time!

The illustrations show some remarkably nice models, the only downside being the text on the base which tells us that these are made by 9 year old re-educated children working 18 hours a day in a 5 acre factory on the outskirts of Tianjin. I shall have to subscribe, though, and will report on all these as and when they arrive.

I am struggling with an image of an Ice Cream Van on the streets of Tianjin.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Corgi Toys @ 60: Chevrolet Impala

The first issue in 1960 was the impressive Chevrolet Impala in sedan form in January as catalogue number 220. The State Patrol edition had been issued at the end of 1959 so this was not the first time people would have seen the Impala although I suspect that in most shops this and the 223 State Patrol may have arrived at the same time.

The first models would appear to have been the salmon colour and the blue model with a lemon interior and they would have had smooth fixed wheels. They would also have had the base type as shown in the centre of the illustration below. Later, models with shaped wheels and, towards the end of production and somewhat scarcer, with free spinning wheels will come along and, at some point in the fixed wheel period, with the different base.

I have also noticed a slight variation in the plastic interior piece. It appears to fill the space available better in the middle one shown here. At the rear edge there also appears to be a gap at the corners on the later models.

This will prove to be a very popular and long-running model, to be revived in 1965 when someone slices the casting in two and inserts a chrome section which makes four new and still impressive models.

The chart above shows how I have found the various Impala editions spread with regard to wheel types over the years.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Red Spots Before My Eyes

From time to time my brain is forced to function more efficiently for a while by a certain Simon Skipper who asks all sorts of interesting questions. This time he spotted a pile of Corgis with red spot Whizzwheels being auctioned by Vectis. They were not the ones you might expect but the sale included several from as late as March 1971. Naturally, for such apparent 'rarities' the starting prices were high. Vectis' reputation in this field tends to give every sale a degree of provenance which can lock in the higher price too as other buyers will like the fact that it sold at a Vectis auction for £y where y is a very large integer. Should we be excited? Could there be such wonderfully scarce models missing from our collections? How high will we bid for any of them?

Before looking at the red spots I should mention again that I have created a few calendars for the coming year. You can see them on my Catalogue web site and they are free. However, they might still cost you some outlay as they require printing! No doubt various company printers around the world will be buzzing with these when collectors still at work return to their office jobs in January! (Especially those with nice heavy paper and laser printing).

Now, let's look at those odd models. Firstly, as you will have heard me say before and probably on more than one occasion, anyone with a firm grip and a pair of pliers can change the wheels on a Whizzwheels model. Indeed, to demonstrate this I recently decided to get hold of a lot of red spot wheels and have been buying very cheap and otherwise grotty models with them. I am slowly building up a stock and will then fit them to a range of unlikely models just for fun (and maybe to attract some attention in a future news article!) I saw a taxi with them which gave me the initial idea.

So, in theory, anything is possible but it's fair to say that there will be several editions which will genuinely have left the factory with them as they were intended to have them. These will be the early models:

  • 344 Ferrari Dino
  • 347 Chevrolet Astro
  • 343 Pontiac Firebird
  • 303 Ford Capri (Roger Clark)
  • 311 Ford Capri
  • 342 Lamborghini

You'll probably see that these are quite common with red spot wheels and that's because the vast proportion of them will have been from the first production runs when red spots were the order of the day. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that, in time, it will be the later ubiquitous wheel that is found to be the less common on some of these models.

The next batch released was in May 1970. These, I believe will have been issued after the decision was taken to abandon the red spots but I am willing to accept that a good number may have already been produced and were ready to ship with the red spots at that time. My guess, based on purely observation, is that these may have had them:
  • 380 Alfa
  • 371 Porsche Carrera
  • 201 Saint's Volvo
The two other May issues I suspect were not actually produced until after the decision:
  • 202 Renault 12
  • 375 Toyota
I might be willing to be persuaded on these, especially as both castings had been available earlier and so samples, at least would definitely have been made and some may have slipped through into boxes. More likely they've reached our markets by other means but let's be generous. It is Christmas, goodwill to all men and all that . . .

Now it's June and I am pretty darn sure that the message has got through to the boys in Wales by now. No more red spots.

The June issues were
  • 374 Jaguar E Type 4.2 edition
  • 377 Marcos 3 litre
  • 509 Porsche Police car
It really would be stretching things to think that any of these could have genuinely been fitted with them and made it out of the factory in any official form.

My views really do seem to be backed up by the fact that in many years of searching I have never seen any of the last 5 above (or later issues) with red spots other than as brand new in perfect boxes or in sales where the seller admits to having created them.

The Vectis models he drew my attention to are not played with and I suspect have never seen a carpet or skirting board in their lives. They hail from September 1970 or later, the 386 Bertone from March 1971! 

I simply cannot believe that they are genuine models which were purchased from a shop. Far more likely is that they were collected by someone who worked at the factory either as samples or models he fiddled with. A less pleasant option would be that they have been created more recently and the fact that the boxes for the 'suspect' items have also all had cellophane replaced concerns me. 

I wouldn't buy any of them unless they were at bargain prices which is unlikely to be the case. People will be attracted to these 'rare' models and the inability of anyone really to tell them that they're not really quite all there is in their favour. No doubt dealers will also try to snap up some and then put them out at really high prices.

Scrolling through the auction, though, I did find a couple of things to cheer me up and make me laugh. First, a 222 Renault without an interior

That is described as 'an early edition' which I find bizarre. Surely, this is simply either an error or a factory sample. Unless someone knows something that will be news to me, it will not be added to my catalogue as a model that was actually issued and which could have been bought at my local toy shop in St. Albans where I would spend all my pocket money. Vectis really can be laughable sometimes and, yes, they're experienced as a firm but not all the staff are. They also have a tendency not to wish to argue with customers so if you give them something which might be x they can go ahead and describe it as x as they have no incentive to say otherwise unless it is abundantly clearly not x. QDT are the same. Some of their guys are brilliant but not all and I often see descriptions which are nonsense but which look very reliable and definite coming from a reputable firm.

However, I can only base my judgements on my own observations and the results of often lengthy correspondence with others who seem to know what they're talking about and often back up their views with hard evidence. I could just as easily be wrong so you really do have to make up your own minds on these. I've made mistakes in the past, been fooled by reproductions or missed a genuine rarity by not looking closely enough or lacking some specific knowledge.

Another item of interest was a 324 Marcos in all white. It could simply be a factory error, the usually green stripes being omitted. So it's no great shakes really and I shall not be rushing to buy.

Lastly, I see a 468 ruddy bus with red spots there!!! I suppose that, where models were already lying around and just waiting for new wheels, it is conceivable that they got them fitted occasionally and the 468 would have been abundant. But surely not with a clear staircase. I don't know when the Whizzwheels did start to be fixed to the buses but I do know that there are examples around of 468 without jewels but still with cast wheels. The loss of jewels did not coincide with the Whizzwheels. My view is that this is also a rogue but an interesting one for all that.

I cannot deny that I find the red spot wheels quite attractive and would be happy to own a few more models with them but I would far rather buy a played with model that seems to have genuinely existed than some near-perfect example in a near-perfect and even possibly questionable box however nicely presented and such self-fulfilling provenance.

Take care and keep in good health. 2020 beckons and I'll be looking at the 60th Anniversary of the Chevrolet Impala in sedan form.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

A Calendar For Collectors

As I have around 400,000 photos of Corgi models, I thought it might be a good idea to gather some into groups and feature them in a calendar. I quickly realised that I could make several calendars and, of course, no single production would suit everyone so I shall add to these with, perhaps, Minis and one for each Catalogue section so I'll be kept well-occupied for a while!

The first three are now available for anyone who would like them for their own personal use. Just download the PDF file from my 'Catalogue' web site and print as you please.

Merry Christmas to all readers and collectors.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Corgi Toys @ 60: Impala, Thunderbird, Bloodhound and a set for America

December sees the chance for parents to put missiles in their son's stocking. The Bloodhound missile had been released earlier in a set but now each of the three components, the missile, a trolley to carry it and a launch device can now be bought individually. They're all scarce in boxes. Most people did, it seems purchase one or other of the sets and so the numbers shown for sales of the items like this are very low.

A new item this month is a convertible version of the Ford Thunderbird. Despite what Marcel may have said in The Great Book of Corgi and repeated by several web sites, this only ever appeared in white in the shops, with a blue and silver interior. This was a popular model and look very impressive.

The first issue has 1959 in the casting, appearing as the rear plate. At some point this is changed and editions will be found with no year on the rear. 

The vast majority of editions will have the 1959 plate and smooth fixed wheels. Quite hard to find are two interesting variations: the smooth wheel version without the 1959 plate and the very last release with fixed shaped wheels (and no 1959). I am pretty sure that there is no shaped wheel version with 1959 - but you never know!

December saw the first view of a Chevrolet Impala, only the second model to get Glidematic spring suspension. It is not the saloon, though, but 223, the State Patrol model in black.

It was issued initially with a painted label and then this is replaced by a rather ugly sticker on the side. That's the only variation that I'm aware of and I have not seen a 'painted label' edition so cannot explain how different that actually is. The interior is always lemon but, with a production life spanning 1959 to 1965, you will find all three wheel types. The free-spinning may be marginally the less common.

Most years there will be a set issued for the Christmas market and this year sees an odd (and now pretty hard to find) Car Transporter Gift Set numbered 1A with American cars inside instead of the British ones in the illustration. Basically, the box is merely the Gift set 1 box with an A printed on afterwards and a with American Automobiles sticker.

The contents are the two Thunderbirds now released, a Plymouth Suburban Sports Saloon and, surprisingly, a Chevrolet Impala sedan. The Chevrolet is not shown in the records as being released until January. So anyone getting this set may well have had a model that was briefly only available in the 1A set. How often will it turn out that the only way to get certain variations of model would have been to buy the Transporter Gift Set.

It seems that it would be the blue Impala and every illustration I've seen shows this with a lemon interior. A strange set in another way, one car having suspension and being notably more modern than the other three.

In due course Gift Set 1B appears which seems to have the Plymouth on board but with a Citroen, Mini and Triumph for company and no 'American Cars' reference. But that's for a future post, I guess.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

New arrivals and vive la difference!

One of the most beautiful Corgi models, in my opinion, is the 1970 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Stealing the Austin Healey's catalogue number of 300, it was the last of the Golden Jacks issues and only available for a short period during 1970. It still sold well, issued in two bright liquid metallic colours, red and green. These seem to be sold as fast as they arrive so I guess this won't be around long although I am tempted to add this particularly fine example to my own collection.

Also arriving this month was the Whizzwheels replacement in pink. As well as saving money on the paint, Corgi also abandoned the idea of take-off wheels and this gets the same nasty plastic design as everything else at the time. They did keep the pop-up jewelled lights at the front but, at the back, filled the holes for the jewels with blobs of mazak! These models are scarce and, despite not looking as good, are quite a lot more expensive.

Next is something very special that I shall not be keen to part with, having taken several years to find. It looks like the 205M Mechanical edition of the Riley Pathfinder but doesn't have the motor. It is just an ordinary 205. Whilst I have seen a few of the mechanical editions in red, this is the first non-mechanical in dark blue that I've seen.

So far I have found examples of the 203 Vauxhall Velox in red, 211 Studebaker in white and the 216 Austin in red and black. the 205M in red is the only example, so far, I have found of the 'normal' model getting the 'M' colour. All are very scarce and it is exciting to find another. I can imagine that it would be a relatively simple thing to happen at the factory and I'm surprised that we don't see more of these reversed combinations of top and chassis.

Two normal 216Ms make the total that I now have to nine! I do find these difficult to resist. One is in really nice condition and the other still reasonable and both have working motors.

The next item was a bit more expensive but still cost me a lot less than it should have. It's the rare export edition of the Graham Hill Ford Cortina MkIII GXL in pretty good condition, with a box and Graham too. I had both the left- and right-hand drive versions in beige advertised on Ebay but they were not in particularly nice condition. A lady wrote to me to say that there was a boxed edition of the left-hand drive one listed at less than I was asking for mine. I think she may have been suggesting that my prices could be a bit high and I did expect to see the common bronze car which, in some photos can look paler.

When I did see this, though, I bought it straight away and replied to thank the lady as, even with a chip here and there, these make several hundred pounds and it was most definitely under-priced rather than mine being over-priced.

I has a 2000GT version (quite rare, too) in a pale beige but with a brown roof in 1973. and no, no relation to Graham!

Continuing the list of things that are very hard to find, here is a lovely Ghia 5000 Mangusta with an aerial! It didn't come with a box, though so I also bought another with a damaged aerial but which did have a box and swapped the cars.

I had not noticed before but there are two colours of metal used for the engine block on the detachable chassis. This one has a gold colour of metal whereas the other I bought (not illustrated) had plain steel colour. In some previous articles I have written about this model I also used to remark on how sad it seemed that Corgi didn't add suspension to this model, slightly reminiscent of the 319 Lotus Elan. Rather late in the day, however, I have now realised that the chassis does have suspension provided by the chromed metal elements. I can't imagine how I've missed that in the past but I did!

I do have an original Avengers Gift Set 40, with an original box and plinth available which seems to have escaped mention in last month's list. This month I have created several more sets in the marvellous reproduction boxes that I have. The boxes are really the very best I've encountered and far superior to either the DRRB or Mr Flowers' productions.

I have still not found a correct reproduction of the Steed character so can only make these sets when I manage to find enough originals. I refuse to use the annoyingly repainted Jeeves type that seems to be all that is offered. In contrast, the Mrs Peel characters available are generally not too bad at all, although the paintwork on her face can be a bit dire sometimes.

I have two or three of the classic red Bentley and white Lotus sets now.

I also put together, from time to time, an alternative set which, whilst not as issued, is closer to the vehicles that featured in the series from Series 2 when it came in colour. Mrs Peel's first Lotus was white but in the second and subsequent series she had a later silver-blue model. Steed never had a red Bentley but one of quite a few green ones! Sometimes they even moved the registration plates from one to the other but, more often than not, they varied from episode to episode. But they were never red.

This set has a really attractive Bentley that I made using the chassis from a 9002, the body from a 1985 re-issue (with lovely bright chromework) and 1985 re-issue bright silver wheels on the chassis. This was not as simple as it may seem, however, as the 1985 edition has a black interior into which Steed simply doesn't fit. So that need to be changed and I used an original brown interior and also a brown original dashboard.

The Lotus also deserves a mention. A colleague and font of substantial knowledge of matters diecast, with whom I correspond from time to time, suggested I use some Power Fairy liquid to remove the transfer from the Lotus boot. What I did not realise was that it also changed the colour of the paintwork if I left it soaking for too long! As a consequence this set has a particularly rich metallic blue Lotus Elan!

Another source of interesting variations can be the bases of Earlier Corgi models. As well as finding different text or information on them you will also find some of the models fitted with the thicker plastic base may have black or grey bases. I have mentioned before the Jaguar 2.4 Litre Mechanical edition and it seems that the grey base is very scarce for that. For the Standard Vanguard RAF model the black and grey seem to be more evenly available.

I need to do more research on these base types one day.

I have managed to accumulate all the elements for a Daktari Gift Set 7 now, with the arrival of reproduction stethoscope and glasses (as originals were proving impossible to find!) The box is original and, although a bit worn, complete. I am, however, trying to make a complete Daktari Set 14 as I have the Truck, a grey adult elephant and Giraffe Transporter + giraffes. All that is missing is the little elephant - a dark blue plastic model that is proving elusive. And a box. No-one seems to make the box. So I am not sure what to do. I think I shall probably hang on to everything and hope to come across a box and little elephant one day as that bigger set is worth so much more. I could probably fill the Gift Set 7 box again without too much trouble.

For a long time I have had a Land Rover Public Address model but without the girl assistant. Finally one came along that was damaged but it did have an original girl so, once I have some better stickers, this can be advertised.

The same colleague who provided the Power Fairy advice also has a Public Address model with yellow seats (they're usually red) and that is something I am also looking out for. Land Rovers with red seats have always been something I have looked out for - well, those that should have yellow seats normally, that is. Here is a first - the Corgi Flying Club Gift Set 19 Land Rover with a red interior! I have a Pony Club Land Rover with Whizzwheels and this interior and a deep green (normal wheel type) edition too.

My German collector friend, Andreas, let me have a fawn and cream Pony Trailer so I have been able to put a late Gift Set 2 together with an original pony too. "Why would he give me a Pony Trailer?" you may ask . . .

Here is the reason. He already had plenty and it came with something else a bit special that he bought from someone who wouldn't post to Germany. So I was lucky to have this for a while and get some photos. It is a very rare example with lemon interior instead of the normal red. It is a pity that the model is not in the best of condition and I had to repair the centre strut for the windscreen which had disappeared. It is, however, one of those models that are worth getting hold of in almost any (original) condition.

It does seem to have been a month of interesting variations. The other additions are three 'normal' models. 

I had not had a Joe's Diner Karrier Van before to look at closely and this was a most pleasant surprise. The Trans-o-lite system is put to great effect to light up the sign at the front and the orange roof seems to make the interior seem lit too. This model has already been sold. Clearly I didn't have it priced high enough as it went in a matter of days!

The 322 Monte Carlo Rover 2000 is one of those models I find hard to resist when they're in good condition and seem very reasonably priced. If I can find two decent Minis I'll have enough for two very nice Gift Set 38s.

Finally for November, a reasonably good old 206M Hillman Husky with a good friction motor. These old originals with the motors did not sell well but they have so much charm and I am slowly making my own collection of these, improving the models s and when I can.

Some of these models will be available to buy so if you would like to reserve anything just get in touch.