Monday, 20 September 2021

Corgi Model Club: Ford Mustang Competition Model 325

The latest issue from the Corgi Model Club came this morning. One large box with just one small box a certificate, one piece of bubble wrap and one big plastic bubble! 

The model is superb. It is quite strange to have one of these looking good as nearly all that I have had have suffered from ill-fitting doors, missing decals, messy paintwork, dirty interiors and the inevitable suspension collapse! So this feels quite different to the original to me.

The new model seems to stand quite tall! I had to put my old example on supports to bring it up to the same level! Of course, the suspension on mine had gone and it was also an earlier type but I still think the original sat a little lower than this new edition.

The 2021 issue is a very clean white. Perhaps my old models were just dirty or bearing a few years of tobacco but they seemed a little more cream in colour. As shown in the FORD lettering on the bonnet, the new paint is significantly thicker than the old.

For a moment I thought they might have skipped the problem with ill-fitting opening doors by not having opening doors! Such a neat fit. Congratulations to all concerned on that achievement!

Note the sill stripe in red! This was the scarce variation and I am glad they made that decision as not many people will have this version, although I am not actually sure any were made with the revised interior and cast 8-spoke wheels!

My door panel fell off but that was nothing that a tiny piece of Blutac couldn't fix and it worries me not at all. Some will, I fear, moan about this - but never mind. The colour of the interior is rather darker and a different colour to either the chalky blue or green that was issued in the original model. This one also appears more detailed, although that is really just down to more modern and sharper production methods.

The racing number font style I find a little annoying and these are not paper stickers we could try and remove either. I was hoping for a set to be loose in the box but I guess that was a lot to ask.

The 'packing' is now just a piece of thin foam plastic. It's good although I would have liked some protection provided for the chrome front and rear. Having said that, though, the original just came in the box with a piece of paper (the membership form) and so this is an improvement! In the past we had to make our own additional protection so I should be happy to do so again with two small pieces of plastic.

The box itself is, as we are now used to seeing, very shiny but the same size as before and with similar design. I find the fontstyle for the model name and features a little too square and bold and the 325 at each end looks too shallow. An original, shown below, illustrates the difference.

Underneath, the base is nicely made to match the original in as far as that is possible with the credit to the Chinese a modest line only.

All in all, a nice addition to the range and I'll be happy to keep mine! I do think the Club should look more carefully at the packing. The 'standard' box that all models have arrived in may have been suitable for a few items to be contained but it is not suitable for just the single model. The bubblewrap sheet was loosely wrapped around the box which was free to move around the box and, indeed, was out of any protection other than the cardboard on arrival. I can see some getting damaged from the free movement allowed.

A box half the size to contain the model in a box and some tighter plastic or card to keep things in place would work much better.


Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Corgi Toys @ 60 : Racing Car upgrades


September 1961 sees the issue of the three upgraded racing cars. Suspension is added to 150 and 152, the Vanwall and the BRM but the very shallow Lotus lost out on that. They all get new numbers and a driver, though, a flag, decal or stripe and fresh paint.

The BRM gets a nice shade of pale turquoise-blue and you'll find RNs 1, 3 and 7. The wheels are always smooth and fixed but Corgi packed a sheet of 6 'wire wheel' stickers in the box, together with a typewritten note explaining how to apply them. They used some fierce glue for these and it really was important to get them centralised neatly as, once affixed, they wouldn't come off at all easily.

On the base, there are two rivets and the text goes along the length of the model, similar to the later 152 models.

The Lotus is now in a bright shade of blue and can be seen with either RN3 or 7. It gets the number 151A rather than 151S as I guess S meant 'suspension' at the time. Although they're not always easy to spot in pictures, this model did get shaped fixed wheels later in production but started off with smooth wheels.

The Vanwall is now a rich red colour and has the RN25. I have not seen any other numbers. The base has the later style 2 rivets but the text runs across the width of the base. This also had the 'wire wheel' stickers in the box with instructions.

Friday, 20 August 2021

The Corgi Model Club: 417 Land Rover Breakdown Truck

Here is the new 'old' 417 Land Rover Breakdown Truck, just over 60 years later in its Corgi Model Club re-issue form. The Club have chosen to make the very earliest edition with smooth wheels and this is another great effort. Only the slightly large end to the winding bar and slight lack of definition of the protrusions running along the sides of the rear section distinguish this from the original to my initial view today. 

My later edition with fixed shaped wheels, above, shows how well they've done. I am impressed with the transfer background, accuracy of the font and the rear tin canopy. Remarkably, in my opinion, they have also produced the more complicated window unit that fits flush with the rear of the cab, producing a sort of 'frame' when viewed in some ways.

The box is disappointing for me, feeling a little flimsy (but that may have been how the original felt - same weight card now covering a greater volume than the smaller models). It is definitely too bright and shiny but, as my recent dealings with a professional box producer in the States has taught me, the modern print process invariably does create this sheen which older types did not.

The packing piece this time is a black chunk of squishy foam plastic of some description with a hole for the roof lamp. The centre of the side 'winding' wheel, however, is slightly raised and that has made a dent appear in my box. This needs more protection. I will add a sheet of card but this model deserved more from the manufacturer.

I also do wish the small slits in the end flap were not cut. They surely are not necessary and will result in several boxes getting damaged.

As always, the paintwork can be a little too precise on these models, produced presumably by machine and not a hand with a small paintbrush. I did have to check my own models, though, to see whether the sidelamps really had been painted in the originals! (They had).

Another nice addition to this rapidly growing collection. a bargain at £24. It will be very interesting to have the 417S that Corgi themselves are reissuing any time now.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Jensen's Minis: Myth. No Mystery.

Martin Uden seems to know what he is talking about and has some good background on this:

Jensen's was and still is a food company in Denmark* known for its cheap pâté, it had a very limited run promotional 251 Imp made and as is usual with Corgi promos was issued in a non-standard colour. Always hard to find and our Danish friends constantly remind us that they have NEVER seen a playworn Mini. The really big question is that how could a small Danish food company commission a myriad of Minis over all the years of their manufacture, all of them in factory standard colours and all versions from red smooth wheel Austins to late lilac louvre wheel Morris … it just [does] not make sense . . .
In the mid 80s a trader named David Highnam had an A4 exercise book full of original Corgi transfers and stickers, I bought a fair few and swapped a few with friends (they know who they are) and amongst them was some original Jensen decals … Highnam told me he had approximately 250 of them and this must be where they all started their journey. . .
*It seems that the company is actually based in Germany! Whether it has always been there, pretty close to the border, or has moved is unknown but the logo is still very similar and ir really does look like we have settled who Jensen's are now.

Jensen's Fine Foods GmbH
Hans-Redlefsen-Straße 1
24986 Satrup

I have written to them too :) It would be so good to have a reply that throws more light on the promotion but that is probably expecting too much as a member of staff 40 in 1964 will be 98 now. Oh dear. Let's hope a young lad or lass in the office remembers something or that the Germans kept good records. 

It is clear to me now that none of the Minis I have seen advertised to date have been genuine. None referred to the correct type of shop and I really do now have to doubt just how much that chap Mike Battsford really did know about the promotion as he had Jensen's down as a Dutch car company.

We are left with the business of the white 'J' label that some have on the end of box. I am not swayed by this either, mainly because it is quite different to anything else that Corgi added to distinguish models and I have yet to see any difference on a 251 Hillman Imp box which, surely would have had the same treatment. I have to say that, just as sellers embellished their descriptions with 'Jensen's' leaflets and cards, or just referred to the [wrong] company in the text, one or two may well have added a label to the end of a box for good measure.

The lack of 'play-worn' Jensen's Minis is actually a good point. None that have been advertised have been much short of mint or, at least, in good to very good condition with minimal wear and only the occasional touch-in here or there. In contrast, a good proportion of the Hillman Imps I have seen in photos have been worn. Especially as we see far more Minis than Imps on the market, one would really expect more to be in less than great condition. As Martin says, no-one has yet seen any - not even in Denmark. It does rather defy logic to think that only the nice examples have surfaced.

QDT rather dismissed this as "I haven't seen it so it doesn't exist". I think that's a bit unfair. A lot of us are saying we haven't seen something in a particular condition as one would have expected.

I don't know whether I will hear from anyone else on this matter. I would very much like to have something from some more ex-Corgi people and Jensen's themselves as this matter does need some sort of firm conclusion and it would be nice to know if I'm right about the 1964 date.

For me, this matter is 99% decided now. There are no Jensen's Minis other than those 'created' by various people over the years. If someone wants to pay a grand or more for a normal 225 or 226 model with what may or may not be an original Jensen's transfer on the doors then I cannot stop them but I do appeal to the auction houses and any seller who actually cares for their customers not to try and say they're genuine promotional issues. If I do see any I will do my best to have them more accurately described, at the very least. There'll be little anyone can do about the price they ask or that someone may bid.

One idea I have is to create a lot of these myself and flood the market with them at whatever they cost me to produce - about £50 or £100, maybe, with a good box. The trouble is that this may simply mean more appear at a higher price as unscrupulous people buy mine and then continue to try and sell them at huge prices to people who'll never have read this and all I achieve is to add to their stock and profits. So, OK, forget that idea. But if you can help me spread the news that these Minis are simply all fake then that'll be a good start.

I have revised my Corgi Catalogue pages now so that only the Hillman Imp in pale blue is recognised as a promotional variation for Jensen's.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Jensen's Mini: Myth or Mystery Pt II

The search for some evidence continues. I am afraid to say that nothing is getting that much clearer but let's see how it all adds up so far.

QDT have written to me again and say:

We have now received information which leads us to feel very confident regarding the early blue 226 model, and, to a slightly lesser degree, the 225 models (especially red) too.
This is based on an article in DieCast Collector magazine in 1999 by someone they regard as a 'well known Mini expert', Mike Battsford (although they then add 'apologies to him if the spelling is incorrect') which shows the red and blue Minis in his collection. 

This certainly shows that these were around a lot earlier than some people have maintained and ends the theory that some believed which maintained that these models only appeared when the reproduction transfers appeared in 2008.

Otherwise, all it does tell me is that this chap Mike had red and blue Minis with Jensen's transfers on and, because he writes for DieCast Collector and is known to be 'a careful collector', we could accept that they exist as genuine promotional items. If this chap Mike Battsford had genuine articles there then, as each in the illustrations feature the early smooth wheels, that tends to put paid to my view that the promotions were a short-lived affair sometime in 1964. 

My reasoning for the date was that the Hillman Imp only appeared in November 1963 and I had always been inclined to the view that a promotion would be relatively short-lived and, even if it had involved more than one model, these would have been produced at about the same time.

QDT add:

This does not necessarily prove anything but we know Mike to have been a very knowledgeable and cautious collector.

I have found no reference to him in a brief search of the name and, if he was that well-known, one might have expected both QDT to remember how to spell his name and some reference to appear online fairly readily. So I am not really very convinced. This chap Mike might merely have had a couple of fakes in the photo and we're none the wiser. I am prepared to accept their view as to his knowledge and caution, however, and keep an open mind.

What does intrigue me, though, is the article appears to refer to the Minis being "a promotion for a Dutch car dealer." Er, hang on, not a Danish Jewellery store then? As you'll see below some of the auction listings have been quite specific about the Danish Jewellery Store. But then they have also talked about a Dutch firm, another Danish store and, as you'll have seen from my previous post, the logo actually now belongs to a German meat company!!

QDT also tell me in some detail about someone who acquired a Mini with 'Jensen's' transfers from a house clearance in 1999. I accept that this proves that the '2008 appearance of reproduction transfers' is irrelevant but it doesn't mean that someone wasn't creating good copies back in the 1990s. After all, this is still a good 30 years or more after the originals. The models would have been considered scarce then, I'm sure, and there would have been plenty of incentive to make some transfers and stick them on something like a Mini that doesn't need to be repainted first.

QDT go on to say:
In summary we are now convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the early 226 is perfectly valid. It is, unfortunately, no doubt true that examples of 225 and 226 Jensen’s models have been made, post 2008, using original transfers. This does not mean though that there are not original examples too.

I do feel they're putting too much faith in Mike, whoever Mike is, as far as the Minis are concerned. There is no other evidence there that stands up and rather too many queries. So I have to continue, not a great deal wiser, and I thought I might next share some of the different examples that I have found. 

2004. A very pale blue example with what looks like a genuine transfer. The only example I've seen with fixed shaped wheels. 

A QDT item from a few years ago with what appears to be genuine transfers but, despite their comments about Mike the Mini man, this is referred to as a Danish jewellery firm promotion.

Toymart have this extraordinary primrose edition illustrated! amusingly, it has a 'value' far less than they quote for the blue one but, to be fair, their prices are way, way out of date for many models now and shouldn't be given much credence. I share this as an indication of just how silly things can get. Again, the transfer looks genuine but I very much doubt this is a genuine promotional item or even a sample, the primrose colour lasting only a short while in 1960. If the paint is original, though, this is a very scarce model in its own right with fixed shaped wheels.

This is from an Australian auction several years ago. This one looks familiar, with the 3/3d on the box and the reference to a 'Georg Jensen' leaflet which we now know is the Danish Jeweller and not, it seems, the subject of the promotion at all. This doesn't look good - at best someone has mistakenly tried to add provenance and a box to a genuine car. At worst, and more likely, a normal 226 with good transfers added.

This one appeared in Newbury in 2014 with some very poor quality transfers.

I really don't know what to make of this one from Vectis from April this year. The transfer is dreadful, much like, if not identical to the Newbury one above. However, they claim the box has a J sticker and even go so far as to assert that it is a 'correct' J sticker! Note, however, the more cautious 'believed to have been a Danish promotional issue. I am beginning to think the J sticker could be faked easily too, as the rest of this does not look right to me.

Lacy, Scott & Knight had this - again almost identical item - in 2015. One does wonder whether it might not have been the same one all along? Another poor transfer but another 'J' label on the box. Odd.

Vectis with a very pale blue edition in 2005. The transfer looks good but they refer to a 'Georg Jensen' card which rather ruins this one's provenance. No mention of a label on the box, either.

This is Vectis again in 2018 with a rather tatty Austin and another dodgy transfer but different to the previous one. The box has an odd mark at one end which is more likely to be where someone has rubbed off a price than where a J label night have been attached. This one does not look at all genuine.

And now, just to confuse us even more, another auction house I can't recall the name of had this blue Morris with old smooth wheels in a kind of mid-blue. 

Here, at last, is the mysterious 'J' label!! So I am inclined to go with this box, at least. I can't get a close-up on the transfer but it looks like I'd expect a genuine one to look, rather than the tatty efforts we've seen on so many on here. But then, just as we're beginning to think that everything in the garden may be lovely and here is something genuine, the firm declares, starting in capitals: PLEASE NOTE: The model has had applied ORIGINAL 'JENSON'S'  transfers at a later date. Hmmm. Jenson's. Even if we allow them one typo, it's all a bit weird.

So where does that get us?

A Morris box with a 'J' label is encouraging. There are also one or two genuine-looking transfers on a Morris but in all but this one respect, their provenance is seriously flawed by the reference to a Jeweller in Denmark. If the auction house genuinely believed that to be the case then we can excuse them where there's no additional stuff like cards or special leaflets added to the mix.

I am still inclined against anything but later shaped (and preferably free-spinning) wheels which tie in with the most likely production period. Perhaps samples of a Mini were produced earlier? That's my best shot at an explanation for good transfers on smooth fixed wheels.

I don't buy the red one, other than, again, as possible factory samples, but none I've seen are convincing, either because of poor transfers or boxes with prices on.

We still need to know (a) just who 'Jensen's' were (and, ideally, are now so we can ask some questions) and (b) when these would have been produced so we can try and exclude some base and wheel types. Finally, I'll try and get a good image of a genuine transfer too to provide another way to sort some of the good from the bad.

Anyone with any knowledge about this, please help!