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
Edit September 2022:
Despite the logic here, in many discussions I have had with people who seem to know what they're talking about and have a good knowledge of many other issues, it does appear that Corgi did not proceed with fitting red spot wheels to models after announcing the switch to a cheaper variety. Maybe stock lasted a few weeks but that's all, and not long enough to impact these three or the following two. In the absence of any definitive evidence or anything by way of better provenance no-one can say categorically that none of these emerged with red-spot wheels but, if they did, they're not official and are more likely to have been the product of someone who just reckoned the cars looked better with them and had access to a few spares.

It makes valuing any models that do appear with these wheels something that has to be done with great caution, not only because of the doubts of their origin but also, and probably principally nowadays, because it is so easy to swap them.

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.