Tuesday 27 December 2022

Merry Christmas!

I can hardly believe it was nine years ago that I started all this! Reading again my first news post in January 2014, I recall the large cardboard box that I had in the living room and which was about half-full of Corgis, some wrapped in some kitchen roll if there wasn't a box. Some weren't wrapped - they were the ones I had bought to restore. I had soon discovered, however, that many more people were doing restorations and some were doing them very well but still only getting a few pounds for all their efforts. So the box gradually filled with models that didn't need work, just a clean and maybe some fairly simple repair that didn't require them to be taken apart. 

Initially I just bought models which needed replacing in my own collection, ones that had suffered from being discovered by my son sometime in the 1990s when I was away from home! Then there were the variations that I had wanted in the 1960s, like the black and silver Bentley Continental, the silver Aston Martin, the blue and white Citroen Le Dandy Coupé, although that last one took a while to find at a price I could afford. I remember being so intrigued by a metallic blue Mercedes 220SE, thinking it was a 230 model and then finding out that there was a later edition without steering and some changes to the pillars and boot that was new to me.

The Oldsmobile Toronado was also new to me. They were everywhere I looked, and all in a lovely shade of metallic blue with a bright interior and sparkling chrome. Another model I had missed. By 1967 my interests were pirate radio stations London and Caroline and girls. My layout had been a large piece of hardboard covering the whole of a single bedstead in a room we called the 'box room', possibly because it was about the size of a box but more probably because it was used for storing boxes of stuff for which there was no room elsewhere at the time. I shared the room with my elder brother, Rupert, and it often had a strong smell of glue or whatever substance he used for his model aeroplanes; ones with tiny petrol engines and lots of very thin paper stretched over a balsa wood frame. I was very lucky, though, that he went to work in Staffordshire when I was seven and I had the box room all to myself and a massive space where I could leave my Corgi Toys on roads or parked in Bayko buildings beneath Floral Garden trees without having to gather them up and put them away every day as most children would have to do.

I bought several Oldsmobile Toronados as I really liked that car and quickly realised that there were several shades and some models had a tow bar and some didn't. Most had cast wheels with a spoke design but I was pleased to find a few with just normal wheels and that started me off looking for similar variations on other issues.

At first, my purchases were all very much from the 1964-67 era, the ones I remembered and thought I knew something about so I could distinguish restorations or versions that someone might have made from originals. I then began to be a little more organised in my searches and acquisitions. I bought lots of Land Rovers. So many small changes to the casting in its long life! I think I still have almost all the Land Rovers that I bought in the early days, including some which cost me a fortune to import from Australia and America when my bids won lots offered at overseas auctions. I hadn't really calculated the additional costs involved when one added auction fees, packing, tax and import duty! But never mind, I told myself and these did include a near-mint 500 US Army edition in a 500 box.

My stock slowly grew and, after acquiring most of the 1960s cars I got the 'Golden Jacks' models and then went back to the start and began to get the very earliest of saloon models from 1956. They were more difficult to find, especially the M models, and all were new to me. I hadn't particularly liked them or wanted them as a child, just noticing them in catalogues and thinking they looked a bit boring compared to the later issues. Now, however, I found they had a certain charm and really do like these a lot and often buy the M models and scarcer colours of all the models whenever I see them at a reasonable price.

After that came the 300 series sports cars. Mercedes-Benz models confused me for a while and I'm still not sure I have all the variations of finish and interior, wheels and suspension! Then I went back in time again to the Bedford CA vans. Such ugly old things, I had thought at first, but gradually they kinda grew on me and I built up a collection second only to my Land Rovers as there were so many of them, especially when one took into account radiator grille shapes and how the rear ends were treated, not to mention the extent of blue and yellow on the 422 van. I am still looking for one or two of these with shaped wheels, many years later!

It soon became time to get the military items. These were, again, totally new to me, not having had or even seen any of them as a child. I was amazed at the intricacy of the mechanisms on the missile handling models. These did take some finding to get working models in good condition but what a delight they were. I was even very fortunate to acquire a complete and boxed Rocket Age Gift Set 6! A collector in Devon had this and some other military bits and pieces and asked me to sell them for him so I didn't have to spend any money to have this gorgeous set here on my desk. I think I've seen just one in similar condition since.

I had now moved into the Corgi Majors and simply started at 1101 and carried on as best I could. Life did get difficult with these, though, as I didn't know when to stop. With the cars and vans it was fairly easy - I only wanted the 1:43 scale (or thereabouts) models and, in the first year at least, I drew a line at Whizzwheels too, which I intended to ignore and not deal with. With the Majors, however, the same cabs kept appearing with new trailers as years progressed into the 1970s and then the same trailers would appear with, first, a Scammell cab, then a Mack, or Ford or Berliet, another Ford . . . and if that didn't complicate matters enough, some numbers started to get re-used too! The later models, with a distinct lack of detail compared to the earlier ones and much poorer appearance of quality in most instances were mostly reluctant buys but it had to be done. I was now creating a catalogue and would need to feature every model and every variation if I was to do the job properly. I definitely have not succeeded so well in the Majors, with several gaps that still need to be filled. For example, I have only recently discovered that cast wheels were fitted to the Machinery Carrier. So there will be many more searches still to do and that will keep me well occupied probably until I am 80.

I mentioned the line I had drawn at Whizzwheels. I really didn't like them at first. I still don't like the vast majority of them. But when I realised that many of the first year or two's issues were pretty much the previous model with a different base and some cut-down features, I felt that I needed to include them. One or two were also intriguingly scarce. I had no figures as to production or sales but just looking around it became very clear that there really were not many of some of these issues around at all. The 304 Chevrolet Camaro was decidedly conspicuous by its absence, for instance, and the 305 Mini Marcos in blue basically invisible! It took a while but I changed my mind and started to gather all of the Whizzwheels too, several arriving at once each day for a few weeks as I sought to make up for my earlier omission and found different types of wheel - and some were actually quite lovely models. The very short time for which some were available in the lists sent to dealers does make many of those models feature in the Top 20 rarest items in the whole Corgi catalogue.

And I am still going now . . . every month or so someone tells me about a possible new addition (or correction) that is needed in the catalogue or I see something that needs further investigation. My acquisition of the commercial 400 series models has not been very thorough but I just cannot get excited about the Cement Truck or some Raygo Road Roller. The ERFs and Commer trucks I think I can find some warmth for when I do start looking at them in more detail and I know I do have to try. Maybe someone else has already done the work and I can steal their data?

I forgot to mention the Farming models! Being brought up on a farm, these were bound to have some appeal but I had only had the Land Rover, a couple of tractors and a trailer or two as a child. They were not the sort of things you could whizz around the layout and they didn't look that good parked next to the Jaguar Mk X outside the glamorous-looking Bayko building. I had first thought there were far more of these than there actually turned out to be. I started at #50 and worked my way through to #74 fairly rapidly. Then I realised that there were metal wheels and plastic wheels, orange ones and red ones, at least two 1111 Combine Harvesters and the Farming Gift Set included a Land Rover in a different shade of green to the 438 issue and a trailer that was all yellow! Oh what fun. 

Yes, oh what fun. If you'd said I would still be not only writing these articles but also still trying to complete my catalogue, as well as still supplying customers all over the world with Corgis for their collections, I would not have believed it likely. Now, I can, indeed, well imagine that I'll be writing to update you all on something I've discovered or just want to share with you for many more years to come.

So Merry Christmas and here's to some peace in 2023 in Ukraine, where I have many friends. I have made a calendar for 2023 which you can download from my website. The address of the site is corgi.toys, no more, no less. The pages are free but you'll need to print them yourself. The photos are very much typical cars from my collection, not especially expensive or valuable ones this time, just good memories for me and, I hope, you too.

Sunday 18 December 2022

Bags of Karriers

A collector recently alerted me to something I had not noticed before and this led to a surprise discovery for me. This is the 413 Karrier Butchers Shop with suspension. I had no idea this existed. This and the 407 Mobile Shop look so ancient that I had assumed they both preceded suspension but, no, it seems that the very late editions of the Butchers Shop did get suspension and this example has just arrived to prove it. It did not, though, get a 413S catalogue number, just stayed at 413, rather like the Chipperfields Crane Truck which just gets suspension somewhere along the line without any special announcement or change of number. 

I did find this standard box with 413 printed and an S label affixed on one end amongst items sold by QDT but it is the only reference to 413S that I have seen, the blue and yellow boxes being unillustrated and just having 413 printed at the end. The blue boxes are illustrated but would, I believe, have ceased production some time prior to the suspension models being available. My guess is that teh S label was added by a shop (or even a collector) rather than the factory. If more turn up with the same S label then I might be persuaded to change my mind.

The 407 and 413 models have an array of base types.

The first was the black base with one river and the text had the word SHOP.

Next, I think, comes the same type of base but in grey. This switch from black to grey happened with quite a few models - the 208M Jaguar, 207 Standard Vanguard (and its RAF version) come to mind and maybe there are others.

Then there is a grey base without a rivet but with twisted metal fasters and the text now has an overlay of VAN.

The 426 Chipperfields Booking Office has the same type of base as the 413 with suspension - very similar to the previous type but without any holes at the axles.

471 Joe's Diner has the same base again as the 413 with suspension and the 426 but with a rivet at the front and the two metal fasteners are not twisted to secure the base. It also has free-spinning wheels which teh others didn't get.

As far as I can see so far, all the 413 with suspension, 426 and 471 models have the same type of base. I think we will also find that all the 413 models with fixed shaped wheels will have suspension but I have yet to confirm that and may still come across a model with shaped wheels and an earlier base style which will not have suspension.

The 407 Mobile Shop appears not to have had the last type of base but I would not rule it out completely as it would seem that the suspension base was brought in at the beginning of 1962 when the 407 was still available. The question is whether is was still in production then. It might also have had shaped wheels fitted although that seems unlikely as the first Chipperfields Booking Offices still was being fitted with smooth wheels when first produced in January 1962.

If we take it that the suspension bases were all fitted at about the same time then that would be midway through the 413 period of availability. However as records show that a quite low number, around 100,000, were sold, it is unlikely that there was a demand for any more to be produced after the initial stock runs for quite some time and that could explain the scarcity of the suspension model.

Here are the dates when these models were available to be ordered:
  • 407  9/1957 - 1962
  • 413 10/1960 - 1964
  • 426  1/1962 - 1964
  • 471  3/1965 - 1966

Saturday 17 December 2022

Mini Mistakes

Here is something a little different! It's a 227 Morris Mini-Cooper body on a 226 Morris Mini-Minor base. I bought it for my friend and Corgi collector, Andi, who lives abroad, where the seller wasn't keen to post stuff to. Having it delivered to me here in the UK also gave me the chance to take a closer look at it. It could, of course, have simply been something someone had made from almost any old 226 using a drill and just a Code 3 of not really of great interest. However the paint on the inside of the holes and around the edges is untouched and so this is most likely to have been mistake at the Corgi factory.

I can imagine how a rack of 227 bodies could have been sent to the painting area and a dose of 226 lilac-blue was applied instead of the darker shade of 227 blue or even primrose. At a pinch, I can just about imagine how these blue 227 bodies found themselves further down the production line and being attached to 226 bases. More difficult might be understanding how these got past Quality Control unless you remember that there wasn't a great deal of either consistent quality or control going on! Or maybe they didn't get any further, this one and a few others finding their way into workers' pockets and back home for the kids to play with.

Clearly, how this one reached freedom outside the factory walls in or around 1966 we shall never know but it certainly didn't get played with and is as unmarked as if it had remained in the pocket of a pair of overalls ever after. The rivets are particularly clean and very new-looking. I did have my suspicions that these may have been replacements but the design and imprint is identical to others I have seen and they really do look like Corgi factory rivets.

One odd thing about this model is the fact that the body is a Type 1, the first casting, whereas the cast wheel base is the latest casting used and one might have expected anything with cast wheels to have had the Type II body. I have seen, however, this combination before so it's probably better to say that it's not so much odd but a little less common.

My friend is quite keen to have this and put some jewels in the holes so that it looks like a 227 in the 226 blue. I've cautioned him, though, that to do the job properly would require bezels or metal holder for the jewels and inserting those would inevitably damage the paint and destroy the model's provenance. He might as well buy any old 226 and drill a couple of holes and achieve the same end result. OK, finding a Type 1 body with cast wheels as clean as these isn't that easy but it would be preferable to spoiling something which someone might like to have as it stands for their collection of Corgi Mini mistakes.

As it happens, I have the reverse 'factory mistake' in the form of a 226 Morris Mini-Minor body on a 227 Morris Mini-Minor base. I have suggested that, instead of sending them to him for jewel insertion, I put the pair up for sale and see if anyone's interested. I would value each of them at around £250 so I'll be asking £350 for the two. I guess that will bring howls of protest from some quarters but a single decent and unmarked, somewhat scarce normal Mini in exceptional condition would sell for £60 and something like this factory error must be worth at least three or four times as much.

The 226 body / 227 base model is in the earlier pale blue rather than the lilac-blue of my friend's 227/226 model so the colours don't match and the base styles are some years apart but they still make an interesting pair.

While I'm at it, here's another nice pair that I have available at a similar price, this time Austin Seven bodies on Morris Mini-Minor and Morris Mini-Cooper bases! Oh, what fun you can have with Corgi Minis!

Saturday 10 December 2022

Corgi Model Club: Land Rover Public Address Vehicle


December's issue from the Corgi Model Club (for those of us who started at the beginning) is the Land Rover Public Address Vehicle, catalogued as 472 when the original was issued back in September 1964.

Sales were not that great at around 147000 which may sound plenty but is comparable to the Chevrolet Taxi and Citroen DS Monte Carlo Edition, both of which are sought after now and, coincidentally, were the two previous Corgi Club releases.

It looks very accurate on first inspection. I only have a worn and partly broken example to compare it with but I have been hard-pressed to find anything worth mentioning with this one. 

There is, of course, what I have always called a 'researcher' for some reason which escapes me now. The box describes her as a 'supporter' which is far more appropriate. She will be one of the reasons this copy will sell well as in most of the original 472s you see now for sale she is missing. People will pay an extra £30 to have what to all intents and purposes looks like an original researcher, I mean, supporter with their nice original Public Address Vehicle and I'm sure dealers will then simply flog off the Land Rover they're left with for whatever they can get and the certificates are worth a bit as people lose those or dealers forget to include them.

At first glance I thought the shade of green was a little too yellow but now I look at it side by side with my old original it seems fine. They have even got the right ventilation lever design on this one. The microphone cable is far too thick on the copy and it reminds me of the ridiculous chunky rope that often is found with the 448 Police Minivan and the Riviera Gift Set if you have Mr Flowers' thick black rope substitutes.

I have to admit that I had always wondered why the researcher, I mean supporter, never appeared to stand up properly in the back of the truck in my own 1964 model. I could understand why so many got lost as she was invariably left to stand somewhere else on the layout or, worse, on some thick carpet, probably never to be seen again after a pet or vacuum cleaner had passed by. Now, only now, a mere, 58 years later, have I noticed the slot in the side where the base of the girl can be fitted to secure her and in such a way that she appears to be leaning out to distribute the gems of wisdom from her local political party.

It was noted at the time that Corgi wisely stayed out of politics and both Labour's red and Conservative's blue were as equally featured as they could manage. The actual General Election, which took place in the month following the original's release was also equally balanced, Labour finishing up with a single seat majority.

In the box you will have a couple of blocks of the familiar white foam stuff stuck in an L shape. This needs to be inserted to protect the loudspeakers on the roof and prevent the model moving in the box. There is also a thin square piece with a hole in the middle. (Only just discovered this!) This last piece may or may not protect the top of the politician. I do think that more attention needs to be paid to the packing pieces. The original had far more effective pieces of folded cardboard. I strongly suggest the Model Club people get the Chinese Re-education Camp Managers who currently put these things together to source some card instead of the foam.

The fonts look a lot better on this issue than most of those that have gone before.

Once again, congratulations to the Corgi Model Club people. Not one of my favourite models in either original or copy form but I do recognise that it is a good one and we Corgi collectors are a hard bunch to please! 

Thursday 1 December 2022

Corgi Toys @ 60: Lots of upgrades and two VWs

There was an absolutely huge number of new issues from Corgi this month 60 years ago.

The Racing Car Gift Set 5 gets updated to Gift Set 5S (identified by a small sticker added to one end of the box) with the revised models 150S, 151A and 152S. This is a particularly scarce item. The cars are common enough but in this box very hard to find and good examples sell for a fortune. However, great care needs to be taken as the only difference in the box is that little sticker which is quite simple to reproduce. There may also be an alternative rectangular black print on white sticker applied which is also simple to replicate. The earlier issue from March 1959 is, itself, uncommon with only 64000 said to have been sold. Numbers for 5S are not available.

With the 154 Ferrari model coming next month, these cars will have begun to look very dated and the set had a very short production period, withdrawn sometime in the next year; hence the very high prices demanded now.

Another 'new' model wasn't really new - the Oldsmobile had appeared as the Police Sherriff's car six months earlier. This is a lovely looking saloon, however, and was issued in two colour schemes, a solid pale sky blue and a metallic silver-blue, both with cream-white side stripes.

Another model that wasn't completely new was the Land Rover Breakdown Truck which now gets suspension and an interior - the now familiar 'S' upgrade.

Interestingly, the first 417S models retained the twin-bar jib device. These are quire hard to find and and scarce but not always expensive as sellers often don't appreciate the difference. By far the majority of these models will have the later solid jib device which continued with the next change to a plastic canopy and was renumbered 477.

Next come three more Land Rover revisions, the S versions of the RAC Radio Rescue Land Rover, the S version of the RAF Land Rover and the 406S now designated as 438 for the standard Land Rover.

The 416S RAC Radio Rescue model gets suspension and a yellow interior but also has a change of decals, now featuring the logo on the doors and RADIO RESCUE across the bonnet. The canopy is in matching blue and has no transfers or stickers.

The 351S RAF Land Rover gets suspension and a yellow interior too. This is an extremely rare item with very few produced and they command very high prices as and when they appear. As I have mentioned in a previous article, they are actually quite difficult to spot too as many photos show a colour that is hardly distinguishable from the 438 deep blue-green. I have seen maybe just four of these in the many years I have been involved with Corgis. None were at all obvious and I do have to wonder whether there are more out there but I simply haven't noticed them.

They should have an RAF blue plastic canopy but that is even scarcer and I have yet to obtain even one of those!

The new standard Land Rover that was available in a box was numbered 438. In all respects it is the 406S in a classy dark green or deep green finish, with cream plastic canopy. There are two quite distinct shades but I have yet to determine which came first. The 438 models will usually have a yellow interior but a red interior is also to be found.

This will be an extremely long-running model for Corgi and will undergo several small changes in casting as well as different finishes for the standard box issue - although always a green of some sort.

More revisions now for the two trailers, the 100 Dropside Trailer and 101 Platform Trailer now getting the fixed cast type of drawbar in place of the piece of bent wire.

Both trailers remained in the same colour schemes as before and similar changes will be introduced for the other colours featuring in Gift Sets.

The last of the Land Rover revisions for December 1962 sees the Gift Set 2 updated to include a Land Rover with suspension and an interior. The set retained its Gift Set 2 number and had the new deep or dark green model pulling the 112 red and black horsebox which, at around this time, also gets the fixed drawbar like the trailers above. Another colour scheme was also introduced in December for the whole set and the Land Rover and Pony Trailer had a fawn and cream finish.

All the fawn pony trailers had the new cast type of drawbar. The first trailers had fixed shaped wheels which are not easy to find as the majority were fitted with free spinning wheels. Whilst the red and black trailers did get the fixed drawbar and fixed shaped wheels, they don't appear to have been in production long enough to get the free spinning wheels. Similarly, you won't find the fawn editions with a wire drawbar.

Sets did not mix colours - they were either deep/dark green and red or all fawn. The ponies were the same as in the earlier sets, most seeming to have the blue coat but, as they can simply be switched around it is not easy to be sure whether there were red or brown coats as well in the new editions.

The fawn Land Rover is known with a yellow interior but this seems to be significantly scarcer than the deep/dark green one with a red interior.

The only really 'new' issues in December were the Volkswagen Van and Camper Van, 433 and 434 respectively.

The van is the first commercial model with suspension (other than one or two Major model revisions) and, indeed, is a welcome addition to replace the very ancient-looking Bedford CA Vans and Karriers. The van is always white over red but is known with both a red and a yellow interior. Some small numbers were produced in special finishes and with decals designed for some firms but none of these would have been available at this time.

The 434 Camper Van is also only issued in the one colour scheme of olive-green and a very pale green and it always has a red interior.

This is a great little model which still looks good today!