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.