Thursday, October 31, 2013

#342 CORGI – FORD MUSTANG ORGAN GRINDER and CITROËN SM MASERATI (166 and 284) (1971)

 HISTORY OF CORGI PART II

The new 1:43 scale models were already available by mnay other companies all over the world: Märklin, Solido, Tootsietoys, and Corgi's most direct competitor, Dinky Toys (part of the Meccano group). Corgi was designing a popular line which could be launched with the newly acquired name, and here's where Marcel van Cleemput comes. He started working for Corgi in 1954 in a complete new line. He would be later promoted to Chief Designer until 1983.

The new "Corgi" line had many features that made it attractive (I don't need to enumerate them), but they still needed some "killer-feature" to get advantage over Dinky. A well-built, colourful, robust car model was not enough. The designs of van Cleemput had a few innovations, but the most important were:
-aluminium hubcaps with plastic tyres were far more realistic than metallic wheels (since 1956) and
-windows! (since 1959) In fact the advertising campaign had the motto: "Corgi Toys - The Ones With Windows".

The line would rather quickly gain fame and success, mostly by many models with special features, like a practicable parts, removable figures/parts/wheels, special gift packs, one model was even equipped with a music-box! (Wall's Ice Cream Van Nr. 447). But the peak of this success was still to come... in 1965 a 1:64 scale line is launched with the name Husky Toys (later renamed Corgi Juniors), and also in that year, the first 1:43 models taken from movies and tv series are out for sale: Batman, James Bond, Daktari, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Saint, The Avengers, The Green Hornet, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang... but this will be the topic of a future entry.

The second half of the 60s are the years in which Corgi would top its sales and revenues, and the time of the most remarkable models. More than twenty models sold over 1,000,000 units. The catalogue had a mixture of European and American cars, together with some trucks, busses, tractors... Some models included many different features for example James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 (as seen before) or the Ford Ghia L.6.4.

At the end of 1969, and a a result of the new worldwide trend started by Hotwheels!, the aluminium hubcaps with plastic tyres were replaced by a new model of 1-pieced wheel made completely of plastic. Corgi named these Whizzwheels, and the models equipped with them were faster and could travel further. Despite being simpler, some of these wheels look great (check the two models below!) other not so good (Check the models in the previous entry).

In 1970, the Husky Toys are renamed Corgi Juniors, and sold everywhere, not only in Woolworth's. The 70s decade would bring a hard times. The concurrence was each time higher, and the revenues lower. 1980 was the first year in which the company had a trading loss, but not the last time, since the results were even worse in 1981 and 1982. In 1983, the company called in the receivers and was about to close, but a new management buy-out acquired the company facilities, including machinery and stocks in the first months of 1984. The new company would be the "Corgi Toy Company Limited".

And to complete this article, I'll post pictures of two cars I own from 1971.

FORD MUSTANG “ORGAN GRINDER” (166) from 1971 – sold 356.000 units






CITROËN SM MASERATI (284) from 1971 – sold 392.000 units









FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: FORD MUSTANG ORGAN GRINDER and CITROËN SM MASERATI (166 and 284)
  • Scale: 1:43
  • Year: 1971
  • Company: Corgi Toys (Great Britain)
  • Size: approx. 10 cm

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

#341 CORGI – FORD CORTINA MK3 GXL, MARCOS 3 LITRE and PORSCHE 917 (313, 377 and 385) (1970)

HISTORY OF CORGI PART I

In the last entry dealing with 1:43 Corgis, I advanced that the next entry would be dedicated to the history of the company, so here it comes (in two parts).

Although it may sound paradoxal, the history of Corgi Toys starts in Nuremberg, Germany. By 1912, Philipp Ullmann had already established his own toy factory, which was named “Bechmann and Ullmann”. After several years in South Africa, he came to England in 1932, and more exactly, nach Northampton, where he established the Mettoy Company Ltd. (Mettoy is an acronym of METallic TOYs) together with some partners. The most important partner, however, came two years later, and his name was Arthur Katz. The duo Ullmann-Katz would lead the enterprise until the retirement of the first one in 1971. Katz retired in 1980.

The company was closed in 1941 because of WWII, and reopened in 1944. The company started producing die-cast models, as its competitors Dinky already did before the war, and also acquired some machines to work with plastic. At that point, Mettoy had tin, die-cast and plastic machinery, what no other company at the time had.

The first die-cast series made by Mettoy in 1948 was called Castoys, and to compete against Dinky, they made slightly larger models, in 1:35 scale (vs. Dinky’s 1:48). This series would be cancelled in 1951, since that extra size meant too much metal and higher retail prices.

In between, the company moved in 1949 to Swansea in Wales, where they already had a factory.

The next lines would have much lower production costs, since they were a 3 inches series (series 500) and another one in 41/2 inches (series 600). Most models had two versions: either with plastic or metal bodies. These series were merely an anecdote, since they didn’t appeal the attention of children back in 1951, being cancelled three years later. At that point, the company had decided to do, what other companies were doing: die-cast in the classic 1:45 scale, with rubber wheels. Something similar to the first Casttoys.

The year of 1956 saw the change of name of the company. Mettoy turned Corgi Toys, since the name is more commercial. Corgi is the name of a Welsh dog (the dog would appear in the logo ever since).

And to complete this article, I'll post pictures of three cars I own from 1970. It is not the period from which I speak above, but I do not have any models from that period.

FORD CORTINA MK3 GXL (313) from 1970 - sold 314.000 units








MARCOS 3 LITRE (377) from 1970 - sold 235.000 units





PORSCHE 917 (385) from 1970 - sold 703.000 units







FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: FORD CORTINA MK3 GXL, MARCOS 3 LITRE and PORSCHE 917 (313, 377 and 385)
  • Scale: 1:43
  • Year: 1970
  • Company: Corgi Toys (Great Britain)
  • Size: approx. 10 cm

Sunday, October 27, 2013

#340 CORGI TOYS 4th Edition (Dr. EDWARD FORCE)


This book edited by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.has several parts which need to be analyzed independently.

The book starts with a 12 pages introduction to Mettoy and Corgi. The story of Corgi is told chronologically from the very beginning to the 1980s. For each year some releases are commented, remarking those features which were innovative, as well as interesting changes in cars that led to variants today, for example, the change of the hubcaps from conical to shaped, more realistic versions, or a change in the scale from 1:48 to the most common 1:43. This part is ok, but I expected a little more information on the company itself, factories, plans, apart from information on their products.

The second part includes pictures of hundreds of models. Each page depicts three shelves with several cars or vehicles each, to complete the whole Corgi catalogue until the 1980s. The pictures are big, but the cars can be only seen in most cases from the side (I would have preferred some kind of isometric view). Below the picture are the name of the models as well as the reference number.

Third part is a list of variations, in which also the years of release and discontinuation and reference number listed. The variants are described shortly, but accurately.

And finally, a price list, which is probably the most uninteresting part, but might interest some of you readers. The prices may have changed a bit since its edition in 2005, specially after the European crisis in the late 2000s.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#339 MIGHTY MAX – DREAD HEAD/ HAIRY HEAD KARBON (1994)

 

DREAD HEADS a.k.a. HAIRY HEADS

Since my previous entry (#218) dealing with Mighty Max is so successful, I’ll present a second toy I own from this collection.

This type of playset is the smallest available within the whole Mighty Max toyline. They are basically a head with practicable jaws (they keep shut by means of a spring). Inside the mouth, there is place for a Mighty Max figure (it can be more or less fixed if placed correctly on the footprints), but nothing else: no enemies, no accessories, nothing.


Two more features of this head are the colourful hair (which was a trend those years, mostly because of those troll dolls), and a hook on the back side, that allowed the playset to be attached to any trousers, making it portable in a very comfortable way.


There were 8 of them made. In Europe they were available as individual sets: the smallest and cheapest in the whole range. In America they were offered as a gift with larger playsets. These playsets were:
  • Hemlock
  • Karbon
  • Anthrax 9
  • Razorback (a.k.a. Razor)
  • Garrotid
  • Skull Crusher (a.k.a. Crusher)
  • Eruptus (a.k.a. Ruptus)
  • Berserker (a.k.a. Serker)
As a personal note, I would say these playset have a very bad playability. There’s no enemies, and when combined with Doom Zones or larger playsets, then, you’ll find yourself with two Mighty Max figures. The concepts with the hook and the hair are nice, but it could have also applied to the Horror Heads.

In this website you can see some original artwork of the Dread Heads, and how do they attach to trousers.

FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: Karbon (Dread Head or Hairy Head)
  • Toy Line: Mighty Max (wave 3)
  • Year: 1994
  • Company: Bluebird (Great Britain)
  • Size of the playset: Around 3,5 cm long
  • Size of the figures (Mighty Max): 1 cm

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#338 FILMATION’S GHOSTBUSTERS – SCARED STIFF and MYSTERIA (1986)




LOU SCHEIMER, R.I.P (1928-2013)

Lou Scheimer has passed just a few days ago. He was one of the founders of Filmation Studios, and also the executive producer of many cartoons and TV series:  Masters of the Universe, She-Ra Princess of Power, Blackstar, Bravestarr, Star Trek, Sport Billy, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Batman, the Fat Albert and also the Ghostbusters… just to name a few. He produced first the live action series (1975), and later the animated series in 1986 after the success of the homonymous movie. More about this was told in this previous entry.

These cartoons and tv-series are a reference for people who are now in their thirties or even forties. Each might have some most favourite cartoons or tv-series, but surely among them is something made by Filmation.


He was also the voice actor for many characters appearing in these cartoons, for example for the Masters of the Universe cartoons, he gave voices to Orko, Stratos and King Randor. In occasions, the budget was so short, that the producers and other people in the crew had to dub some characters.

These figures were based on the cartoons made by Filmation in 1986. There were a total of 65 episodes, and Lou Scheimer also gave his voice to Tracy the Gorilla. This character didn’t talk, but made gorilla noises, which was quite funny.


I got a few months ago two more figures from this toyline. Again two villains, Scared Stiff and Mysteria. They’re easy to find and cheap. Mysteria has long black hair, which is more likely to be cut or damaged during play. Only a few characters in this toy line came with accessories (the 3 main characters, Futura and Prime Evil), so most of the times you don’t have to worry about accessories.

If I had to describe the characters in just a few words, Scared Stiff is the opposite of brave, while Mysteria is absolutely vain. Each villain has some weakness, that in most chapters lead to the defeat of the evil forces, to the exasperation of Prime Evil.


 

FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: Scared Stiff and Mysteria
  • Alternative Names: Scuotiossa (Italy), Miedica and Misteria (Spain)
  • Toy Line: Filmation Ghostbusters
  • Year: 1986
  • Company: Schaper, Tyco (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the figure: 15 cm.

Friday, October 18, 2013

#337 TIGER QUARTETT – RENNWAGEN, SCHNELLE EISEN, TOLLE FLUGZEUGE and OTHERS (Around 1978)


These quartett decks are very rare and their origin has been unknown for a long time. They are also a bit mysterious, since most deck are identical to other card decks made by the Austrian cardmaker Piatnik, with a few exceptions, which are identical to some sets made by the German cardmaker FX Schmid. The only difference between them is the cover card (Titelblatt in German).
How is this possible?

In the quartettblog.wordpress.com there are a couple of entries dealing with “Tiger”.
According to this great blog, the Tiger Decks were made approximately between 1972 and 1980. The first series is dated 1972 and include several sets with a 2-digit reference number. Later series are dated by the end of the 70s and have 4-digit reference numbers, and even later, more sets were released without reference number. So, the cards presented here today date from the late 70s.

After some comment left by Christian Falkensteiner (the famous Matchbox collector) in that same blog, it seems clear that “Tiger” is the store brand of the famous German supermarket chain ALDI (HOFER in Austria). This theory hasn’t been proved yet, but it seems quite plausible: Aldi buys from Piatnik and FX schmid some card sets (maybe leftovers, discontinued, old stocks?) and resells them just with a new cover card that unifies the collection.

That supermarket chain is famous because almost everything you can find there are store brands and therefore you can fill your basket for less money than in normal supermarkets. We guess now, that these card sets were less expensive than their Piatnik/FX Schmid counterparts. Today it is the opposite, they are much rarer, and collectors pay higher prices for them. They’re very rare to find.

SCHNELLE EISEN:

The first of my three sets is the “Schnelle Eisen” set with Reference Number 4259. A very curious set, since it mixes cars, motorbikes, formula ones, race boats and more. It has 8 families, 32 cards, plus cover. It was originally a Piatnik set, maybe you can recognise the pattern at the back of the cards.






RENNWAGEN:


The second set is “Rennwagen”, without reference number (it belongs to the third group, as we enumerated it before). Again: 8 families and 32 cards plus cover. This set is also a Piatnik reference, the pattern at the back of the cards is very common and was shared by Piatnik and FX Schmid.






 TOLLE FLUGZEUGE:

The third set is called Tolle Flugzeuge, also without reference number, and also 8 families, 32 cards + cover. When I carefully studied the cards, I though the cards had been changed/mistaken by it’s previous owner, because the back of the cards has the FX Schmid logo. It was a bit of a disappointment, and I am still not sure, if these are the original cards (anyone who also has this set can confirm it?) Note that the Boeing 747SP on the cover card doesn’t match with the rest of the planes in the set that are warplanes.

UPDATE: Chris from quartettblog.wordpress.com thinks the set could be original, since there are some sets with the same Titelblatt, but different content. This way, under the title "Tolle Flugzeuge" (in English: "Cool Planes") we could find several different sets from Piatnik or FX Schmid.






UPDATE:

This set "Exotische Tiere" (Quartett Nr. 4245) is based on the deck with the same name made by Piatnik (Nr. 4214) from 1976. Something you might not know, is that with the "Tiger" Brand, there were also normal decks available, like the one in the picture, which is a 24 card deck for playing Schnaps (see first and last pictures).








FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: EXOTISCHE TIERE (Nr. 4245), SCHNELLE EISEN (Nr. 4259), RENNWAGEN and TOLLE FLUGZEUGE
  • Year: Around 1978
  • Company: Tiger (Germany, Austria)
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