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-129 MG Midget US Issue (1954)

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--25p and 251 Aveling Barford Diesel Roller (1948-63)

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-674 Austin Champ (1954-71)

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--80f and 820 Renault Carrier ambulance militaire (1959-1970)

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--80f and 820 Renault Carrier ambulance militaire (1959-1970)

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-824 Berliet 6x6 Gazelle GBC8 KT (1963-70)

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-283 Single Decker Bus (1971-77)

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dinkyfan's picture
dinkyfan
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H. Hudson Dobson and his pre-war distribution involvement

To all--Some of you are aware that I have been researching the life of Henry Hudson Dobson, and his almost life long involvement with Meccano Ltd, and Dinky Toys.  I am preparing an article to be published in the next Journal, due out in April.  Part of my research and discovery has involved trying to find out just when he established H. Hudson Dobson as the U.S. importer for Dinky Toys.  The biggest clue to date is the 1941 U.S. catalog that Jan Werner has, which mentions that HHD is the U.S. distributor.  So far, I have not been able to find evidence of an earlier date.  John Beugels has graciously looked through his Dinky pre-war collection of boxes, and found several that were imported into the U.S., but all of them bear labels of the "Meccano Company of America", and the most recent appears to date from May of 1940.

     Do any of you have any pre-war boxes or other information naming H Hudson Dobson as the importer?  If he did form his company in 1941, it would mean there was a very small window of time to import Dinky's before Meccano shut down production for the war, so there might not be too many boxes with his label on them.  I would sure appreciate hearing from any members who might have more information on this, so that I can include it in my article.

        Best regards,  Terry

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dinkycollect
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Terry,

This is what the Encyclopaedia says about HHD :

From 1929 and until 1960, the distribution of the Meccano products is done by Henry Hudson Dobson Inc, P.O. Box 255, Kenilworth N.J. H.Hudson Dobson (1891 - 1975) was British, trade director of Meccano Ltd., he had been sent to the U.S. to increase the sales.

In the April 1973 issue of the Meccano Magazine AVA international publishes that it has been apointed sole agent  for all Meccano Ltd. products in the U.S.A. This contract last until Meccano was wound up in November 1979.

Any improvement will be welcomed.

There may be more information on this subject in the book Factory of dreams.

Jacques

dinkyfan's picture
dinkyfan
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Jacques---In my article for the Journal, which should be in the April issue, you will see that Henry Hudson Dobson was working for Meccano in the US far earlier than 1929. What I am trying to determine is exactly when he founded his company, which based on the current information, appears to be 1941.
Best regards, Terry

Jan Oldenhuis's picture
Jan Oldenhuis
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I found a picture of a 1939-1940 Meccano catalogue for the US market Price 1d (UK catalogue with UK prices) with a dealer stamp of H. HUDSON DOBSON 200 Fifth Ave. New York 10. N.Y.

In The Binns Road Gazette volume 1 number 3 of May / June 1999 by Keith Harvie he describes an article about USA Meccano and Dinky Toys catalogues. He also shows a picture of the front of a Meccano catalogue 1938 for the US market: A Wonder Book of Toys with a remarkable dealer print of The Meccano Company of America Inc. 200 Fifth Avenue - New York. N.Y. and directly beside it a dealer stamp of H. HUDSON DOBSON 200 Fifth Ave. New York.

I hope this helps.

Jan Oldenhuis

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Terry,

I know you have already read my detailed writeup on H. Hudson Dobson and subsequent U.S. distribution of Dinky Toys, since you posted in that thread. But for those who have not, see http://dtcawebsite.com/node/7117. In that post, among other things, you will see the 1938 catalogue mentioned by Jan, dating the switch from "Meccano Company of America" to "H. Hudson Dobson," still at the same Fifth Avenue address in New York.

You will also find in that thread a picture of Mr. Dobson and information about the year (1960) "his" (it may still have been owned at least in part by Meccano Ltd.) company shut down, though we do not know why. Perhaps because of Dobson's retirement, perhaps because of the impending sale of Meccano Ltd. itself.

As I commented in that thread, the closedown of H. Hudson Dobson had a major impact on "younger" (I was born in 1956) Dinky collectors in the U.S., as distribution became very haphazard until Covell Management and then AVA International took over in the early 1970s. 

Having enjoyed the January journal, which arrived at my home a few days ago, I was moved to want to contribute an article on Mr. Dobson myself, but now that I know you are already doing one, I can sit back and lazily await the results. (Feel free to pinch images and such from the earlier thread!)

Incidentally the closedown of H. Hudson Dobson is why today it is not uncommon to find early 1960s Dinky Toys decorated both with their original U.S. price stickers, plus other markings indicating a price cut of up to 50 percent. Many shops that had stocked the Dinky range found themselves unable to get new models, so the orphan stocks were cleared out at cut price. On my seventh or eighth birthday party, each guest received a Dinky car as a party favour -- my mother had bought up these toys cheaply at one such sale. I still have mine -- the Fiat "Grandvue" ...

dinkyfan's picture
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Jan---Thank you very much for responding to my query about items to date the early existence of H. Hudson Dobson. Those 2 Meccano catalogs, one from 1939 and the Keith Harvie mentioned one of 1938, certainly seem to want to push the earliest date for HHD to 1938. But it seems a bit odd that those USA sold boxes of John Beugels are dated May 1940, and still carry the label of Meccano Company of America, and not HHD. It would be nice to see some early boxes with the H. Hudson Dobson label on them, so maybe some will surface.
And Johnny, thank you for also adding your thoughts , as well as referring back to our earlier exchange. You are so right about the Dinky market really collapsing in the US, around 1960, and I also have examples of boxes with reduced prices. I can only imagine how inefficient Dinky Toys distribution was after HHD shut their doors, and that, along with serious competiton really dealt Dinky a serious blow in the American market. Us older guys were very fortunate to have lived early enough to fully experience the Golden Era of the 1950's!
Best regards, Terry

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Terry, I personally believe -- though how can one prove it at this remove? -- that, with H. Hudson Dobson having been a Meccano employee, Meccano Ltd. maintained at least a strong minority share (49 percent, perhaps) in the H. Hudson Dobson distributorship. Factors suggesting this include the Meccano-style stationery that H. Hudson Dobson used in the 50s, plus the company's retaining the Meccano cable address. The reason to change the company name and increase the American ownership would have been to allow H. Hudson Dobson to distribute other manufacturers' product lines (which it did, to some extent), and probably also to satisfy various legal requirements.

Given this, the changeover from Meccano Company of America to H. Hudson Dobson would have been a gradual one, given that it was the same people involved, the same premises, the same products being sold. I would be surprised if we do discover any "Dobson"-labelled Dinky Toys prewar. Given what we all know about how cheese-paring (economical, shall we say) Meccano Ltd. could be, I'm sure no H. Hudson Dobson labels were printed until all the Meccano Company of America ones were used up!!

I envy you, Terry, as well as our many British colleagues, for having lived in a golden era whence Dinky Toys were freely available. On the other hand, I guess I have a romantic nature, such that the ascending difficulty of obtaining new models added to their allure. I collected Matchbox and a few Corgis as well, but those were the models to be played with, whereas a Dinky, whenever it was found, was to be set aside and cherished!!

 

dinkyfan's picture
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    Just recently I was able to purchase a most interesting letter, from the Dinky Toys Club, to one of their American members.  This letter is dated March 10, 1961, and was signed by Geoff Byrom, Secretary, who by July was editor of the Meccano Magazine.  In the letter, attached below, it states that due to "recent changes in our distribution arrangements", you should contact the nearest dealer to your home, if you should have problems obtaining Dinky Toys.  It then lists 5 different suppliers, scattered around the US.

    Jose Heraud and I both feel this is an extremely important letter, as it is the first time that I know of, that Meccano states there have been changes......i.e. H. Hudson Dobson is no longer the distributor in the US.  I also have in my possession, a letter that I received from H. Hudson Dobson, in May 1960....the last piece of correspondence I had from them. So, that effectively narrows down the timeline for the end of HHD distribution.  Possibly HHD continued until the end of 1960, then these other arrangements were made.

    This somewhat sudden change, with no official distributor in place afterwards, also leads me to ponder if this was somewhat unplanned.  As big as the US market was, I would have to think it worthwhile to still have a formal distributor in place for such a large area, rather than 5 individual suppliers.  And were these "suppliers" then expected to maintain a stock of Dinky product for individual stores?  I would guess so.  So this all still begs the question:  did Henry Hudson Dobson simply retire, after about 45 years with Meccano, due to age, etc., or was Meccano eager for a change, with the market and other factors rapidly evolving, and no longer needed or wanted a formal distributor?

                    Best regards,  Terry

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Terry,

Thank you! Indeed, this letter is tremendously valuable. Of course we already knew that the change from H. Hudson Dobson to the regional distributors took place in late 1960 or early 1961, but having this official list of all five is very valuable.

I have already written earlier in this thread, I believe, about visiting the Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World in Palo Alto, California, and complaining (via my mother, of course, since I was only five) that it had become difficult to obtain new Dinky Toys. The shopkeeper gave us a 1961 Dinky catalogue and the name of the distributor, Keyston Brothers, to whom we could direct complaints. I still have that catalogue (my first ever) and my mother's written note about Keyston.

At the time, the Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World had a distinctive display case for Dinky Toys: the models were displayed out in the open, but wired down to prevent theft. I have had only dim memories of this but recently found a picture of it via Google Books and a 1961 trade journal. As you can see, the display is said to have been devised by Keyston Brothers and used by Schranz and Bieber "and other Meccano distributors."

Regarding the closing down of H. Hudson Dobson, we may never know the answer, but I believe it probably relates both to Mr. Dobson's age and to the growing financial difficulties at Meccano Ltd. that would eventually lead to the Lines Brothers takeover. I also believe (and I know others disagree with me on this point) that the H. Hudson Dobson distributorship was owned by Meccano Limited all along, and only changed its name from Meccano Company of America so that it could take on other companies' product lines (Frog Models, SAE figures, etc.).

 

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Jonathan----I knew you of all people would appreciate seeing this, and due to the scarcity or total lack of information at the time, of the demise of HHD, I instantly found this letter to also be valuable, and was determined to get it. I bid a ridiculously, protective high amount for it, but ended up getting it very reasonably. So at least this narrows down the time frame for just when this happened. As I have mentioned before, the demise of HHD occurred shortly after my own early ending to the first phase of my collecting.....right around 1960, but I certainly had no idea that they were gone at that time. I also collected and owned several American Flyer (A. C. Gilbert) trains during my younger years, and have often pondered how amazingly similar they were, and how they both met similar fates in the early 1960's.
How are you doing & have you acquired anything new lately? I will be 72 in a month, but still have the collecting bug and excitement of receiving a new one in the mail. Just now awaiting a recently purchased French Dinky Studebaker Nestle milk truck.....a late "Christmas" present to myself!
Best regards, Terry

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Terry, I had already guessed your approximate age due to your descriptions of your early collecting years, and I must say you are quite the inspiration. It's great to see you still adding to your collection. Although, you've also mentioned in the past that you were not collecting Dinky Toys in the 60s and, I presume, for a while later.

I am 60 now (61 in March) and never stopped collecting, including purchasing new Dinky Toys right up through the grim last years. (Though when they started making models in 1/42nd scale and larger, I never liked them as well.) But my acquisitions have shamefully tapered off (I do have one small lorry on the way, as it happens) owing to lack of space in my one, large display case.

You are in the San Diego area, right? If you (or any other DTCA member) ever happen to be in the Monterey area, come visit!

 

-- J

dinkyfan's picture
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Jonathan----Jan and I are somewhat similar in our collecting preferences, as we both tend to focus on Dinky's made up to about 1960. That seems to be about the time that most of their product line was quickly evolving from the "old school" look of post-war models....which many of us "oldsters" seem to prefer. For myself, I was only 14-15 when this happened, and I distinctly remember getting many of those new issues around that time, such as the new American & British cars, and not really liking them as much......the advent of windows, shiny black baseplates, and new colors, heavily treaded white tires, followed by suspension, then crude interiors. I was really stuck with the older look, and that, plus starting high school actually ended my early collecting; I didn't buy another Dinky until the mid-1970's, and then only older models. I have bought a few of the 1960's models because they were continuations of earlier ones, or just interesting, plus I finally decided I wanted a few samples just to see how much they have changed. I even missed the old style yellow boxes. But that is just me.....I am very nostalgic and have such fond memories of my childhood and the Dinky's I had then, that I am "stuck" in that era. The downside is I have fewer remaining models to try and find, so have been getting other colors, etc. That revolving display case must have been pretty impressive to see in person; all I ever saw were the old tiered wooden ones, or some stores simply had them in glass display cases.
I also want to extend an invitation to you or any other members who happen to venture to Southern California, I would love to meet and visit any time. I did live in San Diego up until 1967, but now live in Fountain Valley, Orange County (1/2 hr from Disneyland).
Best regards, Terry

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I forgot to note that the illustration of the Keyston Brothers Dinky display case is from "Toys and Novelties" magazine, dated January 1963. Ironic in that, as we know, U.S. distribution of Dinky Toys was to change again that year, passing to A.C. Gilbert.

 

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Hi Terry and Jonathan, reading all this I'm becoming more and more aware of the privileged position we had in the Netherlands, having had Hausemann & Hötte as agents for Meccano products. This firm lived longer than Meccano, and many, if not virtually all Meccano products, also a lot of French, have been available through them, from the beginning until the end, well-distributed over a reliable web of retailers. Even their archives are still accessible. Every now and then I consult these archives and I am impressed about the control they had, both over the communication with Meccano, England and France, and over their retailer network. Kind regards, Jan

dinkyfan's picture
dinkyfan
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Jan----Very interesting to hear more about your distributor in the Netherlands, and how fortunate that they were in place the whole time, and also saved and preserved their past history. The whole H. Hudson Dobson saga is both very interesting but also very frustrating due to the lack of both history or records, and all that remains are snippets scattered in a few documents here and there.
Best regards, Terry

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Terry and Jan,

Yes, the spotty uneven distribution of Dinky Toys in the United States from 1961 right up to the bitter end was extremely frustrating! However, as I've written before, I think it was this very scarcity that made them especially cherished by me and my best friend, who was also a Dinky collector.

Unlike Dinky, Matchboxes and Corgis were freely available -- we sensed that Corgi were "the enemy" so we only had a few we couldn't resist, but we purchased Matchboxes weekly and played with them intensively on our vast cardboard road layouts. The cherished Dinky Toys were, in contrast, more for static display and admiration.

In retrospect, the superiority of the 50s Dinky Toys is clear. But as a child, I knew Dinky only through what I could find in the shops -- it probably was not only about 1968 that I obtained a copy of Cecil Gibson's book and began to learn about older models. The 30s cars and trucks seemed very old, quaint, and drab to me, though -- it's amusing to think back about how, at that age, 30 years seems like a vast expanse of time, whereas to me now, something that's only 30 years old seems practically modern.

The Lines Brothers-inspired switch to 1/42nd scale was jarring to me even as a child. The old models and the new just did not mix well in a display. And though my friend and I were too young to pay attention to business news, we knew all about the Lines Brothers takeover of Meccano Ltd. because Lines had started putting its brand on Dinky boxes. Specifically those horrible Visipak boxes, first in gold and then yellow, which I have hated dealing with ever since.