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buzzer999's picture
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My Favourite Dinky Toy Story

A new thread for us to share our memories of the Dinky Toys we all know and love.

The Dinky Supertoys No 934 Leyland Octopus Wagon in green and yellow was announced in the April 1956 edition of the Meccano Magazine and I immediately fell in love with this absolutely stunning vehicle.

At a cost of 8 shillings and with me at the time getting 6 pence a week pocket money this meant saving up for a minimum of 16 weeks - this seemed a lifetime!!!

I pestered my dad for some time and eventually, just before the school summer holidays, my dad said that if I saved up 4 shillings he would give me the rest.

My dad was the projectionist in the local cinema in Settle, North Yorkshire, at that time and I used to love going in with him during holiday times. In the first week of the holidays I spent quite a bit of time with the cleaners in the cinema helping them out with various jobs. In return they gave me any coins which had been dropped by the customers the night before. At the end of the week I was delighted as I had managed to collect 4 shillings!!!

Imagine my dad's shock when I proudly showed him the money, he must have been horrified that I had got it so quickly. But, to his credit, he immediately gave me the rest of the money and I became the proud owner of a Leyland Octopus.

During the rest of the holidays that vehicle worked very hard.

It would be very good for the rest of us to share some treasured memories of our youth, or perhaps tracking down that elusive model after a long search.

Dave

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Richard
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Very nice story Dave.
Have you still this Leyland ?
Richard

buzzer999's picture
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Sadly no, the one shown was bought a couple of years ago.

About 20 of my original military vehicles were kept (and I still have them) all the rest were given away!!

If I knew then what I know now I would still have them.

Hindsight is a wonderful science.

Dave

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Dave

While scrolling through these countless Threads, I came across your story. Absolutely fabulous and it brought back many memories of similar happenings on the other side of the world! It is amazing for the generation of today, to understand what it was like to save one's pennies to buy a Dinky Toy, especially comparing today's generation and their spending habits as well as their "pocket money" from often over-generous parents.
I had to split several barrow-loads of fire wood, and mow our quite considerable lawns with a push mower several times over to earn enough to buy a small Dinky Toy. However, on the plus side, the chores I was required to perform in and around the house each week (I hated when Mum got me to dust and vacuum!) when the reward came at Christmas and five days later, my birthday, with the arrival of a number of well-chosen Dinky Toys. I often wonder why certain models were selected, and others not, and what was the deciding factor when selecting the colour - or was a model chosen and that was it without regard to the colour scheme. Whatever the reason, I was always completely satisfied with every model that I was given and I cannot recall ever being dissatisfied with any Dinky Toy that was given to me. I do think that it was my Mother who selected some of my models, which explains why my 111 Triumph is in salmon pink, as too my 131 Cadillac Eldorado!!
It must have been great having a father who was a projectionist at the local cinema! Great story Dave. Do you have any more? I am sure many others must have something to include in this Thread.

Kind regards
Bruce. (150)
#534

buzzer999's picture
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Thanks for that Bruce, I was hoping that this would inspire other forum members to add some of their memories, sadly that was not the case.

Dave

starni999
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Thanks Dave and Bruce,
Missed this one first time round, so here's my Dinky story,

It was around 1968, certainly before I started school in 1969, and I already loved toy cars. Dinky's to me were what was out at the time, the new bronze Range Rover was my favourite.

We were visiting my Aunty Dora in Walsall, and I was struggling to "sit quietly" as you do aged 4! Aunty Dora took me out to the veranda, sat me at a table, and said "I've got some of Geoff's old cars you can play with", Geoff was my cousin, who was about 18 by that time.

She went into the garage, gave me an old cardboard box, and my life changed, I had never seen anything like it, all these years later I can still remember them, "Ever Ready" Guy van, 2 x 29c buses, in Red and Green / cream, Hudson Commodore, Ford Fordor, and a Dublo Austin lorry, all well played with, but heaven to me. I played with them every time we went.

Eventually I was given them, and they formed the start my mine, and my Dad's Dinky collection. Even though I was very young, the "old ones" were never for play. I stupidly sold all 1500 of them (for £1,500.00!!) at 18 in 1982 to buy a real car, and I only wish I could have them back now.

Chris Warr.

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One of my early Dinky memories happened in 1956, when I was 11 years old, and had just a handful of Dinky Toys. I had a brother, Jeff, who was 6 years younger than me, or about 5 years old then. By then, I played with my Dinky's, even outside, but carefully, as I did not want to damage them. Brother Jeff had long noticed my Dinky's and he finally mustered the courage to ask if he could play with one. I already knew that Jeff did not take care of things like I did......his toys were always quickly broken, and worse yet, he didn't seem to care a lot. So when he asked me, I quickly answered no..........that just was not going to happen with my prized Dinky's. Sometime later, he decided to plead his case to a higher authority....our mother! Despite my pleas to the contrary, she then decided that I should let Jeff play the rest of the afternoon with one of my Dinky's, just to prove he could be careful with it.
So I decided to surrender my Reconnaissance Car, as my other Dinky's were more fragile. Later in the evening, Jeff proudly returned it, and on first look, it appeared to be ok. But a little later I discovered that one of the front wheels was now at an angle....the front axle was bent. I then ran to mother, and showed what had happened...............and she then said I did not have to let Jeff play with my Dinky's anymore!
This may sound a little harsh, but I was very careful with all of my things at a very early age, and I am convinced that is why I am one of the few people I know who still has all of his childhood Dinky's along with those catalogs from 1953

Terry

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Wonderful....this is what I really hoped would happen with this thread.

As you will know I look to find something from the Forum to put into the DTCA Journal once every four months. With your permission I would like to put these threads forward and then some of the old boys who live in a computerless world could hopefully add their experiences.

Thanks again guys.

Dave

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Great thread!
Two Dinky-related things happened in 1955 which would have a profound effect on my life. I was just a toddler, but already developing an interest in motor vehicles. I don't remember which Dinky came first, but the arrival in my little hands of a brand-new Foden Regent tanker led to a deep interest in these handsome vehicles, and the company that built them. Close to where I live, a coach company operated a few Foden coaches, and the only double-decker Foden bus to be fitted with their own two-stroke engine often operated on a route which passed the end of my street - and they all had the same "face" as my beloved tanker. My Dinky 942 led a similar life to many of the real vehicles - worked hard in its early years, then fitted with a different body (in my case, a wooden flatbed made by my grandad after the tank got damaged) before being laid aside, unused, for many years. Rediscovery years later resulted in the finding of a replacement tank, and restoration to its former glory.
The other was the gift of a maroon and fawn Hudson Sedan, which sparked an interest in American cars which has lasted to this day, and resulted in me owning seventeen real ones over the last forty years.
An unfortunate consequence of this ownership came about in the mid-1980's. During the late 1960's, when I'd realised that my playthings were becoming collector's items, I used to trawl the toyshops buying up old stock, and had quite a large collection. Returning to real American cars, in 1983 I bought a 1958 Oldsmobile 98 Holiday Hardtop which had been laid up for about fifteen years, and needed a fair amount of work to become roadworthy. The most expensive job was the rebuilding of the four-speed automatic transmission, and for this, I needed to raise some cash. Something had to go, and it was the bulk of the Mint Boxed Dinkies that I'd snapped up a decade and a half before that went. The car did get fixed, and eventually was sold on. I heard that a few years later it was cut in half lengthwise and mounted on a Pub wall in Newcastle. I hope that my Dinkies fared better - perhaps some of you might own them now!
-Kevin.

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A lovely story Kevin, I suspect your Dinky Toys will have fared better than the Oldsmobile.

Dave

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Hi, I have not ignored this thread, but the memory of the TalkModelToys site and the many stories I wrote there (which now have gone) frustrates me a little bit (as do the memories of many other elaborate contributions I wrote there). Perhaps I will dig some up from my older text files and make them suitable for publication here. Even during retirement I am short of time ...
Kind regards, Jan

buzzer999's picture
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We all lost a lot with the demise of TMT, it is a real shame

Dave

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Greetings everyone!

I originally typed this story direct into the Thread but as it took me some time to complete it, the site logged me out, so I lost several hours of typing! Great.

Anyhow, I have a story to relate about playing with my Dinky Toys although the story itself is not about any particular Dinky. If anything, the hero of my tale is my 251 Aveling-Barford Roller. I do apologise for its length.

It all started in the early 1950’s when I was about 9 or 10. Mum had a garden beside the neighbour’s fence in which she grew Gladioli and snap-dragon flowers, which I was tasked to convert into lawn as the need for flowers grew less. I did as I was asked, leaving a small section next to Whisky’s kennel (our Border Collie) in which to play with my Dinky Toys. The location was ideal, as it was close to where Mum used to chat with her lady friend next door, and she could also keep an eye on me from the kitchen window when indoors. Over the next year or so, I happily played there, developing a small network of earthen roads, a “pond” when filled with water, and a bridge, a flat piece of timber with two ends that I had hammered into the ground. There was a straight section of about two meters in length, and in the middle was the “bridge”. The road then made a right turn and looped back to the straight section next to the “bridge”, forming the letter “d”. At the far end of the bridge I built a small mound, and the road traversed this mound through a cutting and ended. The roads were of sufficient width to take two Supertoys passing each other.

One day on walking home from school with a friend, we decided to take a short-cut by following the creek that wound through the town where we lived. On reaching the rear of the council gasworks, we discovered a pond containing warm tar, a by-product in the manufacturing process of gas. (These were the days before we all became environmentally aware!) It was at that point that a little light bulb came on over my head, “why not bring some of this stuff home and make tarred roads for my Dinky Toys?” On coming home, I found a container in which to hold the tar, a “billy” can that my parents had used for the milkman before we had bottled pasteurised milk. I then spent the rest of the afternoon preparing the surface of my roads prior to tarring them; the roads were swept of loose soil and sand and a source of sand to cover the tar located nearby. The sand had been stockpiled by Dad who used it with his vegetable garden. I felt confident that he would not miss a little which would be put to a far better use! The following day was Saturday, so armed with my billy can I returned to the gasworks and filled it almost to the brim with this lovely, gooey stuff and carried it home.

I then poured the tar gently onto the road, working my way through the cutting, down and across the bridge along the straight and around the corner until reaching the straight again keeping the sides level. Sand from Dad’s stockpile was then sprinkled over the tar, keeping the sand fairly level with the blade of my 561 Blaw Knox Bulldozer until all had been covered evenly with sand. Out came my 251 Aveling Barford and I gently rolled the sand into the tar. I had just finished when it was time to go inside and have tea. I could not wait for Sunday to come, and I had the entire day to ensure that the surface was again rolled with my Aveling-Barford Roller and then I brought out my 901 Foden Diesel 8-Wheel Wagon and “drove” it all over the roads. By the end of the day, I had swept off the surplus sand (and returning what I could to Dad’s stockpile) and tried out the roads with my Foden again and then some of my other Dinky Toys. It was superb and any road engineer would have been proud!! A week or so later, I again swept the nice, solid tarred surface so that it was completely clean, and having found a thin paint brush and procured from somewhere, a small tin of white paint, I proceeded to paint the centre lines with double lines through the cutting.

I was quite proud of my effort when it was completed! But I was not yet finished, as several months later I decided to treat a small section of road in the cutting the same as the council does in real life; I dug it up, and with some additional tar, I patched the hole! Now it looked more “real”!

I happily played with my road network for the next two or so years, and was pleased that in that time, no edges broke off – in fact the road surface remained intact throughout the time I played on them. It was wonderful to take my Dinky Toys out, spend time playing with them on my roads and then bring them inside without having to clean off dirt or mud! One definite advantage in having an all-weather road network! Unfortunately, Dad never photographed my roads but he did take two night slide photographs when I decided to burn one of my buildings showing my 555 Fire Engine “extinguishing” the blaze. These slides have sadly disappeared over the years.

I often think back to what I created and often wonder if my roads are still there as they were covered when the lawn was extended long after I had given up playing with Dinky Toys.

Kind regards

Bruce (150)
#572

buzzer999's picture
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Bruce

What a lovely story, it would be a wonderful thought that your 'roads' have survived after all these years.

If they have I would bet my pension that they have less 'pot holes' than we have in England right now.

Also most of the darned street lights have been switched off - sometimes I think we are in a third world country.

Dave

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Bruce--
What a wonderful, classic Dinky story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and came away impressed with your abilities at such a young age. Memories like that last a lifetime, and make our hobby a direct connection with those long ago years, when life was simpler and boys played with model cars instead of computers. Thanks for sharing!
Regards,
Terry

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Hi Bruce, this sounds like a road engineer in the making! I (we) loved making road lay-outs and miniature villages too, covering stretches of floor in our room, and using a variety of 'building material' and miniature items, but there was always the moment that regular life had to resume and everything was removed again. Indeed, a tarred miniature road system outside had more durability.
Kind regards, Jan

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Lovely story.

How many Dinky Toys collectors made a career as civil engineers building roads and bridges ?

Jacques
100

Dinkinius's picture
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dinkycollect wrote:
"Lovely story.

How many Dinky Toys collectors made a career as civil engineers building roads and bridges ?

Jacques
100"

Jacques - well certainly I was not one of them!! My working career started in the banking industry, then becoming tired of counting other people's money, and looking for something totally different and exciting, I won a position in the Australian Administration of Papua New Guinea - ostensibly for two years but stayed 21 years, firstly with the Department of Primary Industry as a pen-pusher, then met and married Lina, then as the first curator of the Department of Modern History with the National Museum, two daughters followed (no sons to hand down my collection) back to Australia, collected my Dinky Toys, discovered the factory had closed and these were now collectibles, removed them from being played with by my daughters, then a job in two Australian Government departments, then delivered junk mail, and finally in the grocery retail business for three hours a week. At 70 I have had to slow down a little but cannot afford to retire - too many Dinky Toys to obtain!

To Dave, Terry and Jan - thank you so much for your most appreciated comments. It was a marvelous time, and I can still smell those tarred roads, as well as see in my mind's eye all I have written about, and much more. I am just so sorry that Dad never photographed the network. Did he miss that sand and was this my punishment?!! No, he was too kind to have done that. I guess in those days, one negative frame or slide was quite costly and after all, who really cared at the moment?

Kind regards

Bruce (150)
#574

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I didn't grow up to be a Civil Engineer either - in fact, I didn't grow up at all, according to my girlfriend!. I remember the Careers Advisor coming to my school during my last few weeks there, and asking the question "..and what do you want to be when you grow up?"....to which I replied "CREMATED!"
...But I did build roads, lots of them, for my Dinkies. In good weather, they would be marked out by making lines of walls from soil, with pebbles as gateposts, and bricks as houses. An upturned shoebox would serve as a garage for my transport fleet. In poorer weather, for indoor play i would mark out my roads using string or wool, with empty cardboard boxes, often painted as shops and houses in my town. Great fun was had when heavy snow came, as I shovelled up great mountains of the stuff in the back garden, made twisting roads around and tunnels through them, and ran my own version of the Monte Carlo Rally. No batteries needed, and kept me (and my friends) amused for hours on end. Ah, the simple pleasures!
Kevin.

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Another good story of mine has to do when I was only about 11 years old, and we lived in the city of Santa Ana, in Orange County. By that time, I had probably about 30 Dinky's and was hooked on collecting them. By then I had learned to get out my little catalog, mark off the ones I already had, and start longing for new models. This resulted in two lists for Christmas and my birthday: one to my parents, and the other to my grandmother (I usually reserved the more expensive toys, such as the Pullmore or Coles Mobile Crane to grandmother!).
By then, I was also a regular at the only store in town that I knew carried Dinky's, the Santa Ana Bookstore. They had a basement downstairs and that is where the Dinky tirered display was located, and their stock of models was behind the counter, neatly stacked little yellow boxes on shelves.
A very special day then arrived that year, 1956, when I was known well enough and trusted, to be all by myself, and look through those models in stock behind the counter, to pick out a favorite model and color to buy. What a thrill! And one day, I decided I really liked the black Citroen 11BL that was on their display, but they did not have any more in stock. No problem.....I asked if I could buy the display model, which they finally agreed to. It was firmly wired down, and suffered some minor damage to its base, but I got it.
Wonderful childhood memories, and that colorful 1953 catalog, with all the pencil marks by each model that I had, and the separate price list with it? I still have them both, tattered and taped 62 years later!
Regards,
Terry

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Many thanks Terry for your story. How great it must have been to have a real time fairy Grandmother, and a wealthy one at that too! (I had a very generous Godmother, but with her being a school teacher, naturally my presents were books, not Dinky Toys!)I hope after all that convincing the store came up with the box for the Citroen – or at least a nice price reduction!! I did have a 1954 catalogue, but goodness only knows what became of it. Nice to hear that you still have yours though.

Here is another story.

In early December 1950, I was fast approaching my 6th birthday. Following church one Sunday morning, I accompanied my Mother and Father into Pidgeon’s Newsagency in Armidale, a large rural town in New South Wales. When my father selected the Sunday newspaper, he approached the glass-mounted counter to pay for it. Meanwhile, I had spotted a large display of Dinky Toys in the counter, and on the right on the bottom shelf was the most beautiful model car I had ever seen sitting on its large brown cardboard box. It was dark blue, and although it had its back to me, I silently wished that Santa would bring me this wonderful little car for Christmas. There were numerous other models on display in that glass-mounted counter and my eyes scanned them all but I only had eyes for this dark blue one.

Along came Christmas and as per usual my brothers and I were out of bed long before the sun even thought about rising. We eagerly grasped the neatly wrapped presents with our names on them, and on tearing open mine, I was absolutely stunned and delighted that Santa had heard my silent wish – that lovely dark blue car I had seen in Pidgeon’s all those weeks ago!

Well from that moment on, nobody could ever tell me that there was no Santa Clause – as I had proven all doubters wrong – terribly wrong!

Here is that little dark blue car how I first saw it facing away from me. Unfortunately the brown cardboard box did not come with it, but we know the model as a 40b Triumph 1800 Saloon, and of course the box was its Trade Box.

A general view of the Triumph together with a view of the base, clearly showing that it covered many miles on my tarred road network!

Kind regards

Bruce (150)
#678
26 June 2015

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As a new DTCA member and forum user, I have already enjoyed much here but this Dinky Toy Story thread is the best of all.

I posted in a different thread how I first got interested in Dinky Toys, and will repeat here, where it's more to the point:

My love of Dinky Toys began in 1959 when I was a tot living in a Chicago suburb: I noticed that the local taxi company used Plymouths in two-tone blue, of which the #178 Plymouth Plaza made a superb replica once my mother had created a sign to glue to its roof. On another of our mother-son walks, this time on State Street downtown, I spied a mobile billboard advertising a burlesque show. It consisted of a slowly-driving truck fitted with picture windows at the back, behind which stood two or three scantily-clad women. I cannot even find a Google image to prove that such a thing existed, but it did -- and as family legend has it, I threw a tantrum, demanding "I want a Dinky of that!" My mum did not, however, find me any bathing beauties to glue to my Guy Warrior flat truck, another early acquisition!

I was born in 1956 and thus first became aware of Dinky Toys at the tail end of the period when H. Hudson Dobson was doing excellent distribution of the models in the United States. In 1959 H. Hudson Dobson closed down and Dinky Toys became progressively harder to obtain. I can only envy Terry, whose experience of finding Dinky Toys in local shops was so different from mine. A lot of my life seems to have been a romantic quest in search of Dinky, so very much harder to obtain after 1959 in the United States than were Corgi or Matchbox, to name a couple of competitors.

Below I have pasted in comments I already posted in the Meccano Inc. thread, with apologies to anyone who has seen them already. (Since the pictures were uploaded already, at least I am not using more storage or bandwidth.) I would be particularly interested in comments from Terry or any other U.S. readers -- how did you manage to obtain Dinky Toys during the dark period I cite?

* * *

Meccano Ltd.'s ever-variable distribution in the States had a big effect on those of us who lived through it. In my case, it made Dinky collecting a tantalizing, romantic quest -- and thus paradoxically added to the models' appeal compared to their readily available competitors such as Corgi and Matchbox.

Fortunately, we Dinky collectors do not need to worry about the early history of Meccano building sets in the U.S., some of which remains confused by patent claims and counter-claims as well as the passage of time. But it needs to be said that before 1938, distribution of Dinky was not yet by H. Hudson Dobson, but rather by "The Meccano Company of America." Prewar boxes often bear "Meccano Company of America" stickers, with the same black-on-orange colours as their postwar Dobson equivalents.

In 1938, the distributor's name changed to H. Hudson Dobson. The year is documented via a 1938 catalogue (I scanned this image from the "Dinky Toys Gazette") that was rubber-stamped with the Dobson name, with the headquarters being at the same address as before. (The company moved to New Jersey after the war.)

Mr. Dobson had been a Meccano employee. The reason for the name change is unknown to me; perhaps it represents Dobson's taking an increased financial stake in the distributorship, or perhaps it was done to help the firm take on distribution of other companies' toys. (After the war, H. Hudson Dobson did briefly distribute Frog models and SAE diecast figures.)

Elsewhere on this forum (http://www.dtcawebsite.org/dinky-forum/2-dtca-forum/570-h-hudson-dobson-..., for those who have not already seen them) are copies of communications received from H. Hudson Dobson by several collectors in the 1950s. The similarity of the letterhead to Meccano's own, and the "Meccano" cable address that was given for the New York office, suggests that H. Hudson Dobson was still part of Meccano Ltd. -- or at least very well integrated with its operations.

Whatever the case, the distributor did its utmost to contribute to the great postwar export push. As all readers will be aware, various prewar models were reissued especially for the U.S. market, others were recoloured for the U.S., and -- most important -- Dinky Toys were freely available in U.S. toy stores.

While Dinky never quite became the household name that it was in England, it dominated the market -- especially pre-Matchbox and pre-Corgi. Dinky Toys were advertised in national publications such as Life and Boys Life (the latter a magazine received by U.S. Boy Scouts). And I have attached a screen capture I made from the introduction to "Gumby," a popular children's programme from the 1950s: this was not an early example of "product placement," but simply a reflection of what toy cars the producers readily found in a local shop.

In 1959, however, things went wrong, with the closing down of H. Hudson Dobson. Why this happened I don't know (readers?), but it likely relates at least in part to increasing financial problems at Meccano Ltd. itself, and consequent unwillingness to invest in the U.S. market so heavily.

After this point, Meccano provided Dinky Toys to a variety of different, regional distributors in the States. Some of these may have done an adequate job, but not so in all areas. I distinctly remember when, as an already committed Dinky collector at the age of five, I was told by my local toy shop in Northern California that they just could no longer get Dinky Toys.

It was during this bleak time that Dinky Toys were "closed out" by many shops, since they could no longer get supplies. (I had one birthday party where each guest received an unboxed Dinky -- these were the final stocks that one shop had sold my mother out of their display case.) And while Dinky Toys were never intended to be sold for less than list price, shops did slash prices to clear out their leftovers; this explains why collectors today find models from this period whose boxes are marked with dollar amounts lower than the official price.

Eventually, in 1963, Meccano Ltd. contracted with A.C. Gilbert to distribute Dinky Toys in the U.S. (Gilbert did not distribute Meccano, however, for obvious reasons.) Display cases bearing the Gilbert logo and Dinky name were created, and a pared-down range appeared primarily in department stores such as Sears, Roebuck, Inc. (from where a kindly uncle purchased a tractor-trailer McLean for me that year).

But, just like Meccano Ltd. itself, A.C. Gilbert was financially troubled, so the arrangement did not last long. After Lines Brothers purchased Meccano Ltd. in 1964, it took over U.S. distribution. Relics of this time include special four-page U.S. catalogue leaflets, new-style store displays, and the hated (by me, at least) "Visi-pac" boxes (first in gold and then in yellow).

Because of what appears to have been a reduced sales force, Lines Brothers no longer did a good job of selling models to independent toy and hobby shops, unlike H. Hudson Dobson. Instead, it preferred to deal mostly with large department stores such as Macy's, Marshall Fields, J.C. Penney, and Frederick and Nelson. That may have been fine if you lived near one of these establishments, but even then frustration could ensue. (I grew up bicycling distance from a Macy's at Stanford, Calif. that never had any Dinkies, whereas another Macy's in San Mateo had them but was frustratingly out of reach 13 miles away.)

Meanwhile there was a parallel distribution effort for Mini-Dinky and the "big six" American cars produced in Hong Kong. Some shops had these models but no other Dinky Toys. (Of course, these products would presumably have come directly to the U.S. without ever passing through Liverpool.)

Dwindling availability and the Visi-pacs made the phrase "Lines Brothers" an epithet to me and my best friend, another avid Dinky enthusiast. Less and less effort was made to sell Dinky Toys in the U.S.A., and (as Keith Harvie has documented) the 1966 Dinky catalogue was the last to be printed in a specific U.S. edition until 1973.

During this period, Lines Brothers did succeed in selling six different Dinky Toys -- likely in quantities of 10,000 apiece -- to Post Cereals. Tantalizing an otherwise Dinky-starved public, the models were made available for $1.00 each, provided mothers could be persuaded to purchase two boxes of sugar-laden cereal. (This is how I obtained the Saab 96 I still have today.)

For us in Northern California during these horrible years, acquiring new Dinky Toys required a pilgrimage to the San Francisco branch of F.A.O. Schwarz (a chain that, I suspect, purchased the limited range it offered directly from Meccano Ltd.), a trip to Canada, or a visit to the U.K.

By 1971, when Lines Brothers collapsed, imports of Dinky Toys to the U.S. were at a level it would be charitable to call a "trickle." My friend and I were able to obtain new models only by post, through the good offices of George Grant ("Memorable Things"), a dealer in Maryland who obtained his stocks directly from Liverpool and Bobigny.

After the 1972 acquisition of Meccano Ltd. by Airfix, however, a Californian firm called Covell Management took the opportunity to begin importing both Meccano building sets and Dinky Toys to the U.S.A. once again. While big department stores no longer had toy sections, and the mass market was being catered to by chains such as Toys 'r' Us, there remained "boutique" toy and hobby shops that wished to set themselves apart with distinctive product offerings.

Covell sales representatives did a diligent job of finding such shops, providing their customers not only with models but with store displays like the one above, all imported from England. The business grew to the point that it attracted Texas-based AVA International, which bought out Covell and expanded its efforts still further. (Toward the end, AVA attracted investment from Airfix Ltd. and became known as US Airfix -- no connection to today's Airfix USA.)

AVA supplied shops with massive display cases like the one pictured: Made of chipboard and requiring two people to move around, these were capable of showcasing the entire Dinky range and storing stocks in a locked compartment beneath. Regarding the latter, it's worth noting that U.S. retailers considered the plinth-style Dinky boxes with lift-off lids to be a waste of space: When the #208 VW-Porsche 914 and #251 U.S. Police Car were reissued for the American market, they were pointedly equipped with standard card boxes.

Finally, readers will of course be aware of the "Made in U.S.A." Dinky Toys: the #275 Brinks Truck, the #803 Pocket USS Enterprise, and the #804 Pocket Klingon Cruiser. Raw castings of the Pocket models were shipped from Liverpool to Texas, and painted and packaged there. The Brinks Truck was also packaged in the U.S.A., but was probably painted and assembled at Binns Road (does anyone know for sure?).

In conclusion, the 1970s distribution of Dinky Toys in the U.S.A. was welcome, but only a pale echo of the marque's 1950s heyday. Thus and sadly, if you find a Yank who has even heard of Dinky or had any of the toys as a child, he or she is likely to be over 60.

© 2015, Jonathan Angel, except for Post Alpha-Bits image, YouTube video, and Keith Harvie catalogue scan

Dinkinius's picture
Dinkinius
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BinnerL13 wrote:
"I didn't grow up to be a Civil Engineer either - in fact, I didn't grow up at all, according to my girlfriend!. I remember the Careers Advisor coming to my school during my last few weeks there, and asking the question "..and what do you want to be when you grow up?"....to which I replied "CREMATED!"
...But I did build roads, lots of them, for my Dinkies. In good weather, they would be marked out by making lines of walls from soil, with pebbles as gateposts, and bricks as houses. An upturned shoebox would serve as a garage for my transport fleet. In poorer weather, for indoor play i would mark out my roads using string or wool, with empty cardboard boxes, often painted as shops and houses in my town. Great fun was had when heavy snow came, as I shovelled up great mountains of the stuff in the back garden, made twisting roads around and tunnels through them, and ran my own version of the Monte Carlo Rally. No batteries needed, and kept me (and my friends) amused for hours on end. Ah, the simple pleasures!
Kevin."

Kevin

I have been meaning to post a comment on what you have written! Each time I read the first two lines brings out a laugh! :laugh: How true of your girlfriend thinking you had not grown up! In fact we all are in the same boat and I am not game to ask my wife what she thinks - probably along the lines of me being in my second childhood!!

Whatever we did with our Dinky Toys was what they were designed to do - and how much delight these miniatures brought to us, especially using the one item today's generation seems to have lost the art - imagination. Now all that we do with them is just stare at them. (Actually after I had photographed my Triumph for my post waaaay back, I decided to have a little play with them on the armrest of my rocker!! Don't breathe a word of this to anyone! :blush: )

As for being cremated - each time I read your words they maketh my day! Looking forward to what you write next!

Kind regards

Bruce (150)
#680
27 June 2015

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fodenway
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Thanks for your comments Bruce - so you're in your second childhood eh? I never left my first!
I think it's perfectly true what you said about today's youngsters not harnessing the power of their imagination as we did, but I think the problem now extends much further up the age range. I was talking to an Auto Technician (what we would have known as a car mechanic or motor engineer) in his late thirties a few days ago. He looked in the engine bay of my 1952 Chevrolet, and was bewildered by the simplicity of it, saying he would have no idea where to start on it. Without a diagnostic port to download fault codes, he would be totally lost. Many shop assistants don't actually know much about what they are selling, except the information that scans from the barcode. I do believe that the world is becoming too dependent on technology for everything, and we are losing the ability to question things and reason out problems. Thank goodness for the happy memories our toys bring us - what will today's generation look back on in their senior years?
Kevin.