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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

B is for Banner, Bergan, Beton (in alphabetical order!)

The order is practically reversed alphabetically in that Beton, the trade mark of Bergan was bought by Banner! Having won a few late - ethylene - production Beton (Bergan Toy & Novelty company) 60mm figures I thought it would make sense to photograph them with their trucks. From top of helmet to underside of base they're actually 70mm.

Having only the older edition of O'Brians book, I'm not sure if another version of this - approximately 1:48th scale - truck exists, as he only has the same two body-types (page 252 - 1988 ed.), yet I have a vague memory of one other, similar to the Pyro/Kleeware ones, i.e. with smaller scale hard-plastic (styrene) sitting figures, the cab being completely different on the other makes.

Certainly the truck bed has little square holes cut for 6 'somethings' on the benches (three each side) and another 2 on the tailgate/step. However this moulding was used for civilian toys in brighter colours, and the holes might have been for milk churns, a wrecker-truck superstructure or something similar?

The Banner Staff Car, marked clearly (inset) on the bonnet (Hood) in the manner of US military vehicles of WWII through to the 60's or later. The scale of this is greater than the trucks at around 1:35, while its wheels are ridiculously small.

I don't know the make represented (any more than I do the trucks or final photo!), but it's what the Americans called a Woodie, and we named a Shooting Break, the Americans a Station Wagon and we an Estate Car. What they actually were is best described as an non-aerodynamic brick!

We had Morris Travellers when I was a kid, and they hit the air ahead of them like a turd hits a pond, while on the motorway the rear turbulence caused the fuel-gauge needle to drop in front of your eyes!

The figures, the best explanations of the history of these figures are probably O'Brians books, however Kent Sprecher's toysoldierhq has a good guide as well. Suffice to say they started life in Cellulose Acetate in approximately 1938, and went through various incarnations with/without separate bases, and have been copied/licenced/supplied to/by a dozen or so other concerns.

These are the commonest form, softish polyethylene, with the clearly visible BT mark (inset) of 'Bergan Toys' in a disc'ed indentation on the underside of the base, note the one on the far left has suffered from the release of an oily-powdered residue in the same manor as a lot of Matchbox Production, particularly the brown ones (British Inf., DAK, and 8th Army). There are more poses than shown here, and I'm after the kneeling MG gunner for starters!

Interestingly, the Paratrooper betrays his later addition to the range by having a nicely moulded M1 helmet, rather than the generic bone-dome/dime-store design of the older moulds. The marching figures - to be fair - also have a better helmet design (rifle, telephone, bazooka and flag), while early acetate mouldings have the British Mark 1 'piss-pot', called a 'Brodie' or M1917 in the States.

Finally and closer to HO scale is this Grader/scraper/leveller, I believe it can be found in the 'Army' green, but I only have a silver one! Notable here are the rubber wheels; Banner also made a gun similar to the one issued by Merit over here and Auburn (among others) in the USA, but they both used hard wheels, while the Banner one used the same wheels as this road builder.

O'Brian reports that Banner were sold to Rel around 1958, but Rel (Plasco - Plastic Art Corporation) only made Wild West stuff, so presumably either ONLY bought the intellectual property rights, OR sold/scraped the moulds. Selling the molds would explain why some Beton copies are both as good as the originals, and of 'younger' plastic?

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