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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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

C is for Cricket (Board Games)

Well, a volcano and high pollution levels caused by extraordinarily nice weather have led to ideal if lung-irritating playing conditions at the more commonly ‘wet’ end of the season for cricket (foreign readers - don’t worry, I’m not going to get technical!). It must be remembered that some seasons during my younger days were wet from beginning to end…

This is the offering from Capri, a marketing division of Mettoy-Playcraft (Corgi, Triang et al.) selling (and finishing?) Board games originating with DRG Packaging, one of the large Pulp Mills on the banks of the Thames Estuary and a major player in world paper, card etc…
You may remember that when we looked at the Soldiers of the World premiums we encountered Bowaters, another Thames-side Pulp Mill, who had connections to Waddington’s who ended up owning Subbuteo, from whence the figures in this set come.

The inference being that these big multi-national paper corporations, as well as pulping and processing wood on a global level, along with supplying paper and card, raw and cut, also drove product itself, in order to shift the material they were in the business of making. They seem to have had close connections with toy and breakfast cereal companies, sometimes because they were already supplying board games or cereal boxes, sometimes because they were all members of larger over-arching multinational ‘portfolios’, the various subsidiaries and divisions of which were bought and sold like sweets in the playground…still are, look at the recent histories or either Corgi or Airfix!

So, is this set DRG, or a Subbuteo subsidiary, or a Waddington ‘Budget Brand’ or one of the DRG executives having a punt with a company innovation grant? I don’t know, all I can say with some certainty is that Mettoy-Playcraft’s involvement would have been sought rather than brought, and would of consisted of sell-through for a slice of the take.

The trouble with research into this period is that from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, company history is very fluid. At the end of the 70’s through to ’82-ish, you get the toy industry crash that saw 70% (?) of all household-name brands, sold, lost or amalgamated, and then Thatcherite-Reganomic bean-counters moved into the surviving boardrooms, and chucked out the company archives as being either irrelevant to the new materials, new business models (TV, Movie and Cartoon tie-ins) or new corporate relationships or because saving the archive meant ‘spending money on a storage unit we don’t need to pat for’. The Toy archives of the better European museums can tell you more about the Toy Industry in 1907 than they can for 1970!

We’re very lucky that the Corgi die-cast archive fell into good hands, as did chunks of the Frank Hornby/Binns road stuff, while lots of the Airfix and Britains archive material has been sold at auction in recent years, but for most Marques, we’re rather stumbling around in the dark, getting clues from the box sides of cricket games…

As for Capri, these are also known to me as containing figures;

- Conquer Everest, (4 (?) figures, previously or later (?) issued by Merit with 6 figures)
D 403 - Knockout Cricket (1976, same figures as Subbuteo)
- Championship! (4 (?) plastic or 6 card show jumpers)
- Olympics (12 figures, 25/30mm, 1 each of three poses in four colours)


Toward the end of Subbuteo’s pre-Hasbro life, this set appeared, clearly some sort of a one-man band working out of a lock-up in Surrey, RDA Marketing used the same figures as Capri with added Subbuteo sun-screens, a further list of Subbuteo products were offered as mail-aways, I suspect they were ‘helping’ Subbuteo clear old stock, whether they knew it or not, and based in Horsell, Surrey, they were quite near the home of Subbuteo, and round the corner from the PW Editor!

I found a website that details two box-types, but without Internet here I can’t check the significance...was one issue signed by a famous cricketer or had less extras or something maybe? Perhaps someone could find the page and post a link in the comments section after I’ve up-loaded this? As I remember the web-page, there is a small following for this specific game, so it must be quite playable?

I love the little stick-on Union-Jack; as if this set would have originated anywhere else, or - for that matter - export in large numbers to anywhere else…er…except India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa…I feel a Monty Python sketch coming on…”What have the Romans ever done…”!

Wicketz product listing;

? - Wicketz (1988, contains the same figures as Subbuteo cricket games)
1 - Catalogue
2 - Self Assembly Scoreboard in Black
3 - Self Assembly Figures to Paint
4 - Set of 2 Rollers and 6 Deck Chairs
5 - Scorebook
6 - Sets 2-5 complete


Ariel, who’s address was in Poland Street, London (lots of corporate HQ’s), so probably another ‘Generic’ brand - in the loosest sense of the word - and probably also connected to the pulping mills along the Thames corridor, went with their own figures, but a close look suggests they were sculpted by the same guy who worked the Subbuteo cricketers, in this case almost certainly the world renowned Charles Stadden, who was known to work with both Waddington’s and Subbuteo, sculpted many other games pieces, and is responsible for most of the figurines still found on Sports trophies today, indeed his likely involvement strengthens the ties to the pulpers through Waddington’s?

Other Ariel stuff with figures;

- The Gillette Cup (cricket game, 13 figures in six poses)
- Soccer Boss (160 players in three colours?)
- Zoo Quest (6 player figures)


Comparisons of the various Board Game figures, top are Subbuteo fielders with their ball catcher bases and bowlers and batsmen with gradated bases. Middle shows the Subbuteo figures at the front with the unpainted Capri versions at the back sandwiching the Wicketz figures in the middle, they don’t all get all poses and while Wicketz have gradations on the batsmen, the Capri set have all smooth bases, relying totally on the board for playing mechanism. The Bottom shot has the ArielGillette’ set.

Other Subbuteo items, the watchers and roller-man came as a double set mail-away for Wicketz, these are - to my knowledge - the only accessories Subbuteo made that weren’t designed for the Football range which was their ‘Bread & Butter’ (they also made Rugby and Hockey sets)

The stretcher teams are from the football range, but would also be seen at cricket matches, there are three versions, the early ones at the rear having some similarities with the early Airfix Combat Group set (Stadden again!?), front left finds a redesign with the old stretcher case (no red stripes on blanket) and new bearers and the modern team (green bases, right), ready for action and part of a larger set of pitch-side figures including a mounted policeman.

Bottom left shows plastic ‘flats’ for bowlers, with whom you could flick the ball at your opponent’s ‘bat on a stick’. These mirror the original footballers, who were cardboard flats, and the new ‘photo-realistic’ flats that Hasbro use with the rump of Subbuteo to date.

A few other cricketer models, I’ll deal with the bottom left shot first as the others are all the same. We have the two quite common Peter Pan Playthings poses, these are common not because the game sold particularly well (although it might have) but because they are 60mm vinyl and have a high survivability factor. Unlike the little styrene guy between them, probably from a 1950’s board game, to find one with the ball catcher intact is probably a minor miracle! I can see him tuning up severed at the ankles in 50p bags, but as this example, very uncommon. The game he came from is unknown to me.

The other three shots show both early and late UK and Hong Kong versions of the Culpitts cake decorations in approximately 45mm. The Hong Kong production is vinyl again, but mine have been chewed…you start just getting the cake off the feet and before you know it you’ve had a left arm and a cricket bat for tea! The right-hand pair in both the bowler and batsman photographs shows two distinct sculpts, both undoubtedly from Gemodels. Although on the left of each shot, the vinyl figures would have come out last and may still be found in older cake shops if you’re lucky.

The image top left shows what your sick-green cake would look like if Mum invested in the whole grouping, sadly some Mums hated their kids so much they’d save money by not buying the wicket or wicket-keeper, so both items are rarer, that’s before you take into account the size of the wicket and its likelihood of getting lost.

However when I say rarer, I mean in comparison to the other two poses, as all cake decoration production seems to far outstrip demand, mint sets, bagged or lose, turn up all the time, cake decorating shops don’t tend to last long so mint product ends up as clearance, and out-painters often end up with the stuff, as do catering wholesalers, and the only Gemodels stuff I consider rare is/are the Fairy Tale figures and the Scenics – although the model railway world is hiding tons of Gemodels trees!

Oh - You know I said I wouldn’t get technical…well, now that China (and apparently; the US university circuit) are learning Cricket, I’d better explain the rules for those foreign visitors who fancy a go;

There are two teams, one ‘out’ in the outfield, the other; in, each player in the ‘in’ team ‘goes in’ until he is ‘got out’ when he comes back in and another man goes out to be got out, sometimes you get a man left not-out. When all of the in players is got out (except for the one who's not-out), the team that was out goes in and the team that was in goes out and tries to get the team coming in, out! At some point they all stop for tea, even if it’s lunch-time. Simple, makes Baseball look like Brain surgery and American Football sound like rocket science!

[Can’t remember where I stole that from but it’s been around for a while]

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