About Me

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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. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

C is for Codeg, Cowan de Groot, Camberwick Green, Censorship and Criminal

An interesting little series tonight and one you won't find in your local definitive list of other people's eBay images reduced to black and white thumbnails! Generally agreed to have been supplied by Marx (Swansea works) and probably made in the ELM factory in Hong Kong, these figures and the accessories that went with them were sold under the Codeg label by Cowan, de Groot, who by the time these came out were a large multinational PLC with a finger in every pie.

Cowan, de Groot was founded by S.D. Cowan and A. de Groot in 1919, and while initially being an importer of all sorts of stuff from around the world (Empire?!), among which were early tin-plate toys from Germany and Japan, they would go on to become one of Britians biggest wholesalers of toys, diversifying into the supply of plastics machinery and non-toy retail such as The Russian Shop in London and - I believe - an International property portfolio.

By the time this range was issued they were known for their commissioning of toys from third-parties to service the TV licences they were establishing with the BBC (Dr.Who/Daleks) and independent production companies (in this case; 1966 BBCTV). More recently they were the importers of Jotastar plush toys and bears from China, apparently ceasing to trade in the early-to-mid 1990's.

The evidence for these being from the Marx stable include both; that some of the larger CdG Daleks and Trumptonshire toys were resplendent with the Marx moniker (despite the fact that Marx had their own ranges (they wouldn't turn down a opportunity to shift product!) both as Marx and under the Combex label, and that while the base mark here isn't particularly a Marx style, the shades of pink plastic are identical to the Marx Miniature masterpiece American Indians and other Marx product from Hong Kong (the 40mm road crew for instance).

The above image is a near complete set of figures (missing the Murphy's daughter) and one of the accessories and should remain here in glorious technicolour for the next thousand years (Google or visit-stats willing!), with a list of the characters by name and other known items in the series below;

Left to right in above photograph;

Roger Varley the chimney sweep [but not much like the original - hat's too short], (the brush is missing the top part)
Farmer Jonathan Bell
Windy Miller
Doctor Mopp
PC McGarry Number 452
Mrs Honeyman and Baby Honeyman
Mrs Dingle
Peter Hazel the Postman
Mickey Murphy the Baker
Mr. Carraway the Fishmonger
Paddy Murphy
Mrs. Murphy

Not shown but known to exist

Mary Murphy
Section of Wall
Tree (almost certainly the Britains apple tree - sans apples)

Street Lamp

Not Shown/Not known to be part of the series;

Mr Crockett the Garage Owner
Thomas Tripp the Milkman
Mr Dagenham the Salesman
Captain Snort
Sergeant Major Grout


Set No 1 - Mr. Murphy's Bakery
Srt No 2 - Mr. Carraway's Fish Shop
Set No 3 - Post Office
Set No 4 - Dr Mopps House

- Camberwick Green Village Set [all four buildings, wall, lamp post, pillar-box and Britains tree]

- Camberwick Green Village Folk [all 13 figures and the pillar-box]

Close-ups for identification; The bases are quite distictive with their little hole, the two women with dresses and the piller-box being solid while the rest of the figures have a very light, thin base with little 'overhang' The figures are all between 25 and 30mm with the Piller-box being exactly 25mm and the Dr. Mop (with his tall hat) being an almost perfect 30mil.

For foreign readers it should be pointed out that Trumptonshire is the collective fan-title for a set of three children's TV series from the BBC's 'Watch with Mother' feature at lunchtimes in the 1960's, which consisted of 13 episodes each. Camberwick Green was the first series set in a small English village, this was followed by a series set in Trumpton - the local town, and finally 13 episodes set round the big house/estate of nearby Chigley. They are noted for being among the first colour TV productions here in the UK, and - it must be said - I have fond memories of them myself! "Pugh, Pugh, Barney Magrew...Cuthbert! Dibble! Grub!

And so to the 'Censorship' and 'Criminal' of the title bar!...

Two things came out of the research for this post, firstly; That despite being a major movement in Toys for 70 years and going under long after the coming of age of the Internet, there is almost nothing on CdG to be found other than the odd side-note to an eBay auction or other toy listing, this shows that despite the Internet becoming a more and more comprehensive (if often - still - inaccurate) source for the sum total of human knowledge, there is an undeniable undercurrent of censorship, and it's practised by the rich, powerful and corporate, who will ensure they delete the things they don't want you to know.

The other is the 'one born every minute' lesson; There are several of these figures on FeeBay at the moment, the seller is asking £29.99 for each of them...that's thirty quid folks...60-odd dollars! These things have an intrinsic value of less than 50p and shouldn't be worth more than a couple of quid each to collectors, I've never paid more than 50p-each for mine, yet this person who probably hoovered them up with something else at a local auction-house or car boot sale wants a third of a ton for them?

While someone else has some on his little antique toy site which - while well described - include things that have absolutely no connection to the series whatsoever; An HK Tree, an HK import of a European model railway building copy, a polyethylene windmill by Taylor & Barratt or similar (which has its own value in the correct guise anyway) and some HK dolls house copies of the Britains garden...now, the fact that the descriptions are so good means - to me - that the seller knows damn well he's ripping people off?

But the real tragedy is; the 'one born every minute' are the sharks, there are a hundred born every minute to pray-on; and rich know-nothings will pay those prices! I don't often mention money or value but it incenses me to see such profiteering of mass-produced plastics from the second half of the 20th century, the stuff isn't rare, I keep saying it because it's true; people used to think Giant was rare but a warehouse full of the stuff was sold-off a couple of years ago! Truffle-hunt round the car-boot sales and evening toy fairs and you'll get these for next to nothing, just be patient.


Gog said...

About information on the internet, I have to say, there is still much to be done. If you search information about a topic like "plastic figures" what you found is mostly too simple and incomplete, not to mention thousand ebay listings that do not bring a single bit of information.

I have similar problems when looking for Spanish toys, but fortunately, everything is changing. Tomorrow I will post an article about Comics Spain, that deals with this topic. Don't expect much about it, it has no information inside.

And the second thing, about prices, I tended to get andry with that too, but now... Who pays 30 Pounds for the figures, is the only one to blame, not the seller.

remaras said...

Interesting treatise!

Maverick Collecting said...

Thanks Gog;

At least there are a number of decent, informed Spanish and Portuguese (European and South American) language blogs on the subject of vintage toys, or seem to be. In English there still seems to be a dearth of them compared to the number of Internet users in that lingo...nothing I've found in German, one Belgian site that's hot on the colonial period and an ancient French site on Starlux that hasn't been updated for donkey's-yonks!

Still - it will get better, slowly!


Maverick Collecting said...

Thanks Remaras


Tony K said...

Thanks for the link. Nice to see these figures. Tony K :)

Hugh Walter said...

Glad you found it Tony, there's lots of stuff on here (and Moonbase - I'm sure) which was posted before we had the levels of traffic, or tagging knowledge to get it featuring in current Google searche results!