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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

C is for Curiouser and Curiouser said Alice

Who is one of the characters in the Marx Disneykin range, indeed - Marx made her in various sizes. This little lot is a very oddball oddity, if ever there was one and deserving of a closer look, despite them being more of a curiosity than anything else.

I saw them on a dealers table a while ago, and wasn't in a position to buy them, but managed to secure them a few days later as they had gone unsold. The dealer is well respected and has some of the best sources/contacts for old plastics in the business, and on the day had a lot of shop-stock/factory-door product from Marx in the small scales, including a whole - mint - carton of the individually boxed Miniature Masterpiece Cowboys and Indians. I say this to establish the provenance of the lot as being pretty untouched stuff from the early 1960's.

This 'set' consists - at first glance - of nothing more exciting than four header-carded groups of Disneykins in little bags, numbered as No.1 Collection, No.2...(etc...), so far so good, however I'd already noticed that any two 'matching' bags had different contents, which was why I wanted all of them; usually in a situation like this I'd leave the other four for another collector.

Further investigation (I picked a couple up!) revealed that actually four of the cards had the "SET OF 4 UNPAINTED MINIATURES" tag-line stuck-on as little paper slips, a common occurrence at Swansea, where the 'Hong Kong' was often covered with an 'Empire Made' label. It then became immediately obvious that the four with the printed label (upper of each pair in above image) were copies of the four with the stuck-on label (lower of each pair).

Well, your first thought is that these are some modern dealer rip-off, destined for eBay that happened to end-up on a show table, but there are other anomalies; Miniature Masterpieces are usually painted. Why is there no capacity for the whole range in a 4x4 figure issue, why is there no order to the figures at all, half the 7-dwarfs are just not present, Huey, Duey and Louie and in different bags? Why are the contents to two 'seemingly' identical bags completely different? What's with the copies? Why the signs of a third 'missing' staple which is clear of most of the bags - so wouldn't have held them in?

And then a closer study of the cards, stated to make things a bit (and only a BIT) clearer...

 ...the two orange cards were the missing hankie Watson walked past.

Although the non paper-slip cards are copied from the paper-slipped ones, they were copied contemporaneously and printed on the same half-tone three-colour screen-printing machine back in 1950/60-something. We can tell this from two clues;

Firstly - although there is one mark or blemish copied from the original card (double arrow in lower image above) to  the 'clone'; it is an exception, all the other cards have unique wear-marks, and all the other wear-marks on the orange cards are different (that's not the clue!), yet it is clear form looking at all eight that they have roughly the same amount of wear (the first clue).

True - that if someone found them in mint condition (now'ish) he could then produce some pretty good copies which would all age together, but even the very best copies of Corgi boxes and the like are obvious to someone who knows what to look for, or to anyone comparing like for like, but we have the second clue...

...in the upper image the two arrows are pointing in the direction of the Moire Pattens caused by the resonance of Yellow and Magenta as layered by the printer.

If these were modern copies, the lines would go the same way, with the copy's being harder to define with the naked eye. So the copies were printed at the same time, on the same machine, but the artwork (screen masks) were loaded with a ninety-degree offset! Transferring the one blemish, and the exact boarders of the roughly-cut paper slips, and coming out looking identical, but with enough differences to 'do my head in'!!

The above is a comparison between the contents of two blue sets, a comparison between a painted mini 'kin' in a creamy-white, a paint-stripped pure-white (probably a Good Soldiers cast-off) and the rather neutral/grubby white of the eight bagged sets along with the reverse side of the header-cards.

So - to the truth...or my guesstimate of what was likely to have led to this mystery. The cards are probably from sets of painted Disneykins (which may well have had contents larger than four per bag - or card?), in order to produce a factory mock-up for a proposed future extension of the 'kins' range (which had many guises/formats), they then added the typical paper slip, took print-quality copies, ran them through the same printer, but with the artwork arranged differently on the sheets, stapled them to little bags with a few figures from a skillage of product waiting to go to out-painters (which is itself interesting as I'd always thought all the paining was done by ELM in Hong Kong). They were then probably attached (by the missing staple) to a hand-painted shop display card and presented to the product marketing people.

All the above paragraph is only one possible explanation, but what I'm sure of is that these two very different sets of four cards make-up a contemporaneous group of eight. It should also be noted that around 15 or 20 years ago, there was a lot of pre-production 'prototype' stuff kicking around from Marx Swansea most of it using existing production. There were hand painted mini-sets with the Miniature Masterpiece knights; the hand-painted HO monkey/ape set which - I believe - then went into production; 40mm mechanics with a push-&-go dumper truck in a mocked-up box and others.

Anyone have a better idea?!!


Paul´s Bods said...

Handpainted? I had a load of disney characters..all hand painted, roughly 1/56th scale..all of the Peterpan characters and loads more. Yours, there´s a bit of what looks like captn hook in exactly the same pose as the ones I had.
Just looked it up..yep..there he is;

Maverick Collecting said...

Blimey! That was quick...I was still tweaking it!!

Yes - the painted ones are the common ones, I've covered them before somewhere, it's these unpainted ones that are the slight mystery?

I thought they might have been meant to glow or something, but I've tried them with UV and a torch in the dark and there's no 'residue' of glowiness so I guess just grubby-white granules!


Maverick Collecting said...

The dreaded Hook is here Paul - El Capitaine Hookster!