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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

FIM is for Farming In Miniature (Book Review)

If you collect toys, toy vehicles, farm or zoo animals, horse-drawn wagons or equipment, farm vehicles or just about anything in the world of toy collecting...you should have these books on your shelves!

I'm a bit biased as I watched them taking shape and know how much effort went into them, but nevertheless, these two volumes are stunning works and while the authors were very strict to lay down and keep to a tight criteria with regard to inclusion or qualification, the depth and breadth of knowledge and the companies covered are broad and both books should be considered indispensable if you study British old toys or toy companies.

The first volume was issued about two years ago now, with the second volume being published in the Autumn of last year, and Adrian Little (who's main field of contribution was the plastic producers, and wooden toys along with the more esoteric hollow-cast stuff) assures me the 1st weights over a kilo and the 2nd nearly a kilo-and-a-half!

Peter Wade-Martins was the expert on Tractors and contributed a lot of the hollow-cast photographs from his own collection, while Robert Newson was chef-de-Die cast and the chap in charge of researching the histories of companies...which means he now knows more about the history of telephone directories in the 20th century than anyone would want to!

But all three of them contributed to all sections, with regular editorial meetings, endless phone-calls and the cross-issuing of lists of things to find, photograph, check, correct and "get right". One of the problem they had was a change of publisher half-way through (and after Vol. 1 had been published), which they weathered to the point where the second volume follows the format of the first perfectly.

Brian Bastiman and Mervyn Spokes both contribute sections to the whole and many others are name-checked. I have witnessed many contributions, by way of brief discussions at Toy Fairs, or the unveiling of  a new colour of tractor carried reverently in its own well-packed shoe-box in time for the printers to add it in!

Contents leaf of the second volume; both volumes carry companies you've never heard of, and follow an alphabetical format, the first volume having a lower company total, but covering the larger archives of companies like Britains and Corgi...Cherilea, Cresent and DCMT (Lone Star).

Indeed the formatting followed is one of the aspects of these books which make them so easy to use and indispensable to the collector.

Each company is given an introduction and history followed by a description of any farm-specific toys, models or other products which might be in any way considered Agricultural machinery, horse-drawn equipment or the animals or figures to populate the same...and finally pictures of the described toys, in the above example - Escor; a smaller Co. - This is a page of text with references and further reading along with a page of pictures.

For the larger companies the product listing goes into great detail, with all known colour variation, mould changes, model changes (if the catalogue number was retained) and other points to note or 'of interest'. All these entries are cross-referenced, in bold text, to the photographic sections, so it's easy to find and compare pictures with text while keeping them in their sections.

In this example, from Britains, the introduction and company history runs to  7 large format pages, the product descriptions to more than 20 (covering the main hollow-cast and die-cast production and the Lilliput,  Mini-sets and Model Farmyard ranges) and the illustrated section has 84-odd pages of high-resolution images and close ups of catalogues and other publicity material, all horse drawn carts, wagons and implements, tractors, trailers and machinery, boxed sets, box types &etc.

Tables and side-info. boxes are also employed to get the data across to the reader in clear and concise chunks that are easy to find and follow, usually coming at the end of the relevant section, here we see an old price-list reproduced to explain a point - the last issues in 1941 before the replacement of toys with munitions on the production lines - and the pricing.

A sample of the illustrated section from one of the bigger entries shows how all known variations are listed, be that box or model, and where the authors where unable to picture one it will none-the-less be described in the text section, often with a cross reference to a similar change/variation in another model or its box.

I can't rate these two works highly enough, and to not have them on your shelves is to have a big gap in your knowledge of vintage toys and British toy companies, which you won't be filling in a hurry as the three authors have spent thousands of hours, travelled thousands of miles and spoken to hundreds of people in order to gather and present the data for you!

And the information contained within the two books, while Farm specific, will help all toy and play-thing collectors, researchers and, yes, even Bloggers!

Also, I know there are plans for a third volume at some point, which will bring together all the new information which has come to light, a lot of it as a direct result of the previous two tomes!

FIM 1 - Farming In Miniature Volume 1: Airfix to Denzil Skinner -
2013
Robert Newson, Peter Wade-Martins, Adrian Little
ISBN - 978-1-908397-55-3
Old Pond Publishing, Ipswich
On Amazon

FIM 2 - Farming In Miniature Volume 2: Dinky to Wend-Al -
2014
Robert Newson, Peter Wade-Martins, Adrian Little
ISBN - 978-1-908397-56-0
Old Pond Publishing / 5M Publishing, Sheffield
On Amazon

Adrian's sales page - Mercator Trading

Robert's Website - Toy Car Collector

More Reviews

They both have copies available from time to time if you don't 'do' Amazon!

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