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.

Friday, October 21, 2016

C is for Classification

Before I go any further with the Preiser season, it's worth going back a ways and looking at what little I know of the development of the range (with a look at the rivals) as it will help explain (but not clear-up) a few question marks going forwards with the subsequent posts.

Both Preiser and Merten produced a large number of sets in various scales, both companies copied sculpts or reduced the masters to the various sizes, both also had/have unique items in some sizes, where they differ is that while Merten continued adding numbers inexorably (or at least until their demise!) from nought to infinity, Preiser have attempted to renumber at least twice, making things far more complicated!

To be honest, I have a softer spot for Merten. They have a sculptural quality that evokes the 'toy' figure, Preiser are lovely figures, but they are almost a bit sterile, they are modern models, not old toys . . . sadly; I'm in a minority, and the fact that Merten retained their toy'ness probably contributed to their demise!

Also, while Merten stuck with their nominated scale/ratio from day one, Preiser have (like Airfix) decided from time to time that what was one thing is now another! So HO was 1:90 in the 1970's, but became the current 1:87, without changing size at all! Yet, some production is clearly 1:90, while other nominally 1:72 production is barely bigger than the HO production - now 1:87 but previously itself 1:90 . . . feel that headache coming?

To be honest it's only really a problem for the real rivet-counters, as - and I've said it before - people are different sizes! The advent of 3D imaging/scanning has newer sets from Preiser CAD/CAM'ed from life models, with men typically taller than women, and the difference between overweight or slim individuals (something Preiser have always aimed at anyway) being as realistic as the people modelling.

And there's a lot about it on the Preiser site, including video-clips of the models and artists I think?

Some examples of the numbering changes and what they've meant for researching the subject; The zoo (technically 'Circus') animals were 6xx, became 06xx at around the time the 'basic paint' range got some total renumbering (which has made them very problematical!), before they were renumbered to 203xx.

They are almost the exception which proves the rule, in that while the original 1-250 sets are still with us as 10001-10250, the animals (like some of the basic paint range) got numbers that bore no connection to the old number (but they did retain their order in relation to each other).

The 10xxx range has been greatly expanded over the years and now stands in the 106xx's (10690 was the last issued), from around 10250, they don't pertain to the old sets. However some sets have been issued more than once under both different numbers in the standard range, and new numbers in the basic range, while others have been dropped, seemingly forever, others pop-up again, occasionally, on mould-bank rotation, and still more are retained only in the basic-paint range with a number which may pertain to the old 1-250 standard number, or not!

The packaging has also been changed several times while the ACW guys also got a brief renumbering for sale in the same blister-cards as early 4xx series wagons, but have otherwise been given ever longer numbers with the same 'last three'.

A few years ago I got this lot off Jan Yarzembowski and while I have a vague memory of them appearing somewhere in a catalogue or trade add., I suspect that's a wishful-thinking [false] memory rather than an actual event memory, and suspect that they are a bit of a one-off.
Probably contracted to someone like EMA (or whoever they are), the architectural model suppliers, or even for a specific job with an architect's practice? I don't know, if you do - tell the rest of us!

But, they proved very useful in showing that while most of the standard sets are produced, as a set of six, together on one runner, sometimes, some are split between runners, sometime a runner will have a couple of 'extra' figures who never appear in the standard set, but do appear in the unpainted bulk sets, suggesting a lot of spares kicking around somewhere - possibly thrown back in the granule hopper?

In the examples above for instance, the sets 'Hotel' (now 'Front of House'; red plastic) and 'Teenagers' (yellow) are both complete sets on their own runner, the grey runner on the other hand has no set-title and provides a variety of sets with a changeable compliment, namely several of the coaches and wedding carriages.

The pink set 'Women at Washline' or 'Laundry Day', the small componants are all on the runner, but a separate washing-line is sourced from an un-named and 'in-house' accessory runner. The white runner to the right though shows that actually the teenagers have a couple of attached passengers from another set of 'passengers'!

The green runner which is I think 'At the Ticket Barrier' (or something similar) also comes with spare luggage, this would be painted and put in bulk sets such as 556 (below) or added to trolley sets. The child gets left out of the budget sets and probably went back in the hopper . . . polymer death-sentance!

A further case in point on the left here, we have four figures from the same set; originally just 'Assortment 22' it became 'Set 22 - Passers-by' (now 10022); who were joined by two heavier-set men from another runner, while the cowboy looking dude, smoking a corn-cob pipe is from set 32 'Standing Workers', long out of the catalogue as a standard and budget-paint set, but found unpainted in set 326 'Various Professions' where that group is clearly 7 figures?

Did they rotate the extra? The fact that I have so many loose examples, including another green one from a different coloured batch would suggest he was swilling-about somewhere as unpainted stock, but where?

The sixth guy remains a mystery, and will I suspect be found in a low-numbered set in 1970's catalogues which has not been listed for a while?

On the right is another numbering variation, supposedly the 4xxx was the basic-paint series, but I can assure you these are the standard 'exclusive' paint and I haven't switched them! A very problematical set as it is still in the catalogues as '14149 Professions' (totally new 'last three' numbers), as five figures and a wheel-barrow for the road-sweeper. The dropped figure being the diminutive 'lab-technician' looking figure, while the two females stay, even though it's impossible to tell which 'profession' either has subscribed to or trained in - the red one now grey (?), the white one now blue (nurse?)!

Originally it was 'Set 60 Verschiedene Berufe' (various trades), which would have become 060 (once the 100 was reached), then 0060 and the budget 4060 (as here), is no longer listed as 10060, nor 14060 but has popped-up as 14149, yet remains blank at 4149 in my master list? Aaaaaaaah! AND it was included in the big unpainted, coloured-plastic lot, as well as being in various painted and unpainted bulk-sets, some also involved in renumbering over the years. It's enough to drive you mad; maybe it would be easier to make it up as I go along!

Below is a shot showing an exclusive-paint set above and a basic-paint set below (part set anyway); not much difference huh? It's more complicated, it's always more complicated with Preiser! Although the numbering with this one is simple - exclusive 20, 020, 0020, 10020, and budget 4020 and 14020, the 'last three' retained in/through the life of both series.

Technically there are the two paint styles, plus unpainted sets in various 'bulk' sizes, with what they now call "Die preisgünstige Standardserie. Handbemalt"; "The 'value for money' standard series. Hand painted" being the simple paint scheme range, less colours, blocked-in for a cheaper price, the original 'standard' paint was actually known as exclusive, now: "Exklusivserie. Aus Kunststoff. Sorgfältig handbemalt" (Exclusive series. Made of plastic. Carefully hand painted.).

But the vagaries of some sets (or individual figures) needing more colours, the variation between out-painters and the fact that for a long time (possibly still happening) a lot of the painting was outsourced to the Maldives (where some of the best paint finishes come from), after years of mediocre painting locally means all standards of paint finish can be found, and don't always point to which set they come from!

In recent years a truly 'exclusive' (in the English meaning) series of individual figures and the odd set (VIP coach) have been painted to a very high standard. If you follow the painted draft-cattle through the wagon posts you will see what I mean, they are all old 'standard' (now exclusive), yet one is poor, a pair are OK and the other pair are very good.

On the left a set of six made-up from two runners, on the right a lifetime's collecting of the second set issued (or numbered? Numbering started with 10, 1-9 were paperwork inserts and such-like), Set 11 Bahnpersonel DB (Railroad Personnel - Deusches Bundesbahn), there are two extra figures on the runner, but they are both duplicates of the platform guard/dispatcher?

And while I don't know where they went to while the other six were getting their paint-jobs, I seem to have ended-up with more of them loose and unpainted, so they were kicking around somewhere.

Main picture - It's not easy to make sense of, but I will in the end! Both these sets also have an extra pair of figures, common sets from the early days, both 33 (or 033) and 105 retaining their last three in both ranges 'till today, I don't know which order the two were in on the runner, so I've photographed them the other way up!

Painted figures from both sets seem to be either 'budget' or home-enhanced? Also; while the two dark blue guys are clearly 'other sculpts' by the sculptor, for the set, the two sky-blue 'extras' have wandered-over from central casting via farming-today!

Here they all are, along with corn-cob guy, making-up the numbers in one of the most useful sets Preiser make, but that doesn't explain all the spare that must have been generated producing the six-figure painted sets. The two spare track-workers may have ended-up in other - now deleted - sets, there were a lot of 'labourer' type sets, the two rural types were stood in wagons sometimes and corn-cob guy just turns-up loose - in numbers!

The original plan/aim seems to have been a nice little range of railway modelling sets around 150-200 sets, so the original unpainted budget sets started their numbering at 300. They weren't the large bulk lots of today; just approximately two-and-a-half sets worth of figures, taken from 2, 3 or 4 of the six-figure line-ups.

They came with a two-fold, six 'page', pamphlet format insert which explained how to convert the figures - if you look at the last image on page 5 (bottom left) there is a Cowboy, an Indian, a cricketer (in a German language sheet!), a golfer, a caveman and what looks to me like a character from Planet of the Apes?

However with the [now] 10xxx series going to 600 items and the constant cross-fertilisation with the 14xxx budget series the presence of this little series in the 300's has lead to some of the renumbering which makes Preiser so much harder to nail-down than Merten!

There's another small number of anomalies around 550, including various accessories, which is where we find some of the luggage tacked-on to runners as we saw above, this useful set has been replaced with larger bulk lots in today's catalogue. The white ones seem to be parts of a dedicated set, however they also provide for attaching to various other sets, the basket is held by people in several sets, the backpacks went to three or four sets etc...

While we're looking at the 'back-story', some of the wagons we have yet to look at were copied (?) by at least one Hong Kong producer, and I know we've looked at these before on the blog somewhere, but here are a couple of old photographs scanned-in and needing clearing from Picasa.

Shallower wheel-hubs and a HONG KONG mark on the base of the body are the only obvious difference between the pirate and the original, so there's the twin possibilities that either they were produced by Prieser dipping a toe in the whole HK 'thing' to see if it worked for them, or that they might have been licensed to somebody else, who then sent the moulds to their contract manufacturer, Bachmann maybe, Marx, someone like that? I favour copies, but good ones?

There seems to be a Wild West angle to them and I wonder if they also ran/copied the covered wagon or stage coach, both of which are among a very few real Preiser 'rarities' now, having been deleted from the catalogues in the 4xx-numbered days and never re-issued.

The horse that came with these HK versions was a poorer copy of the old Roskopf nag we saw the other day; a very toy-like thing, but without the sculptural charm of Merten! And as you can see there is a second version - closer to 1:72nd scale - which only muddies the water further!

The smaller inset shows how they have a similar system of plug-in to all the ethylene war-gaming draft-teams on their flanks, but with a collar between the horses which slips (loosely) over the main-pole/draw-bar.

From the current catalogues, but spliced together and overlaid with more info, I know the mm sizes are open to debate, but it's only a guide which may be a useful download for some, and there much contention over the whole 15mm/1:120th area! I am - slowly - working on a scale page to go at the top of the Blog; it will be about 40 pages-worth and will upset everyone, especially 'purists'!

If you're the sort of person - like Erwin Sell - who makes things up as you go along, while bitching about small scale blogging, you're actually telling your fellow collectors you're only interested in half the story. Given that with Prieser the large scale came late and was licensed from (then based on the inherited moulds of:) Elastolin, it's easy to document that part of the story, the interesting stuff is the stuff from the late 1940's through to the late 1970's which is to be found in some of the small scale oddities above.


Jan Ferris said...

Another excellent treatise; on topic and informative. Thanks for making the post; you have done a fine job.

Hugh Walter said...

Thanks Jan - There's always more to discover!