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.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

T is for The Lucky Toys

If you're sat at home reading this, you're not heading to Sandown Park? Doors open in an hour!

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As I haven't got the A-Z remotely ready for publishing, I'm not going to delve into what little is known with too much depth here today, but rather a quick thumbnail sketch, then a look at some of the figures missing from my sample with - deliberately - rather poor images most culled from evilBay (all non-watermarked) and some from Planet Die Cast (links at end) or Vectis lots, mostly from a couple of good plastic vehicle collections they sold back in the noughties; 2007-9 I think, and all:- of reduced pixels, cropped-out of larger images.

Then we will look at a few lose-ends which have come-up in the editing, and finish with a contentious - to some - theory, with my reasoning.

So the company we have been looking at for the last 7-odd days is the highlighted one (a latecomer is snuffling in to its slot above - there will be more; it's that sort of brand-name), almost certainly the company founded by Harry 'Lucky' Lam Hon-lit, who we know from Sara Monks' book Toy Town, left Lion Rock (OEM manufacturer for Mego Corp) sometime in the mid-1970's and started-up his own business: Lucky Trading, which (we are told) grew rapidly.

At Lion Rock Lam was responsible for checking-up on the companies that sub-contracted for Mego so he would have known lots of little guys in the industry who could produce product for him. And this might help explain the numbers of base types and base marks, he may never have had a factory to begin with, but only marketed stuff he contracted or commissioned from other mates in the industry?

On the left - my sample as it stood about three years ago, on the right - as it was back last summer. You can see there's not much difference, but there have been a few changes in bag contents and a few new figures added. Note that a hard styrene Marx version (marked to Marx) with broken pick-axe has come in; I have the full set in storage which will be one of several excuses to return to these figures in the years to come. I was told they were a prototype set, but they weren't; they keep turning up from time to time.

We also know - with regard to the vehicles to which these figures are associated - that they were sold in many brandings, handled by several importers ('jobbers' in the 'States) and FoB'ed to anyone who fancied a few carton's-worth! The Lucky brand-mark on boxes and blisters changed several times, and we've been looking at the many base marks this week past, packaging included:
  • ·         Lucky
  • ·         Lucky Quality Toys
  • ·         Lucky Toys
  • ·         The Lucky Toys
  • ·         The Lucky Models
While generic sets (single smaller scale vehicle with two figures) were aimed at the budget end of the market, Lucky also seem to have had at least three in-house brands:
  • ·         Laurie Toys (worldwide)
  • ·         LP (see contention at end of today's article)
  • ·         Minimite (US market)
  • ·         Veny
They were also distributed by several other unbranded generics and imported by known companies including:
  • ·         Century 21 (UK)
  • ·         Clifford
  • ·         Cragstan (US)
  • ·         Fairylite (UK)
  • ·         Larami (? May be sub-piracies)
  • ·         TAT
While the following have also been associated with them, either as victims of copying by Lucky, or copying from Lucky, or other carriers of Lucky products, There were also several scales of vehicle range, some of them sourced from more than one source, others were probably stand-alone, as I say; I'm no expert - my knowledge of plastic 'die-cast' vehicles is just not that good!
  • ·         CN (smaller scale-downs?)
  • ·         Hover
  • ·         LB (?)
  • ·         Marx
  • ·         OK
  • ·         SYS
  • ·         Telsalda (larger up-scales?)
And others?

The Hong Kong Lucky is not to be confused with LTI / Lucky, where the 'Lucky' is a similar red on white, but block lettering with the LTI (Lucky Toy International) black-blocked on a yellow disc, that Lucky is a Japanese tin-plate manufacturer.

So it's no wonder there are so many base marks! This can be fitted onto an A4 page 'landscape', or two smaller ones 'portrait', and then printed out and cut-up so you can slip them in the bags or tubs you sort into, if you sort as assiduously as me!

The figures either turn-up in mint sets (not my thing - the Laurie set was in a larger lot years ago!), or in small groups or singles, often damaged or played-with, and if you're lucky in the 50p rummage-trays at shows!

It’s also worth checking the bulk 'job-lots' on feeBay, as you sometimes find one or two hidden among the broken Cherliea, paint-damaged Herald, mountain of rack-toy knock-offs, pieces of rock-hard, furry, brown Plasticine and drawing-pins of those lots . . . there's usually a marble or two, some buttons and a broken-stub of colouring pencil or wax-crayon as well!

A few of mine out of their bags - if it wasn't clear in the previous posts; the three-figure number changes with each figure pose, I only CAD'ed one of each type as a sample, while the 1112 never changes - on those base types upon which it is found.

The beauty of the paper 'tags' is that when you get a few at a show or online, you only need to look at each base, glance at the - lined-up - bags and put them all together in the same place, not only am I selling you free editorial copy, I'm now selling you free labour-saving devices!

If you want the black ones I've been using in these posts, just 'reverse colour' in an image editor like Photoshop, Fireworks or Picasa, but be aware they'll hit the black cartridge in the printer - heavily.

These have all been seen bar the racing driver adjusting his helmet, he's an interesting one as I may have him with the other drivers in storage, but if I do he must have another base mark entirely, or a smooth base, otherwise I would have sorted him into this lot.

In the Elf set we see a grey-painted, ovoid-based figure mixed in with the smaller 'kidney' based mechanics. While a cheaper-looking 'rack-toy' has three from that batch with a few accessories and a small sports-saloon racer.

Petrol station/service station sets ('Gas Stations' to some of you!) Various contents and island configurations, but the same two figures keep turning up! I'd love to know which base mark they have in each set  (or whether they're mixed marks in same sets?) and the dates they had them!

Being unmarked, I have some of these in the 'Unknown Seated' zone of the collection (storage!) sans skis I think! Several of the seated figures are also used as vehicle drivers and I can't work out if the male skier is the same as the seated man with his legs parallel, or a different sculpt?

And I've lots of the horses in various sizes, we may have looked at some when we looked at Corgi, but I may have just mentioned them in passing. Both Corgi and the pirates (plural - it wasn't just Lucky) did them in various sizes and some have the blanket moulded-on, some as a sticker, some as a sticker over an unpainted blanket, while there are front-knee-pad and no knee-pad variants and I have one in a dense nylon or polypropylene - they need a dedicated collector to collate and curate! I have an idea that at one point a set of four were issued as breakfast cereal premiums, but I may be getting wires crossed there?

Lots of figures still to find, the taxi/bus pair look quite sinister in a cartoonish Spy V's Spy sort of way! They also have a new base type altogether, I would hunch a bet that they probably have the  ovoid or square-based mechanics/forecourt guy's markings, but it remains to be seen and they may have all new markings - can anyone tell us?

Also showing the guys with the large pourer and the mid-sized clipboard/lap board.

The set on the left came from one of the Moonbase Central gang when I called out to them for help with these figures, I can't remember who, but thanks to all of them!

While to the right another recent addition reveals that there are duplicate cavities or replacement mouldings - different sculpts anyway! The slimmer one with the smaller head (on the left of the pair) being the truer to the original Scalextric figure.

Board-guy again and paint-variations on the ovoid bases along with a pair of medics and ambulance driver, all in the one pose with a stretcher.

The other finishing-flag guy is cropped out of an already fuzzy evilBay lot of a generic carded rack-toy, and is painted more to match the Scalextric original. I suspect he may be small[er] scale (maybe 40mm'ish) and possibly from one of the sets/groups we looked at a week ago, or a stand-alone like the yellow Keep on Walking! guy who turned-up last year, either way he needs more investigation - ear worm; it's 'running'.

The stretcher that accompanies the medics (the above was actually a Fairylite boxing) is a simplified copy of the Dinky one (also sourced from/marked 'Hong Kong') shown here as issued with the Dinky model 288 Cadillac Superior Ambulance/Falck. Dinky would later carry a much nicer sculpt, smaller, with grey blanket, by Stadden.

As I've been sorting all these posts and dipping in and out of various folders and files, goggling points of pertinence like 'Plastic Hong Kong Fire Engine Toy' I found these on Vectis, now, they are small scale (going back eight posts here I think!) and previously appeared on a Blue Box post, but I think I said at the time I wasn't sure of their provenance, and it looks like they are Lucky.

Reasoning being; while these two- and three-shelf sets are trying to look like bog-standard Blue Box, and Blue Box did issue some of their's without logo-graphics (as these are), they contain the sub-piracies of the Blue Box copies of the Dinky forecourt figures and in a white variant, like one of the larger-scale square-based mechanics.

Also I have a set of lorries in a similar brick-pattern three-shelf'er, all of them the same cab as the wrecker-truck (a Ford Thames?) with 9 different body-types. Blue Box did that, but with Bedford MK's; following-after a set of Bedford RL's, while the fire-engines in these sets are (as well as copies of Western die-cast models) scale-downs of the larger Lucky machines, so . . .

. . . as I listed these two Blue Box (with caveats) I shall now list them Lucky (with caveats) and see how long it takes me to prove myself wrong, while searching for the third (a Corgi copy) pose above!

Looking at them, they are unmarked and also in the same two main shades of blue plastic as the Lucky larger-scale Dinky copies we looked at, at the start of this little overview. The two ambulance men/stretcher-bearers shown with them last time will remain Blue Box, being variations of their own GI figures.

So to the contentious point, and it is contentious.

I believe the two companies Lucky Toys and LP will be found to be two arms of Harry Lam's Lucky Trading. I've discussed this with others, who disagree and mentioned it in passing where - as a suggestion - it's politely ignored, but I believe the evidence (circumstantial not empirical) 'for' is starting to pile-up in a casual fashion, but that evidence (of any kind) 'against' or for a firmer, alternative narrative, is not there?

Having seen someone who would be considered a King (or worshipped as a god?) in the hobby still using IDL the other day (I thought we put that one to bed in 1" Warrior more than fifteen years ago!) I should point out [again] that it's LP with a monster's arms round it and [I believe -] represents Lucky Products

I wonder if any of the LRG/Keshi fans can ID the monster as a specific character from an Asian pantheon or mythology, or even early Manga; he appears to have two small eyes high-up in his head, large or bat-like ears and doesn't seem to represent any of the Sci-Fi products LP is best known for; might he be a 'lucky' god?
  • The evidence such, as it is and as far as I can see it, is as follows, dealing with the image first 
  • They both have a quite complicated graphical brand-mark on their product. This is not unique to them of course, but;
  • Both are circular and with radial elements
  • Both have the logo centre-stage
  • Both include a full 'Made in Hong Kong', and in both cases using the same DIN-style, rounded, sans-serif font
  • Both designs are visually underlined, one by 'Lucky' the other by the tail of the 'L'
In addition -
  • They both use/ship-through Clifford almost as often as in their own branding
  • They are both associated with Hover
  • They both appear in other brandings and as similar generics (two- and three-shelf window boxes)
  • They both flourished at around the same time, and tailed-off together
  • One source mentions LB as a re-boxing of Lucky's Jaguar/Daimler, if that turns out to be another misreading of the LP logo; that would be 'the' clincher! But there is/was an LB importer in Glasgow?
  • Neither brand's product range impinges on the other's in any way, no over-lap at all is a bit odd, if it's not by design
It's not a great list, and as I say, contentious, but it's about time it was aired for discussion and I'll value comments on the subject, or alternative theories. I'd like to go further and tie-in the Hong Kong firm known for its EM with the oak-leave wreath logo (Empire Made?) as most of the above points apply there too (with Larami as the main importer link), but I suspect they are a little earlier, and remain a separate entity - as the above two may well also be - this is a theory, not yet a fact!

Whatever the truth of my theory; When you uesd to Google Lucky you'd find a website which stated a Lucky was extant (but formed?) in 1996 overseen by a Mr. Danny Lam (Junior?) and has a list of products which matches Lucky (and LP's) output quite well, variations of the page still exist but without the original loge! In 2002 Lam (Senior?) got himself killed; shot in the head sat at a tea house table while breakfasting at Luk Yu's in Central, apparently over property deal (real-estate) problems.

However by then the company (if the same one) was listed as Lucky Toys (HK) Co Ltd. Suggesting it was only the Hong Kong arm of another 'flagged' firm. Are the two unconnected? Had the company been moved, was it moved after Lam's death? We know from research into Blue Box-Redbox (Tai Sang) that company's of this size (both Lucky and LP were pretty prolific in the late 1970's) get through a lot of names (as financial/legal entities).

If you have annoyed the Tongs or local Triad gang it's best to make yourself scarce, or maybe as original refugees from communism you would want to move before the 1997 hand-back of the colony - not everyone wanted to forgive and forget, not everyone would be forgiven (or forgotten) by Beijing!

Researching this is made harder by the fact that several toy companies had offices on a Lam Road in the colony, and the head of Forward Winsome (in his seat longer then the ex-head of Blue Box!) is also a Lam, probably no relation - it's a bitlike 'Smith' I fear!

Finally - the Spring 1959 Scalextric Bulletin announced the [Lines Brothers] Tri-Ang take-over (Graeme Lines was put in charge), the retirement of Scalextric's founder Freddie Frances, ran through the coming changes and listed some of the planned new products in development. That autumn the 1960 catalogue illustrated some of the new range, among which were the two figure accessory sets, shown here.

Initially they were hard polystyrene, matt-painted to the accuracy of contemporaneous Herald figures (i.e. very well) with six figures each, in two sets, most of which were copied later by Lucky. The sets were also issued painted in soft polyethylene and in both versions. The two plastic types could vary between dark flesh-pink materials to almost hazelnut browns - modern issues are soft white polyethylene or hard fawn polystyrene.

Eventually, and still sold; unpainted, the spectator range has been expanded over the years to 12 or maybe 18 poses (storage again!)? Originally made at the Minimodels Havant Plant, they (or only the later poses?) are almost certainly Charles Stadden sculpts, and include two lovely single mouldings of five people each, on a bench together.

Eventually a smaller-sized (approximately 40mm) set was issued when Scalextric brought out a little version, these may have been the spectator poses only and a reduced total at that? They are no longer in the inventory, but Hornby may have the mould somewhere?


Race Crew & Media Types (kindney bases) 
430 - Rolling Wheel (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
431 - Holding lap-board (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
432 - ?
433 - Interviewer (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
434 - Camera Operator with Tripod Camera (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
435 - Announcer with Microphone (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
Unknown Numbers
? - Racing-car Driver Adjusting Helmet (probably either 432 or 496, origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
Lozenge-based Guys
452 - Walking with clip-board (similar to Corgi figure)
453 - Walking no clip-board (similar to Corgi figure)
Race Crew (kidney bases)
495 - Running with Toolbox and Extinguisher (from minor US maker?)
496 - ?
497 - Kneeling with Extinguisher (from minor US maker?)
Square-based Mechanics
519 - Standing with Cap (from Deluxe Reading via Auburn?)
520 - Holding Two Rags (from Dinky/Meccano)
521 - Holding Oil Can and Oil-cloth (from Dinky/Meccano)
522 - Kneeling with Cap (from Deluxe Reading via Auburn?)
Race-goes and Officials (ovoid bases, may be originally Stadden sculpts?)
540 - Race Official with Finishing Flag (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric')
541 - Kneeling Mechanic/Scrutiniser (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric')
542 - Spectator Camera (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric')
543 - Spectator Waving with Binoculars (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric')
Unknown Numbers
? - Guy with Large Oil/Fuel Can/Pourer (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric')
? - Guy with Notice Board/Clipboard/Lap Board (from Tri-ang/Mettoy 'Scalextric', Marx had similar sculpt)
Firemen (square bases)
548 - Fireman Standing, Both Arms Forward (from Dinky/Meccano)
549 - Fireman with Breathing Gear (from Dinky/Meccano)
550 - ?
551 - ?
552 - Fireman with Hose End (from Dinky/Meccano)
553 - Fireman Running, Waving with Right Hand (from Dinky/Meccano)
Unknown
Holidaymakers (kidney bases)
? - Man with Binoculars (from minor US maker?)
? - Woman (from minor US maker?)
Businessmen / Hoodlums (large oblong bases)
? - Man in Long Overcoat with Briefcase (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
? - Man in Double-breasted Jacket with coat over arm (origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
No Bases (most - origin of sculpt unknown/Lucky original?)
? - Stretcher Case (similar to Dinky version)
? - Driver in Peaked Cap (ambulance/medics in white police/fire in blue plastic)
? - Driver in Flat Cap (taxis etc...)
? - Driver, Bareheaded with Necktie and Jacket (cars, vans &etc. Also used as male skier?)
? - Male Skier (?)
? - Skier, Female
? - Seated Male, Feet Together - Looking Upward
? - Seated Female, Feet Crossed - Looking Upward
? - Seated Female, Legs Together
? - Horse (54/60mm-compatible, Corgi copy)
? - Horse (40/50mm-compatible, Corgi copy)
? - Guy Riding Speedboat (integral to boat, may not be Lucky)

In addition there were various (two or three) racing driver torsos in the various Grand Prix types.

Accessories
- Standard Roof Rack
- Suitcases
- Roof Rack for Canoe
- Canoe and Oars
- Roof Rack for Skis
- Skis and Ski-sticks
- Spare Tyre, Medium (also used with 430)
- Spare Tyre, Large
- Spare Tyre, Racing Slick
- Oil/Fuel Can/Pourer (also used with 'unknown number' figure, Scalextric copy)
- Oil Can Cabinet
- Oil Drum
- Petrol Station Kiosk (two windows)
- Petrol Station Kiosk/Police Station (three windows)
- Kiosk and Single Petrol-pump Island (with two spare racing tyres)
- Double Petrol-pump Island
- Double Petrol-pump Island (with spare tyre between pumps)
- Double Petrol-pump Island (with open oil cabinet and large sign)
- Triple Petrol-pump Island (with tall stickered oil cabinet)
- Pit-wall Dugout (one window and service space)
- Trophy (after Subbuteo)
- Table
- Chair (issued in fours)
- Traffic Cones ('international orange' or white)
- Traffic/Race/Shop Sign (ex-Dinky - 'Police', 'Open')
- Bus-stop Lollipop-sign ('Happy Tour')
- Flag Pole

Petrol pumps (diesel was for lorries in those days!) were either an earlier design with a Shell scallop attached to the top, or a later design, fatter, flat-topped  and also badged to Shell but following the design of the Barton-Lunby die-cast pump (also made in Hong Kong and still available in some hobby-shops, now supplied by Hobbies Annual.).

The islands were grey base-plates with other accessories slotted in to receiving-channels, so other configurations of service station, police station, pit-wall dug-out or plain fuel-pump island probably [also] exist.

Along with the various American-made race figures I'm not familier with, I mean; I've got them all on the dongles (probably from Kent Sprecher's site) but I'm not going to go and look them all up this instant; you can add the small set from Airfix and the even smaller number from Kentoys to the list below and the Scalextric to make quite a crowd at your toy Grand Prix!

Links
Nice Picture Album (no figures!)
Vectis Home
Vectis Police Set
Vectis Fire Engine
Planet Diecast Telsalda, Hong Kong and Others
Planet Diecast Lucky Toys
Planet Diecast Petrol Stations
Planet Diecast OK Toys

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