About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening 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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MTC is for Rack Toys!

Last post for now is a bit of a folder-clearer, not the both Brian's Folder and Picasa aren't still full of rack toys - they are, we will be having more Rack Toy months, although all the small scale ones will be on the HK Blog as soon as I pull my finger out, slacker; that's my problem!

Frogs! Not the same as some others we were going to look at, but time waits for no man, I'll try and get them into a 'normal' post soon; MTC frogs!

Jet fighters, MRCA's and the lovely A10 Warthog. I watched A10's down at Lulworth Cove many, many years ago, these days they are a welcome sight for chaps in the field - as long as they are pointing in the right direction, you don't want to be in front of them when they burp!

The left hand set are copies of old 1970 mouldings, including the veteran Phantom and Starfighter, they manage to be both better and worse than their precedents - being thicker more rigid plastic; they are nicer to handle and hold their shape, but the detail carving is deep and crude.

Sea life, if you remember the volcanic atoll diorama of last month, this is the sort of set you find your sea-monster, look at that octopus! We will be returning to that atoll in the post 'B is for Biggles' soon, with a first for the blog!

And a set of horses, around 54mm by the look of them and ideal set for individual figure modellers (Napoleonic Generals standing around on smart mounts!?), closing-down Rack Toy Month . . .

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

S is for Salesman's Sample

As I mentioned the other day: by the early 1960's there were over 500 legally registered plastics companies in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. The South Eastern Chinese region had been leased to Britain on a 99-year promise to hand back, a deal which was one of the more extraordinary episodes in the rather shameful rush by Europeans (and Americans) to grab anything and everything useful in the world. That also involved continuing the trade of opium and gave rise to the phrase 'Gunboat Diplomacy', engaged-in rather too literally by the British!

With lots of small one-room, un-registered, family-run operations, there would have been many more companies in the nascent plastics trade there. They weren't all dealing in toys though, HK was the global center of the plastic (or artificial-) flower trade, while others would have been engaged in the manufacture of household goods, automotive and aeronautical parts, indeed: anything that could be made from a hot-polymer.

However hundreds of them would have been involved in the manufacture of toys, or the production of parts and sub-assemblies for other (typically larger) toy firms to use in finished product. We are talking cheap, pocket money toys for the most part, a few higher-end toys and playthings were starting to come out of HK by the late 1950's as US importers (jobbers) moved their allegiances from Japan to follow the British and take advantage of the new industry in Hong Kong, but the bulk of HK toy production was decidedly 'low budget'.

I tend to refer to these toys as 'Rack Toys'.

Pretty typical rack toy from 1966;
Lido copies we looked at here and a
wheeled tank that turns-up on various carded sets.
Now I got an eMail from someone in Eastern Europe last week asking me to explain the term 'Rack Toy', and I must apologise as I know I tend to write this blog as if the reader is a vaguely white, vaguely middle-class, vaguely educated, English-speaker . . . i.e., I write this Blog to myself; it's the sub-conscious narcissistic element that drives such behaviour across social media and the blogosphere!

Rack Toys are those cheap toys sold from racks! Well, now I'm being facetious . . . they can be sold in a variety of ways, but for Rack Toy Month I've tried to concentrate on those attached to a card and punched for hanging from hooks in pierced hardboard wall linings. These days the hooks have become more varied in design and the holder is a slotted sheet of particle-board, chipboard or MDF (medium-density fiberboard), the slots being lined with tracks made of aluminium extrusions. There is another type - see dollar tree below.

But for the purpose of explaining to people in other parts of the world who had their own thing, such as the former Soviet Bloc (who's toy industry was almost entirely domestic), rack toys are the equivalent of toys within the reach of pocket-money or 'small-change' and often of subjects lending themselves to easy, low cost manufacture. So while we have looked mostly at figural or animal items this month, they can include novelties, water-guns, cap-guns, jokes, tricks, dolls house furniture and etcetera.

The prevailing signature being cheapness . . . cheap production values (design, prototypical accuracy, mouldings), cheap materials (or minimal materials), cheap artwork, cheap packaging!

Although - as we saw with the Star Wars sets, these days quite expensive toys can be formatted for the racks, as big stores have vast banks of them; the 'cheepies' we are concerned with here will be isolated out and away from the 'higher-end' stuff, usually near the entrance or check-out.

Other terms for them include 'Impulse Toys' (bought on impulse - 'Impulse Purchase'), 'Pester-Power Toys' (designed to produce a whingeing "Can I have one? Pleeeeeeaase?"), 'Till-side' or 'Cashier Desk Display Toys' (bringing impulse and pester together in the queue to pay!).

While other versions of them might be the Iberian 'Kiosko' (or kiosk toys, bought with pocket-money, or by a kindly parent when getting their paper, magazine or cigarettes), 'Lucky Bags' (with an assortment of sweets, confections or a mini-comic &etc.), 'Party Favours' and 'Dollar Tree Toys' (a revolving, PE-coated or chrome-plated wire display-rack); both US terms, the former now used this side of the pond, the later now a branded chain of stores Stateside. 'Bath' and 'Beach Toys' are also rack toys.

Which brings us to currency related terms; 'Pocket-Money Toys (priced for the weekly pocket money which for most kids in the 1950's and '60's was a small or token amount), the aforementioned Dollar Tree chain having as its heritage the 'Dime Store', 'Five & Dime' and 'Drug Store' toys, all from the 'States and their modern UK equivalent the Pound Shops (Poundland, Poundstretcher etc...), and their heritage in 'penny' (pre-WWII) and 'sixpenny' toys.

Other shop terms might be 'corner shop', 'convenience' or 'variety store' or others which we don't use or write any more, but which pertained - in a derogatory fashion - to the ethnicity of the proprietors, finally 'Tobacconists' and 'Newsie' or Newsagent Toys!

The above is not an exhaustive list but should help those who were wondering. In the UK they were also called 'Hong Kong Toys', or Hong Kong Shite! Rhymes with 'bite'.

But what's this? It has its own hanging bauble!
Those toys, manufactured by those hundreds of firms would then find their way to the West by a variety of means almost as numerous as the companies involved. Most companies only engaged in making toys for other people, a few branded some of their production, Lucky and Blue Box used branding a lot (after an anonymous start for the later) those 'other people' might be the larger factory next door, or down the road, or across the bay in the New Territories.

They may be a Western Importer/jobber, a local marketing co-op (what we are looking at in today's pictures), or they might make them 'on spec' (speculation), to 'job' themselves; to local salesmen, the HK offices of the larger Western importers, or at a trade show.

Some of those local 'jobbing' salesmen would then take the products of several small or medium-sized (SME's) HK companies to the Toy Building in New York and 'job' them on to a Western company's offices there; the Western company would then in turn job them on to retailers - large and small - including drug-stores, tobacconists &etc., wholesalers, and toy-shop chains.

Other (larger) HK companies had their own sales offices, either in 'Central', the 'toy district' of downtown Kowloon** or at 200 Fifth Avenue, larger companies like Blue Box, the Gardener's PMC or Early Light had both and direct channels to favored - or indeed - favorite clients!

Travelling salesmen would then go from town to town and store to store, with their sample cases, getting firm orders, 10 of those here for cash, 20 of them there on sale-or-return . . .

Independent Store Owner/Buyer - "Right Jeff - I'll pay you for fifteen of these now, but I don't think those will fly, I'll take ten, but only on s/o/r, plus the repeat (usual order), we had Andy from Mettoy in the other day, he's offering a good deal on tin cars you know, I was tempted"

Salesman/'Rep' - "OK, I can make that work at the office, but do me a favor Bill, try a box of these, they're new, I'm back through next week I'll check-in with you; see how they're doing - I'll throw in a tub of bouncing balls, on the house, and I've got a set of four Tai Nam tinplates you can take, a US taxi, Fire chief, Ambulance and army-jeep, really colourful, they retail at two-shillings and sixpence a set, a bob to you, I'll have them with me next week"

The products themselves were often just knock-offs of existing Western toys (quality varying from quite like the original to atrocious rubbish!), but original designs were also produced and again quality varied from very good to extremely poor. Chinese and Japanese tin-plate was also pirated, sometimes in tin, sometimes in plastic.

If someone tells you "China has two different way to do toys/else." Tell him he's making it up as he goes along, there were as many ways to 'do toys' as there were companies involved. Some produced their own masters and moulds, some used those provided by the client. Whether in-house, client or a partner engineering-firm, those mould tools might be original designs, straight copies or cut-n-shut conversions.

When copying some went for the 'by eye' method of copying a 'new sculpt'. Others used pantographing equipment to produce reasonable copies, by using a pantograph, they could at the same time increase or reduce the size of the finished product as it is/can be used as a scaling tool as well as a straight copying machine.

Some used reverse molding to take a mould of the pirated piece; this usually results in a slightly smaller clone with a loss of detail. Others would take a die-cast toy apart and redesign it for plastic production, Lucky did this a lot with its larger scale vehicles.

The percentage of original [product] designs began to increase with the coming of FoB sales. Unlike jobbing where the financial risk is carried by the manufacturer while he's making it, and the Importer once he's paid for and taken delivery of it, with FoB sales, management 'teams' would organize the procurement, and/or design of the toy, find customers, get a bill of lading (BoL) off them which they could then use to A) secure bank funding and/or B) give the factory the go-ahead, the factory might them use the same paperwork to secure its own funding for materials or tooling, the risk was spread, promissory notes and 'finance' oiling the wheels of sweet deals!

Thus, certain larger Importers in the West and the bigger sales co-op's in HK became more 'professional', the boozy lunches moved from the country-club or the HK races (my mother rode there!) to boardrooms, and people like Larami (in the 'States) started obtaining licenses for things like Planet of the Apes, or, in the UK: Codeg with Trumpton and Rupert the Bear, which their tame manufacturers would translate into new designs rather than the same-old, same-old ex-Britains, Dinky, or Matchbox  copies.

It didn't stop the copying - that continues to this day; but it legitimised the bigger firms like Soma, Jetta, Kader, Forward Winsom, Tai Nam, May Chong or Universal as they could now be sued more easily through those agents and partners, or the stores the toys ended-up in or even their own offices in New York.

The company incorporated a US office in California two years
after jobbing this. Note the factory door cost differential
between FoB and Cash to Freight (or Forward; CTF)

It was the change to FoB practices which lead - along with other factors like the Oil Crisis and falling child populations after the heady-days of the 'baby boom' - to the demise of the West's toy industry, and the rise of ever larger players - feeding on the bargain bones. Luck plays a part too of course, how did Marx fail while Hasbro rose to the top for instance?

Especially as Marx was one of the first US firms to recognise the coming power of HK, setting up both factories and tame OEM's (original equipment manufacturers) in the colony, but maybe that was the problem, Hasbro exploited the inherent flexibility of FoB practices, Marx got bogged-down in traditional in-house manufacture, just with the complication of many plants in many places.

In the last 30 years, other equally great changes in the industry have occurred, the ones pertaining to business & procurement practices, fashion, fads and marketing and other such work-a-day stuff  (the way the industry - with its Toysaurus at the top - operates now) has been well written-up by Peter Evans in Plastic Warrior magazine; issues 144 and 146 (back issues available).

The other aspect is the wider geo-political changes brought about by firstly; the freeing-up of the economy in Mainland China with the thawing of the Cold War and the death of Chairman Mau (he was an unemployed chair salesman!), and secondly the handing back of HK to China (reunification or 'handover') in 1997, the two events leading most of the larger HK producers to move all (or the bulk) of production back in-land, over time, in part due to great start-up/relocation terms being offered by the Chinese government.

The elephant in the room here of course is that the old Chao Chow (Chaozhou, Chiuchow, or Teochew) refugee companies who started the global domination of toy production all those years ago, are now competing with State-owned companies, sometimes in the factory-unit next door!

However, the social aspects of Chinese society are far more nuanced than 'ours', and they all rub-along together (one of the reasons it's so hard to pin down the origins of individual sets), while they're staying busy buying-up what's left in the US, Canada or Europe.

The newest change to the industry is the decision/announcement by China (in 2013) that in future contract manufacture would take a back-seat to the development of both 'own brands' and a domestic market for those brands, part of the 'Chinese Dream' strategic shift. China's economy almost immediately slowed down 9for wider/other resons), so those 'new' brands (mostly old 'generics') have actually started to appear in the West, through the same old channels, and we just have another name on the packaging, this month - for instance - we've seen stuff branded to Dan Hai and Zhenhai, little or nothing about either on-line. LX (Ao Xing Yuan) and Lo Hua Toys are a couple more.

Some companies still retain production facilities in the hills of the New Territories but HK Island and Kowloon have become too expensive - as far as property prices/real-estate are concerned - to waste acreage on toy factories! One or two seem to have upped-sticks and moved-on to Taiwan, presumably those who's ideology (or principles!) won't reconcile them to dealing with the people who made them refugees in the 1940/50's.

**Kowloon - in the South of the territory facing Hong Kong island was the centre of the HK toy trade in the 1950's, '60's and '70's. At it's tip lies  TST East, where most of the bigger firms have now located their head or sales offices, and you will find the likes of Blue Box, H Grossman and Supreme head-quartered there. Blue Box were previously located in 'Central' on the North shore of HK Island. with other Chao Chow refugee toymen (and women!), directly opposite TST East across the bay/straights.

TST can be anglicized in full (on packaging or shipping manifests), like the various spellings of Chow Chow  as Tsim Sha Tsui, Tsimshatsui, Tsim Chat Sui or Tsimchatsui, depending - I assume - on which form of China's many languages the writter uses?

Monday, August 29, 2016

T is for Tyrannotoy!

You couldn't have a Rack Toy Month without some 'Chinasaurs', it would be like having a Summer Pudding Month without strawberries or a Marquis de' Sade Month without two greased piglets and a bucket of baby-oil!

These are larger JPW/Hunson chinasaurs, four to a pack and looking to be a softish PCV vinyl-rubber, given a basic overspray in one colour (two, for the Stegosaurus) with the eyes dibbed-in, these are quintessential chinasaurs, available off-the -rack, Stateside, now!

Similar paint-job, similar material, but much smaller, these were bought over here a few weeks ago for, err . . . well . . . it says - I thought they were a Pound - Doh! Amscan (FoB'er) organised for Riethmüller (importer/party wholesaler), and they look exactly like the minisaurs given away with dinosaur themed comics/kid's magazines, which they have probably also been used for somewhere?

Medium-sized monochromatics from MTC and Bely, The Bely ones  (imported by AAI) look like old copies of copies of US 1960/70's rack toy dinosaurs or cereal premiums, as do the ones on the smaller MTC card, but the ones on the larger MTC card look to be newer, better sculpts. They all look to be polyethylene, but the left-hand set could be one of the newer, softer materials? Anyone able to tell us?

Alternate packing for MTC and more poses from that better set, even with higher resolution it's hard to judge the material.

These were sold by Henbrant about four or five years ago, now: I believe - to be found in Tobar packaging, they are made of the same material as those retro-looking Robots we saw on the Blog a while ago; five poses in a very soft, squidgy, silicon-rubber and four metallic colours best described as gold, bronze, petrol and copper-verdigris.

Interesting only because the other day someone was saying Ja-Ru always mark their packs; they don't and he makes stuff up as he goes along! The Greenbrier/DTSC importer combination being common to Ja-Ru (I think this is the third we've seen recently?), but Ja-Ru being a FoB-operator doesn't always mark the packs, they provide whatever pack graphics whichever clients want in whereany of the countries they deal with.

If Ja-Ru mark in combination with an/other brand/s or importer/s it's because the packs are either a joint contract (managed by Ja-Ru) or a Ja-Ru own-commission/issue over-printed or stickered after being jobbed-on to a client. Ja-Ru also sell-through themselves and anonymise product, so if someone tells you "...their products and pack had been always branded as made by (JA RU)"; tell them they're making it up as they go along.

Again, these have had a quick pass with the airbrush by way of decoration. They look similar to the better MTC sculpts, but have striated or folded surfaces instead of the former's spotted or bobbled skins. If you open this and the forth image in two new tabs and flick between the two you'll see what I mean.

Another Ja-Ru, this one marked, but the same sets can be be found only marked with Toy Industry Association Inc. of Hong Kong or with both brand-marks. It looks like these are a re-issue of old hollow blow-moulds from the 1970's, but the smaller ones may be solid?

If you look at the accessories you'll see the log-props and rock-pile (also blow-moulded) are from the AJP Noah's Ark boxed-sets copied from Marx via Blue Box (also from the '70's), it might be that AJP turns out to be an abbreviation for Another Ja-Ru Product or something! Could just as easily be Jetta though (long-standing HK contract manufacturer) so don't quote me - I try not to make it up as I go along!

What's come-in vis-à-vis loose examples, via mixed/job-lots in the last four years (we've looked at various sets as they came), not many; I have a load more in storage, and they are similarly bagged with post-it note 'notes' until ID'd from a branded set.

Before 'Chinasaurs' there were no Hongkongasaurs! But plenty of dinosaurs from Hong Kong! Brush-painted, unpainted or air-brushed, polyethylene, silicon or PVC, there are many more bags like these in the storage unit, and now they're all chinasaurs!

Perhaps 'Hongkosaurs', just to differentiate; it doesn't grate off the tongue? Now; I'd like to draw your attention to the bottom-left HK bag . . .

. . . as I had the Dimetrodon when I was a kid, I think it was a Christmas stocking thing one morning of the 25th December, late '60's/early '70's, although sometimes we were so excited I think we might have woken and started emptying ours while it was still the 24th for grown-ups!

I was really taken with it, and had it for years, but I had ripped down the membranes between the spines, it's almost impossible to stop yourself as they are really tactile; and in the end it lost - one-by-one - all the spines and, looking like a fat lizard, was consigned to either the bin or the church-fête as I was heading for the teen years and scaling-back on the toys.

Anyway, this one's come in, in the last few years, and I can’t tell him apart from the memories of mine (the previous owner has also torn the membranes between all the spines!), along with a matching kurthunkersaurus (Ankylosurus?) from the same silicon-rubber set.

In the background is another Dimetrodon (my favourite dinosaur when young), but he's ethylene and marked with his name and a full 'Made in Hong Kong' against the small blocked Hong Kong of species-less rubbersaurs.

That's enough somethingsaurs, even for Rack Toy Month's Chinasaur Day!

Many thanks to Brian Berke for all the bagged examples bar the Amscan one.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

F is for The Franchise Awakens

Not all Rack Toys are a Quid, a Euro or a Buck - or less; some start at a fiver and work up to 7.99 or more - in whatever currency!

I vaguely remember mentioning these about a year/year-and-a-half ago? I also think I said that while they looked good, I'd wait until they were cheaper or started appearing in job-lots a few years hence as they were silly money!

Well, the shelves need to be cleared for the coming Christmas stock, so just as the Star Wars Command was flogged-off cheap this time last year, so I notice all stockists in the UK are clearing these at the moment, with Sainsbury's reducing the 3-unit sets from £5.99 to £4.99, TK Max are already getting clearance stock which they are offering at £3.50 (left hand set above), as are The Entertainer chain, while the Toysaurus has them at £1.50 (right-hand speeder-bike set), they obviously don't want them hanging around much longer!

With the 5-unit sets originally retailing at £7.50-£7.99 I hate to think what the larger converting playsets cost, but for a duplicate vehicle and one or two figures, these are among the worst examples of modern toy's rip-off syndrome I can think of? We know from what other rack toys contain and cost that there's not even a quid's-worth of PVC here, let alone £6!

With the Star Wars logo burned into the retinas of three generations and the Micro-Machines logo familiar to anyone under 40, you can have whatever artwork you like on these and still get full shelf-recognition wherever you place them in the store!

A couple more sets, I rather like the mobile MG-nest! I haven't seen the movie and am in no hurry to see it on DVD, to me it has become what Planet of the Apes became (and was recently resurrected as), a dead'hos to be flogged to a new bunch of gullible kids, slowly losing the threads of/veering from the scripts of its own 'expanded universe'!

However, as a toy collector who used to specialise in small scale, they will prove useful additions to the old Galoob stuff and have clearly been sourced from the same manufacturer as the originals.

Contents of the first set I bought after the current clearance process started includes a nice robot Megatherium type thing! This appears to be being ridden by a Sandperson (Sandpeopleson?). Who knew they were so skinny under all those cloaks and hoods and things, they need some all-you-can-eat, roadside, rib-joints on Tatooine!

Funny also how these films keep returning to a galactic rim, backwater, out-of-the-way, arid, bandit-ridden, smuggler's hideaway, shithole of a planet that was supposed to be so safe they could hide Luke there?

And has anyone ever explained why Luke was raised as a country bumpkin in the 'far far away' equivalent of Death Valley, while his sister was raised as an Imperial princess, daughter of the ruling family of an important planet at the Centre of galactic politics? Not so important it couldn't be blown to smithereens though, lesson for Brexiteers there, I feel!

If you don't get them out and play with them occasionally, you need another hobby!

There are some nice pieces here; I love the big orange 'speeder'; in style it looks like they borrowed it from Blade Runner or Dune! The soft-top seems to be referring-back to the custom hot-rods of the 1960's and one of the ranges replacing these on the shelves for the coming festive spending season is a set of die cast vehicles in a scale closer to the old Action Fleet, among which is a larger version of the MG-nest (a flying bunker - I love it!), which is a more realistic price too, I'm tempted!

Because my old Galoob/Kenner Star Wars are in storage now, I can't compare the Endor Scout Speeders, but I think these are the old sculpts, has anyone managed to compare them?

Also, because I haven't seen the movie, I don' know if it's explained; but the X-Wings are very odd, with offset/set-back upper and set-forward lower wings sharing a root-line, in a design that would adversely affect aerodynamics in planetary-atmosphere work? Yes - I know its make-believe, but I like my sci-fi believable (and the victims in a red shirt - "Jim! They got Ensign Smith")! It's also a design which wasn't used on the Star Wars Command X-Wings which followed the standard pattern of identical mirror-planes meeting in the middle - these things matter you know!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

H is for Hangin' on the Hook!

Returning to the 'meat and two veg' of rack toys if you are a toy soldier collector: toy soldiers, or as I call most of them: Chinatroops! And a mix of stuff from Brian Berke, the £1 shops, both Peter Evans' and Brian Carrick's bags from May's Plastic Warrior show and a couple from further afield.

Brian sent me the Bely set (pronounced Belly or Beelee? Or even Beelay?) Warrior - Ready To Play, now there's an honest set title! While the now defunct 99p Stores 'own brand' of PMS gave me the Army Soldiers. Same figures, same little fort (why I shelled-out my 99p!), same modern take on the old pile-of-earth flag-stand, now a pile of robotic rocks! The green ones were PW show-booty.

Top picture was just for fun, most were in Peter's bag, one came from Dario (pale grey one - top right) in Italy a while ago and the painted one (21st Century) shows how far China has come when it puts its mind to it! The figure next to the painted one is a clone of the recent CTS set, no flies on the Chinese - see BMC below! The figure to his left is an unusual take on the Airfix pose with cut-n-shut legs while the guy top left might be a Lido original?

The lower picture is of the Matchbox figures we looked at the other day but with their 'enemy' - I think? They came together in a bag and are the same softish PVC!

A few more groups of random Chinatroops and a set with a Chinese maker's mark (Zhenhai Toys Factory), something which will hopefully become more common now the Chinese government controlling party elite have decided that's what their people are going to do!

Research reveals it's probably the Ningbo Zhenhai Wantang Toys Factory, and further research (a quick five-minutes on Google!) into the second name Magic Source International Inc. reveals the state of play these days . . .

. . . a probably unrelated (to the shipment which the above set was in) bill of lading (BoL) shows Magic (US, probably as an Importer [jobber]) taking delivery from Top Source Trading Ltd (HK-based shipper) with all parties notifying Flegenheimer International Inc. (the US shipping agent, contract manager or FoB'er) of progress of the shipment on-board the MV GEMINI, a ship owned by CMA-CGM (the French carrier).

The cargo was described as "Plastic Toys ( Invoice No.: Ts-928) Plastic Toys ( Bowling, Kitchen Playset, Beauty Playset)", probably from the above Chinese mainland-based Zhenhai, all those fingers in the pie (add at least three trucking journeys, and a similar story on both raw and processed materials) yet it only costs a dollar a unit in the store!

Poor copies-of-copies, covered in a deposit of leached additive!

The problem with getting your toys produced in the East is that they are rendered easier to clone . . . in the East! BMC GI's cloned in China by an outfit called Dan Hai - nothing on Google? Assault Military (as opposed to 'Stay at Home and Watch the TV Military'?') I rather like the two bunkers, but the control-console is a tub-filler, large piece of plastic with thin walls taking-up space which would otherwise be occupied by heavier (more expensive) figure mouldings! Imported into the USA at the moment by Lollipop (L.P.).

These are one of many samples of old Airfix piracies kicking around, I rather like them (enough to photograph and Blog!) because they are quite good copies which have kept the faith with the Airfix base, and they are unusual colours.

Friday, August 26, 2016

WTF is for What The Flippin' Ada!

The third of today's trio of pocket-money rack toys, and a brief visit to the beach . . .

. . . with a look at the Fun Aquad Set. Basically a small group (taken from a larger inventory) of Corgi piracies organised around the theme of water-sports.

With a shaped blister I think you only got the woman, but a man was available, also a Corgi clone. If you think she's looking a little naked . . .

. . . check-out the artwork, an Eastern-European ladies shot-putter from the mid-1970's?

Petrel issued this set in a larger configuration with the male surfer, a copy of the Matchbox motor-launch from the 1-75 Series trailer, several yachts in two sizes and some other bits, in the Petrel version; swimwear is painted-in I'm pleased to report!

S is for Skinfighters!

Fighting skin wherever it's found!

The Larami overprinted import (LIC = Larami International Corp.) in my collection came with divers although I'm sure they would have had the mini-subs (see previous post) as part of an assortment. I've also seen the Larami card with larger single -moulding divers in black, sort of Lone Star clones.

The eponymous 'skinfighters' and their aquacar! Pretty poor stuff, there's no effort gone into these and this level of HK stuff is a mystery to me, why produce a heap of crap, when you could make the thing more realistic for the same money? The cost is in the sculpting and the tool-making, you could make a more realistic (but just as simplistic) vehicle for the same cost. This is lazy and careless.

The artwork (a bit James Bond - probably the market it was chasing) actually shows the better underwater 'sled' also available from other HK rack toy guys, which looks like a shark. I have some somewhere; I'll try to dig them out.

A comparison between the Larami, the Skinfighter and another HK diver. The yellow one is similar to the Skinfighter, but slightly better quality although missing his scuba-tank. He'll be the one 'skinny' is cloned from, and I think he also goes with those odd-looking landing-craft / washing-machine / mine-clearing flail things which turn-up from time to time - I think I have some of those here as well, I'll try to do a follow-up!

In fact, I think I've a carded one in Picasa . . .

[Time passes away from cyberspace, a whole few dozens of seconds (over a week ago)]

Yes, I have, and no, it's a smaller, blobbier, late copy figure with large hand spigots and a smaller scuba-tank! The hand spigots are far too large for any of the holes in the, err . . . 'veh'hick'ull', presumably he's been 'borrowed' from another toy to fill the bag! Despite seeing many of these over the years, I've never seen anything mounted in all those holes (except the front one), they look like they should have the little ex-Airfix/Minitanks riders you get on some other rack toy stuff.

We'll be returning to a lone (or loan) mini-sub in September.

Couple of hours later (the magic of the cyberworld!) and I dug the other bits out. The sharky things, a couple more 'landing craft' - both slightly different - and some more spear-guns; one damaged.

The landing craft would look better with the two shell racks (?) removed, along with the angle-iron frame thing. Stick a mortar crew in the pit and you'd have off-shore fire-support, but all very fictional!

M is for Mini-Subs

We looked at these once before but as I shot them again, and as it's Rack Toy Month we might as well look at them again.

The fleet has grown, mostly riders who've come in with odd-lots, but it allows for a full complement of crew!

Off to look for British Battleships in the Med' I fear! I love these, can you tell! There was an interesting development on these shown on Moonbase Central the other day; "Ah, Perkins, we need a futile gesture, it’ll raise the whole tone of the Blog; take the mini-sub, have a shufti into space, blow something up, don't come back . . . " (with more than a nod to Peter Cook!).

A couple of divers waiting for boats; normally when trying to date early Hong Kong stuff, you'd go with painted being typically earlier than unpainted, but the unpainted one here is of a much better quality (despite the mis-registered mould halves!) than the clone with paint remnants.

The paint, and the feathery silver plastic of the latter figure resemble the work of that little group [of companies?] known variously by their base-marks as ABC, CM, CMV and HK, I wouldn't be surprised if he was by [one of?] them.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

L is for Little Livestock

Sorting the stock . . . mooooo!

Yet another of my pet projects is making sense (trying to make sense) of the dozens and dozens of copies - of mostly ex-Merit and Britains - farm animals in - or even consciously aimed-at - HO/OO model railway scales. As pet projects go, it's not going so well and yet, it's not going so badly. But, they are commonly found as rack toys and this is Rack Toy Month!

These are almost certainly Blue Box, a conclusion drawn by the fact that Marx carried them in their 'Majestic Series' which matched their 'Sunshine Series' which was Blue Box Wild West small scale - rebadged! Also the plastic colours match other larger animals and figures from Blue Box, however, without the smoking gun of a Blue Box logo'd set, they stay apart from the main collection, especially if they are overprinted with a WH Cornelius' logo!

The main sculpts of the range, in storage I have a few seated/prone calves and foals (and possibly another item of poultry - single goose or turkey?), but they seem uncommon and must have only been supplied in larger sets.

Likewise the unpainted sets - which have the cows in 'horse' plastic, and the additional ex-Britains lambs and the sheep -  would seem to have been from a later tranche.

The sample here is about a third of the size of the sample in storage; for years various friends like Trevor Rudkin, Gareth Morgan, John Begg and others have saved this stuff for me, from long before anybody knew anything about any of it, or if it had any value (it still doesn't really!), yet without that collective effort, drawing any conclusions would be almost impossible.

Below are two question mark samples, one (on the left) being almost certainly just copies of the Blue Box, but with a newer mould-stamp, that just happens to look like the Blue Box one. On the right though are better painted figures, but with a poorer stamp, again the same design. Until they turn-up in an unsealed rack-toy or boxed 'Home Farm' type set, any conclusion is pure guesswork.

The next most numerous type of these is similar; same ex-Britains figures, same ex-Merit cattle and horse poses, but new pig and [larger] sheep designs and different markings. So far there is no clue as to maker, and both sets are unmarked generics with graphics that might be later 1970's?

You can see the animals are cruder sculpts, but plastic colours are richer, yet chalkier. I'm not going to get too bogged down in markings today, although we will look briefly at all of them in a minute. It will take an in-depth page to do them all justice when I get the rest out of storage.

So with only the above two (the commonest two) ID'd, and then only to small packagings, you can see why I say the project is going not so well, but then this bag turned-up a while ago (Trevor or Gareth!), and helped to ID (as far as you can) one of the minor samples, which means it's going not so badly!

Almost certainly a Christmas cracker insert, it may also have seen service in a larger capsule or a crane-machine, but seems to have been designed to roll-up and stuff in a cracker. These are late, monochromatic versions in a dowdy range of colours, brightened by the orange and yellow of the bagged set.

While we won't look at large scale sets today, this mid-size set might as well shine for probably its only outing on the Blog. Pikit Toys of Birmingham anyone? Thought not! [Apparently - two years in the late 1980's!] It's also trying to look like it's by both Imperial and S for Star (visual shelf-recognition!); when really it's a generic with a local importer's name on it.

Again the numbers in storage tend to be larger, but not always, and I have some single-item samples in storage as I have here (capsule toys and such-like undoubtedly), also I have some samples here I hadn't yet encountered, and more examples in storage than are here overall.

While my handwriting was the reason everyone thought I was dyslexic for 35-odd years, (when in fact I was an Aspergic retard/genius!), all the typo's, reverses and inversions here are deliberate.
There are two types of engineer's stamp; those for stamping ownership or data on the outside of a machine, which, like typewriter-keys; leave an impression which is readable in the normal way. Then there are mirror-reversed stamps for marking the mould-cavity, so that the reverse impression will be readable on the moulding. Then: there are menkind, and menkind, like Brexit voters; can be stupid.

They use the wrong stamps on the wrong thing and it all comes out a bit wonky, like the current affairs of the UK! Sometimes they mix the two sets of stamps, so some letters are inverted, some read normally, or trying too hard, with too few brain-cells (Brexit again) they try to mentally reverse the word when they don't need to and you get 'Kong Hong' or Honk Gong!

These can be clues, tying some of these animals to, say, some of the combat figures, or rubber aliens or whatever, but really they are a starting place for sorting the myriad copies, and copies of copies that turn-up.

The HK and H[dot]K here are joined by H[dot]K[dot] and reversed examples in the storage samples for instance. And while I have a bag with about 7 of the charm-loop tailed cows in storage, I hadn't clocked that that was what they were, these came in with all the other charms, from the December 2015 posts, but escaped the camera then!

The other thing about all these marks is that from time to time, like when you find a carded or bagged example, you often find that a couple of sub-marks actually go together, so you can combine a couple of bags. More of that kind of work will be on the New HK Blog. As we look at sorting all the many non-Giant small scale figures.

The real problem lot - some of these will turn-out to belong to other marked samples, where someone forgot to stamp one cavity in a multiple-cavity mould, all have to be sorted very carefully, using little signature marks.

The green girl with bucket for instance, had a release-pin ridge under her base and I know I have a bunch in storage, so she doesn't belong to the bag with the white farmer, who has a smoother, thinner base and may be the same as the Plasty ones we looked at in 1" Warrior magazine, I won't know until I find another Plasty set, or get mine out of storage! Painting - as in the spray-painted ones - can also be a signifier.

The lower three are Airfix copies and they have been looked at, not here; but on the three relevant entries on the Airfix Blog, with the storage samples (and bagged farm versions) included, these are what's turned-up in the last four years . . .where has it gone; four years!

Nearly ten years ago I was active on HäT Industry's forum for a while, and one of the guys there (known only as 'B') was asking about ancient cattle for a little project of his, I said these might be useful, as their poor sculpting meant they could be from any-old era, sent him a few and about a month later he sent me these images, showing what a bit of paint and some consummate scratch-building can do . . . good; aren’t they? Not mine - Brecht's!

Then China got involved and it all stops being fun! Crap copies-of-copies . . .of copies, several or no 'China' marks, mixed scales, a poor quality copy of the Britains Hen House, a moulding which started life as a lead casting I think; 70, 80-years ago?

Horrid, careless, loveless, flash-ridden, sink-hole ridden, miss-moulded crap, imported by House of Marbles and sold through a local department store in a market town about four Christmases' ago. Nasty.

Three figures for the collection-total though . . . got to look on the bright side!