The Corgi Story

The Corgi Story

Many collectors believe that the three major metal miniature toy companies arrived at the same time in the early 1950’s. In fact, Dinky toys hit the market prior to World War II in the early 1930’s. Matchbox after World War II at the beginning of the Baby Boom. Finally in 1956 the last major player Corgi were released onto the market. For the next twenty years and until Hot Wheels overtook them the three British companies would control market share of miniature toy vehicles. The product range would not just include autos, but trucks, vans, military equipment, farm vehicles, aircraft and with the beginning of the Space Age rockets.

How did the Mettoy Company pick Corgi for the name of their line of British saloon cars of the early 1950’s. Corgi (which is the name of the famous Welsh dog) was picked for several reasons: the first being as any marketing expert will tell you pick a short name and one that is memorable will stick with the consuming public. Corgi then for its shortness and the fact the Mettoy company plants were located in Wales. The third major reason its connection to the Royal Family and the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth. The Royal Family did not go anywhere without their Corgi dogs. Many Corgi cars would have a miniature Corgi dog in the back window.

The first models issued in 1956 were of British built saloon cars, Riley Pathfinder, Rover 90, Hillman Husky, Austin Cambridge, Morris Cowley, Vauxhall Velox, Ford Consul.

Corgi’s would cost a bit more, but that was due to the fact their other selling slogan is "Ones with windows". Corgi models were always being improved and more moveable features were added over the years. Take for example the famous the Ghia L6.4 model. It came with twelve super features according to the 1964 pocket catalogue. "A wonderful model loaded with features and features and features! Just look for yourself fully opening doors, tip-up seats, opening bonnet, detailed die-cast engine, jewelled headlights, plated radiator, plated bumpers, driving mirror, dashboard detail, suspension, opening boot, steering wheel, and your own Corgi dog for a backseat passenger."

The 251 Hillman Imp was 31/2" long, but the car was filled with many accessories just like a real Hillman Imp. Seats, steering wheel, suspension, opening rear window, remote controlled folding rear seats, tiny suitcase and a spot for it to slide into.

There was a Common Milk van with seats, steering wheel, suspension and a full load of crafted milk bottles. Probably the model that almost everyone wanted in 1964 was the Citroen Olympic Winter Sports Station Wagon. It had opening rear doors, hinged rear seats, a detailed moulded interior, steering wheel, and a Olympic emblem on the front bonnet, and a roof rack with two pairs of skis and poles. The set would not be complete without an Olympic skier racing down the ski slope.

Besides common vehicles the Mettoy Company manufactures of Corgi purchased over the year the license to make and market vehicles connected to various movies and television shows. The most famous and one of the most valuable of the movie autos is the James Bond Aston Martin DB5. It hit the market in 1965 and included an ejector seat, and front mounted machine guns. It was an instant success and was voted in 1965 The United Kingdom Toy of the Year. By the end of 1968 almost four million of the car had been sold. The key is always to have the box which adds 50% to the collectible value. In addition, to have the car in good condition. Since in the 50’s and into the 70’s the vehicles were meant to be played with by children and were not being produced for the collector market. A rare gold plated version of the Aston Martin was given as presentation gifts to the various senior management of the Mettoy Company. One of those models can fetch as much as $2,000.

The next major sellers were once again connected to television and movies. When Batman hit the television airwaves in 1966 the company issued a Batmobile car. Over five million were sold. The rare version from the Batman television show is the three piece boxed gift set. It features the Batmobile, Bat Boat on a trailer and a Bat Helicopter. The beautiful boxed set can bring $300-$400 depending on the condition of the box and three vehicles.

If there was a hit television show or movie in the 1960’s - mid 1970’s Corgi had a vehicle on the market. The Avenger Set ($900), The Monkeemobile ($150-$200), The Green Hornet - Black Beauty ($300), Spiderman ($150), The THRUSH Buster from the Man From UNCLE, Kojak ($170). Inspector Morse, and one of the other big seller the flying car from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ($450).

Two other areas where Corgi was a leader was in the marketing of miniature vehicles to youth occurred in 1958 and 1960. With the launching of Sputnik in 1957 the Space Age was upon us. Corgi moved into the area of space vehicles with a set of the most complicated missile launching die-cast models manufactured. The Bloodhound Guided Missile Set ranges in value from $300 - $500. One of the most difficult pieces in the set to find is the Decca Mobile Airfield Radar Van. The van painted with orange stripes and a large movable radar dish that rotates 360 degrees can command a price of $500. The Decca Radar Van sold for a whooping 89 cents in 1960. There is even a royal blue Air Force Staff in the set. It can sell for as much as $150.

In 1960 Corgi issued the first in what would become a large set of circus vehicles called the Chipperfields Circus. Some of the vehicles include: Chipperfields Circus Bedford Giraffe and Transporter, the Karrier Booking Office, Land Rover and Elephants, Parade Vehicle, Crane Truck, Horse Transporter, Human Cannonball Truck. If one purchases each vehicle a complete circus can be set up with three rings.

Mettoy has been sold several times including for several years to Mattel of the United States. The quality and variety did not remain. Today the company exists, but it now no longer produces hundreds of different vehicles and is focused on a niche group of collectors and issuing limited edition models.

From the end of World War II into the mid 1970’s, Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi had a fantastic amount of high quality vehicles and aircraft on the market. Now, the market has become smaller, but the variety of material from days gone by is limitless.

Google Corgi for information on the Corgi Club and gaining access to past catalogues, and material.

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