1901 - The Story of Dinky Toys Begins
The story of Dinky Toys began in 1901 with Frank Hornby. Frank Hornby was the creator of Meccano Erector Sets and in later years the company moved into the production of train sets. With an increase in business for the erector sets and trains he searched for other products to expand his market. The company began the production of scale figures to give the buildings and train sets more of a realistic appearance. Train station staff, passengers, hotel staff, animals, mailboxes, and railway signals. Each item was made of diecast metal.
Then in December of 1931 just in time for Christmas the first Dinky Toy cars hit the market. For the first year, the diecast vehicles were named "Modelled Miniatures". In April, 1934, the name was changed to the Dinky Toys. The first Dinky Toys were manufactured in Liverpool, England, and Bobigny, France. The company wanted to create competition for the United States Tootsie Toys. In the 1930’s cars, trucks, buses, military vehicles, ships, miniature trains, and aircraft were produced. By 1936 over 200 different diecast models. The 1930’s can be called "The Golden Age of Dinky Toys." With the start of World War II metal was required for the war effort and so Dinky Toy production was suspended.
When World War II ended Dinky Toys hit the market just in time for the 1945 Christmas Season. There were not any new items, but the old stock from prior to the start of the war was sold in stores. The first new vehicle hit the stores in 1946 and it was a military jeep. Several 1930’s vehicles were produced after the war. The B-17 aircraft made in the 1930’s has the old style of United States insignia. The B-17 after the war had its insignia altered. So it is easy to date this aircraft.
With the Baby Boom underway the company could not at times keep up with the demand. Dinky Toys were being sold in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries and the United States.
For anyone wanting to be aware of what new Dinky Toys were to be released it was always announced in the companies Meccano Magazine. The magazine was first published in 1915 and issued each month. Each issue was filled with not just items connected to Dinky Toys, Meccano Erector Sets or Hornby trains, but other notable hobby news. Queen Elizabeth II the new Monarchy was recognized with an editorial in the May, 1952 issue.
Page 2 of each issue introduced the new Dinky Toys. In the May, 1954 issue, an Austin Shell Van, No. 470, 10 ton Army Truck, No.622. The truck was pictured with a canvas top or open. "A fine companion model for the Dinky Toys Army Covered Truck, Centurion Tank, and Scout Car." Page 3 pictured the Daimler Ambulance, Electric Milk Delivery Van, Austin Somerset Saloon, Studebaker Landcruiser, Farm Produce Truck.
With the end of the Korean War, but the Cold War raging the November, 1954 issue proclaimed inside on page 2 and 3, "Reinforcements for your playroom Army." Seven different military vehicles were pictured.
In the 1950’s and 60’s Dinky Toys vans with advertising became very popular and today are some of the most collectible of the trucks made by the company. Gasoline tanker trucks bearing the company names and painted in the company colors; Mobilgas, National, Castrol, ESSO, BP, Shell. A second very collectible area are the trucks bearing the names of other companies and their products featured on the side panels. Heinz 57 Varieties, Portland Cement, Robertson’s Golden Shred. Ovaltine, Dunlop Tires, OXO, Kodak, Chivers Jellies, Brooke Bond Tea, Weetabix.
Unlike Matchbox - Dinky Toys made a full range of items. Also collectible are the farm equipment, buses with various logos and advertising, fire engines, television trucks, construction equipment including steamrollers, and airplanes.
Some of the most valuable of the Dinky Toy models were produced in South Africa after 1961. When South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth new export duties were put into place. Dinky Toys were classified as "luxury goods" and were subject to a new duty. Unfinished products were exempted from the "luxury goods" tax. The company exported models to South Africa unpainted. The models were painted in South Africa, and exported out to other countries. Many are rare with different colors and the paint generally more glossy than ones made in their other factories. Turn the vehicle over and look to see what country is stamped into the metal.
The early Dinky Toys, cars and trucks were manufactured in the same scale. After World War II the marketing department at Meccano sought to rectify that issue. Appearing in the October, 1947 issue of Meccano Magazine was the announcement that a new line of Dinky Toys called "Supertoys" would be on sale at your favourite department store or hobby center. "These wonderful models are similar in size to the famous Dinky Toys, but much larger. This allows for more accurate detail and will provide the models with a striking appearance." The company wanted to make the models more realistic in size than previously. A car next to a new "Supertoys" truck would be like a real car and truck. Realism is the main goal of the Meccano company it was announced. In 1947, the first year, six different truck models were issued under the "Supertoys" banner.
Today not just the models from 1930’s are selling very well, but the models from the 1950’s and 60’s. In the past collectors have paid nice prices for cars that no longer exist on the "real" market. The US Packards, Studebakers, and Plymouth models. The other big sellers have been 1950’s race cars in the colors of different countries. The beauty of collecting Dinky Toys is the sheer variety. Many were made for one year, others for many years. The value is in the color schemes. Models of the same car may have been made in several different colors and for a very short run. The Austin Atlantic Convertible was made in six different colour variations: three models had blue bodies, but came with red, blue or cream seats. There were variations with red, pink or black bodies. The red is the rarest of the six.
There are some words of caution in collecting older Dinky Toys from the 30’s look them over very carefully. In the pre War years some models were made with MAZAC, a mixture of magnesium, zinc and copper. Sometimes the company added in waste lead. That combination can cause metal fatigue. Airplane wings could become brittle or the wings sag. Models made after the War contained a different type mixture and are fine. Although airplanes should be handled carefully, wings should be supported. It should be noted that not all of the models of the 30’s have a possible metal fatigue problem the majority were made with lead.
The other valuable aspect is whether there is a box with the model. Original boxes always increase the value.
- RCMP Patrol Car - Dark blue body, white doors, roof light and two figures. (1965-68) No. 264. $180.
- MG Midget sports car, red body, hubs, driver with white racing suit. (1955-59) No. 24. $450.
- Military Recovery Vehicle - tow hook with working reel. (1957) No. 661. $60-$180.
- BBC - TV Camera Truck - camera, aerial on top of truck. (1954-69) No. 968. $80-$240.
- B.O.A.C. Bus Coach - dark blue and white, with B.O.A.C. lettering and logo in yellow. (1956-63) No. 283. $75-$170.
- Packard Clipper Sedan - two tone, white tires. (1958-63) No. 180. $60-$219.
- "Supertoy" Robertsons Golden Shred Van, red body, yellow wheels. (1957-58) Very rare. $1,900.
- Pickford’s Removals/Storage over 100 Branches - dark blue with white tires. (1935) No. 286. Very rare. $5,000 - $7,000.
- Avro Vulcan Delta Wing Bomber - (1955-56) No. 749/992. Rare. $2,200 - $7,000.
One other item to search for is the doll furniture that Dinky Toys manufactured in the late 40’s for a very brief period. It was for a doll house that would have Dinky Toy cars parked outside.