Corgi Gift Sets: Racing cars dating back to the 1960s

21 August 2019
We take a look at some of the most desirable Corgi Gift sets
Corgi Gift Sets: Racing cars dating back to the 1960s Images

Lucky indeed would have been the child who received one of Corgi’s gift sets back in the 1960s. Whilst no-one has precise production figures, it’s safe to assume that the more elaborate sets were not made in quantity: after all, they were never cheap and, more to the point, they would have probably only come into their own around the festive season. All that said, numbers do survive – and some of the best will be reviewed in this series.

Corgi Gift Sets, the jewel in the crown

We may as well kick off with the jewel in the crown. Without any shadow of a doubt, when Corgi introduced the Silverstone Circuit Racing set (Gift Set 15), it blew any putative opposition completely away. For this was the set par excellence: its contents would have made it an instant hit with any young male of the day (okay, so I’m a little biased here).

Marketed first in 1963, the set’s price was probably never carved in stone, although the suggested retail price was that of £3 12s 6d. To back this up, I have found an example bearing 72/6 on its lid. For those too young to know, this works out at £3.62½p in present day coin of the realm. To grasp this value now, you have to perform a complex equation, taking into account inflation. Thus in today’s money, it’s around £57. I think you’ll agree, it wasn’t a cheap toy at the time.

Looking at what’s inside GS15, it’s amazing that any have survived at all. After all, the contents just begged to be taken out and played with. The capacious brown card box was an Aladdin’s cave, for it contained several plastic buildings that required modelling skills to construct (paint, glue and brushes were thoughtfully included); four lots of figurines; a great play mat, showing part of a circuit; and of course the all-important cars. A Vanwall, a BRM and a LotusX1 provided the open racing car thrills, whilst two GTs (an Aston Martin and a Mercedes), together with a soft top Thunderbird, provided alternative play value. And a breakdown truck was thrown in for good measure…

All of these vehicles were already in the marketplace, so insofar as Corgi was concerned, it was something of a clever repackaging job that didn’t require too much extra outlay. In fact, some were getting elderly: the Mercedes model dated back to 1961 whilst the Aston and the T-Bird appeared the year after. All the open cars were also old hat by the release date – and the pits and press box were the same, along with the telephone kiosks. In fact, every single component, right down to the Hong Kong sourced figurines, could have been purchased separately before this set reached the local toyshop. But that’s irrelevant, for what we have here was Corgi hitting the jackpot in the recycling game, bringing together allied products to create something truly special.

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No-one would have been disappointed to receive this set (according to sources, some 8,000 were sold although just how accurate this figure is, I can’t say); what is known, though, is that by 1966 the set had run its course. Perhaps this comes as no surprise, for the Vanwall and BRM cars of that type were outdated, the real things dating back to the mid-fifties.  It would also be fascinating to learn how many unsold sets were still around at the time the set was withdrawn.

Six decades on, you can still turn up an example of this marketing man’s dream. It’s quite possible that the pits, telephone kiosks (I’m at a loss to know why these were included – perhaps they just bulked out the content), press box and timekeeper’s hut will be unmade: unless the recipient was skilled or had an obliging parent, these could be ignored. However, since these items could be bought separately, it’s possible to add them in, if your set has them already made up, or even lacks them.

But don’t expect any bargains with GS15: if it’s all there, a decent example is going to set you back over £5,000…