20 August 2010
Collectors Gazette's monthly gaze into the weird and wonderful world of eccentric collector/dealer Obsolete Oz, his canine sidekick Nipper and erstwhile companions ‘Skip Rat’ and ‘Ferret’. ...
For me the great thing about buying, selling and collecting old toys, games and juvenalia is the sheer nostalgia of it all and the constant reminders of bygone days.
We all have fond memories of our first toys and games and it's surprising how many people in later life return to collecting the very same things that they had as children, often regretting giving them away or allowing their parents to condemn their old toys to the dustbin when they finally left home. Millions of great old toys must have been lost over the years when the good old dustbins in the roof – more commonly known as attics – were cleared. There’s probably still plenty of treasure stashed away in lofts still waiting to be discovered though.
My earliest childhood memories revolve around those marvellous little Noddy books of the 1950s, penned by Enid Blyton and superbly illustrated by Beek.
Noddy began his literary life as a wooden boy living in his own little House-for-One in Toyland. He was carved by a woodsman but he ran off after the woodsman began making a wooden lion which scared him. Poor old Noddy, wandering through the woods with no clothes or money, suddenly stumbled upon Big Ears and the rest, as they say, is history. That first book, Noddy Goes to Toyland, was published in 1949 and was followed by 23 more titles, the last being Noddy and the Aeroplane ,which was published in 1963.
Born in East Dulwich in 1897, Enid Blyton wrote over 600 children’s books during her career including the ever-popular Famous Five series and the Secret Seven series.
I sold three nostalgic old Noddy books to a keen young collector the other day for £10 the lot and she was very pleased with them as the trio included a First Edition of book number two, Hurrah for Little Noddy, in very good condition.
Another nostalgic old toy that has stood the test of time and, like Noddy, still remains popular today is Scalextric. Invented by Tri-ang, the original Scalextric tracks were made from rubber and had white lines between each lane. Early cars included a metal-bodied Ferrari 375 and Maserati 250F with Gimble-pick-up. The 1960 Scalextric catalogue features Lotus, Vanwall, Jaguar and Aston Martin cars which are all now collectors' items.
I remember being given one of those early sets by my uncle, complete with two D-Type Jaguar cars in yellow and British racing green, in the early 1960s after he had had his fun with it and decided to hand it down to me. I think he bought a Vespa scooter and became a Mod so the Scalextric became redundant – especially when he met his first girlfriend!
Memories of the sets were rekindled recently when I sold an old Scalextric button badge, which was soon snapped up when I put it on sale with a £5 price tag. I’m not too sure when these badges were issued but I would guess around the 1960s.
Still on the subject of racing cars, a set of five small plastic cars also sold for a fiver and I’m still unsure where they originated. At first I thought they came out of cereal packets but as they have no markings it's hard to be sure. I suppose they could have been from some kind of board game.
Another item that soon found a happy new owner was an empty 2/6d box of Benwell fireworks that I priced up at £20 and sold within two days. The Benwell factory was in Draycott, Derbyshire, and, like most other British-based firework factories, it closed many moons ago. Firework-related material seems in strong demand at the moment and virtually everything I get in this line sells really fast.
Dating from around the same era as the fireworks, a ‘What’s Wrong’ party game was another quick selling item this month with an £8 price tag. Published by Dennis Productions, the illustrations on the cards of this game are superb and include an old Wolseley police car, the Queen Mary ocean liner, street scenes with cars and vans that look very much like Dinky Toys, and a speedway track with riders in full cry. The big disappointment is the box lid which is rather boring compared to the cards.
It’s been another good month on the buying front with bags of bargains out there for those with a keen eye and a good reliable alarm clock!
One lucky early morning buy from a boot sale was a small Oxo zoo tin that was part of an Oxo advertising campaign back in the 1930s. It originally contained 12 cut-out animal figures and six Oxo cubes but even as an empty tin it was well worth the tenner I paid for it.
Oxo was born way back in 1899 and, although the origin of the name is unknown, it presumably was derived from the word Ox. In 1908 Oxo sponsored the London Olympic Games, supplying athletes with Oxo drinks to fortify them. The first Oxo cubes were produced in 1910 and further increased Oxo’s popularity as the cubes were cheaper than the liquid meat extract then sold in glass jars. During the first half of the 20th century, Oxo was promoted through issues of recipe booklets, gifts and special tins.
Honours for ‘Find of the Month’ have to go to my old mate Skip Rat who fished out a Moko-Lesney bulldozer – minus tracks – from a box of junk at the local tip. First produced in 1948, this bulldozer was sold in Woolworths stores from trade boxes containing 12 toys. The dozer blades were added to the basic crawler tractor model by the use of extended axles. Early versions had a lever that lifted the blade up and down. This feature was removed from the bulldozers in the later Prime Mover set with the slot in the frame being covered by a brass washer.
Scoring extra 'Brownie' points, Skip Rat also turned up a superb Merit Detective Outfit still containing all its original bits and pieces including disguise equipment, finger print stamps and cards, hand-cuffs and a private detective badge. Talk about nostalgia! I remember having hours of fun with toys like this that were usually aimed at the Christmas market and sold in Woolies for a couple of bob – that’s 10p in today’s money.
Car boot sales have provided quite a few good finds this month including four Hornby tinplate wagons, which I snapped up for a fiver each, and a pair of lead motorcycle dispatch riders fished out from a box of scrap for a couple of quid.
Well, that’s about it for this month folks, happy hunting during what’s left of the summer, and as always, be lucky!