18 November 2011
The fair might be under new management these days but there were many familiar faces at Reading in October – and more importantly, perhaps, some unfamiliar toys. ...
The fair might be under new management these days but there were many familiar faces at Reading in October – and more importantly, perhaps, some unfamiliar toys.
Take Jim Chamberlain’s fabric covered donkey, for example. He’d have liked me to take it and I have to confess to being tempted. Of wooden construction (at least some of it was), this asinine delight was clockwork-powered. Once the mechanism was wound up, the donkey’s ears moved backwards and forwards, his tongue ejected and retracted and his tailed twirled. How’s that for entertainment? Sadly missing an optic, he was otherwise in pretty good shape. Jim hadn’t a clue about the manufacturer but had priced him at £35. Rather cheaper, at £8, were two examples of Tudor Rose Traction Engines: one was complete and both were finished in gaily coloured black, red and yellow plastic.
From unknown to rare: something I never knew existed, despite my having collected a goodly number of Solido diecasts over the years, was the motorised tricycle scooter - PICTURED LEFT. This was on Roger Warren’s stand and although with slightly chipped paintwork, it was nonetheless in excellent condition and even had a sound (plain) grey box to go with it. Apparently Roger had had a couple of examples of this rarity, which was not listed in my reference volumes, and which dates from 1952: it was £165, if you had to ask. Even more collectable (in my book, at least!) was his Schuco 3010 roadway set: this was virtually complete and contained two tinplate cars, two lorries, trees, road signs, houses, flyover section, tunnel and garage. Marked “Made in the US War Zone”, it would have been produced between 1948 and 1954, or thereabouts, and was a lovely example of German engineering at its best. With a good, robust box to set it off, it would have been worth haggling over at around the asking price of £335 - PICTURED TOP RIGHT.
If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, then you’d have had to visit the military man himself, Ken Holmes. Aside from the Sutcliffe “Zip” motor cruiser, the box of which bore Joan Sutcliffe’s signature (£535), he had a stunning Dinky boxed set of aircraft, to wit the RAF Aeroplanes gift set, which dated from the 1937-1941 period. As good as this kind of thing gets, this boxed set had clearly never been played with and retained its envelope that contained the gliding wire loop as well as an instruction sheet. Absolutely delightful but not cheap at just under £1,300: however, Ken told me that the quality merchandise is still performing well, despite the recession - PICTURED RIGHT.
But back to furry animals. By an amazing coincidence, the night before the Reading show I was browsing the Net, seeking out Tri-ang information for an article, when I stumbled across a Pathé News site and there was treated to a short video of a number of Tri-ang toys from the 1940s and 1950s in action. Among them were several of the company’s wind-up animals, including two delightful bears, which walked a few paces then shook their heads before continuing. One was brown whilst the other of a polar variety. I’ve never sighted these chaps before so imagine my delight at finding a virtually mint (and functioning) polar bear, with box, on Bob Skinner’s stall. At £48, a deal was quickly done. Bob also had some interesting tinplate railway items but I was won over by a selection of car mascots, including a stunningly detailed flying stork-like bird that I believed to be of British manufacture. This magnificent item was marked up at £450.
It wasn’t all sky-high money at Reading, though. Alan Redfearn, in his habitual corner position, had brought along some buildings to sell. His Playcraft Fort Cheyenne was a lovely affair, largely made of wood but with plastic roofs in red. This was almost complete (lacking was one half of the fort’s name and a little section of the horse hitching rail) and, surprisingly, it even had its brown box with it. At £20 it seemed a bargain. Other bargains were the pair of wooden airport buildings, each with glazing and clock. One was entitled Liverpool Airport while the other was anonymous. The giveaway stamp inside one (Hugar) led me to believe that they had been made for Britains and although one wasn’t thus marked, its clockface was identical to its counterpart. Alan was asking £20 each for them, which was good value.
On one stand were several rather attractive Meccano aircraft: in fact, the show yielded quite a few overall. A repainted (albeit well done) No 1 example in cream and red was £125 while a silver No 2 (of early production) was tagged at £150. Best of all, though, was a highly desirable No2 Special boxed set in superb condition: with six wings in all, giving the modeller heaps of choice, this pale blue and silver set was just lovely and came with a highly presentable box, too. Not cheap (it was £650), but it begged the question of where you might find another.
Cliff Maddock, taking things a bit easier now, had his usual stall near the entrance and I noted a couple of interesting toys there. His Racetuned Scalextric Ferrari P4 was a lovely car and the box bore the rubric “For the advanced driver”: this was £40. Somewhat strange alongside was the FROG Tomahawk Desert Fighter in a very undesert-like camouflage scheme of red and sand! This model looked ready to fly and was boxed: it was £75.
Finally, John George’s railwayana was just a selection of many items seen at the event. His Edmundson ticket stamper, a cast iron pillar-like affair that would have been used in the ticket office, was complete with lead dates for changing the printing: in working order, this curio was priced at £95. About half that would have secured the coach side destination board (Liverpool Street Clacton) – and there was even a signal arm in red and white, for the collector who has (nearly) everything…