'Tis the season
The December toy fair at Shepton Mallet is regarded by many as the South West’s main Christmas event. It takes place at the Bath and West Showground in Somerset, and is organised by Stuart Vowles of Bulldog Fairs. There is a vast area of free car parking, and refreshments are available both inside and out.
The day began well with news from the office that there were even more traders than usual. When the doors finally opened, it soon became rather busy.
My first table visit was to see Nick Mulford, and his mint selection of fabulous Corgi Toys. Nick seems to sell all sorts of collectable items these days but his Corgi toys are still my favourites. The Corgi Gift Set No.13 was very tempting, with a crisp box, inner tray, and a Fordson Power Major Tractor to match. The tractor carries and pulls the blue and chrome coloured plough, model No.61.
Terry Hann was in his regular spot with a large selection of desirable models by a variety of manufacturers. Terry usually has Corgi, Dinky, Spot-On, together with some of the harder to find models by Budgie, Morestone and Britains. Today, it was a pair of boxed O Gauge wagons, which caught my eye. The rather colourful Castrol wagon had four yellow barrels on board, all carrying the Castrol logo. Alongside was a covered wagon bearing the logo ‘Saint Freres’. The boxes and models were in beautiful condition.
A little way along the row and on the opposite side I found Jordan Thomas of ‘Jordans Vintage World’. He had a large collection of boxed diecast, together with a well-displayed mixture of unboxed models. I was very tempted by the Vauxhall Vega Major Touring Coach in plastic. It was grey with a red side panel and yellow interior. It came with a superb box and was priced at £45.
Also of interest was the boxed Military Ambulance by Corgi Toys, released as model No.354, priced at £90; and the Citroen ‘Le Dandy’, model No.354, priced at £115.
It was about this time that I went in search of a few ‘spares’, for my own collection. I had been told that the ‘Tractor Man’ had spares for all types of models, and so I decided to put him to the test. I needed an exhaust for a Corgi tractor – the type with a spring and exhaust all in one. These are, or at least they used to be, impossible to find. Brian Norman has been making and selling spares for years, and sure enough he had exactly what I required. He found the item straight away, in one of his many carrying cases. I commented on the volume of spares racked and stacked behind the table. He confirmed that he brings hundreds, probably running into thousands of spares to each show. Needless to say, I was most impressed.
It seemed to be a great day for diecast, with lots for sale, and more boxed items than I had seen for a while. Stephen Keightley’s table was no exception, with a good deal of boxed models and a great spread of unboxed diecast toys. Stephen is a regular at Shepton and always has items of interest. He had clearly decided upon a racing theme in one corner of his table, where I saw not one but two Land Rover Ferrari Racing Gift Sets. These sets were released by Corgi as GS No.17, in 1963, and remain ever popular all these years later. I also noticed the Corgi Racing Set No.5, which was released in 1959, and contained three of the early Racing cars. Also available was the Ecurie Ecosse, released by Corgi as part of Gift Set No.16. This set contained the racing car transporter, together with the three boxed racing cars, the Lotus Xl, BRM, and the Vanwall. This particular example was priced at £395.
Overall, it was good to see such a diverse range of diecast toys for sale. Another table I came across had some excellent models by Solido. Apparently these were ‘partially boxed’ but the cars themselves were in mint condition. It was a spectacular gathering of harder to find models, including some, which were finished in rare colours.
Sid Butler had brought along yet another crispy display of diecast, which were mainly boxed. There were a number of emergency vehicles, including Corgi and Dinky. The Humber Hawk Police Car was released by Dinky Toys as model No.256 in 1960, the Corgi VW Police Car with steering was released as model No.492, in 1966, and the Chevrolet Impala ‘State Patrol’ was released as model No.223, in 1959.
Finally, I went to see Brian Long, who always has a surprise or two on his table. Today, he had displayed some of his older diecast Dinky Toys from the 1950s, alongside some of his 1960s models, which emphasised the progression in production rather well.
Brian had also brought numerous plastic kits of cars and aircraft. I particularly liked the two larger sets for sale. One of these was the 60th year D-Day Anniversary Set by Airfix, which contained a huge variety of vehicles and figures, and all for £30.
I think my favourite item was probably the Tootsie Toys boxed set of hand-guns. These two very shiny six shooters came in their own holsters, with belt and U.S. Marshal’s badge. Brian smiled when I asked if they fired caps. Without a word he came around the table and pulled the trigger on one of the hand-guns. The gun instantly burst into the realistic sound of gunfire – amazing.