Proof that you don’t require a mansion of rooms to collect and display toys was evident at the recent Orpington swapmeet. Peter Merrall’s tiny (smaller than HO/OO) scale WW2 army transport was a case in point: his seven diecast vehicles took up virtually no room on his stand and the lot was just £45. Made by AHI in Japan, these miniatures even included a couple of tiny troops and you could have easily displayed the radar lorry, covered truck, anti-aircraft gun, searchlight and recovery crane under a small inverted lunchbox. Other (admittedly slightly larger) stock included a brace of diecast Jaguar E-types, one open, one a coupe: the Schuco red example was very tidy, the Joal white convertible less so, but both featured opening bonnets, doors and boots. These were £57 and £37 respectively.
Small was also the heir apparent on Peter Holmes’ stall. Amongst the trains, railway accessories, lead soldiers and the odd tinplate station, he had three tiny tinplate German military toys dating from the 1930s. All were clockwork powered but none bore a maker’s mark. The armoured car, in garish camouflage, was reminiscent of Brimtoys’ colour schemes and its twin guns sparked once it was set in motion. The two tiny tanks were beautifully lithographed, with amazing detail. The larger of the two sported rubber tracks whilst the smaller relied on metal tracks. All three were £45 each and, as mentioned, were miniature masterpieces.
Buildings, too, can be small: there was one Bayko set for sale (a Meccano era Set 12 for £23) but elsewhere, Tri-ang Spot-On fans would have been interested in a trio of hayricks or stooks (£10 each) and a cottage, as well as an oast house with dwelling attached, at just £15. These small scale rubber models don’t turn up that often and when they do, distortion seems to be the order of the day. Whilst on the topic of Spot-on, it was great to see two good examples, both pegged at £110. The grey/green Hillman Minx was mint and came in a window box, whilst the Rover 3-litre saloon was rather chirpy in pale blue (a hue that would never have been countenanced on the real thing!) and was housed in a solid box. However, this was the variant that featured working front and rear lights, thanks to a tubular battery box neatly fitted into the chassis.
Finally, a note for train spotters: if you had the cash, then a sextet of Bassett Lowke LNER coaches, dating from the 1930s, in splendid condition with mock wood effect carriage sides and white roofs was a real find. Each was £120 but doubtless some haggling would have secured the lot for a better price. All you’d have needed then was the Flying Scotsman to pull them…