Toy manufacturers often group items from their ranges together and sell them in sets. Minic was no exception and immediately the range was launched, began producing a number of boxed bundles. So, what is it about sets that would tempt the prospective buyer? Several reasons suggest themselves. Perhaps there will be a cost saving; a set might contain something unique that cannot be purchased separately; or maybe the boxed presentation is just more convenient and attractive in some way.
SS United States Set
Tri-ang Minic M892 SS United States Presentation Set
Year first produced: 1960
L350 x W238 x H50, Metal 939g, Scale 1:1200, Components: 20
A set needs to contain items that go well together. It needs to tell a story, and allow play using only the contents. So, before examining the packaging, let’s first turn our attention to what is in it.
The major item is undoubtedly, as the name of the set suggests, the M704 SS United States. This magnificent ship was a contemporary American giant of the transatlantic passenger routes, sailing on regular crossings between 1952 and 1969. Minic produced a good selection of liners in their range – see this story for another example.
The model consists of the usual one-piece mazak hull with plastic funnels and mast, painted in the smart colours of the United States Line. Simple lines and the rather rakish funnels give an impression of speed. In fact, the fancy wings on the funnel caps channelled exhaust gases away from the passenger decks, but nonetheless the United States was a fast ship, regularly steaming at 35 knots across the Atlantic. In fact, it was the last liner to win the famous Blue Riband.
The next item of note in the set is rather unusual, the M884 Statue of Liberty. The real statue, a gift from France to the United States, stands on a pedestal on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, facing out to sea, and is one of the iconic sights of New York and the United States. Unveiled in 1886, it represents the goddess Liberty, and carries a torch symbolising the power of liberty to enlighten the world, and a tablet on which is marked the date of the Declaration of Independence.
The model consists of a plastic rendition of the statue, standing on a grey-painted mazak pedestal. The piece is striking, but slightly problematic if used out-of-the box, because the original stands on a star shaped base formed from the filled-in remains of Fort Wood, and the fort of course stands on Liberty Island. This gives the real statue increased height and a solid land context, whereas the Minic model can only be placed somewhat anachronistically on a harbour quay or directly in the sea…
The remaining pieces in the set can be assembled to form a harbour. They comprise several quay straights together with cranes and storage tanks, breakwaters to enclose the harbour, and two tugs to nudge the SS United States safely alongside. A cellophane packet holds the smaller pieces (the cranes, a beacon and a lighthouse for placing on the breakwaters, and the mast for the SS United States).
The final component in the set is an ‘M860 Leaflet’, which is essentially the latest illustrated catalogue. The whole set of components are enclosed within a stout cardboard box, which incorporates an inner tray with decorative ‘wave’ insert, to which the components are tied with elasticated string. Opening the lid, the contents are clearly displayed against the sea background.
The box top is illustrated by a wonderfully atmospheric painting showing the United States in dock at night. As can be seen towards the right side of this example, the box lids have a plastic covering that can wrinkle and discolour with age, but hopefully you can see the image underneath clearly enough.
I like to imagine this as the late evening following an arrival. High in the night sky the moon shines down. Most of the passengers have disembarked and left, but on the quayside stand several swanky limos. Maybe they are picking up first-class passengers, or officers of the crew, or perhaps just parked temporarily while their owners do a bit of nocturnal sightseeing. In the interior of the terminal, the crowds have dispersed and all is winding down. The final pieces of luggage wait on a trolley near the exit, perhaps to be loaded into the waiting cars.
What do we make of this set, and the reasons for buying it?
Let’s tackle the price question first. Using a price list from New Years Day 1961, we can see that the set retailed at 29 shillings and 6 pence. The components are priced as follows:
|SS United States||7s||11d|
|Tug x 2||3s||0d|
|Quay x 3||4s||6d|
|Cranes + tanks||2s||6d|
|Breakwaters x 4||5s||0d|
|Breakwater ends x 2||1s||0d|
|Breakwater angles x 2||1s||0d|
This adds up to 27 shillings and 11 pence. So, the set is more expensive than the sum of the components. Clearly, economy wasn’t a reason to buy it.
Similarly, all of the items in the set could be purchased separately, so there was no imperative to buy it for that reason.
What the set does have, however, is convenience combined with a certain wow-factor. The set tells a story (that of the United States in harbour) and packages all of the components that one might need to play it out. It then displays them within an attractive and evocative presentation. Minic termed these boxes ‘Presentation Sets’, so clearly this was the focus for their creation.
There we have it – a perfect solution for a harassed adult looking for a birthday or Christmas present for a child.
Let’s wrap up this look at the M892 United States Set with a final observation.
The United States travelled across the North Atlantic, principally between the ports of New York and Southampton. As we have seen, the set includes a model of the Statue of Liberty, which might suggest that the harbour that can be built from the contents is that of New York. However, the box illustration shows the liner alongside the Southampton Ocean Terminal. Although Minic did make a model of this building, it is not in the set. In this respect then, what is on the cover is not what is in the box…
Minic made other presentation sets including the ‘sister’ set M891 RMS Queen Elizabeth Set, plus the smaller sets M893 Carrier Task Group & M894 Royal Yacht Britannia Set.