Matchbox Aircraft Kits – Introduction

Innovation and Colour

Matchbox Kits

In 1973, Matchbox, until that time known chiefly for their range of diminutive diecast vehicles, entered the plastic kit market. Their most numerous products were 1:72 scale aircraft, of which they produced about 120 up to the end of production in 1989. A variety of warplanes and civil aircraft were modelled, including both classic warbirds and some unusual subjects. The range was notable for containing parts moulded in 2 or more bright colours. Many of the moulds were subsequently acquired by Revell, who continue to release some of them to this day.

The warbird par excellence is, of course, the Spitfire, and it is unsurprising that this iconic aircraft was one of the first releases made by Matchbox. It’s a great starting place for examining the Matchbox range.

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Minic Ships – Revivals

Recreating a Vintage Brand

New Edition

Usually, when a classic toy range ceases production, it has gone for good. Occasionally however a range is revived, and in the case of Minic this happened not once, but twice! The 1970s Rovex Hornby revival mainly involved reuse of the 1960s moulds, with only a handful of new items. The revival was not a success, and most observers would no doubt have assumed that this was the last we would see of Minic Ships.

It was something of a surprise therefore, when the range was revived again in the first years of this century by Charles Shave, a private owner based in Hong Kong (though production took place in mainland China). The audience this time round most certainly includes adult collectors, people who are excited at the nostalgic thought of once again acquiring some of the toys of their childhood.

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Dinky Military – Accuracy

High Fidelity or Artistic License?

The Question of Accuracy

Dinky proudly claimed that their models were accurate reproductions, but is this true?

Before examining this question, we need to set down some ground-rules. Dinky models were – like all models which are smaller than the subject they represent – simplifications. In fact, if you consider it for a moment, all models must omit detail that would be too small or fragile to be rendered in scale. In that respect all models are inaccurate.

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Britains Deetail – Accessories

Extending the Scope

Accessories

A common practice amongst toy manufacturers is to extend the play possibilities of their core ranges by creating accessories that can be used with them. By providing these, the central range is made more attractive and sales are increased. One obvious adjunct to any range of toy soldiers is the artillery that supports them, but in this story we’ll consider the vehicles that they may travel in and fight from. Britains were not slow to produce a range of these for their new Deetail range.

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Minic Ships – Modernity

Modelling the Latest Thing

Innovation

People are always excited by innovations, especially where these push back boundaries and seem to offer a glimpse into a future world. Naturally, toy manufacturers were keen to capitalise on this and so often produced models of the most up to date contemporary subjects. Modelling the latest thing is a sure-fire way of attracting customers! A case in point is the destroyer HMS Devonshire, launched in 1960, the lead ship of the new County-class destroyers and the first Royal Navy warship designed to operate guided missiles.

The County class in the 1962 Minic catalogue
NEW! Both the model and the subject were brand-new in this image from the 1962 Minic catalogue.
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Britains Deetail – Introduction

Animation and Heft

Britains Deetail

Britains is a world-famous toy manufacturer known through the first half of the twentieth century for their extensive range of often stiffly-posed lead soldiers. Following the Second World War, plastic became a viable alternative material to work with. In order to take advantage of this development, Britains merged with the up-and-coming plastic soldier manufacturer Herald in 1955. Several ranges of plastic soldiers were subsequently produced.

It was in 1971 that the innovative, colourful and animated ‘Deetail’ range of 1:32 figures and accessories were introduced. Deetail figures certainly were, as the name suggests, nicely detailed, but their distinctive characteristics were that they were pre-painted and well-animated. Uniquely, the plastic figure was also mounted on a metal base, thus giving the figure stability and heft.

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Dinky Military – Play Value

Features! We Want Features!

Play Value

Now, the thing about toys is that they are meant to be played with. It follows therefore that a good toy is likely to be one that encourages play, or as I shall put it, has high ‘play value’.

What sort of play? The youthful, imaginative, physical type. Whether that means the more sedate pastimes of thoughtfully arranging dioramas, or rougher forays into imagined battle amongst the garden shrubbery, the important thing is that it is children we are talking about. After all, adults are perfectly content to collect and admire toys, but don’t tend to play with them. Yes, I know there are exceptions, but honestly, when was the last time you pushed a model tank along the floor with a “brrrrum”? Don’t answer that! I’m also not considering here the use of toys in wargaming, because although this is a type of play, the model is being used not as a toy, but as a game token.

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