It’s been half term, and I have loved seeing families finding items in the centre with shared appeal for different generations, like the die cast model cars I grew up with.
Perhaps because it was my birthday last week, I’ve been feeling nostalgic for my old Dinky toys, which were all in terrible condition thanks to hours of playing in my sandpit. It’s ironic I became a professional collector, advising people on the merits of keeping items in mint condition!
Made possible due to casting techniques developed during the First World War, early models were basic vehicle bodies with no interior, and liable to distort, crack, or crumble. As a result, die cast toys made before World War II are difficult to find in good condition, and pricey if you do.
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Dinky toys began life in 1934 as a Hornby-owned Meccano spin-off. Designed to add trackside realism to train sets, they immediately captured the public imagination, and continued to innovate with opening doors and springy wheels.
Mettoy’s Corgi Toys arrived in 1956, challenging Dinky’s monopoly with detailed interiors and plastic windows. Lesney’s launched Matchbox 1-75 in 1952, with 75 different vehicles always in the line, and packaging designed to mimic a matchbox. These toys became so popular that Matchbox started to overtake Dinky as the generic term for any die cast toy car.
By the time Dinky finally closed in 1979, it had more than 1000 models in numerous colour variations; Matchbox produced even more, so collectors usually specialize.
Others seek out the toys they loved as a child, like the iconic Corgi TV generation toys, or Dinky’s post-1947 Supertoys range of trucks. Other collectable manufacturers include Britains, Tekno, Benbros, Budgie, Mercury and Hot Wheels.
We usually have a good range of toy cars in the centre. These Matchbox models start at £3, whereas the larger modern die cast racing cars range from £8 to £13. Good starter prices for pocket-money collectors, plus no-one’s going to get precious about playing with them.
Because, like mine, they were much loved and played with, it can be hard to find vintage die cast cars in mint condition. Boxes plus certificates or instructions will all add to its value. These days, one can even buy replacement new boxes; these can enhance the overall value, but they won’t rev it up as much as an original box.