Dinky Toys were first referred to by this name in 1934; a year after they were first produced and marketed as ‘Modelled Miniatures’ – a set of trackside accessories for the famous Hornby trains. Dinky Toys was founded by Frank Hornby of Meccano and Hornby fame, who had decided to branch out into diecast vehicles after watching their success when sold by American company, Tootsie Toys who first made model cars in 1909.
The first early Dinky toys were made of lead. They were generally produced in sets or series with the first being the 22 series (a to f) which included a military tank, delivery van, a motor truck, sports car, sports coupe and a tractor. They were brightly coloured, perfect miniatures and are extremely rare and collectable today.
The early lead examples were quickly replaced by models made from the much safer magnesium-zinc alloy mazac. However, this came with its own difficulties as the alloy contained lead impurities which caused corrosion and cracking of the metal, sometimes even crumbling. Consequently the survival rate can be poor for pre-war examples and the condition affected of those still around today.
Dinky toys continued to be made in series and sold in trade packs of six vehicles with individual boxes not introduced en masse until 1952. Dinky toys manufactured post-war were of a better quality alloy but the paint on the vehicles was distinctly duller. Production and popularity of the toys continued to rise with the mid-1950s often referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Dinky Toys when every man and boy had a collection and Dinky had started to upgrade its range, particularly re-introducing their bright pre-war colours.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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