It’s been a mixed Summer, what with the weather (which was great in parts, dismal in others), some variable sporting fortunes (athletics and cricket in the main) and a marked lack of toyfairs. We’ve had none since May! Well, that’s all about to change, with our next visit to Cirencester coming up on Sunday 27th August. Doors at The Bingham Hall open at 10 am (Early-Birds from 8:00) and entrance is £2.50, with under-16s free. There’s parking outside the door or at the nearby school.

After next weekend there will be a regular succession of events each month, almost through to Christmas. If you can get over to Cirencester on Sunday, be sure to come and say hello!

Just because we haven’t been organising toy fairs doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. July was a very significant month for Ronnie Davies, and we’re delighted to announce that he finally tied the knot with the delightful Dee. They were married on the 28th, with the help of a vintage London Transport Routemaster bus and a splendid cake, complete with Lily the black labrador. Many congratulations, and we wish them all the very best for the future.

The Force is Still Strong

It’s amazing to think that it is now 40 years since the first Star Wars film, and the popularity of the franchise seems to show no sign of diminishing. Not only are we still seeing the release of new films (with the next, entitled The Last Jedi, due out in December) but the value of some of the associated merchandise continues to amaze. What is it about Boba Fett? A bit-part character in the films, but topping the bill when it comes to mini-figures.

An example of the General Mills/Palitoy Boba Fett from c1979, still in an unopened blister pack, was a single lot in a sizeable one-owner collection that went under the hammer at Thomson Roddick & Co in Carlisle at the end of July, and realised £2,800. That’s not a record for the bounty hunter, but it’s still impressive.

Earlier in the month Mitchell’s Antiques Auctioneers in Cockermouth included an original French-language poster from Le Retour du Jedi (pictured). Despite having been creased and folded, this five-footer realised £150 (plus buyer’s commission).

Film posters were never designed, or expected to be kept. They are true “ephemera” – here today, gone tomorrow – and as such can be very scarce, most having been ripped down at the end of the week and consigned to the bin. That makes some of them, especially for the blockbusters, hugely desirable to film buffs. The current record is believed to be $1.2 million paid for one of only four known surviving posters for Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis. The figure is speculative, as the poster was bundled with nine others, including King Kong, The Invisible Man and Arsenic and Old Lace, but the sci-fi classic alone is now valued at over a million. Even modern posters can command high prices though – Pulp Fiction for around £1,000, or a recent Spider Man poster with New York’s Twin Towers reflected in the super-hero’s eyes, and which was subsequently recalled, can fetch upwards of £600, dependant upon size and condition.

So, next time there’s a change of film at your local Odeon, pop in and ask if you can have the old posters!

Motor Museum on the Right Tracks

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon is a popular day out for families and is little more than an hour’s drive from Cirencester or Didcot. Early in October it will be even more of a draw for kids of all ages, not only because there will be plenty of boy’s toys downstairs to admire, but the atrium upstairs will also be the venue for this year’s Great Electric Train Show on October 7th and 8th.

Sponsored jointly by Hornby and Bachmann, the event will feature more than 25 major layouts from expert modellers from across the country. The quality and attention to detail of some of these displays is astonishing, with examples covering not only the great age of steam, but also more contemporary scenes from the 1970s and 80s.

As well as being able to admire these layouts in action, there will also be demonstrations and workshops, including opportunities to learn how to paint models to make them look more realistic; the use of 3D laser scanning; and building and construction methods for scale modelling. Some 3,000 visitors are expected over the two days.

Advance tickets are available now from the event website if ordered before 10am on Friday 29 September: Adult/OAP £9 (Save £3) Children (5-16 years) £7 (Save £2), including 30 minutes early-access to the show and a free event programme, subject to availability. Visit the Great Electric Train Show.

Earning their Stripes

Everyone’s heard of Corgi and Dinky, Matchbox and Spot-on, but these weren’t the only diecast manufacturers of the 1950s and 60s. Britain produced some of the best quality miniature models of the period, and included among these were some lesser-known manufacturers who produced top quality scale models, sometimes in modest quantities.

One such was Benbros Limited of Walthamstow, founded in the late 1940s by brothers Jack and Nathan Benenson – hence Ben-Bros. Their initial output majored on lead soldiers, but in 1953 they expanded into diecast. Their range covered a broad spectrum of interest and also ranged somewhat in quality, with model cars and farm machinery branded under the Qualitoys name being rather middle-of-the-range, but affordable, and sometimes with ‘added value’ in the form of associated figures and extras. Their “Mighty Midgets” vied with Matchbox, and even came in a similar style of box. Their best quality. however, was reserved for their Zebra Toys range, which appeared in 1964.

With distinctively zebra-striped boxes, these diecast cars, vans, military vehicles and motorcycles achieved a higher standard and, as such, are especially collectable today. Sadly, they came too late to save the company, which suffered as demand for diecast toys declined and competition became more intense. Benbros closed in 1965. However, in June one of their rarer models, an AA Mini Van patrol car, appeared in Bishop & Miller’s fine art auction, and achieved a hammer price of £1,400, thanks mainly to being still accompanied by its original box.

You can find out more about Benbros and the company’s range of toys on Nicholas Martin’s diecast website.

Empty Tins Make the Most Noise

As a collectables dealer myself, I’ve never quite understood the appeal, but there

‘s no denying that there’s a strong following these days for old tins, be they for toffees, biscuits, chocolates, tea or even cosmetics. Naturally prone to damage and rust, condition is key, but a few dents and scratches doesn’t rule out a high price. It’s scarcity and age that matters, and anything pre-WW2 can command a premium.

Last month a collection of fifteen Rowntree’s tins (including a black cat with red ribbon, like the one on the left) sold at Mitchell’s for £2,400, while a Huntley & Palmer biscuit tin in the form of a farmhouse (pictured right, with extending wall allowing children to play with the tin after consuming the contents) is in Gilding’s catalogue for their 22nd August auction. The guide price is £100-£150, but a similar tin, in good condition, recently sold on eBay for just £75.

Huntley & Palmers were based in Reading, and today the town is still known as The Biscuit Town, even though the company ceased trading there in the 1970s, when Huntley & Palmers was amalgamated into Associated Biscuits with Peek Frean and Jacobs. These days collectors of the company’s tins can visit the Reading Museum website and search the Huntley & Palmer archives of over 1000 tin designs.