Thursday, August 30, 2012

Collecting -- and collecting information 4

I continue to gather information about Japanese tin toy cars of the 1950's-60's the hard way -- by direct research. All of this, of course, in preparation for a talk I've been volunteered to give (the purpose of the Collecting -- and collecting information series).

A recent purchase (see The Straco Layout, Part 26 - Maxing out the Motorway) provided me with some more information about this subject, and additional examples of ways one can learn more about a hobby.

The purchase had six vehicles -- three trucks and three cars -- that looked as if they were all part of set. They had the same brand, the same chassis, the same general build and -- most importantly -- the same patina. Because of the brand, I know they were made by the Japanese toy company Namura, but when? I can find no reference works on the subject. (click on images to enlarge)

Mobil retired the "Mobilgas" brand in 1962. Could that be
a clue as to this toy's age?

I know that these type of toy cars were made in Japan between the mid 1950's to early 1960's (when small toy cars were either made of plastic or diecast metal). One of the trucks is marked "Mobilgas." a brand name Mobil Oil used after WWII until it was discontinued in 1962. I'm guessing the truck was made around 1962-63. It wouldn't make sense to market a toy with an outdated logo on it (remember, these were for children to play with, not for adults to collect).

I have another reason for thinking this was made towards the end of the era. The lumber truck that's part of the set is newer than the one I already own (call it truck A).

I think truck B (top) is newer than truck A (bottom).
Note the lighter patina and brighter colors of B.
Truck B (left) and truck A (right).
Note the improved design of the
truck B chassis.
There are some minor differences, especially in the chassis. The newer model (truck B) has a reinforced and painted frame. Note the age of truck A's frame. If truck B were older, the white paint would be closer to yellow, and have accumulated more dirt.

Because the of all six of the Namura chassis are identical, I'm assuming the same age for the three cars as for the trucks. This, even though the body design suggests more of the automotive styles of the pre-fin 1950's than the 1960's. The police car (car B)in this set is far different than the one I picked up earlier (see The Straco Layout, Part 21 - The Flat Arm of the Law).

Both cars bear the "TN" trademark
of Japanese toy company Namura.
Both bear the Namura brand, but represent to different levels of quality. Again, the patinas suggest the flat police car (car A) is slightly earlier than car B, but not by much.

Car A uses small stamped wheels made from recycled tin; car B has more expensive rubber wheels. Car B has a friction motor, while car A has nothing. The frame of car A is unfinished tin, while car B has a painted white frame.  And car A is much flatter than car B, requiring less tin to make. Both sport colorful lithography, though.

Bottom line: car A was made to hit a much lower price point than car B. If nothing else, I now know that Namura built at least two different lines of small toy vehicles -- and probably more.
Car A (left) and car B (right). Although very different
in construction, there is a strong family
resemblance in the lithography design.
Of course, any of my assumptions could be wrong, which would change everything. But I don't think they are. Maybe when all this is said and done I should write the reference work I'm so desperately looking for!

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