Thursday, March 20, 2014

Collecting -- and collecting information 13

My three Linemar vehicles (L to R): PEPCO Line truck
NYC fire truck, Bond Bread deliver van.

Sometimes answers just lead to more questions. In Part 12, I talked about the problem of the Linemar 3" trucks. In the late 1950's-early 1960's Linemar (the Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx Co.), issued some inexpensive friction vehicles.

The first one I had run across was a power company truck marked Potomac Electric Power Company -- a Washington, DC regional company. Could it have been issued as a promotional piece for PEPCO? Then I found a Linemar Bond Bread van. Again I wondered if this was made for Bond Bread.

Recently I won the bid on a Linemar fire engine. This vehicle was marked "NYC Fire Department." I'm pretty sure this wasn't a promotional piece. New York City is almost a generic name as is.

Then I discovered a boxed set on eBay. No, I didn't bid -- the $499.00 asking price was outside my price range (more on that later). The set has 10 vehicles -- including all the ones I talked about in Part 12. There is a Mobilgas tank truck, Central Coal and Coke dump truck, PEPCO power truck, Coca-Cola delivery truck, GE delivery van, RCA service vehicle, Bond Bread van, school bus, and a police car (marked "1st Precient).

At first blush, my question seems to have been answered -- the vehicles were all part of a set.

The Linemar vehicle set (click on image to enlarge).

Then I looked a little closer. I had three of the 10 vehicles. They looked nothing alike. The Bond Bread van is a very simple stamp, the fire engine an intricate design, and the PEPCO truck somewhere in between. The fire engine has wheels lithographed on its side (as does the dump truck) -- but not on the other two.

All from the same set, but with distinct differences.
And when I turned them over, I discovered that the chassis for all three were also different. If all the vehicles were made at the same time for the same set, they should all have the same chassis with minimal body style variants. That's the norm for these vintage Japanese car sets, and for good reason -- it's cheaper.

So why all the variety? I think it's because these sets were pulling together leftover stock -- vehicles from different runs for different customers, put in a set box and shipped off.

In the two photos below, you can see all 10 vehicles in the set.

It's easy to see that the Mobilgas, PEPCO, Central Coal and the police car were all made the same way, with the black chassis crimped to the body. The other vehicles use the front and back bumpers folded up as tabs to secure the body. Further, the RCA and GE trucks have the same body, while PEPCO truck and the school bus also share the same basic body shape.

All in all, it's a mishmash of body shapes and construction techniques. To me, that suggests a set created to move existing stock rather than 10 vehicles designed from the start to be used for this set.

One thing more -- look carefully at the box art. While most of the vehicles are accurately represented, the markings for the PEPCO truck just have the number 19, and it's labeled as a "telephone truck!"

So why does the actual model have the very specific markings and corporate colors for a regional power company?

I now know how these vehicles were packaged -- or at least in one iteration. But this is one answer that just brings more questions!

A word about that price -- $499.00 might seem high, but I don't think so. First, the rule of thumb for Japanese postwar toys is that the about half the value of the item is in the box. Because they were made of very cheap cardboard, they usually didn't last, nor were they meant to. Once purchased, most people discarded the box and played with the toys. The graphics --and the information -- on the box adds real value. The near-mint condition, rarity and desirability of this box makes it's value of $250 a little on the high side, but not by much.

That means that the vehicles are valued at $250, or about $25.00 a piece. Again, a little high, but I've seen some of these (especially the Coca-Cola truck) sell for $45-$65 dollars in pristine condition. So all told, not an unreasonable price for the total package.

Just way more than I would ever want to spend.

No comments:

Post a Comment