Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Collecting -- and collecting information 22

Part of my interest in post-war Japanese toy trains and small vehicles is this: there's virtually no information about these toys at all. Lionel trains, Gilbert Erector Sets, Marx Play Sets have all been carefully researched and documented. And the same is true for the more popular Japanese tin toys. There are multiple reference works about Japanese space and robot toys, and the large-scale car models put out by Bandai, Alpine, and others.

Not so with the low-end toys I'm interested. in. For me, part of the fun has been in the acquisition of information about these toys (rather than the toys themselves). Recently a colleague sent me some photos of a set he had found.

It's actually the surviving components of two identical sets thrown into the same box. But that box is most interesting. The train set was made by Bandai -- the equipment and track bear their brand. I knew that Bandai marketed their own products in the US (as they do today), and also supplied products for Cragstan, an importer of toys in the 1950's-early 1960's. 

Some very helpful info is here -- on the box, that is.

Cragstan imported train sets made by Nomrua and Yonezowa, and -- apparently - by Bandai, too. 

The box is helpful, as it has an inventory printed on it. So I now know what the set actually consisted of. And it's helpful because it explains why the Bandai rolling stock had plain, single-color bodies. All the other manufacturers lithographed details and road names on their cars. 

But this set was designed as a blank slate. A set of road name stickers came with it, so you could decorate the engine and cars as you chose. When I see these pieces come up for auction, many have stickers still attached. And now I know why. 

I still don't know precisely when the set was offered, but the graphics suggest early 1950's. Why? Because the image is "borrowed" from the Lionel 1948 catalog. In the book, the artist made a mistake and made the body of the Santa Fe diesels black instead of silver. The images were correct for the 1949 and later catalog. 

Bandai copied the image from the 1948 catalog, and therefore made its diesel with a black body instead of a silver one. 

I think we can say the Cragstan/Bandai box art was "inspired" by the image
in the 1948 Lionel catalog (lower) -- as the Santa Fe never had any
diesels in that color scheme.

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