Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Collecting -- and collecting information 5

Line Mar tinplate friction truck from Japan. Was this a
giveaway premium for Pepco?
One of the challenges with any type of collecting is piecing together information is a way that makes sense -- and leads to the right conclusion. The careful building of information by discovery and deduction is part of what the Collecting -- and collecting information series is about.

Case in point: I recently picked up a curious item that I can find no information about. But that doesn't mean I can't make some deductions based on what I do know.

The item is a small Japanese tinplate toy truck made by Line Mar (at left - click on images to enlarge). But there's something unusual about it. The truck is marked "Potomac Electrical Power Company." Most of the Japanese toy cars of the period I've run across have generic names: "Taxi" instead of "Yellow Cab;" "Ambulance" instead of "Mercy Hospital;" "Police," instead of "Chicago Police Dept."

There's no mystery about that. Generic names makes the toys universal. A Chicago police car might have limited appeal outside of Illinois. A generic black and white car works everywhere.

So why this very specific name instead of just "Power Company?" The Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) was moderate-sized regional Washington DC-based power company in the late 1950's. It wasn't a familiar name nationally. I think this truck was something made for Pepco to be used for promotional giveaways. Possibly it could have been given out when Pepco representatives talked with school children about electric safety (they did such things back in the day).

I do know that Line Mar was the Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx & Co., a major US toymaker. Marx specialized in inexpensive toys, and Line Mar even more so. It seems possible to me that Marx was contacted by Pepco to come up with an inexpensive toy they could use, and it was passed on to Line Mar (or perhaps Line Mar/Marx approached Pepco).

Another Line Mar vehicle, this one marked
Central Coal and Coke Co.
Something else: the other day I ran across another unusual Line Mar piece. It was a dump truck branded Central Coal and Coke, Co. Again, I thought the name too specific for a mass-market toy, so I did a little research. I didn't find much, but I did discover that Central Coal and Coke Co. was a Kansas-based coal company that provided fuel to both commercial and residential clients.

Considering both vehicles together, it seems even more likely that Line Mar branded toys for private companies.

If I could find either model with different company names, that would help confirm this assumption. Perhaps there's a ConEd or PG&E version of this truck floating around out there.

I try to be cautious. A lot of misinformation about items get spread because of faulty deductions. I feel pretty confident about this one, though.

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