I gave my presentation before the Capital Miniature Auto Collectors Club. The talk provided a background for the toys, made between 1949 and 1963, along with examples from my surviving childhood toys. Also on display was the Straco Express layout, which showcased smaller Japanese toy cars from the period.
Part 1 features the final version of the talk in written form, subsequent parts include galleries of the toys actually discussed.
|Two Nomura HO-scale trains, imported under the |
Nomura made a wide variety of toys, including the large 8” and 10” vehicles. They’re one of the few companies to mark their pieces; the Nomura logo was an N with a superimposed T. Naito Shoten, a company with the AHI logo, is believed to have been a division of Nomura. Noguchi, a small company that used a letter N as a logo, is possibly another (they specialized in walking toys and space toys).
Several vehicles on the Straco display layout are Nomura, as is the Santa Fe freight set. It was imported by Cragstan, but the TN marking can be clearly seen at the end of each car. (click on images to enlarge)
|A set of three Nomura penny toys. Sometimes an ambulance would |
If you look carefully at the three cars in the picture, you'll notice that they were all stamped from the same mold. Only the graphics have been changed. And the line-up is fairly common. Most manufacturers putting out these penny toy sets had four designs they would use: a police car, ambulance, fire chief car, and taxi. In this case, only three of the four are represented.
|The corresponding set of three trucks by Nomura. These vary|
not just in graphics, but also in the embossed details.
I also have another Nomura penny toy police car that represents the low end of the spectrum. Unlike the one in the set, it has no friction drive. It's much flatter, using far less tin in its body. The chassis is unfinished, and the wheels are crimped tin rather than rubber.
|Two Nomura penny toy police cars. A big difference in quality!|
|The Nomura logo: N with a T superimposed. It's on the fender of the |
car in the foreground, and the trunk of the one in the back.
There were other Japanese toy companies active during the postwar period who made tinplate cars. I didn't have examples of them, but I did research them in case club members brought some examples.
“Maru” is the Japanese word for circle, and “San” means three (referring to the three founders). The Marusan logo was the word San in a circle. Marusan, founded in 1924, is still in business, making plastic robots and monsters. Originally they were toy wholesalers, but in the early 1950’s they began making their own toys.
In 1952 they came out with one of the most desirable toys of the era, a 12-inch model of a 1951 Cadillac. It was fully detailed, and comprised of about 175 individual pieces. The company also made Chevrolets, and Fords.
Yonezawa was at one time the biggest toy manufacturer in Japan. They produced many Cadillac models, including an 18”-long model, and the largest of any company, a 22”-long model. Interestingly, the larger models weren't as detailed as their smaller models, and so aren’t quite as desirable to collectors. Big isn't always better!
Alps was founded in 1948 and made a variety of tin toys, including cars. They were one of the companies that provided products shipped under the Cragstan brand.
Ichico was one of the second-tier companies in terms of quality. Cragstan imported quite a few Ichico models. They mainly modeled Buicks and Cadillacs.
ATC was another company that made products for Cragstan. In the 8”-12” models, they specialized in Chryslers and Buicks.
Part 1: The Golden Age of Japanese Tin Toy Vehicles 1949-1963
Part 2: Bandai
Part 3: Haji and Masudaya
Part 4: Cragstan and Shioji
Part 5: Line Mar and Marx