HAVE you ever marveled

at the way some people find several hundred pounds to spend on a single obsolete die-cast model? It's easy to see why such a product of the past might be so desirable.

 Imagine you were seeing some in an auction house or being offered by in his shop or at a swapmeet. Take a perfect example of a Dinky Toys Lady Penelope's 'FAB 1' (£200) for instance, or a Leyland Octopus Lorry in the rare blue and cream (£650), in such good boxes that they are virtually 'factory fresh' even after all these years.

Nostalgia alone is very powerful and you know these models are so difficult to find in this lovely condition.


You just don't see them about nowadays and they would look really great in your collection. The price is very reasonable, even though it amounts to a lot of money. They are extremely fine items, likely to retain or even increase their value.

They are available NOW - when might you see their like again? Can you walk away and live without them? Are you a serious collector or not? And who is that other  guy now looking at them? Decide now - do it or rue it.

The highest prices are routinely achieved in auction. Thought processes just described are often shared by several would-be buyers who become anxious during bidding and find themselves stretching their resources ever further.


This all serves to show how the forces of supply and demand work and the influence of nostalgia and desirability. What matters to collectors in this particular field is a combination of rarity and availability.

Undoubtedly the most important factor as always with older models is condition. Pristine examples inevitably attract a premium. Mint and boxed items are understandably the most desired, and really good models will always find a buyer at a reasonable price. Playworn toys are very difficult to sell at anything above a 'car-boot sale price'.

Yet some of the all-time record-holders are not boxed (because they did not come in a box originally) and are in such bad condition that they are gradually falling to pieces! Why would anyone pay so much for them?


 The answer must surely be that these items are so rare, possibly unique, that they are totally desirable whatever their condition. The 1939 promotional Dinky Toys 280g Van in 'Bentalls' livery is the best example and takes top honours for a price achieved at auction.

 Over £12,500 was paid for one of the two examples known to exist. Some retouching of the paintwork was evident but worse than that, noticeable cracks appeared in the casting.

Cracks that can only get worse with the passing of time. Cracks that can cause some die-manufacturing techniques. It's the pre-war models that are mostly affected. That's right - the rare and desirable ones!

Collectors today have taken to calling the condition 'metal fatigue' though that isn't quite what it is. 'Metal failure' is a better term for what is actually 'inter-crystalline corrosion', an electrolytic process not unlike car battery corrosion.

But whatever you choose to call it, the effect is currently destroying some of the most highly prized Dinky Toys that exist in collections around the world. Models of aircraft are particularly vulnerable to this problem of metal instability.

Wings can bend out of shape or crack into pieces when handled. The casting also actually grows in size so that models can no longer fit into their boxes! What can be done about it?


Since the alloy has changed chemically, there is nothing that will reverse the process. All that can be done now is to slow down the rate of deterioration or to hold it at its present level.

Maintaining a dry environment for the models at around 20 degrees Celsius or more is all that is needed to keep the condition stable.

 If that's not possible for current owners of badly affected models, it would seem they have paid dearly for the privilege of being the last person to own them.


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