The changing face of Corgi catalogues
We are very pleased to be bringing you the latest edition of our Die-cast Diaries blog, where we give the model collector an insight into everything that is going on in the world of Corgi model collecting.
In this latest edition, we will be taking a closer look at one of the best-loved aspects of the die-cast collection hobby, that of Corgi model catalogues. Since the early days of the brand, product catalogues have both presented the product range and inspired generations of collectors to discover the Corgi brand, with some of these catalogues now becoming almost as collectable as the models they contain. The different catalogue designs also reflect the changing face of die-cast models and the relatively recent rise of the collector phenomenon, which seems to be most prevalent here in the UK. Let’s delve into the interesting subject of Corgi catalogues over the years.
From toys to collectables – Corgi’s catalogues
A selection of classic Corgi model catalogues
The subject of product catalogues is an absolutely fascinating one, not only because they are a highly visual representation of the product lines offered by a particular company, but also as they reflect both product development and any product diversification over any given period. Loved by children and adult collectors alike, these highly appealing product brochures were invariably read over and over again by youngsters who could usually only look forward to owning one or two of the models advertised within its pages, but that certainly did not stop them from dreaming. The catalogues also tended to be very well used by their owners and were generally used not only to highlight the new models you were hoping to get, but also a rather effective aide memoir (or for bragging rights amongst your friends) for the ones you already had. The pages would invariably be marked by folding over the corner of important pages, or by strategically placing a cross next to your favourite models, in the hope that your parents would stumble across this less than subtle hint and ensure that Christmas, or your next birthday allowed your collection to grow a little larger.
Once an exciting new catalogue had replaced the old edition, the previous edition was more often than not discarded, as it had already served its purpose and was now very much yesterday’s news. In any case, it was probably looking slightly the worse for wear by now and was only fit for the dustbin – despite the fact that these were hugely important and much loved items, the Corgi catalogues were designed specifically to sell product and they did it very well. As a consequence of this, very few of these early catalogues managed to survive in pristine condition and those which could still be described as being in mint condition, can usually command extremely high prices on the secondary market. Invariably, the young collectors who remember them so fondly are now more than likely parents themselves and can afford to buy these colourful reminders of the carefree days of their youth. Older people often refer to the their formative years as being the good old days, but if there is ever a time when this statement is applicable, then surely it is when referring to the die-cast toys of our youth.
60 years of die-cast production
The 1963-64 Corgi catalogue front will bring back memories for many
Next year will be a significant one in the history of the Corgi brand, as the company celebrates its 60th anniversary during 2016. Since the first die-cast model cars were produced in their Swansea factory in 1956, Corgi have been at the forefront of producing accurate and appealing die-cast models for both children and adult collectors alike. They have a proud history as one of Britain’s premier hobby brands and this really should be celebrated.
The first models to appear in the Corgi range were cleverly selected as British saloon and sports cars, which would have been familiar to every youngster in the UK and as a consequence, highly desirable as model representations. The models also included some technological improvements over comparable models produced by competitor companies, such as using clear plastic glazing for vehicle windows and were actually marketed as ‘the ones with windows’! In this first year, Corgi managed to sell 2.75 million examples of their die-cast model vehicles in the UK.
The new Corgi models proved to be extremely popular and there seemed to be almost unlimited demand for these fantastic little die-cast vehicles. The range began to increase steadily, with more cars quickly appearing, along with the production of some larger models – trucks, tractors and fuel tankers all began to appear. This rapid expansion culminated in the publication of the first Corgi product catalogue in 1957 and as Corgi models began to sell in very large numbers, larger manufacturing facilities were needed to accommodate this growth. By the end of the 1950’s, Mettoy, who were the parent company of the Corgi brand, were exporting to 100 countries, with this exported product accounting for 33% of the company’s turnover. Continuing through the early 1960’s, the Corgi workforce numbered 1700 people by 1963, with the expansion in model choice and sales growth showing absolutely no sign of abating.
Some of the best loved models of our youth
A further selection of classic Corgi model catalogues
For a great many people growing up during the 60s and 70s, the classic Corgi models of the period will probably have formed an important and extremely enjoyable part of their youth. The rather basic early family car models developed into some of Britain’s most popular toys, many of which have become highly sought after amongst today’s collectors. In original packaging and in pristine condition, these models possess the ability to transport collectors back to their youth and as a consequence can command some extremely high prices - certainly figures many times greater than their original purchase prices. By their nature, these fantastic models were designed to be played with by their lucky owner and even though these extremely robust models are more than capable of surviving years of playing abuse, most are now looking a little the worse for wear. Almost certainly, the packaging will have long since been thrown away, making a mint example extremely rare and a highly desirable commodity.
As a youth, I was lucky to have amassed an extensive collection of die-cast vehicles, but I remember with particular fondness one Christmas morning when my brother and I were the proud recipients of some Corgi models, that were by far and away the pride of our die-cast collections. As my brother opened his Ford Tilt Cab H Series, with detachable trailer, I was incredibly jealous and looked for a similar sized present in my own pillowcase. I needn’t have worried – Father Christmas had come up trumps. My Tilt Cab with detachable Carrimore Mk.IV car transporter was my most prized possession and even though it was very well played with over the years, it would usually only be allowed out on special occasions.
A much loved model - the Corgi Ford Tilt Cab H series, with Carrimore Mk.IV car transporter
I am sure that many readers will have similar fond memories of Corgi die-cast models from their youth, as the company produced a string of iconic releases that kept them at the forefront of the die-cast hobby. They also cleverly diversified their subject matter, to build on the success of the range and introduced models featuring cartoon characters, agricultural equipment, commercial vehicles and fire engines, to name just a few. In the mid 1960’s, the range included the first models in their film and TV inspired models, which proved to be some of the most successful models in the history of die-cast. The first release was Roger Moore’s iconic white Volvo P1800 from the TV series ‘The Saint’, but it was the second release that proved to be their most popular model – James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5, from the film Goldfinger. This model must have been in the car collections of many British youngsters and was regularly re-released to keep up with an avaricious demand. Other significant models in this series were the Batmobile, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Beatles Yellow Submarine and the delightful Daktari gift set, which also included a plastic Judy the chimp and Clarence the cross-eyed lion.
Corgi catalogues continue to grow
The changing face of the much loved Corgi catalogue
As the Corgi range continued to expand, so did the number of pages contained within each new catalogue. From the first catalogue of 1956, which was a rather modest 6x4 inch fold out brochure, these annual publications grew into a spectacular 48 page full colour catalogue, featuring highly evocative artwork, designed to both promote the current model range and to captivate the model collector. Unfortunately, the late 1970s and early 80s saw a decline in sales and an increase in die-cast production costs, which stifled the development of new and innovative product, further diminishing its popularity. This period proved to be much quieter for the brand, but a couple of management buyout deals and the establishment of more cost effective manufacturing facilities in the Far East saw the Corgi brand continue to produce models and develop into new product areas. Corgi models were still being produced for youngsters to play with, but a large number of the new models were aimed intentionally at die-cast collectors, as this area of the business was beginning to experience rapid growth. From a catalogue perspective, this period brought some significant development in both the look and frequency of catalogue production and also saw the release of an exciting new product range – die-cast aeroplanes!
Introducing the Aviation Archive range - the Corgi catalogue of 1998
For people who were used to the traditional die-cast models produced by Corgi, news that they were releasing a range of aviation models would have certainly been of great interest to aviation enthusiasts, but may also have caused a few eyebrows to be raised. Would these new models be toy aircraft, or something aimed at an older, more discerning target market? Produced separately to the main Corgi catalogue, 1998 saw an eight page gatefold catalogue announcing the arrival of the Aviation Archive range and introducing a number of newly tooled aviation models in 1/144th scale die-cast metal. The first models announced were an Avro Lancaster, Avro York, Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Lockheed Constellation, with this first catalogue featuring a couple of different livery options for each new tooling. After something of a slow start, these models began to steadily secure a collector base of their own and their popularity began to grow at some pace. This popularly also saw the range increase with the addition of fantastic new models, such as the Vulcan, Victor, Flying Fortress and Boeing 707 airliner – the Aviation Archive range was here to stay!
Some of the classic 1/72nd scale aircraft models launched in 2000
Despite the undoubted popularity of the new Aviation Archive range, it was to reach new heights and even greater levels of collector uptake with the release of the January to June 2000 catalogue. Whilst this catalogue included the latest announcements in the 1/144th scale model series, it also saw the introduction of the first 1/72nd scale die-cast aviation models. Announcing the production of such famous aircraft as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Messerschmitt and Mustang, these models tempted many more aviation enthusiasts to discover the Aviation Archive range and introduced them to a relatively new phenomenon – the die-cast aviation collecting bug!
The irresistible combination of accurately produced and fully painted 1/72nd scale models, with the appealing weight of die-cast proved difficult to refuse and many new collectors came to the hobby. For those who were still undecided about these appealing models, the 2001 release of the magnificent Avro Lancaster took the range to another level and whilst this particular model seemed almost too good to be true, it proved that die-cast aviation was here to stay. Perhaps more than any other model in the Aviation Archive range, the 1/72nd scale Lancaster was responsible for introducing new collectors to this interesting die-cast aviation, leaving many devoted to the Corgi range and desperate to add to their fledgling collection.
WWII Military Vehicle Collection
Catalogues presenting the popular 1/50th scale Military Vehicle range
Some of the most impressive models produced by Corgi in the early 2000s were the 1/50th scale WWII military vehicle range. These magnificent models marked Allied and Axis military vehicles from the Second World War and proved to be a big hit with collectors and war gamers alike. Unlike many of the other military models on the market at that time, the Corgi tanks had a very high metal content and were very well researched and produced. Unfortunately, over recent years, this range seems to have fallen out of favour somewhat, but if the tooling is still in good order, it can surely only be a matter of time before this superb range takes its place in the Corgi catalogue once more.
A number of relatively recent developments have proved to have quite an impact on the fortunes of the Corgi brand, which as we have seen, will be celebrating its 60th anniversary during 2016. Perhaps the most important of these was the 2008 acquisition of Corgi by the Hornby Hobbies Group, which allowed this famous old collectable brand to have a much brighter future, following a prolonged period of relative uncertainty. The latest models have also benefited from advances in die-cast manufacturing technologies, which has resulted in the production of much more accurate models, which can include much finer detail. Without doubt, the age of the internet and much wider use of this convenient technology has also been a huge factor in restoring the fortunes of the Corgi brand, as this has allowed the models to be brought to the attention of many more collectors all over the world – all three factors have resulted in Corgi models enjoying something of a renaissance of late, which will be very much welcomed by die-cast collectors all over the world.
New Corgi 2016 catalogue
The new Corgi January to June 2016 catalogue is due soon!
From a Corgi catalogue perspective, it could be argued that the last few editions have been the most appealing in recent history and have been well received by both collectors and retailers alike. With a distinctive A5 landscape design, the catalogues feature all the models available in all the current ranges, with a wealth of other Corgi related information – it even includes a list of all the licencing work that has to be carried out in the production of any new range. Even though all this information is obviously also available on the Corgi website and the websites of many model retailers, there is something quite reassuring about having the latest Corgi catalogue in your hands.
This brings us rather nicely to the subject of the new Corgi January to June 2016 catalogue and the start of the 60th anniversary year. The launch of a new catalogue is always a time of great excitement for the die-cast collector, as they rush to see what models will be produced during the coming few months. Whether your preferred area of collecting is cars, trucks, buses, or aircraft, the new Corgi catalogue will hopefully have something for everyone and the latest edition is now just around the corner. The new catalogue will be live on the Corgi website on Tuesday 15th December, so there is not long for us to wait now!
Corgi model releases over the next few weeks
As we are obviously only a few short weeks away from the Christmas holidays, we thought that it would be helpful to give you an update on the models that are due to arrive at the Corgi warehouse over the coming weeks. Many of the models will be available in time for Christmas, but some may just drift into the first few weeks of the New Year. Amongst the models eagerly awaited this festive season are:
A montage of recent and impending Corgi releases
AA36406 – Just arrived, this the latest release in the successful RAF Eurofighter Typhoon series and presents an aircraft which took part in Operation Ellamy, helping to enforce the UN no fly zone over Libya, in 2011. In the colours of No.11 Squadron, this fantastic model includes a series of mission marking on the port side of the fuselage and specific ground attack weaponry.
AA33616 – Due shortly before Christmas, the RAF Tornado GR.4 is one of the worlds most capable attack aircraft and even though it has been in service for over thirty years, it continues to provide devastatingly effective strike capabilities for the Royal Air Force. The threat of a Tornado attack during Operation Ellamy helped to ensure that the Libyan Air Force stayed firmly on the ground.
CC13775 – As far as truck collecting is concerned, anything with an Eddie Stobart livery on it is assured of being highly popular with die-cast collectors. The latest Scania R Highline model release in 1/50th scale presents a unit pulling an Eddie Stobart fuel tanker and will make for an interesting addition to any vehicle collection.
VA13207A – Due next week, for collectors of a certain vintage the Vauxhall Astra Mk.2 GTE was regarded as one of the most desirable cars on Britain’s roads and certainly transported its lucky owner in some motoring style. This latest release is finished in Arctic White and is owned by the Vauxhall Heritage Centre.
What’s on the desk?
We would like to end this latest edition of Diecast Diaries with a return to the popular what’s on the desk feature, where we take a look at some of the pre-production sample models that have arrived on the development desk at Corgi HQ over the past few weeks. The first model to be featured is AA36710 Junkers Ju-88A-5, but whilst this is certainly a beautiful looking new model, it may potentially present collectors something of a die-cast dilemma.
Pre-production example of the latest Junkers Ju-88A-5 release, which has proved to be incredibly popular with collectors
This model is a magnificent way in which to bring this 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain to a close, but has proved so popular that collectors may find it difficult to secure an example if they had not placed a pre-order for this model prior to release. Nevertheless, this really is a superb addition to the Aviation Archive range and one that is certainly worthy of mention.
Without doubt, the Corgi range of 1/72nd scale helicopter models are some of the finest in the die-cast aviation hobby and have secured a dedicated following of collectors over the years. With many exceptional models already in this impressive range, the next release in this series looks like being one of the very best - it should be available very early in the New Year.
The pre-production sample of the Gulf War British Army Lynx
AA39006 is the latest Westland Lynx release and presents an aircraft which took part in the first Gulf War and was involved in hunting down and destroying Iraqi Army armoured units. Looking magnificent in its distinctive desert camouflage, this new model has benefitted from some new tooling additions to make this a highly accurate representation of this beautiful helicopter. Certain to be an extremely popular release, this latest Lynx is due to arrive in stores during January 2016 and can be pre-ordered if you have not already done so and wish to avoid possible disappointment. The images included here show the pre-production sample model on the Corgi development desk and even though it looks spectacular, it may differ from the actual production model. The pre-production sample models are an important stage in the development of any model, as they allow the design team to inspect every aspect of the proposed release and to spot any problems, or deficiencies that need to be rectified before it enters production.
The unique presentation of the Operation Granby Lynx XZ221
We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s look at the history of the Corgi model catalogue and some of the iconic images we have managed to unearth - hopefully, it will have brought back some happy memories for many of our readers.
Corgi catalogues from over the past 59 years
If you still have any of the older Corgi models in your collection, please send us your pictures and let us have your stories – we may well feature them in a future edition of Diecast Diaries and immortalise your story in our Corgi blog. Similarly, if there is something that you would particularly like to see covered in a future edition, please do not hesitate in letting us know, by using any of our social media channels detailed below.
Until the next edition of Die-cast Diaries, we hope you enjoy your model collecting!
The Corgi Team
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