Dinky Toys

Dinky Toys on display at Scarborough Museum.
Dinky Toys on display at Scarborough Museum.

Written by Jeannie Swales

For several generations of little boys, nothing could compare to the thrill of getting a Dinky Toy or two in your Christmas stocking.

The toy cars - and motorbikes, and military vehicles, and aircraft and boats - were produced in England between the 1930s and 1979. They were die-cast from mazac, also known as zamac, an acronym of the names of the metals which composed the alloy - zinc, aluminium, magnesium and copper.

Dinky’s parent company was Liverpool-based Meccano Ltd, which also made Hornby train sets, named after the company’s founder, Frank Hornby, who had designed the engineering toy for his sons, patenting it in 1901 and founding Meccano in 1908.

Meccano first introduced a small range of miniature vehicles in the early 1930s as accessories to Hornby trains sets; they called them ‘Hornby Series Modelled Miniatures’, which isn’t quite as snappy as the later name. A year later, they became Meccano Dinky Toys, the name possibly deriving from a comment passed by a friend of one of Frank Hornby’s daughters. By 1935, they were simply Dinky Toys, a name they kept until the 1970s.

The tiny toy vehicles proved hugely popular from the off: in October 1934 Meccano was advertising 150 varieties of Dinky Toys; by June 1935, there were 200; by August 1936, 250 and in April 1938, 300 varieties.

The Second World War caused a brief hiatus in the production of Dinky Toys - it ceased in 1941 and the factory at Binns Road in Liverpool was given over to the war effort.

But production restarted once the war had ended, and 1945 to 1964 were, so the hugely informative Dinky Toys Collectors’ Association website (dtcawebsite.org) tells us, the ‘golden years’ for Dinky Toys, despite strong competition from imitators such as Corgi Toys.

But by 1964, the brand was suffering a decline, and was taken over by Lines Brothers, known as Triang. Triang kept the company going through increasingly turbulent financial times, but by 1979, ongoing financial problems saw the factory at Binns Road close on November 30.

Dinky Toys, though, are still hugely popular with collectors, and a well-preserved example, still in its original packaging, can fetch thousands today. So still a very nice thing to find in your Christmas stocking!

The Dinky Toys pictured are part of Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects that have been acquired by the borough over the years, and now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. For further information, please contact Collections Manager Jennifer Dunne on Jennifer.dunne@smtrust.uk.com or (01723) 384510.

A merry Christmas from all of us at Scarborough Museums Trust!