Snowstorms, snow globes, snow shakers, snow domes, whatever you like to call them, are one of those collectables on which you can spend pounds or pence – the choice is yours. At the top end of the scale, you could pay a small fortune for an antique snowstorm, but an interesting and enjoyable collection can be built up with much cheaper examples. The Snowstorms shown here should all be available for under $35/£20. Magical, enchanting and very tactile, these little transparent snowy globes have intrigued children and adults for years. It is virtually impossible to pass a display of snowstorms without picking up at least one and shaking it, to watch the snow whirl madly around before gradually settling. Sometimes they are made from glass, though nowadays more frequently moulded from plastic, and each dome contains an ornamental figure which becomes hidden amongst a flurry of snow or glitter when agitated. They are becoming extremely sophisticated, and many contain musical movements, animated figures, glitter, lights or even a mechanism to do the shaking for you. Some hold tiny fans to whirr polystyrene snow from within. No-one seems to know for sure exactly when snowstorms were first made, but the Victorians enjoyed them and collected them as souvenirs of their travels. Some of the earliest were displayed an ‘all nations’ exhibition in Paris in 1878, and they must have been manufactured for several years beforehand, as the Victorians were very fond of the novelties and by the 1870s were collecting them on their travels. It could be that snowstorms evolved from domed glass picture paperweights – another favourite trinket with people at the time and often bought as a souvenir. Snowstorms were extremely popular in the 1920s and 30s, then again in the 1950s and 60s, when most children would find one in their Christmas stockings. Today, they have re-emerged as a tourist souvenir, on sale at many resorts throughout Britain alongside the sticks of rock and ‘A present from –’ mugs, as well as being a quality collectable sold in gift shops and department stores. Though the word ‘snow’ associates them with Christmas, many have general themes, often summery. Before the advent of plastic, globes were made from glass, using various substances for snow such as ground-up bone, ceramic dust, sand or ground rice, but today both globe and snow are often plastic. Frequently, instead of snow, you will find glitter, tiny coloured beads, stars or confetti – and, apparently, the correct technical term for the snow is flitter! The liquid inside is water, often with an additive such as glycol to slow the fall of the snow, so that it doesn’t sink immediately and swirls for a while. Snowstorms aren’t always round – in the 1940s a German manufacture r experimented with various shapes and decided that a compressed oval shape was less likely to break than the traditional globe. Before then, the majority of snowstorms were spherical and could be viewed from any angle, which meant they needed to contain a three-dimensional sculpture or figurine. With the advent of the new shape, half of the dome was painted (normally blue) to create a backdrop, and flat-backed figures could be used, leading to a saving in labour. Now, the backs of the figures didn’t need to be painted and the figures could easily be stamped from plastic. Although globes are still made, the oval shape is very common, especially for the cheaper plastic ranges. Rectangular, bullet, cube, bottle, octagonal, cylindrical, conical, lantern and egg-shaped are just a few of the other shapes encountered. The subjects of a snowstorm vary enormously. Although we tend to think of Christmas themes – nativities, reindeer, angels, santas, fir trees and snowmen – they can be anything. Particularly popular are Disney characters, often incarcerated amidst elaborate scenes, for example, the restaurant episode from Lady and the Tramp, where the two dogs are linked by a spaghetti strand. Nursery tales are another favourite: the British toy company Hawkins supplies Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Frog Prince and Hansel and Gretel snowstorms which are made in Germany by the son of the man who invented the compressed dome shape. He still uses the traditional moulds, methods and hand-painted figures, and the designs date back to the 1950s. Interestingly, many other designs inside snowstorms go back several decades – only recently I saw one on sale containing the figure of a little angel with a fawn, identical in every way to one which I was given (and still own) in 1957. Other popular themes for snowstorms are advertising, tourist attractions, animals, fish, ballerinas, houses, butterflies and boats. The majority of the tourist-type snowstorms originate from China or Taiwan, and though at the cheaper end of the market, they shouldn’t be overlooked as the designs are often ingenious. Most new collectors begin with the easily obtainable snowstorms, quickly assembling a clutch of cheap and cheerful mass-produced types made over the last two or three decades. There are thousands to choose from, and often the modern designs are stunning. Many of the most desirable snowstorms originated in Europe. The Erwin Perzy factory, in Vienna, have been producing them since 1900, and their designs are renowned for their simplicity of style, detailed hand-painting, and, especially, the clarity of the specially formulated liquid which allows the ample quantity of snow to stay suspended for well over a minute before re-settling. Another well-known company is a German concern, Koziol, whose globes have been delighting people since 1948, while Walter and Prediger, also from Germany, were one of the first to issue the now commonplace dome-shaped snowstorms. Some traditionalists will only collect the original, glass globe-shape, but the plastic ones can be just as charming. Many collectors prefer the earlier snowstorms, dating from the 1950s or before, and as the majority of these were made from glass they are prone to cracking. At the time they were mostly sold as novelties for children, and consequently may have been stored in […]
Since history began man has attempted to smoke various burning herbs in different ways, but the first appearance of the pipe, functioning on the principle of the familiar briar, is a matter for conjecture. Pictured left: An American Indian Stone Pipe With Lead Inlay To The Bowl And Stem 6In. (15Cm.) Long. Sold for £1,320 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. The earliest known pipes have been discovered in the neolithic barrows of the Mississippi valley, and were made of porphyritic and other hard stone, tubular in shape or consisting of a tube with a central bowl. Many of these pipes, which are over 5000 years old, are elaborately carved with representations of animals, and from that time to this day, a lot of care and artistry has gone into the making of pipes all over the world. The Maya tribes, who migrated from North America to the Yucatan peninsula and other parts of Mexico before the Christian era, have left in their stone carvings representations of priests smoking pipes of a similar design—a design not far removed from the modern American Indians’ calumet, or pipe of peace. Excavations in many parts of Europe have led to the discovery of iron and earthenware pipes, used for smoking herbs other than tobacco, which was only introduced into the ” Old World ” in the sixteenth century, while many of these finds are attributed to the first and second centuries A.D. Pictured left: A Haida Argillite Pipe – The Bowl Carved As A Head, The Stem With Bird And Figure – 6in. (15Cm.) Long. Sold for £2,640 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. The first Europeans to smoke tobacco pipes were sailors of the Columbus expedition and those of other navigators of the time such as Vespucci and Magellan, who, having adopted the habit from the Indians, brought home with them calumets and tobacco. The custom and ” the weed ” spread from Spain and Portugal to France— where it was introduced by the French ambassador to the Portuguese court, Jean Nicot, whose name is perpetuated in the plant’s botanical name, Nicotiana Tabacum. From France it spread to the Low Countries and thence to Britain. Sir Walter Raleigh did much to popularise the habit of smoking the pipe in England, but it is difficult to ascertain whether he actually introduced it, or whether this distinction belongs to his great contemporaries and fel- low sailors, Drake and Hawkins. It is, however, an established fact that pipe smoking was common in this country before the end of the sixteenth century and the pipe makers of London became an incorporated body by 1619. The pipe found its greatest vogue in the nineteenth century, when some of the most beautiful specimens were made and this vogue grew as the century advanced becoming quite a cult with our Victorian grandfathers. The following passage from ” The Diary of a Nobody” by George and Weedon Grossmith, published about 1880, illustrates this fact: ” Cummings unexpectedly dropped in to show me a meerschaum pipe he had won in a raffle in the City, and told me to handle it carefully or it would spoil the colouring if the hand was moist.” The materials used for making pipes were many and varied—the main reason for their selection being suitability— but there were cases when the only substances available at the time and place were used. The neolithic stone pipes have already been mentioned. While these were made of hard stone, a softer type of rock was used until quite recently, to make pipe bowls, in Palestine. This is a dark grey bituminous limestone found on the western shores of the Dead Sea and these pipe heads were used in conjunction with a long wooden stem. Soap-stone bowls were often made for the calumet which had a stem of reed or painted wood about 21 feet long, decorated with feathers. The Eskimos have fashioned pipes out of reindeer antlers, while in parts of central Europe the antlers of red and fallow deer were used for the same purpose. Pictured right: An Eskimo Walrus Ivory Pipe Incised With Fishing Scenes, Inscribed Autsis Look 16½.In. (42Cm.) Long. Sold for £5,040 at Christies, London, The Fine Art of Smoking sale, May 2006. Image Copyright Christies. Glass has been used from time to time, and the best known specimens were produced in the first half of the nineteenth century at the Bristol and Nailsea works, in all the delightful shades for which these factories were noted. These glass pipes—be they of clear glass with white or coloured symmetrical waves, or of an opaque milky-white texture with blue or red waves—were very attractive but it is doubtful if any but the smallest were ever smoked. Some of the very large ones—up to four feet long, with a bowl capable of holding a pound of tobacco — were most probably used to adorn some Georgian or early Victorian tobacconist’s window. Corn-cobs suitably dried and toasted, fitted with a short straight stem of wood or cork and a bone mouthpiece, have enjoyed long popularity in the United States. Calabash, which is a fruit of the gourd family, has been used for making bowls and was much smoked in this country during the 30 or 40 years preceding the first world war. The rim of the pipe and the end of the stem, where it adjoins the curved amber or ebonite mouthpiece, were generally protected by a silver band and the pipes can be dated from the hallmark carried by the silver. Early in the nineteenth century, a Budapest shoemaker is supposedto have discovered the process of waxing a mineral white in colour, soft, chemically a silicate of magnesia, quarried mostly in Asia Minor and known as ” meerschaum” (a German word meaning sea-froth) because of its light weight. Pictured left: Finely carved meerschaum pipes. Image Copyright Christies. This discovery meant that the material could now be used for making pipes, the wax treatment […]
Dumbo by Walt Disney Productions premiered on October 23, 1941 and celebrates its 75th Anniversay in 2016. It was Walt Disney’s fourth animated feature and was based upon a storyline written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl. The main character is a baby elephant Jumbo Jr., who is nicknamed “Dumbo” due to his big ears. Dumbo is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Throughout most of the film, his only true friend, aside from his mother, is the mouse, Timothy. A number of Dumbo related collectibles and art have been created or are being released to coincide with the 75th Anniversary. Jim Shore Sweet Snow Fall – Dumbo 75th Anniversary Figurine Jim Shore celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Disney classic Dumbo with this unique design featuring the beloved baby elephant decked out for the holidays. Disney Dumbo 75th Anniversary Musical Ornament This delightful Hallmark Gold Crown Exclusive is designed by Kristina Gaughran and features Dumbo being cradled by his mother. The ornament plays Baby Mine. Lionel Dumbo 75th Anniversary Boxcar This little gem from Lionel features a traditional boxcar featuring Dumbo designs. It is priced at $84.99. New Zealand Mint Dumbo 75th Anniversary Coins The New Zealand Mint has been minting legal tender collectible coins, gold bullion and medallions for more than four decades and has released to coins for Dumbo’s 75th Anniversary – the Dumbo 1 oz Silver and Dumbo 1/4 oz Gold Coins. Thomas Kinkade Company Disney Dumbo Limited Edition Art Continuing the work of Thomas Kinkade, this wonderful new release from the Thomas Kinkade Company celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the release of Dumbo. Disney Dumbo by Thomas Kinkade Studios portrays the happiness and pride that his circus friends feel for Dumbo as he soars above the crowd. This painting captures Dumbo’s shining moment, reminding us, as Timothy tells him, “The very things that held you down are going to carry you up and up and up!” Disney Dumbo’s 75th Anniversary Facts Disney premiered Dumbo in movie theaters across the United States on October 23, 1941. Dumbo was the fourth movie in the “Walt Disney Animated Classics” series. The story was based upon the “Roll-A-Book” written by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl. The film was conceived during the Great Depression and Disney’s goal was to give Americans a story with an uplifting message as they faced difficult times. Walt Disney acted out each part of the movie, as it was being planned. With a run-time of 64 minutes, Dumbo is one of Disney’s shortest animated features
There’s something about opera glasses that just captures our imaginations. Maybe it’s the way they conjure up images of elegant ladies and dashing gentlemen attending the opera in centuries past. Or maybe it’s their delicate beauty, with their intricate designs and colorful enameling. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that opera glasses are a fascinating collectible item. In our introduction to collecting antique opera glasses we take a look at some of the wonderful enamel, mother of pearl and hand painted opera glass designs along with some realised auction prices. Opera glasses are small binoculars that were once used by theatregoers to get a better view of the stage. They were compact and allowed low level magnification so the viewer could see the details of an actors face or other aspects of the stage performance more clearly. A Short History of Opera Glasses Forms of opera glasses have been around for centuries, and their history is as rich and fascinating as the glasses themselves. Opera glasses were first used in France in the early 1700s, when they were known as “lorgnettes.” These early opera glasses were simply two lenses mounted on a handle, which was held up to the eye in order to magnify the stage. The style opera glasses that became the main designs of the 19th century developed from binoculars being developed in Holland in the early 17th century and Galileo’s telescope shortly after. In fact opera glasses are Galilean binoculars with a central focusing system. Although glasses for viewing were being used for some time they were not actually referenced as opera glasses until the mid-18th century and these simple small telescopic monoculars or spyglasses. In 1823 the first binocular opera glasses appeared. They were simply two telescopes, each requiring independent focusing, affixed together with a bridge. A short time after a center focus wheel was developed, allowing the focusing of both telescopes simultaneously. Who Invented Opera Glasses? Jacques LeMaire is credited with the invention of the opera glass, and his design had a profound impact on the development of this popular collectors item. Prior to LeMaires design, opera glasses were little more than simple refracting lenses mounted in metal frames. LeMaire, an accomplished optician, created a sophisticated system of double convex lenses that allowed for much greater magnification. His design quickly became the standard for opera glasses, and it remains the basis for most modern designs. Today, antique opera glasses are highly sought-after by collectors, and LeMaires name is still associated with quality and craftsmanship. Styles of Opera Glasses Once there was a standard format, they became very popular and an essential item for the theatregoer. They began to develop in a variety of different and elaborate styles, and a number of manufacturers began making them with the majority of the most elaborate designs being made in Paris such as LeMaire and in the early 20th century Cartier. Most opera glasses had a metal bridge and frame often of gilt brass, and sometimes silver or gold. With the body being the focus of design being worked on by enamellers, goldsmiths, painters and decorators. Opera glasses became the must have fashion accessory of the late 19th century. Related A Lemaire Opera Glasses Price Guide
Batman Begins is the latest is the Batman series of movie. “Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.” Pictured The US Batman Begins poster. “He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.” Pictured Batman Begins 13-inch Deluxe Collector Figure – a striking depiction of Christian Bale as Batman in Batman Begins. This 13-inch figure includes an authentically detailed fabric costume, an alternate set of hands, a grappling gun, Batarangs, and a stand to display the figure. This collector figure also features a full-Color Certificate of Authenticity. Packaged in a deluxe 4-color window box. DC Direct, DC Comics’ toy and collectibles brand, unveiled its line of Batman Begins authentic movie collectibles at the 2005 American International Toy Fair. Pictured right: Batman Begins Batmobile Replica – limited edition Batmobile from Batman Begins is a magnificent recreation of the mythic automobile. This hand-painted cold-cast porcelain replica measures approximately 4.25″ high x 6.5″ wide x 10″ deep, includes a full-color Certificate of Authenticity, and is packaged in an elegant gift box with foil stamping. It is sculpted directly from the actual 3D designs for the Batmobile in Batman Begins. Please note this is a collectible, not a toy. Limited edition of 2600. The line includes several Batman Statues, a Batman Bust, a Batman 13″ deluxe figure, Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow Mini-Statues, a Batmobile Replica, and a Batarang Prop Replica. Pictured left: Christian Bale as BATMAN Statue from Batman Begins – a limited edition collectible statue is a striking replica of Christian Bale as Batman from Batman Begins. This limited edition, hand-painted cold-cast porcelain statue measures approximately 14″ tall x 8″ wide x 8.5″ deep, includes a full-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in a 4-color box. Limited edition of 2500 The line is being introduced throughout the Summer. Pictured right: BATMAN on Rooftop Statue from Batman Begins – Batman, Guardian of Gotham City, stands watch and is ready to leap into danger at any given moment. This limited edition, hand-painted cold-cast porcelain statue measures approximately 7″ tall x 4″ wide x 4″ deep, includes a full-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in a 4-color box. Limited edition of 3500. The range costs from $30 to $300. Pictured left: this Batarang prop replica from Batman Begins is an authentic life-sized movie replica. This limited edition, hand-painted cold-cast porcelain replica measures approximately 2″ high x 11.5″ wide x 5.75″ deep, includes a full-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in an elegant black gift box with foil stamping. Limited edition of 1,500. Other collectibles in the line include Christian Bale as Batman Bust, Christian Bales as Batman mini-statue, Dr. Crane/Scarecrow Mini-Statue and Ra’s Al Ghul Mini-Statue. Pictured right: BATMAN in Flight Statue from Batman Begins – Suspended in mid-air, the Caped Crusader cascades into the shadowy streets of Gotham city to unleash his vengeance against evildoers. This limited edition, hand-painted cold-cast porcelain statue measures approximately 11″ high x 8.5″ wide x 5.5″ deep, includes a full-color Certificate of Authenticity and is packaged in a 4-color box. Limited edition of 4000 pieces.
Space 1999 remains a cult classic and we take a look at some of the Space 1999 collectables, Space 1999 merchandise and Space 1999 toys that have appeared over the years.
During the gloom of The Great Depression, Clarice Cliff went off trend and created several bright and colourful Art Deco wall masks including Chahar, Flora and Marlene. Decorative ceramic masks had become fashionable in the 1920s and companies such as Goldscheider had had great success with them (for more see Collecting Goldscheider Wall Masks) and Clarice was to add her style to the genre. Each wall mask was based on a stylised female face and headdress. We take a look these three mask, showing some of the painting variations and some auction results giving a price guide. Chahar was created towards the end of the 1920s and was inspired by the style of the Egyptian revival (we have seen some descriptions of Chahar as Oriental style). It is one of the rarer Clarice Cliff wall masks being made until about 1933. Chahar features mainly red, yellow and green colours. Flora, as the name might suggest features a lady wearing a garland of flowers as a headdress. Flora was produced until around 1936. There is much more variation in the Flora colours ranging from orange and greens to orange and blacks to purple and greens. Flora was produced in two sizes, the smaller measuring approximately 17cm high, with the larger measuring approximately 37cm high. The larger Flora having much more details and is much rarer. Flora Small Version showing some colour variations Flora Large Version showing some colour variations Marlene was supposedly modelled on the famous actress of the time Marlene Dietrich. The mask features an ornate headdress with large earrings. She was the last to be design and similar to Flora she was produced until the late 1930s. Related Collecting Goldscheider Wall Masks Clarice Cliff Bizarre Grotesque Masks by Ron Birks
It is not surprising that so many collectors find vinaigrettes a fascinating subject. These small boxes, used for holding a sponge soaked in sweet-smelling vinegar, were made in an endless variety of shapes and decoration. Their inner grilles were delicately pierced for the escape of the scent in charming and often unexpected patterns. Vinaigrettes were made in great numbers from about 1780 to 1890 and since most of them arc of silver or semi-precious stones, they are not costly and are within the reach of the most modest collector. The real ancestor of the vinaigrette is the pomander. These were used in England as early as the fourteenth century as containers for aromatic vinegars and spices to sweeten the air and as an antidote to infection. The derivation of the word is from the French “poimne d’ambre” meaning apple (or ball) of amber. (Amber or ambergris is a waxy substance with a pleasant odour). Pictured: A late 17th/early 18th century silver filigree pomander. Spherical form, with all-over filigree scroll work, central ribbed band and hinging in half, each end applied with small circular finial-like detail, diameter 2.5cm. Estimate £500-£600. Image Copyright Bonhams. In the sixteenth century compounds of scents were used instead of simple balls of ambergris or musk. These two were included, but were mixed with other costly oils possessing antiseptic qualities, such as camphor, sandalwood or myrrh, the whole being mixed to a paste with rose water. A very odd ingredient quoted in many recipes is “garden mold” which was used to keep the mixture moist and firm. This compound was called “pomander”; it was only later that the term came to be used for the vessel which contained it. There are many quotations in wills and inventories to show this development in meaning. An entry in the Privy Purse expenses of Henry VII for the year 1492 mentions a “box with pomandre”, while a similar entry for the Princess Mary, his grand-daughter, for the year 1542 includes a “pomander of gold”. The earliest type were based on the “muske ball” and were spherical in shape, hinged in the centre and pierced for the escape of the scent. Queen Elizabeth I wore pomanders among her other magnificent jewels when sitting for several portraits. In one of these (in the National Portrait Gallery) she is seen as a mature woman between forty and fifty. She wears a looped necklace of pearls and a jewelled girdle from which hangs a pomander, set in the middle with a gem surrounded by scroll work and with a small pearl drop from the base. It may be that this is the same pomander mentioned in the list of new year’s gifts to the Queen in 1577 when she was forty-five. The entry reads “A juell of golde being a pomander on each side a poynted dyamonde with a smale pearl pendant”. This short sentence describes the essential features of’ the early pomanders — they were small, lavish, their use was a social grace and their value such that they were a fit present for the Queen. From 1580 dry perfumes were carried in powder form. They were kept in containers divided into six or eight compartments and the different scents were mixed or used individually as desired. The most common form was apple or pear shaped with six segments folding into a central column, each segment having a sliding lid with name of a perfume engraved on it, usually lavender, musk, rose, rue, citron and civet. Several examples exist in the shape of a book which opens, the two halves being divided into sections. Other types vary from a flower with opening petals to a skull hinged at the cranium and divided into six compartments. There are enough of these extant to show that it must have been a fairly common form. It may seem odd that such a gruesome model as a death’s head was used for an ornament in daily use and it is generally supposed that it was an association with the horrors of the plague. Another reason is suggested by a silver pomander dated 1682 made in the form of an apple bearing the impress of teeth or teeth marks. This is hinged and inside is a small skull, itself hinged to contain the scents. The outer case is engraved with the in-scription “from man came woman — from woman sin — from sin death”. The image of an apple to the seventeenth century mind immediately recalled the temptation of Adam and the fall of man from grace to sin. The skull represents death, the inevitable result of’ sin. Many pomanders had a compartment in the base for a sponge soaked in aromatic vinegar and when their use began to decline in the last quarter of the seventeenth century this section developed into a separate container called a sponge box. There are many early recipes for aromatic vinegar and its therapeutic properties were recognised by doctors who normally carried a stick with a sponge box set in the head as a precaution against infection. Most vinaigrettes range in size from 1″ to 4″ long and were carried in the hand or tucked into a glove. As many as eighty per cent of vinaigrettes were made in Birmingham and that of these more than half were made by a limited number of specialised makers, the most important being Samuel Pemberton, Joseph Taylor, Matthew Linwood, Joseph Willmore and Nathaniel Mills. Any large collection shows great variety both in the outer case and inner grille. Apart from geometric shapes, books, bags, watches and even fish were quite common. There is, however, a broad development of style. As would be expected those made from 1780 to 1800 correspond with the neo-classical style then fashionable. From 1830 they were made with very heavily embossed scenes on the cover, usually of castles or large public buildings but these “castle” vinaigrettes are uncommon and expensive. The grille is as significant to the collector as the outer case. The earliest were simple drilled holes but as early as 1800 delicate […]
I got my first diecast fifty years ago. My mother and father must have thought that at six years old I was ‘grown-up’ enough to have a real toy at last, and so Christmas morning 1958 saw me tearing open the brown paper packaging (potato-printed with holly and what could have been reindeer, although they looked rather like our bull-terrier wearing a T.V. aerial. My father’s wages as a long-distance lorry driver didn’t run to shop-bought wrapping) to reveal a magically reduced version of his Foden eight-wheeler. Every detail was there, from the door handle at the rear of the cab to the hole under the radiator for the starting handle. I could imagine myself cranking the engine over, thumb tucked away in case of a kickback just like Dad and watching the cab rattle into life. It was realistic, it was beautifully enamelled and it was solid, three of the qualities that have made die-cast toys such durable attractions for the collector. So much for their magic, but what actually do we mean by ‘die-casts’ as opposed to any other kind of metal toy? Die-casting as an industrial process came into being towards the end of the First World War. Casting itself is as old as metalworking, it simply means pouring molten metal into a mould from which the final object is shaped. In the early years of the twentieth century several American manufacturers began ‘slush casting’ model car bodies in cast iron. A wooden ‘form’ of the model was pressed into moist sand to create a one-shot mould into which molten metal was poured. As the metal in contact with the sand solidified the remainder was tipped out to leave a hollow casting, in terms of thickness and quality rather like a chocolate Easter egg. Next in complexity came ‘hollowcasting’ famous for producing lead soldiers, in which liquid metal is poured into a two part mould and swilled out to leave a hollow shell. Finally in die-casting as we understand it the molten metal is forced under pressure into a die, a two or more part metal negative of the finished model. As soon as the casting has cooled to its solid state the die is opened and the basis of the finished model falls out. This process allows almost ‘hairline’ detail to be incorporated into the surface of the toy, a great improvement on the tin-plate it superseded. Tin-plate toys had been constructed from stamped and cut pieces of sheet metal bent into shape and clipped or soldered together by hand. The impression of detail – door handles, bonnet louvres etc. was given by using lithography to print pictures of the required components on to the tin, but the detail remained two-dimensional, it was left to die-casting to bring its depth to life. So the increasingly mechanised world which followed the Great War had discovered a way to produce toys of an accuracy and robustness far superior to that of tin plate. The only real drawback was the cost of making the die for each new model. Die making was a process requiring great engineering skill, beginning with the hand crafting of a wooden mock-up, perfect to the tiniest detail, of the finished toy. The really fine work, door lines, radiator grilles etc. could be added with wire, the delicacy of this limited only by the ability of the metal used to flow successfully into the smallest crevices of the mould. The preferred metal for die casting toys is ‘mazak’ or ‘zamak’ if you are American. Basically it’s zinc with 3-4% aluminium and 1-2% copper added. Some of the earliest casting used lead, but as toy sucking lead to brain-damage it rapidly fell into disrepute. (These early lead toys were very expensive and so sucked only by the c hildren of the privileged classes, who grew up to run our society. Draw your own conclusions.) The slightest contamination of this mixture causes that bane of early die-cast collectors, fatigue. When first manufactured no one could have foreseen the problems this would cause. A toy’s life was, if fortunate, measured in years not the decades, which the collector’s market has extended it to. Fatigue is the name we give to the process of granularisation which causes the metal of a model to deform and eventually disintegrate. There is as far as I know very little to be done to cure this, the best advice seems to be to avoid handling the model and keep it room temperature. Not all parts of a model suffer fatigue at the same rate; cast wheels seem to be particularly prone. The theory seems to be that as wheels are relatively crude castings the same attention to detail in mixing the metal was not always given compared to that lavished on metal that had to flow into very finely detailed moulds. To keep the mould simple the toys are often made from two castings, in the case of my Foden one for the cab and chassis unit and one for the body. Before joining together each casting was tumbled in a rubber-lined drum part filled with loose stones and soapy water to remove any ‘flash’, the unwanted residue of the casting process. Next came a chemical preparation to help the enamel bond to the metal, and then the paint itself would be applied by spray gun as the models rotated along a conveyor belt to the ovens. Baked on at 200 degrees Centigrade the finish is extremely durable, another advantage for a roughly treated toy. Detail work, lights and radiator grilles etc., was hand sprayed through masks before the final assembly was completed with either screws or rivets. Among the first people to exploit this new technology for the toy market were the Dowst brothers of Chicago. They brought out their first “Tootsietoys” in the early 1920. Unlike tin-plate these new toys could faithfully reproduce the complex curves of full size automobiles, and were soon being used by motor dealers to promote their wares. […]
Monart Glass was produced at the Moncrieff’s North British Glassworks by John Moncrieff Ltd, Perth, Scotland from 1924-1961. The design works was headed by Salvador Ysart, a Spanish glassworker, and his four sons (Paul, Vincent, Augustine, and Antoine). Monart Glass is recognisable for its mottled and marbled colour patterns and its distinctive iridising of the white decoration in its earlier pieces. Salvador Ysart was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1878. He apprenticed as a glassblower in Barcelona and later moved to France in 1909, influenced by Emile Gallé’s School of Nancy, to work in various glass factories which included the Schneider Art Glass factory (founded by Charles and Ernest Schneider). In 1915 he moved to Scotland with his family where he was recruited to teach glassblowing at Leith Flint Glassworks in Edinburgh. In 1922 he moved to the Moncrieff glassworks in Perth, initially to make laboratory glassware with his eldest son Paul. Isobel Moncrieff, wife of John Moncrieff, saw a vase made by Salvador at the factory and he realised its commercial potential. A new range of decorative glasswares was developed in 1923 and eventually released in 1924 under the brand “Monart Ware”. The Monart was from the name MONcrieff and YsART. The range to include vases, bowls, lampshades, candlesticks, scent bottles, ashtrays and paperweights and became to be sold in London by Liberty’s as well as being exported to Australia and North America including at Tiffany & Co. Monart became especially well known for their range of table lamps and ceiling shades became an important part of production. The Monart lamps are among the most valuable of the all the Monart ranges. The designs of some of the lamps reflecting Salvador’s earlier training with Schneider as well as the influence of Daum and Gallé. The Monart Ware Lighting Pattern Book recorded thirty-four bases and twenty-seven shades, some available in at least three different sizes. Production of art glass at Moncrieff’s ceased during World War II. After the war, Moncrieff’s were reluctant to continue producing art glass, so in 1947, Salvador, with his younger sons Vincent and Augustine, set up Vasart Glass. Paul Ysart stayed on at Moncreiff’s and Monart glass production was restarted in 1947, then continued for another 14 years, but on a much smaller scale than before the War. The colours were also paler after 1945 because fashion tastes had changed and also it was difficult to obtain the bold pre-war colours. During this time Paul Ysart developed line of paperweights at Monart which have become highly collectables. In fact Paul has is recognised as one the fathers of the Scottish fame in paperweights. He later designed paperweights for Caithness Glass. Production finally ended in 1961 but the legacy of Monart Glass and the Ysart infleunce continues today. Related Monart Glass – from The Glass Encyclopedia Monart Glass information and Antique Ethos