by Andrew Ralston
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Tin toys had been made in Japan before the Second World War, but they reached new heights of realism in the 1950s. The postwar American occupation of Japan gave Japanese toymakers ready access to the lucrative American toy market, and as a result most of the tin toy cars made in this period were based on American vehicles like Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Packards.
Like the real things, these tin toys were big. A small one would be around eight inches long, with some of the largest stretching to eighteen inches. As such, tinplate was the ideal medium to capture the look of American styling of the 1950s, a period when size mattered, and car manufacturers tried to outdo each other with the extravagance of their designs, the size of their tailfins and the amount of chrome. During this era of consumerism, Japanese toy production was at its peak, with exotically-named manufacturers like Marusan, Bandai, Yonezawa and Alps turning out vast quantities of tin toys.
It proved to be a short-lived phase in the history of toy production. By the early 1960s, tin toys were falling out of fashion for various reasons: their sharp edges gave rise to safety concerns; die-cast models were becoming increasingly realistic and sophisticated, with many action features that appealed to children; the development of plastics in the toy industry made tin toys look increasingly old-fashioned.
Half a century later, there are very few surviving examples of these magnificent playthings. Bruce Sterling of New York has devoted years to seeking out the very best examples of Japanese tinplate cars and has built up what is probably the world’s finest collection of these toys, every one of them in pristine condition, complete with their original boxes which are works of art in themselves.
Tinplate Toy Cars of the 1950s & 1960s from Japan showcases 150 examples of the very rarest Japanese tin toy cars, many of them never having been pictured in books or magazines until now. Almost every major American motor manufacturer is represented here, together with a selection of commercial vehicles and a significant number of European cars, too.
All are illustrated in full colour and described in detail, and fascinating insights are provided into both the real vehicles and the companies that modelled them, together with a guide to rarity and current values. This is a book that will be treasured, not only by specialist collectors, but by all who are passionate about vintage toys and classic vehicles.
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