The Early Toys

 

When Lesney first started they made components for electrical companies such as GEC. However during the Christmas period the work took a downturn due to stocktaking by the companies.

It was for this reason that Lesney turned to another source of income - Toys. The early toys were issued around 1949 - early 50's and made up until the start of the Korean war when an embargo was placed on zinc for all items not deemed important enough. There is no actual release dates known for these few items.

Although a relatively small group to collect, they are amongst some of the hardest to acquire. The models described as rare, are just that, extremely rare and hardly ever seen for sale and most within this group fall into that field. It is believed that Lesney made a part for the Space ray gun below and indeed John Kendall remembers the making of a Luger pistol copied from Don Rix' original gun ( He left to found his own company Condon Toys and eventually returned to Lesney) as one of the first toys ever made at the Rifleman pub. I am not sure what was made at the Rifleman but as John Kendall only worked there and remembers lots of cement mixers, I would presume the move was made to Barratts Grove around the era of the Road Roller - Crawler Dozer period.

bcmatomicpistol2.jpg (45149 bytes) bcmatomicpistol3.jpg (64769 bytes) Copy of raygun.jpg (19043 bytes)

A toy Space gun made by BCM with parts reputedly made by Lesney, my thanks to Mark Curtis of the MCCH for gaining permission to use these photos

For all intents and purposes the range we are interested in started with the Road Roller

List of Known variants on  the 'Early Toy' range

Model colours are listed in no particular order as not known when issued

Made at the 'RIFLEMAN' public house

Road Roller

Issued 1948

Body Colour  Wheel Colour Flywheel Driver Comments
1 Dark Green Bare metal None None No strengthening under rear supports. Early models had crossed bar roof
2 Dark Green Red None None Support, later had straight upright ones. Inside caasting modified with strengthening bar
3 Dark Green Red Yellow None Extremely rare
4 Orange Black Black None
5 Dark Green Red None Driver
6 Light Green Red None Driver
7 Red Green None Driver Extremely rare
8 Tan Dark grey None Driver Extremely rare
9 Tan Red None Driver Extremely rare
Copy of roller casting.jpg (53989 bytes) There is a variation to the inside of the casting. Where the rear roof support locates the first issues had a thin casting but later examples had a larger strengthening block added to this rear section.
1Rollers.jpg (33716 bytes) 2Roller.jpg (24190 bytes) 3roller_tan.jpg (19005 bytes) 4Myroller2.jpg (26669 bytes) 5Myroller1.jpg (26485 bytes) 6EarlyLesneyRoller-PTalbot.jpg (20590 bytes)

The red version(2) is fairly rare but there is a version in tan (3) which is even considered rarer and this picture was from Dave Rogers. The Road Roller was the first toy made at Lesney Productsand sold in a trade box of 12

 

 

Cement Mixer

Issued 1948

Body Colour Barrel Colour Wheel Colour
1 Dark Green Dark Green Red
2 Dark Green Red Yellow
3 Dark Green Red Red
4 Red Dark green Dark green
5 Light Green Red Black
6 Light Green Orange Black
7 Light Green Red Red
8 Orange Black Black Extremely rare
1Mixers.jpg (41538 bytes) 2A_27.JPG (37153 bytes) 3I-1.JPG (15544 bytes)

The models of the Cement Mixers photographs were kindly supplied by Barry Thompson of the UK. Dave Rodgers has also supplied the rare orange & black mixer (2). They show the range of colours that were supplied. These models were never packaged individually but supplied in trade boxes and then sold loose. Lesney needed a new model after the Road Roller and the only thing they could think of was the cement mixer that was working on a building site down the road.

 

 

Crawler Tractor

Issued 1948

Body Colour Tracks Wheel Cutout Driver
2 Yellow Black Yes Yes Rare - there are light and dark shades of yellow existing
3 Orange Black Yes Yes Rare - All wheels have 3 kidney shaped cut outs on the inside wheel
4 Light Green Green Yes Yes Rare
5 Dark Green Black Yes Yes Rare - I class any Crawler as rare as not seen for sale often
1 Red Green Yes Yes Extremely rare - Note: All drivers are in tan
1Yellowcrawler.jpg (30127 bytes) 2Redcrawler.jpg (26104 bytes) 3970.JPG (43827 bytes)

A Caterpillar tractor or Crawler Dozer . The wheels on the earlier Crawler have 3 kidney shaped cut outs on the inside of the wheels. These were never supplied in boxes either but packed loose in boxes of half a dozen or so. The red Crawler is considered extremely rare.

 

 

Bulldozer

Issued 1948

Body Colour Tracks Wheel Cutout Driver
1 Yellow Black Yes Yes
2 Orange Black Yes Yes
3 Light Green Green Yes Yes
4 Dark Green Black Yes Yes
5 Met.Blue Black Yes ? Extremely rare - I only know of one in existence but similar sold at Vectis recently although shade was slightly different
6 Yellow/Red Black No No Rear of blade has MOKO inscription. Not sure if sold separately as normally found with Prime Mover set - now confirmed

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The rear of the front blade was plain in earlier versions, later red/yellow models had 'Lesney - Moko, Made in England' embossed on them.  The collection of bulldozers (7) was kindly supplied by John Pask of the US, and shows 2 of the rarer green colours issued, thanks John. The metallic blue bulldozer (6) was supplied by Gary Galvin and as far as I know, the only one in existence. Pic 8 shows the model made by Benbros and has ' A Qualitoy' cast underneath but very similar model to the Lesney one.

Thanks to Robert Newson, a picture of all the driver shades available

Again supplied by Robert Newson and advertising page showing the Bulldozer at the bottom left

 

 

 

 

Made at Shacklewell Lane factory

Milk Cart

Issued 1949

Body Colour Horse Colour Horse Cutout Wheels
1 Orange Bronze Large Black All roof ribs open, large gap under driver seat
2 Orange Bronze Large Charcoal All roof ribs open, large gap under driver seat
3 Blue Brown/White Large Lt. Grey Extremely rare - All roof ribs open, large gap under driver seat
4 Orange Brown/White Small Charcoal All roof ribs open, large gap under driver seat
5 Orange Bronze Large Lt. Grey Extremely rare - Front rib filled in, small gap under driver seat
6 Orange Brown/White Small Charcoal Extremely rare - Front rib filled in, small gap under driver seat
There are 2 sizes of milk crates (usually 6) and these maybe either open sided all round or only open on 2 sides. It has been suggested the 2 sided crates are repro items but mine certainly look original from the period.

There are also 2 variants to the inside corners of the drawbar - these can either be angular (early) or rounded (later)

All came with a driver in white and larger than the dozer driver.

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9Cartraila.jpg (50728 bytes) 10Cartrailb.jpg (46581 bytes) 11Cartrailc.jpg (53985 bytes) 12 The real thingHorse Drawn Milk Float.jpg (107946 bytes)

The larger version Milk Cart, not to be confused with the smaller issued MB 7 is shown here with all the different wheel colours of light grey, dark grey and charcoal (1-3). There was a difference to the casting in several respects, the top front rail may be filled in between rail and roof (5 & 6) or open as on mine (1-3). The shafts also came with differences relating to the inside corners where the shafts joined the main support as they can be rounded or diagonally cut. The horses had two different versions with either a small hole or large underneath the body and may be painted in a thin painted bronze finish or brown with white legs and manes. The drivers seat gap between the roof and underneath of the seat is a lot smaller on the filled in rail version (pics 9, 10 and 11) and in pics 7 & 8 is the extremely rare blue version which are hardly ever seen. In pic.12 is the real thing from Dave Rodgers - the one I drove was much later and electric like the Spot On version!  In pics 9 to 11 the differences to the cart tops are shown. Looking at 9 it can be seen that the original metal feed was from 2 spigot holes whilst on the left a large cast bar now takes the place of the right spigot. This was probably an alteration to the mould for some reason but it results in the gap under the seat being filled in, lowers the seat and causes the front rail to be fully blocked off.

 

 

Rag & Bone Cart

Issued 1949

Body Colour Horse Colour Horse Cutout
1 Yellow Bronze Large Rare -Includes items of junk - Crate, Bucket, Bath, Bed head, Cistern, Bike Frame, Mangle handle. All in bare metal except crate which is painted a brown tan colour
2 Green Bronze Large Extremely rare

1Copy of yellowrag&bone.jpg (33146 bytes) 2Copy of Green R&Bcart.jpg (108579 bytes) 3Copy of R&b1.jpg (35481 bytes) 4Copy of R&b2.jpg (29974 bytes) 5Copy of R&b3.jpg (33846 bytes) 6Copy of R&b4.jpg (28276 bytes) The real thingrag&boneman.jpg (49910 bytes)

Included are a Rag & Bone cart in yellow or the rarer green version. This model came with an assortment of junk to place in the cart. The green cart was a recent purchase by a friend of mine, Charlie, and is very rare indeed. The yellow cart was also a recent acquisition by me and this was another model that was reproduced in the 'Perfect Toys' range of reproductions. Pictures  3 - 6 are the newly acquired model. The nice period picture was supplied by Dave Rogers.

 

 

Soap Box Racer

Issued 1949

Body Colour Driver

Variation

1 Bronze plank and box  Boy Extremely rare - Blank base
1 Bronze plank and box  Boy Extremely rare - Boy has scarf around neck - not sure if different coloured scarves.

Base has  'A Lesney Product' on 

There seems to be 2 different front steering sections - with or without 2 small splines sticking out to attach rubber band steering to.

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The rarest of the rare is this Soap Box racer. It was not popular at the time and it is believed that only around 10 complete items remain today. The first pictures show a recent example that was auctioned by Vectis in the UK. Pics 3 & 4 show the 2 different bases to this model, either blank or with Lesney on base. The end photo is a repro model from the 'Perfect Toy' range. A superb reproduction range of early toys. Photo's 3 and 4 are kindly supplied by the Dream Tin Toys site (see my links page) and Hans & Marco.

 

 

Jumbo

Issued 1950

Body Legs
Pressed Tin Diecast No variants known. 'Jumbo' should be placed diagonally on the side of the elephant in the Lesney version as others are known, made by Blomer & Schuler where the 'Jumbo'  is horizontally across the side. There is also a version  with 'Made in US Zone' on it.

1Jumbo.jpg (39291 bytes) 2 3B&Sb.jpg (70088 bytes) 4B&Sa.jpg (68764 bytes)

During the Korean conflict a tin metal 'Jumbo' the elephant was made. This was a clockwork toy and the only diecast parts made by Lesney  were the four legs (pics 1 & 2). It is almost a perfect copy of the German 'Blmer & Schuler' Jumbo issued some time earlier (pics 3 & 4) but you can notice that 'JUMBO' is diagonal on the Lesney version. Jumbo was also made as a version with 'Made in US Zone' on it and is almost exact copy of the Blomer & Schuler version. Jumbo came in several types of box.

 

 

Prime Mover Set

Issued 1950

Cab Colour Trailer Colour Bulldozer Driver
1 Orange Orange Yellow/Red Seen on sale but not confirmed as genuine
2 Orange Blue Yellow/Red Trailer has no inscription on base
3 Orange Blue Yellow/Red Trailer has 'A Lesney-Moko Toy' only
4 Orange Blue Yellow/Red No Seen with a clockwork motor added to cab unit - not sure if Lesney made.
5 Orange Blue Yellow/Red No Trailer has 'A Lesney-Moko Toy'  and 'Made in England'
6 Orange Blue Yellow/Red Yes Trailer has 'A Lesney-Moko Toy'  and 'Made in England'
7 Orange Tan Yellow/Red Yes Extremely rare - Some opinions believe tan trailer came with either the light or dark green bulldozer in the set.
Note: All models have 2 green engine covers and 2 rear chocks on trailer the same as trailer colour except on the orange one which were normal blue

1Pm.jpg (13960 bytes) 2tan_trailer.jpg (15212 bytes) 3PMbox.JPG (12557 bytes) 4Img_0094.jpg (54318 bytes) 5Tantrailer.jpg (25499 bytes) 

The Prime Mover is a beautiful model. It can have either a driver attached by the leg to the door or none at all. The trailer can also be found in a tan colour (2) as seen here supplied by Dave Rogers of the UK and my version in pic. 5. It is not sure, but general consensus is that the tan trailer came with the green bulldozer instead of the later red/yellow one. Gary has a trailer without the description underneath and only one heard of so far.  There was a version auctioned on Ebay that had an orange trailer and I kept a copy of the ad but alas lost the picture. There is no confirmation as yet to suggest it was genuine or not as so far no other has been seen.

 

 

Muffin the Mule Junior

Issued 1951

No variants known. Issued in a whitstock type box with image of Muffin on the front

1MUFFIN1.JPG (19646 bytes) 2MUFFIN2.JPG (21130 bytes)

After these toys a deal was struck to issue a model of Muffin the Mule, a popular children's puppet character on television with Annette Mills. I well remember the clips around the ear I got for bashing this heavy toy across the polished wood dining table.

 

 

Large Coronation Coach

Issued 1952

Coach colour King & Queen
Gold painted YES Rare. Early models had no inscription under the right hand drop on the coach 
Gold painted NO Later models have 'Made in England' under the drop.
Gold plated NO
Silver Plated NO Rare. tends to discolour to black due to plating with Silver Nitrate
Note: All the horses for these models were made by Benbros.

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The model for the large Coronation Coach was made before the start of the Korean war and was then shelved. At the end of the conflict it was resurrected due to the death of the old King. Unfortunately as it was Queen Elizabeth to be crowned the extra passenger (the King) had to be cut off at the knees, and as can be seen in all these coaches, his feet and legs still remain next to the Queen. Models with both in (5) are fairly rare and thanks to Gary we can show it here. They came in a range which included Plated Silver (1), Plated gold (2) or Painted gold (3) . The normal issue is still fairly common today.

 

 

Small Coronation Coach

Issued 1953

Coach colour Description on
Silver No The rear panel may have the country description or not
Silver Yes
Gold versions are known but attributed to tarnishing. There are gold coaches made by Benbros but they have 'ER' on the doors

1Copy of Small coach.jpg (39244 bytes)

The Coronation coach was then bought out in this miniature version and sold over a million. This gave Lesney the start they needed to expand and also the idea towards making smaller models. There are 2 casting versions of this model. On the rear wall of the coach it can be either plain or have 'ENGLAND-' cast on the bottom part behind the rear wheels. There are copies of this model in gold by Benbros, another die casting company, but these have 'ER' on the doors.

 

 

Massey Harris Tractor

Issued 1954

Body Colour
Orange Model came with wheels attached with riveted axles or just screws inserted
Red

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The large Massey Harris tractor was issued as a scale model. A few more models were to be issued in this range such as the Quarry truck and the Road Roller and although trials were made they never eventuated. Both of these non-produced models can be seen in the UK Matchbox club magazine but due to copyright laws I'm not sure on my position to reproduce them here. If you find a model with screws holding the rear wheels on - they are not a replacement! - some models were assembled this way.

 

 

Bread Bait Press

Issued 1954

Milbro

Lesney

Plate Wing Nut Body
Milbro Green Green Red Shades of red from dark to bright red are known
Lesney Green Bare Metal Red
Lesney Bare Metal Bare Metal Red

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Last but not least (but not a toy) was this small device for fishermen which squashed a piece of bread flat to enable it to be placed on the hook and then expand when it was in water. I must confess that it worked wonderfully as I often used one as a kid fishing on the Grand Union Canal at Uxbridge. Not really a toy. I am indebted to Steve Cameron who has allowed these photo's of his POS box to be displayed here, a truly wonderful and historical item that I have never seen before.

 

 

Covered Wagon

Issued 1955

With barrels Has 2 small red barrels either side of the wago. These were deleted later on
No  barrels There are shades of brown on the horse ranging from light to dark brown

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The Covered Wagon (1) was issued either with or without (1) red barrels on the side of the wagon.  Horses came in a dark or light brown. The second picture shows one of the excellent 'Perfect Toys' reproduction models (2).

 

MOKO BUT NON - LESNEY PRODUCED ITEMS

There are many toys out there with the 'MOKO' name on them but not made by Lesney. MOKO was a toy factor (wholesaler) and different suppliers used them as a means of getting their products onto the market. Here are a few seen around.

765.JPG (63117 bytes) Excavator 

719.JPG (25996 bytes) Tower Crane  (seen in blue or green with variations in casting on the model)

 Mokoclockbank.jpg (22396 bytes) Money Bank

mokocompass.jpg (64745 bytes)  Moko Compass

  Mokolightmeter.jpg (21070 bytes) Light meter

Mokomerrygoround.jpg (48525 bytes) Merrybox.jpg (46682 bytes) Merry-Go-Round 

Mokolimo.jpg (116885 bytes) Tinplate Limousine 

100_9013.jpg (245559 bytes) 100_9014.jpg (222268 bytes)  Motor Cycle Rider

The Don Rix 'Condon Dumper' mentioned in the header, made by his company, Condon after leaving Lesney. Very similar to the Muir Hill dumper made by Lesney later in the 1-75 range. I must thank Dave Rogers for getting this one for me. Also came in green body

Condon.jpg (28181 bytes)