David Cooke’s ‘Dinky Toys’ offers quick-hitting biography of die-cast icons


Whenever someone wants to trace the roots of modern die-cast vehicles, they need not look any further than Western England in the early 1930s.

More than 30 years before John, Paul, George, and Ringo were shelling out hits on the music charts, fellow Liverpool native, and entrepreneur, Frank Hornby began producing hits on the toy market with miniaturized (approximately 4-inch) die-cast vehicles called Dinky Toys. First released by Hornby’s company, Meccano Ltd., as a series of railway and trackside accessories to complement the successful O-Gauge Hornby train sets in 1931, Dinky Toys grew to become the most dominant die-cast vehicles of the late prewar era.

Even after World War II, when production resumed following the war, Dinky Toys held a near-monopoly on the die-cast vehicles business. But increased competition from Corgi and Matchbox, and the lack of foresight to change with the times and adapt to customer tastes, led to the decline of Dinky by the end of the ’50s.

With Corgi and Matchbox growing stronger with better-quality products, and the release of Hot Wheels in 1968, Dinky fell to the bottom of the barrel. And by the late ’70s Dinky’s presence on the market was all but diminished.

In recent years, toy enthusiasts like David Cooke are making sure the story of Dinky is told. Cooke’s “Dinky Toys” is a prime example of such treatment. First published in 1999 by Shire Publications of Oxford, England, and reprinted last year, “Dinky Toys” chronicles the history of these innovative die-cast vehicles.

Not a price guide, at 6 inches by 8 inches, $11.95, and only 40 pages, “Dinky Toys” is a good example of what Shire offers — low priced, concise paperbacks on a wide range of subjects. A Toy Curator and trustee at Bressingham Steam Museum in Norfolk, England, Cooke does a good job of telling the story of Dinky Toys. You can tell he really cares about these toys, and wants to make sure they are not forgotten (we won’t forget David!). His writing pretty much serves as a history lesson, but a good one I might add.

You’ll know just about everything you ever want to know about Dinky Toys through this portable book. Also included at the end is a list of other titles that cover the subject, places to visit if you’re in search of Dinky Toys, and Dinky collector clubs and associations. Though there are color photos that balance and complement the text, they look quite outdated by today’s standards.

However, if you’re a Dinky Toys enthusiast who wants to know the history of these toys from beginning to end, and you’re not a fan of carrying a thick, cumbersome book with you to shops, shows and estate sales, then “Dinky Toys” is the book for you. ?

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Collector Spotlight: This toy story has a happy ending
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"Dinky Toys," David Cooke, Shire, 2010, 40 pages, $29.99. ISBN-10: 0747804273. Available at www.shirebooks.co.uk or 866-620-6941.

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