Over 20 years of toy collecting I've enjoyed a long running series of articles in Antique Toy World by Al Marwick entitled "The Fun Is In The Search". Not without many twinges of envy, of course, because Al seemed to have started collecting toys at the turn of the century and even his most mundane, casual finds are now worth small fortunes. So I guess Al could afford to be somewhat blase about the non-monetary aspects of toy collecting.
Still, every now and then he would hit the mark and convey some of the pure joy there can be had from toys. You remember, the perfect Christmas toy, the rows of new boxed Britains in Toytown north of Fairlawn on Avenue Road (still there, the store not the Britains), the set of Gene Autry six shooters an unexpected gift from a favourite uncle, the baseball glove earned by selling Liberty subscriptions, the sailboats made from bits of scrap wood and cloth and sailed in larger driveway puddles, the balsa wood, rubber band powered airplanes always around in the summer, battery operated paddlers and submarines and outboards.
Most of us would agree that there is a lot of childhood enjoyment in being an adult toy collector, even to the schoolyard trading, winners and losers atmosphere of a toy show. There is, of course, the more commercial side and it's a favourite hobby horse of mine to beware the encroachment of instant collectibles and mass produced nostalgia items into the true world of antique and collectible toys.
Once in a while, even for those of us who have seen, coveted, owned and let go of large numbers of old toys, a toy comes along that just has a certain magic quality.
And that (finally you say) is what this article is about. A Jaguar D-Type.
I found this toy early one morning at the huge Donington Toy Fair in England. You have to go to one of these to appreciate just how crazy the English are (about their toys).
I don't know how many hundred vendor tables, the place is full of hunters at 7 in the morning, the lineup outside extends 4 or 5 city blocks and doesn't clear the front entrance until an hour after the show has officially opened you get the idea, it's competitive.
And there it is at 8 o'clock or so, a very distinctive green shape on a dealer table.
I know that shape; from the #238 Dinky Toy, from countless Ecurie Ecosse pictures, from recollections of the real thing, from watching a wealthy vintage racing enthusiast stuff his newly restored one at the Laguna Seca vintage races, from tracking down a real one in southern Oregon ( purple in colour, an East coast racing history, stored under a tarpaulin in a barn and probably still there) , long nose, short nose, we know what this toy is.
But we don't know it after all and have never seen its like before. It's a one off, hand made, as it turns out, by a gentleman named Colin Peck. He was a retired miner (since deceased) who had lived in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The dealer who had the toy was a neighbour selling it for the family. (As an aside, on this and on a few other occasions when looking at family or estate sales of toys, I've sometimes thought that if someone in the family really wanted to remember the man, they should have looked at and kept his D Type.) However, since it was for sale and I liked it , we quickly agreed upon a price and I brought it home to Toronto.
Who knows how many hours went into the making of this toy? It's so obviously a labour of love AND by someone who knows enough about the D Type to capture the car. The proportions are right, not scale model accurate, but conveying the essence of the car, the power under the purposeful, barely streamlined skin, the louvres hand cut, the spinners hand carved, the mags hand drilled, the suspension functional, the metal tonneau removable (I know it's supposed to be as I recall a hair-raising ride through the Monterey night as passenger sans seat in a C type), the Jaguar bonnet clips, the wire mesh air scoop. Even the surface of the skin human in its slight hand formed irregularities and its supple compound curves. These were hand leaded on the real cars as anyone who has attempted to restore a 1950s Jaguar finds out. It makes me remember XK120s and XK150s under restoration and more than one story of owner enthusiasts completely boggled at the complexity of trying to get one of these to look right again!
Back to the toy. One great advantage it has over the real thing is that it is aluminium (as the English say) and therefore rust free! So it's still here how many years after being built. It's not finished but it is, after all, a very British sports car.
I've had it for three years and it still looks like one of those toys you pick for the desert island. No point selling it, what's it really worth? You just have to admire it for its presence and style, and marvel at the thought and energy that went into its creation. You get to appreciate its uniqueness and the constant feel of enjoyment as you look at it and let you mind wander over the possibilities, the history, the magic surrounding a simple toy. And who actually gives a darn what it's worth?
Patrick Flynn, the author, has written about, displayed, collected, restored and traded vintage toys for longer than he cares to remember. If you have just found some toys, if you just realized that you still have some of your toys (in this case the older you are the better!) and especially if you feel ready to part with some toys, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org