The National Motor Museum Trust Collecting Policy states a preference for the acquisition of toy cars rather than scale models, unless the latter are high quality, manufacturers’ trade or design pieces or have been commissioned by or for an important person. This is because children and families were not well represented in our collections prior to 2000 and toy cars are among the childhood items we have been acquiring to give more balance to our material and subject matter.
The Trust had only a few Dinky and Matchbox cars, and we have been supplementing these by adding collections offered to us during the past few years. Most recently we have acquired two more toy car collections which total around 4,000 items. These can be displayed as collections, or used to support a wide variety of themed exhibitions.
It remains difficult to acquire older toy cars, as there are increasing numbers of re-releases and collectables on the market. As a museum though, we have to take a longer term view and consider that the re-produced and promotional models of today are the diecast delights of tomorrow.
When it can be used as part of a museum display.
The Trust’s Collections can sometimes pose interesting questions. Our vast treasure trove of motoring collectibles has developed over time and it is possible to overlook the value of certain things. For instance, our collection of pre-war children’s books and annuals had been sitting on shelving in the Reference Library for many years. It is hardly surprising that, unlike other areas of the Library, this particular section had not been used at all for information research purposes. A quick glance though at the colourful covers of these lovely old tomes immediately suggests that they would make excellent display items. We can all enjoy these nostalgic images from childhood and so recently we have added to our pre-war annual collection and started amassing post-war examples. When you look at the covers of later annuals in particular, it is surprising to see how many are motoring related. This then leads to the conclusion that many of our childhood heroes would have struggled to achieve great feats without their cars or motorcycles. Where would Batman be without his Batmobile, Knight Rider without Kit, or the Saint without his Volvo P1800?
Many well-loved children’s comics from the 1930s were available as annuals from the 1950s. Produced just in time for Christmas, Bunty, Beano and Tiger would have been common festive gifts for children. Later in the 1960s annuals reflecting popular music, television programmes and films became more widespread. Recent acquisitions to our collection include the Partridge Family, Daktari, Thunderbirds and James Bond, all featuring their vehicles on the front cover. The trend to link annuals to popular themes continued during the 1970s and 1980s with programmes like Blue Peter, Trumpton, Starsky & Hutch and the A-Team all creating annuals to supplement their shows. Since the 1990s products linked to films, programmes and music have become an essential marketing tool for programme and film makers, with some of the most popular being Postman Pat, Wallace and Gromit, Disney Pixar Cars and of course Top Gear.
We are continuing to collect these annuals to support our future Christmas Exhibition, and because we feel they reflect popular taste in entertainment over the last 40 to 50 years. They also emphasise the key role of the car, which is often as central as the characters themselves.
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