Dinky Toy Printing Blocks

Period advertisements, catalogues, etc, make fascinating and informative additions to classic toy collections. Helping us to appreciate the highly skilled work that went into creating them just that little bit more, though, this month David Busfield shares some fascinating finds…


From David Busfield’s collection, the large Dinky Toys Club plate shown left is made from sheet steel, whereas the other three smaller plates are made from the more traditional material of lead.


Nowadays we tend to take modern digital technology and the ability of PDF, TIFF and JPEG files to produce extremely high quality printed images instantly for granted. The world of reprographics has not always been as simple as this, though. It was not that long ago when individual pieces of lead type and lead printing blocks were used to produce text and images on the printed page.

In the 1950s my mother used to work at a small printing company in Keighley and I used to love to watch the compositor preparing pages for the printing presses. This was a very highly skilled profession and the speed at which this man used to make up sentences, paragraphs and pages was astonishing; it must be remembered that all this had to be done backwards (as the printed impression would mirror/reverse everything on the block).

For most of the 1960s I worked as a sales assistant in photographic shops in Yorkshire and we frequently used to receive printing blocks like the ones shown here from photographic equipment companies such as Kodak, Ilford, Leica, Nikon, etc. We would then use them to illustrate our own advertisements for photographic products in local newspapers and our own printed catalogues. After they had been used they would have to be returned to the company, either for use in other shops or eventually melted down so that the lead could be used again to produce new blocks – hence items of this nature are now very rare. I have only managed to acquire four printing blocks that were used by Meccano and it has taken me over 20 years to find them. One had been used for the Dinky Toys Club membership certificate and the other three were created produce promotional sales literature for Dinky Toys and Dinky Supertoys.


Flagged up in the December 1955 issue of Meccano Magazine were the Ever Ready Guy and the Heinz Big Bedford.


Ever Ready Guy and Heinz Big Bedford

December 1955 was an amazing month, with two superb Dinky Supertoys released simultaneously: the No. 923 Big Bedford Van in Heinz livery and the No. 918 Guy Van fi nished for Ever Ready.

My lead printing block was obviously produced for this month but it features a different layout to the full colour ad that appeared on the back page of the December Meccano Magazine. The Picture Post also ran the ad featured in Meccano Magazine, but reproduced in black and white rather than full colour. I have a large collection of Dinky advertisements, which have come from various publications such as the Eagle and Express Weekly comics, Boy’s Own Paper, etc. but none of them carry the ad the lead printing block I own was created to produce. Perhaps it was intended for use by Meccano dealers for their own advertisements in local newspapers.

Britain had finally recovered from post-war austerity by 1955 and a lot of children would have been truly delighted to have unwrapped one of these splendid delivery vans on Christmas Day.

Read the full article in Model Collector June 2017

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