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British Toy Companies : Charbens Toys

December 7th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Charbens Toys - Vehicles

part 1 – Charbens pre-war production

Although Charbens were to produce throughout their history a variety of toys both metal, and later plastic, for this introduction to Charbens and Co. I am concentrating simply on the metal vehicle element of that production.

In part 1 – I am looking at their pre-war production of metal vehicles which will ignore the large horse & animal drawn models which I know are a great favorite of collectors and which I hope to come back to in detail at a later date.

Charbens and Co. was started in the early 1920′s by two brothers Charles and Benjamin (Ben) Reid and its not rocket science to work out where the company name came from. In 1928 the companys address was given as 34 Mitford Road in the N19 district of London, a year later the company had relocated a short distance and the works were now based at Andover Yard, 219 Hornsey Road, Holloway, London N7, an address which was to become the company base for over 40 odd years.

Interestingly that part of London was the home of several toy manufacturers and within one mile of Charbens you could find Britains, Taylor and Barrett, John Hill & Co. and the Crescent Toy Co.

A Charbens advert in a trade magazine of 1928 saw them described as ‘manufacturers and designers of metal and eltro-plated novelties and die-casters’. Included was a mention of various lead toys all of which were based around a farming theme which included not only figures and animals but also scenery in the form of trees, bridges, windmills and other ancillery farming equipment.

In 1929 Charbens were a listed exhibitor at the British Industries Fair (Stand No.C13) as a ‘Manufacturer of Metal Farmyard Models and Novelties, etc, Metal Soldiers, Metal Moneyboxes, Metal Plated Pincushions etc., etc.

Lead figures, it is true to say, were the mainstay of the Charbens production line and although vehicles did feature in their output they played something of a secondary role. Never-the-less for this posting I will limit my comments to that secondary aspect – the Charbens vehicle range.

All Charbens pre-war vehicles were made of lead and ran to a very limited range. Their lead items, more often found marked ‘RD’ but also marked Mimic Toy (which was a brand name they used in the 1930′s) to the underside or Charbens.

It is generally understood that the earliest Charbens motor vehicles were copies of the American Tootsietoy models.

The Mack truck group typically shown above : Searchlight truck, pale green cab and chassis, missing searchlight / Market Gardener’s truck, fawn cab and chassis, maroon back / another in orange and green colourway / Pipe Delivery truck, pale green cab and chassis. Models were somewhere between 2.75″ (70mm) - 3.25″ (82mm) in length and like Tootsietoys had the Mack badge to the front of the bonnet. The range also included a Mack Anti-Aircraft truck (same body as the searchlight truck but with black gun mount and silver gun to the rear) / Caterpillar Tractor in red colourway fitted with unpainted wheels with white rubber tracks and a Renault Tank in either olive brown or dark blue with unpainted wheels fitted with white rubber tracks.

Still pre-war c1934-1936 and following on from these early Tootsietoy copies came several vehicles without any particular theme behind them which included such models as : Large Ambulance – 3.25″ in cream with red cross cast in door / Large Racing Car – 4″ in dark green or red / Coupe – 4″ in dark red / Small Racing Car – 3.25″ in blue, green or red / Blue Bird Racing Car – 5″ in dark blue with crossed flags cast-in to nose / Aeroplane – 4.25″ in green or red with silver tail / Ambulance with man at the rear - 4″ in dark blue, dark green or brown / Armoured Car - 4″ in dark brown or brown/green camo. / Petrol Tanker (shown opposite) – 3.75″ in green, yellow, red or dark blue / Fire Engine – 95mm in red with driver cast in / Car and Caravan - 3.75″ car, 3.25″ caravan. Car comes in red, green or yellow with black wings , caravan in yellow/orange, yellow/green or green/blue / Motor Van – 4.25″ in light brown with green tilt.

Also included in the range were a couple of Police Motorcycles.

Police Motorcycle with seperate Police Rider - 2.75″ unpainted cycle with dark blue rider.

Police Motorcycle with Sidecar - 3.125″ unpainted cycle with dark blue sidecar, passenger and police rider.

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  1. Leslie james Robinson
    June 4th, 2017 at 10:44 | #1

    An interesting read. Will now go on to read your other articles if the laptop allows. Thanx

  2. dave
    June 7th, 2017 at 20:11 | #2

    Cheers Leslie, glad you found the visit worthwhile and hope your laptop behaves itself !
    Take care, David.

  3. Samantha Quiney
    April 15th, 2018 at 22:05 | #3

    Hi, I have got 6 miniature Cars of which 4 are definitely CharBens, the other 2 are very old but have no information on them so could also be CharBens. Having read your very interesting article
    It says the company moved to Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, this is where I live so was wondering if the company is still about or if you know how I can find out if these cars are pre-war which I strongly believe they are as I can find no pictures or descriptions on them.
    Your help would be much appreciated.
    Thank you

  4. dave
    April 28th, 2018 at 19:10 | #4

    Hi there Sam, firstly, as far as I am aware the company ceased producing in the early 1970′s. Regarding pre-war vehicles, apart from those referred to in my Charbens post the only other pre-war vehicles I have been able to find reference to are : Ambulance / Large and Small racing cars / Blue Bird racing car / Coupe / Aeroplane / Armoured Car / Fire Engine / Petrol Tanker / Car and Caravan / Motor Van and a Breakdown Lorry. Of these the Blue Bird was around 5″ long the others around 4 – 4 1/4″ in length, the small racer around 3 1/2″. There were other pre-war items the majority of which were horse drawn. Charbens ‘Old Crocks’ series of miniatures were first issued in 1955 and by 1960 some 34 models were listed in the range. Without pictures of your vehicles I can’t be of much further help.
    All the best, David.

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