Fun Ho! History

Playtime Lead Alloy Toys

Like many other makers of lead toys, little is known of this firm which appears to have closed down in the middle to late 1960s. An extensive range of some 100 different figures suggests the existence of a worthwhile operation, but all we can be sure of is that it was New Zealand based.

Information stamped onto a 1959 catalogue/price list indicates the sole distributor as:
    Scale Model Supplies
    Box 1966

This is sometimes super-imposed with a rubber overstamp reading "Ross Hayman Motors Ltd." but enquiries to Post Office sources has brought no satisfactory results.

While 22 models are recognisable as originating from German made semi-flat models, by far the majority of the models are made from New Zealand made moulds. These models are three dimensional and solid, unlike British and other counterparts, which are traditionally hollow.

The New Zealand made moulds themselves are clearly an example of "Kiwi ingenuity" to look at. Crudely made from heavy blocks of aluminium alloy, the wooden handles screwed into place could well have been taken straight from a wood pile.

The strength of these models is proved by their mass; the catalogue claims they are "extremely pliable" and also "approved by the NZ Department of Health".

Playtime models were sometimes supplied in bulk in flat cardboard cartons, 210x150x25mm with a fitting lid of slightly larger dimensions.

By far most were supplied in dozens or half dozens, or fewer still if the particular models were larger in size. These small cartons were 100x75x19mm. Both these sizes of plain cartons were marked with a rubber stamp with "PLAYTIME TOYS - Catalogue No....." and "Amount."

The smaller size carton was also used with a Walking Cat Logo and the same legend as above, usually done in printer's ink. These same small cartons had yet another variation with an attractive little farmyard scene, printed in red and green, all on a bright yellow background. The words "PLAYTIME farmyard series" was printed in green.

Farmyard sets
Of special interest is the "Junior Farmyard Set," which consisted of a semi-flat (German house, with four miniature animals, usually a cow, horse, sheep and goat. These five models were embedded into a flat block of expanded polystyrene (180x70x22mm) which was contained around the edge by a strip of cardboard, printed with "Playtime Toys Junior Farmyard Set." The whole package was then wrapped in light clear cellophane and sello-taped into position.

Sections and sets
Four distinct groups are catalogued: "W" (Western), "S" (Soldiers), "J" (Jungle) and "F" (Farmyard). Fifteen models are listed in the "W" set, 20 models in the "S" set, 13 models in the "J" set, and 23 are listed in the "F" set. There are four selected models from each of the four groups and these were packed as a "W" set, an "S" set, "J" set, or "F" set respectively. Some of the more prominent or unusual models from each set are worth mentioning.

Western section
The "W" range consisted mainly of well-known semi-flats, but numbers 4, 6, 7, 8 and 12 are three dimensional and solid. Number 15 is rather unique; a steeplechaser jumping a log. This is almost a semi-flat, but it is designed with two holes for two axle pins, and these accommodate four small diameter wheels! Not very stable but quite unusual. He can make careful progress, but is a little front heavy. This steeplechaser has been identified on a chromed chairside ash tray, and being clearly a size larger, certain inferences can be drawn!

The Sailor, Stationmaster and Knight standing are very solid and very three dimensional, while W6 and W8 would be copies of hollow models, now made solid.

Soldier section
The "S" section are of varying scales. Two are typical German semi-flats, while a small section of infantrymen are almost semi-flat and look quite modern, with WW2 battledress and automatic rifles. Other noticeable ones in this section are the Grenadier Guard, the two Kilted Soldiers and motorcycle rider, round and solid and each with a Kiwi smile!

Deserving special mention is number S14, a well-proportioned infantryman, complete with gas mask and with the option of two arm positions, rifle at the "trail" or shouldered from the right arm (duck shooting ?), Some soldiers are identical, except that some had British steel helmets, while their twins had Sikh Turbans.

Jungle section
The "J" section has some beautiful creatures. The "cat" family are both pre-eminent and prominent, and the semi-flats have very intriguing outlines, although the elephant looks as though it has just completed a "forty hour famine." The king of the jungle is majestic as he stands guard over the lioness, and the hippo and walrus are in delightfully unusual poses.

Farm section
Farming being of high interest level in New Zealand, it is not surprising to see such a great mixture of styles in the "F" group. The Farmer, his wife and staff look very rustic and English with stick, brolly, yoke and three legged stool, especially the stick and umbrella which are loosely pinned to the respective shoulders. Some again are reminiscent of the German semi-flats.

A five bar gate as well as a garden gate, comes complete with hinge hooks and pins, enabling it to be hung and opened or closed. It is cleverly designed. Also the separate brick wall is well made and very solid. Some of the solid three-dimensional domestic animals are very original and a credit to the makers.

In all of the four sections, there are a number of models which are superfluous to the only known catalogue. A full collection of the manufacturer's lead products are to be seen on display in the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum, Inglewood, New Zealand.

At the the time of writing, March 2002, there is no indication of whereabouts in New Zealand these delightful little metal miniatures were made: North or South Island? Who will claim them?

- Barry Young

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