~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Motorcycles as Toys

I admit it, I'm a bit of a nerd and I still have a fondness for toys, especially the toys of my youth and as my youth now includes any years under the age of 50 that gives me a pretty wide range of interest. My former father-in-law got me started collecting toys about twenty years ago now. He has a very large and extensive collection of toys, memorabilia, and complete automobiles reaching clear back into the 19th century. And when I say large collection, I mean large, large as in buying a closed furniture store and turning into his own private museum. Fun place to visit on those rare occasions when it's open to the public.

I used to have one whole spare room in my house devoted to the toys and dolls my wife, son, and I collected and also six or seven '70s vintage Bultaco dirt bikes in the garage. The toy collection was reduced by 50% about five years ago with my share being sold off on eBay to stay afloat financially. Sadly, all the Bultacos are gone save one extremely ratty 1970 Sherpa S 100 Model 30. The engine has been fully restored and sits in my living room; the frame and attendant bits lean up against the back of the house, yet another "someday" project to ponder as I mow the lawn. So I don't have many toys left but the ones I absolutely hung onto and would not give up despite emotional and financial deprivation were the diecast motorcycles. Big surprise, eh?

Over the years Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint have done some nice bikes in 1/9th scale (or is it 1/10?), mostly H-D (of course) but also some excellent Indians and one especially nice and pricey BMW R50 w/sidecar. I don't think much of "Mint" psuedo-art stuff in general, most of it is no more collectable than the unique, limited edition decor my two dogs leave in the back yard.

I have no illusions about the collectability of the motorcycle models I have from the Mints and you shouldn't get your hopes up for your limited edition Dukes of Hazard Tea Set either. It's ok to enjoy collecting for the sake of admiring the item but if you intend to make real money at it you'd best look someplace other than mass produced "collectables" unless you are very shrewd and can play the fads. Being a day trader on the Internet is financially less risky.

The smaller scale bikes being made by the Mints, Maisto and other companies, typically 1/18th scale, often lack detail and presence unless collected and displayed in quantity. Quantity is fun, having 100 or 1,000 diecast vehicles on display is impressive but takes up space and dusting them takes forever so eight or ten larger scale bikes works out nicely. And since I won't buy scale Harley's anymore, don't (normally) by the smaller scale bike models, the number of bikes insisting on acquisition is limited and therefore less demanding on my pocketbook.

The detail of the smaller models are improving though and I recently sprung for a 1/35th scale 1956 Ducati Siluro speed record bike that the local Aprilia / Ducati dealer had for sale at a measly $9.99. One of my abiding interests is land speed record machines so how could I resist? The model is by New Ray and they seem to have made a whole line of late model Duc stuff. If you can't actually own 999 you can at least have a tiny one and daydream about having your bum roasted by the exhaust as you blast down endless swooping canyon roads like some wealthy, California-type bike guy... [yeah you know who you are. LOL].

The larger scale Mint bikes are very nice and with their better suspension detail, working bits and pieces, are often times almost worth the $100 - $135 asking price. I've purchased most of the Indians and one of the old H-D's from the Mint places. There are also some board track racer models that look wonderful and are tempting...I love the old stuff and you can pick it of Ebay at good prices. Be strong, Doug. Resist. As my former spouse told me on more than one occasion, "You can't buy them all."

Besides the Mint companies several big name toy makers in the US and Europe make a variety of interesting models although few match the larger Mint models for detail. Tootsie Toy has done some diecast touring version R60 BMW's in 1/9 scale, I found them at Toys R Us about 6 years ago and most likely they can still be found at toy fairs or on-line somewhere. The prices were more moderate, about $25 as I recall. They are "back of the shelf models" when displaying them as the detail is not exceptional. Matchbox has done some larger scale H-D stuff that's not too bad if you like modern Hogware. I had two of them because I got a deal but gave one away to make space, and I think I'll give the remaining one to the next Hog rider that shows up at my house just to clear a spot on the shelf for something more interesting.

Revell Europe has done a variety of bikes in 1/10 scale include an old style MV Agusta 750/4 which I have and Ducati is becoming increasingly popular as a subject. If you're a MotoGP fan, Guiloy of Spain is doing a whole series of modern race bikes mostly in smaller scale but also some 1/10 scale and 1/6th scale. Schuco of Germany does a bunch of interesting bikes and pretty nicely detailed including the R90S in both silver smoke and Daytona Orange. I have both of those and the Silver Smoke version R90S sits at the forefront of the shelf because I will never, ever, get tired of looking at that amazing bike and daydreaming about the rides I took on it.

There are a few Aprilia models being done but thus far they are only in the smaller scales so I've resisted those. As much as the world needs a 1/9 scale Caponord and Falco I'll probably have to wait awhile for someone to make those.

All in all I guess I have a dozen or so of the ~1/10 scale bikes and If I'm a nerd then I'm a motorcycle nerd and I can live with that.


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