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Mettoy Company Ltd. was founded in the UK in the early 1930s by Philipp Ullmann (1883-1971) (who'd been Managing Director of Tipp & Co., and relaunched it as TippCo) and South-Africa-born Arthur Katz (1908-1999) (a relative of Ullmann who had also worked at TippCo in Nuremberg).

Both had been part of the Nuremburg area's toy industry community until the rise of the Nazi Party forced them to leave Germany. The fact that Katx had been born in South Africa meant that he had a British passport and was able to leave for England comparatively easily: Ullmann had more difficulty, and made the journey later.

The Mettoy name was registered in 1932, and the company commenced making traditional Nuremburg-style tinplate lithographed toys (with or without clockwork motors) in 1934, at a site in Northampton owned by Bassett-Lowke’s Winteringham Ltd. Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke had extensive contacts in Germany, and may well have helped the pair get set up. They moved to a larger workspace in 1937, but initially stayed in Northampton.

As with most toy manufacturers, production switched to war work during World War Two, and Mettoy Company PLC’s wartime production focused on pressed steel products such as canisters and ammunition boxes, which forced the company to look at new processes and techniques, and move beyond their original "comfort zone" of Nuremberg-style lithoed tinplate.

Towards the end of the War, Mettoy started planning a major new factory in Fforestfach, Swansea, Wales, with work starting in 1948, and the factory being opened in 1949 by George VI. The Welsh connection influenced at least two subsequent Mettoy brandnames, Corgi Toys diecast toy cars and Dragon computers.

1939 trade advert: "Electric Train Sets, Aeroplanes, Fire Engines, Road Roller, Anti-Aircraft Units, Motors"


Mettoy's earlier products were extremely similar to what you might expect from a traditional German lithographed tinplate toy manufacturer, to the extent that if it wasn't for the "MADE IN ENGLAND" mark, one could be forgiven for mistaking some of the tinplate motorcycles, cars and railway sets as having been produced by a smaller German maker. Although not especially original (to the point where some peope have characterised them as essentially being "copies" of German designs), these were, pragmatically, the sorts of toys that new UK immigrants Ullman and Katz already knew how to make, distribute and sell.

As the company matured, its offerings became more distinctive. Its range of lorries, although simple, were very much based on contemprary British lorry cab designs, and the Mettype toy typewriters were unusual and easily recognisable. Mettoy pushed the limits of how large one could make lithographed tinplate toys with its dollhouse and hosptital and garage "play buildings".

However, the status and importance of Mettoy changed with the opening of its new plant in Fforestfach, Wales, it's hiring of designer Marcel R. van Cleemput, and its merger with Katz' Playcraft company, which together made possible the creation of Corgi Toys. The Corgi range were the first of the "second-generation" diecast toy vehicles, and blew away the competition for diecast toy cars in terms of quality, sophistication, innovation, and sheer downright niceness. As a result, Mettoy are chiefly remembered today, not so much for its lithographed tinplate toys, as for being the "ancestor" company that gave rise to Mettoy-Playcraft and Corgi Toys.


  • Under the Mettoy and Mettoy Playthings branding, Mettoy produced lithographed tinplate cars, commercial vehicles (lorries and buses), fire engines, clockwork aeroplanes and toy kitchenware.
  • The Mettype brand was used for toy typewriters incorporating a facsimile lithographed image of a conventional typewriter keyboard, but which worked by rotating a central dial to select a letter, and then pushing down on a lever-pad.
  • The Mettoy Railways brand was used for gauge 0 tinplate clockwork trains and train sets, running on tinplate rails.
  • The Joytown brand was used for small tinplate buildings like railway stations and garages, and also for tinplate tracked roadway systems.

In the 1960s, Mettoy also produced larger tinplate buildings, including a multi-storey hospital building, a multi-storey garage, and a two-storey dollhouse.

1939 catalogue review:

Mettoy Co. Ltd.

The Mettoy Co. Ltd. have issued a very attractive catalogue for 1939. The front cover is of light blue and silver with dark blue printing. The catalogue contains 28 pages, 27 of which are fully illustrated. A unique feature is that each line mentioned is detailed in three languages – English, French and Spanish.

This firm are manufacturers of mechanical toys and trains. Monoplanes, biplanes and autogyros occupy over two pages. A novel line is the No. 12 B7 biplane. This has two lights, sparking gun and running propellor. Another interesting number is No. 14/7 monoplane, running and flying with detachable wing and two lights – one green and one red. Filling stations, with and without cars, are mentioned, as well as an aerodrome with cruising aeroplane. There are many numbers shown in miniature cars, and these represent various types, such as roadsters, sports cars, limousines, cabriolets, one of the latter having sliding roof and two electric lights. Then there are two models shown of racing cars, one of these having a turntable electric searchlight. Another line is a car with a caravan. Four illustrations appear of fire engines, No. 111 having ladder and searchlight.

In lorries illustrations appear of 17 numbers, and these cover a wide variety. Also shown are army anti-aircraft units, motor-cycles, a lighthouse with three cruising aeroplanes and light, steam and road rollers, and a large low truck with two lights, heavy dipped finish.

The Mettoy Co. Ltd. are also manufacturers of brush and pan sets, telephones, stove utensils, kitchen stoves. These are well-finished lines.

— , Catalogues Received, , Games and Toys, , July 1939


After the success of Mettoy, Katz founded Playcraft Toys Ltd. as a separate company in 1949 to explore manufacturing of plastic toys. By 1956, Playcraft were advertising their main range as being "Painting by Numbers", "Picture Carving" and "Playtown Building Kits".

Playcraft branched out into plastic kits, model railways, and slotcars, and the range of toys and games that they made and/or distributed also included some sports goods, such as footballs.

Mettoy Playcraft

After Playcraft had established itself as a viable company, Katz merged it into Mettoy to form Mettoy-Playcraft, a broader-based company that now had specialist skills in both plastics and metal fabrication.

By starting the separate company and then only merging it into Mettoy once it was mature, Katz helped Mettoy-Playcraft establish a broadened set of manufacturing skills and cultures in which the development and manufacture of non-metal toys was not considered to be just an afterthought or sideline, and helped the business to avoid the trap that Meccano Ltd. fell into, of being a dedicated metal toy manufacturer that had trouble understanding the new markets, and trouble recruiting experienced management that did. Playcraft was able to build up its skill sets in plastics manufacture as an independent company whose staff didn't risk being sidelined or sabotaged by the Mettoy metalworking culture, and when Playcraft became part of the new company, its staff were able to command the respect due to their having proved themselves as having been able to run a legitimate toymaking business by themselves.


With metal and plastics fabrication techniques firmly established, in 1956 Mettoy-Playcraft then decided to tackle Meccano Ltd.'s Dinky Toys market head-on, with their own new range of diecast metal toy cars, Corgi Toys - a name probably inspired by the dog breed’s Welsh background and Royal connections.

Corgi put plastic seats and interiors and clear plastic windows into their diecast vehicles, and their selling slogan "The Ones with Windows" dented Dinky's image (being relegated to being "The Ones without Windows"), and Corgi did very well for themselves for a couple of decades.


Mettoy-Playcraft's determination to move with the times and not to be prisoners of the manufacturing technologies that they started with even resulted in a range of small computers in the early 1980s under the name "Dragon" (another animal with Welsh associations).


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