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Toy Brands and Manufacturers

Mettoy Co Ltd (GaT 1939).jpg
Mettoy Playcraft logo 1970.jpg


1932 -     
1956 "Mettoy Playthings" trade advert

1956 "Mettoy Playthings" trade advert [image info]

Mettoy Company Ltd. was founded in the UK in the early 1930s by Philipp Ullmann and Arthur Katz, who had both been part of the Nuremburg toy industry community, until the rise of the Nazi Party forced them to leave Germany.

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.. They moved to a larger workspace in 1937, but 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 building 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 dieast toy cars and Dragon computers.

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

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. Anothe rinteresting 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 th elatter 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


Playcraft trade advert, 1956

Playcraft trade advert, 1956 [image info]

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".


Playtown was a range of plastic clip-together kits that included the walls, roofs, doors, windows and signage needed to make a variety of town buildings.

Playcraft Railways

Playcraft went on (in around 1961) to distribute a range of inexpensive mostly-plastic H0-scale model railways and pieces, with manufacture subcontracted to the French company Jouef.

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 specialst skills in bith 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 of 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.


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 toy cars, Corgi Toys - a name probably inspired by the dog breed’s Welsh background and Royal connections.

Corgi put 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’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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