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Mecanno and Marklin train sets lead to lifelong toy obsession

The chance purchase of a second-hand Mecanno set almost 40 years ago has led to a lifelong obsession that has seen Roger from Oxfordshire amass an astonishing collection of building sets, trains sets, OXO marketing paraphernalia, children’s annuals and racing car model kits.

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The rare and fascinating collection of good-as-new toys manufactured decades ago is insured with Adrian Flux for an eye-watering £400,000.

Toy collection started with 1960s Meccano No. 5 set

Meccano

All photography taken and provided by Elizabeth Donovan.

Roger explained how the obsession began: “My son is 40 now, but when he was about two, a colleague at work spotted an advert in the local paper for some Lego which he wanted to buy, but it came with a Meccano set which he didn’t want.

“I bought it from him. It was a 1960s Meccano No. 5 set and I think I paid a fiver for it. That night, I took it with me when I went babysitting and I made a model with it. It took me back to when, as a young lad, I had a Meccano No. 9 set.

“After making that model, I realised that I still enjoyed the challenge presented by Meccano. I looked out for more second-hand sets to buy and I haven’t stopped since!”

Nowadays, the 71-year-old collects train sets too. He explained: “Collecting model trains stemmed from buying job lots of Meccano, at auctions and privately. Quite often they came with Hornby ‘O’ and ‘HO’ gauge trains mixed in with them.”

Meccano, train sets, race car kits – an assortment of “boys’ toys”

Roger describes his collection as “boys’ toys”. As well as a huge collection of Meccano, he also owns more than 500 other construction sets of “all sorts of shapes and sizes”. Playing with his construction sets is something of a busman’s holiday, as he worked as an architect before retirement.

For the past 20 years, he has concentrated on collecting HO, gauge 1 and Z gauge train sets manufactured by the German toy company, Marklin. His collection also boasts sets manufactured by Trix, Tri-ang, JEP, Hamo, VB, Hornby, and others.

Many of the construction sets and train sets are boxed and in mint condition. He bought them to play with rather than to collect but they have very little, if any, damage.

His collection was largely acquired through private ads, at toy fairs, and bidding at local auctions, but – keeping up with the times – nowadays he buys on eBay and at online auctions.

Marklin trains and a Pyfyly construction set are Roger’s favorites

Meccano

All photography taken and provided by Elizabeth Donovan.

Asked which item is his favorite in the collection, Roger said: “I like them all or I wouldn’t have bought them! Other than the Marklin trains, I do rather like a French construction set called Pyfyly. It uses thin strips of laminated bamboo and linen parts to make beautiful furniture for doll’s houses.”

Different parts of his collection appeal to different people: “Most people usually enjoy the items that they have some nostalgic connection to, more often than not because they had them when they were a child.

Quite a few of his construction sets and train sets are one-offs or had a very short production run. One of the rarest is also the most highly valued.

“It’s a Markin HO English “compound” locomotive built in Germany just before the start of World War II in 1939. For obvious reasons, very few of these models were manufactured!”

“I also have some of the earliest Meccano parts ever made. The strips were rolled tinplate rather than flat metal. They date from the very first years of the 20th century.”

“Once you’ve got the bug, it’s difficult to shake off”

Meccano

All photography taken and provided by Elizabeth Donovan.

Roger doesn’t buy too much these days as he has most of the models that he wants, but he admits that “once you’ve got the bug it’s difficult to shake off”. But there are still odd items he is looking for to fill gaps in various collections.

He has a large display cabinet in which he exhibits some of the Marklin items, but most of his collection is securely stored away.

“Though it’s locked away, I often open it up to have a look. Before COVID, quite often I would be asked to put on specialist displays at exhibitions, open days and the likes, which involved a lot of fun hunting through trying to find specific items.”

Complementing his collections of trains and construction sets, Roger owns an extensive display of OXO marketing products which came about as a result of buying Meccano, as often the nuts, bolts and other small parts were stored in OXO tins.

He also has a collection of Rupert Bear and Blue Peter annuals and a growing number of 1:12 Tamiya racing car model kits from the 1980s.

Roger doesn’t think he is an obsessive collector, but admits his long-suffering wife would probably think he is.

First-class protection for your obsession

In many cases, other insurance providers won’t cover rare items or collections on your home insurance as they’re considered too unusual. That’s where we come in.

Whether your obsession is your “Forever Home“,” its unusual features, or the rare items and antiquities you have collected inside it, you will need non-standard household insurance to keep them all protected.

Call the country’s leading specialist household insurance provider, Adrian Flux, on 0333 250 1148 for a swift and hassle-free quote – 81.5% of all customers receiving an online quote in August 2022 could have obtained a cheaper quote over the phone, based on the information they provided.

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