Sept/Oct 2020 edition
Issue #12 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
Robert Evans - Guest Columnist
I feel that the whole promotional movement may have started with the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, with the astounding Studebaker display in the Great Hall of the Travel and Transport Building. With the objective of promoting their beautiful new Land Cruiser Super Sport, they built a giant model that attracted people to see their display of all their new cars.
Studebaker apparently made a deal with National Products Corp. of Chicago to manufacture small Metal “slush cast” (or “pot metal”, as we might refer to them today) models of that Studebaker at the exhibit to hand out to the kids who accompanied their parents to the display. There are many of these models still around today, and the reason for that is there were so many produced over the two years of the Chicago World’s Fair. I think they were surprised at the result. The kids loved the models, and, I imagine that a significant number of sales of the real cars resulted. I feel this was the start of the promotional model movement.
These old metal models often crack, suffer from scaling paint, scratches from hard use, and non-original tires. Many have been repainted to make them look better. All of those things, of course, effect value. There are very few 1930’s models still around, and fewer yet in perfect condition. After WWII, when sales of new cars resumed, more promos were offered, and many more were manufactured.
Above: National Products, Inc. produced models in two different sizes and two different series for 1935. The smaller one (1:28 scale) was the 1935 edition of the Land Cruiser, styled for the 1934 World’s Fair. It would sell for $1,200-$1,500. The large one (approx. 13” long, about 1:18th scale) represents the basic sedan (The President ?). Because of its rarity, but its medium original condition, would probably sell for $2,500 to $3,500.
Interestingly, Ford was a late comer to the idea. Henry was shown a 1934 Ford model by National Products Corp., but apparently they failed to get his approval, so it went no further at that time. Only two of those 1934 Ford models survived, and the last time one was sold, about five years ago, it went for over $10,000. Many of the models had company names embossed on them, and came in an array of colors, so they could be used as a color chart in the dealerships.
After 1948, National Products Corp. was either bought out or merged into Banthrico Corp. (Same address in Chicago). The new Company decided that the movement was a solid way to sell miniatures, but changed the scale to 1/25. Dealers were the primary market, and for a few more cents, each car could be embossed with the dealer’s name. They also started to sell to banks and savings institutions, to promote savings for cars and other items, again usually embossed with the institutions name. Having a dealer’s or institution’s name embossed makes no real difference in value, but does make it easier to validate the model is original, and not a re-paint.
In the next article, we’ll look at the progression of the promo.
To read more great columns like this one from expert Robert Evans...