I’ve got one of these beauties. A Simon Snorkel Fire Engine die-cast toy, model number 1127, first manufactured by Corgi in the mid-1960s. I’ve had it since I was a toddler. The “snorkel” is the cherry picker, which goes up and down by turning a couple of little metal knobs. I remember being endlessly fascinated by the plastic fireman in the yellow cradle, but I wasn’t much interested in actively playing with the toy. I used to keep it on my bedroom window sill and it’s still in near mint condition. It lives in its original box now and the box is also in great nick.
Oriignally established to rival the Meccano Dinky Toys range, Corgi was one of the main toy vehicle manufacturers of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Simon Snorkel 1127 was a popular model, so there’s always several for sale on eBay. In tip-top condition, they generally go for somewhere near £100. You’d have to pay me a lot more than that for mine, though. An awful lot more.
More Than Tazos is one of the oddest shops on Ebay. It’s based in Argentina and the bulk of its stock consists of hundreds of little plastic toys branded with the names and images of musicians. My favourites are the pinball games and the spinning tops. The advert description is the same for almost every item and it says: “These toys were made in Argentina. I found them in a shop – this kind of toy having been made in our country for a long time. They were used in many ways: Gumball and cereal premiums. Gifts for birthday parties. Funfair prizes and gifts at small circuses. (When I say “this kind of toy”, I mean plastic watches, medals, keyrings, etc).”
Now what I find especially strange about these things is the names they’re branded with. As mass market trinkets, free with your cereal or whatever, you’d expect them to be megastars, wouldn’t you? Well, there are a few Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elton John toys – but it is only a few. The vast majority of the names are decidedly special interest. There are Gene Loves Jezebel and Nina Hagen rings, for instance. There’s a Dead Can Dance pinball, a Devo noughts and crosses game, and an Alien Sex Fiend version of Ludo. The spinning tops feature individual musicians rather than groups and there’s a huge choice of these, including Wattie (The Exploited), Lee Kerslake (Uriah Heep), Billie Currie (Ultravox), Boz Burrell (Bad Company) and Nick Chown (The Bolshoi). So were all these people that big in Argentina, then?
As a small boy, I remember getting shriekingly excited over a series of clip-together plastic cartoon figures being given away with some breakfast cereal at the time. I pestered my poor mum to buy every box of this cereal in the supermarket because I still hadn’t got the Yogi Bear figure, which was the one I reeeaally wanted. I can’t imagine that, had I been a small Argentinian boy, I’d have run round the kitchen with my pants on my head at the possibility of finding a little spinning top bearing a picture of Vom Ritchie from Die Toten Hosen in my Sugar Puffs. I mean, Vom is a great drummer and all that, but he’s no Yogi Bear.