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A Rare Marusan Tinplate Cadillac

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Model Cars913 of 1774Birkenkamp & Schleuter W/U dump truck w/ box 1952My first Cycle
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Posted 3 years ago

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t54
(6 items)

In 1951, the Japanese Marusan Company was trying to become a viable tin toys business. With the financial and managerial help from the American Armed Forces under General MacArthur's command, the reborn Japanese toy industry was able to become the country's largest exporter, bringing much-needed currency to the nearly-destroyed country.
Marusan secured the services of Matsuzou Kosuge, a well-known toy maker before the war, to produce what would become one of the all-time classic toys ever made, the 1951 Cadillac. This was produced as a friction-powered toy, as a self-propelled battery-powered version as well as a cable-controlled version with a steering wheel on top of a battery box.

The toy was made of stamped steel with a painted body and chassis base, with a lithographed steel-sheet interior. The tires are real rubber but the whitewalls are stamped and painted steel rings. The wheels are steel as well as the whole friction mechanism. The windows are acetate, stamped from flat sheet. The paint quality is outstanding for a toy, and there are over 150 pieces in each, over 200 in the electric versions. All were assembled by women over long tables, the final product boxed, then packed into large wooden crates for export to American toy stores.

The colors were very precise, the more common friction-powered model painted in gray, with less common versions in black or red, and in 1953 after the success of "A Solid Gold Cadillac" movie featuring Judy Holliday, a... gold version.

The self-propelled electric battery powered models were yellow with a green roof, and that was an actual Cadillac factory color scheme
However, the friction-powered models were never produced in that color scheme. At least that is what all the books and documentation, including that of the still existing Marusan company itself, advanced.

Out of the blue surfaced this brand new, mint in its original box model, that contradicts all previously known information, a yellow and green model, but friction-powered and without the electric headlights and taillights of the "electric" model.
After insuring myself that this was not a restored car, stripped and repainted in the "wrong" color, I had to accept that it is real. Here is the beast, recently discovered in an online estate sale:
It is always nice as a collector, to find something that is supposed to never have existed... but does!

The question now, is why American toy companies appear to have been unwilling or incapable to produce such beautiful toys in the early 1950's, when the market was so ripe for them, and left the market wide open for Japan? The products of toy companies like Tonka or Smith-Miller were never this nice. And Japan produced over the years and until the dreaded advent of plastic, many more tinplate models of Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Buick, some even nicer than this Cadillac.
I have often wondered.

Comments

  1. Pop_abides Pop_abides, 3 years ago
    The answer to your question about why Japan got the market and US companies let them have it was that one particular cost was so much cheaper in Japan.........LABOR...........and they were subsidized by the MacArthur Plan.
  2. t54, 3 years ago
    Pop, sorry to disagree with you. It was not a matter of cost, as these Japanese toy cars like the one I show, were more expensive on the American market than domestically produced vehicles of the same general size, such as the ones by Louis Marx. It was a simple question of design and purpose. Other than for isolated cases, the American automotive toys since the very beginning of the 20th century, were very utilitarian compared to those made in France, Germany or Japan. A simple matter of letting engineers with no soul for design handle the shape of the final product. I have tons of examples to prove this if you want to hear some, and as a former designer for the Cox toy company, I fought hard to get the engineers out of the styling department.
    Apparently, the Japanese toy industry did not have that problem, and neither did they when they began producing their magnificent (and very reliable) motorcycles that sunk the British and part of the American motorcycle industry not on cost (they were generally more expensive) but on quality. The same applies here: that Cadillac in my opening post, retailed for $2.75 in 1952 (I have a box with price stickler to prove it). A corresponding toy car of the same general size made by Marx in America was retailing for a dollar less.
  3. vincentanton vincentanton, 2 years ago
    It sounds like the American manufacturers products fell victim to 'design by committee'.
  4. Bootson Bootson, 2 years ago
    I like your "Cattle-yak".
    How about a pic of the box too and maybe something to show scale?

    Damn those engineers ... always so practical.
  5. t54, 2 years ago
    I am not sure if I can post a picture in the reply, but the toy is quite large at 12.5" long, very substantial. A picture of the box can be found on a page of my toy website, that I invite you to browse:
    http://www.tsrfcars.com/toys-cadillac_marusan_friction_yellow.htm
    Having been in the toy industry for many years, I have learned from the four companies I worked for that the powers that be in each had little interest in what children really wanted, and frankly had fairly low regard for their intellect as kids. It saddened me and I actually imposed a styling department in the last company I worked for, overseeing and correcting the very poor cosmetic designs from the engineering department. For the engineers there, it was just a job, "9 to 5, quick let's get out of here!"
    I guess the Japanese and German companies were singing to a different tune...
    There are many beautiful such toys on my website, so please feel free to go from link to link!

  6. Bootson Bootson, 2 years ago
    Thanks for the link, -wonderful things.
  7. vincentanton vincentanton, 2 years ago
    Is this collection housed in Northern California!!??? Wow!
  8. t54, 2 years ago
    Thanks for the nice comments. The collection is in California but at the other end. We tried to acquire and care for the best we could find, with no second-rate toys or artifacts accepted. We believe that good taste must be part of the equation.
  9. nickman, 2 years ago
    Hello, My Dad gave me a Black Marusan Caddy sometime ago, Can anyone tell me what its worth. It is a friction model and in fair condition I would say, it is a bit scratched up this one was used when it was new before it sat on a shelf. I will add some pics on my profile.
  10. t54, 2 years ago
    In collecting anything, there are three criteria that are most important for determination of the monetary value of anything:
    -Condition
    -Condition
    -Condition
    Marusan Cadillacs were successful toys in their day and are easy to find on eBay and at public auctions, but few are pristine and most are only in fair, played with condition. Their value is greatly affected by their condition since they are not rare. The black ones are more difficult to find and bring more than the gray, and the red again more then the black ones.
    Assuming of course that they have not been restored, since restored examples are only worth a fraction of original toys.
    The one shown here is at this time, unique, so it is hard to value until maybe some day, another shows up.
    To be able to give you a valuation, you really need to show detailed pictures of the toy.
  11. nickman, 2 years ago
    ok thanks alot for the info.
  12. Leet, 1 year ago
    Well I don't know how common these cadillacs are, but there are only two on ebay, one is blue and one is black. I have an original 1957 & 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, that is more of a champagne color. If you know of other places they are selling please tell me. But ebay would indicate they are not common items.
    The blue one is listed for $2,000. The black one for $899, That does not give an indication of common. I would be very interested to see where there are more of these selling. I cannot find any with repeated searches on the internet. Thank You.
  13. t54, 1 year ago
    Dear Sir,
    In the past year alone on eBay USA, I must have seen as many as 50 of these Marusan Cadillacs, in many colors and configurations. I actually bought 3 of those myself, a black one and another gray example.
    There were never blue Marusan Cadillacs, so whatever you may be looking at is either not a Marusan item or is repainted in the wrong color.
    The only Marusan Cadillac I can find this minute in a primary search is item 390613121331, a gray example that is currently bid at $1450.00 because it is basically a mint, boxed item, and the box easily adds 50 to 70% to the value of an otherwise $1k item.

    The most common color for a standard, friction powered Marusan Cadillac is gray, with in order of scarcity, black, red, white, and that odd yellow with green roof presented here, that is a color for an electric model. The electric models are generally pale yellow with green roof, but a few are yellow with red rear fenders and roof. The cable-steered electric models are black, but there could be other colors. But blue, never. You might be looking at the copy made in Germany by Gama (Georg Mangold), but that's a 1953 model. Those came in various colors in which medium metallic blue is one.
  14. Leet, 1 year ago
    I went and posted pictures of mine, guess it ended up in model cars/tin cars. I am not sure if this is the grey color you are referring to. But they have a blue one if you search Marusan Cadillac, you will see a black one and a blue one. I know different searches and how people categorize them affects a search. But thanks for the info. I haven't been tracking them as long as you but I am interested that's why I was asking where to look.
    I have also been selling Pocher models. My uncle came across a nice collection of them. He has given them to me and I am selling them for my son's college fund, ugh school is so expensive. But these seem to have some good value in the market also.
    But that is interesting about the blue one. This is the title :LIMITED EDITION Repro RARE GM Marusan BLUE CADILLAC Friction Classic Car Tin Toy: But I see it says Reproduction here. Didn't notice that before.
    Take a look at the pics I posted and let me know if this is the color you are referring to.
    Thanks for the reply, Have a good one!
  15. t54, 1 year ago
    Hi,
    Thank you for the added information. The blue Cadillac in question is of a 1957 Eldorado Brougham, and its design can hardly be compared to that of a 1951 Sedan De Ville!
    That blue Caddy is a new toy designed for collectors, made in the year 2000 by the successor of the Marusan company in Japan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their company. It is a nice toy, but has no real collectible value and likely never will, as with the vast majority of "limited editions" of anything designed to pry money from people with more cash that the education needed to invest in something that will grow in value as well as be a pleasant shelf display.
    The Japanese dealer selling it is well known for his delusional opening bids and must live on Mars: the original price for these Caddies, issued in black, blue or gold in the year 2000, was $250.00. At $2000.00, the guy is in full-mode craziness. And as for virtually all of his auctions, he will never get a bid on it.
    Now and to repeat, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Cadillac toy that is the subject of this thread... that is a genuine 1953 toy of a 1951 car... :)
    Pocher kits are cool, but not for me because the bodies are plastic, and plastic in my house is against my toy religion. However lots of people like these, so unless they are poorly assembled and pieces have fallen off, you should have little trouble selling them. Unbuilt kits in pristine boxes bring maximum dollars, assembled cars are often offered at crazy prices but almost never sell at those high prices. I have seen many assembled cars (like the Rolls or one of the Alfas) at public auctions where the opening bids were like $1500.00, and the auctioneer had to lower his ambitions down to as low as $100.00 just to get a bid, and most realistically sell around $250.00 to $300.00. An exceptionally well assembled car with its body finely painted, will sell for a grand. The kits routinely bring $500.00 or more.
  16. Leet, 1 year ago
    Ahhh, That put's a new light on things. lol Now I know why he is charging so much! So I lowered my price to compensate for the lack of collectability on mine. I do try to be fair with people.
    I do have a plastic Bugatti Pocher, But I also have an unassembled red Testors Pocher Ferrari Testarossa. This one weighs in about ten pounds and is sturdy metal. Much unlike the Pochers I have had before. So I am not sure if they teamed up with Testor's or Testor's bought the name.
    Not sure what I am going to sell this one for until I review the contents and see how complete it is.
    You are very knowledgeable on these subjects and it has been an enjoyable learning experience for me. I am glad there are still folks that are willing to share their expertise with us less informed masses.... :-)
    Lee
  17. t54, 1 year ago
    The Pocher company went bankrupt in the late 1990s, so it is not impossible that part of the proceedings of the bankruptcy were a deal with Testors to market a quantity of their Ferrari model in the USA.
    I am told that the company is now out of bankruptcy but the market for new production of these older kits looks somber as production costs today in Italy would make those kits virtually unsaleable. What they did instead is to make a new model of a Lamborghini Aventador that you can see here:
    http://www.pocher.com/index_en.php#nuremberg
    Fine for some, personally it leaves me absolutely as cold as the full-size car.
    I guess my taste is vastly different from such utterly unusable rockets on wheels in a world of virtual fascist enforcement of stupid traffic laws.
    I guess to each his own, I prefer more discreet and especially more efficient transportation... :)
  18. Leet, 1 year ago
    Hmm very interesting. The pictures you provided are not what I have but I see what you mean. Looks like every other car now. I like the older ones, they dripped of testosterone. The lines were superb.
    Yes, the fascist traffic laws are getting ridiculous. I totally agree! A camera on every corner, thanks big brother.
    You have a great day!
  19. smellysmp, 11 months ago
    does anybody know how to change a tire on one of these marusan cadillacs. i got some information but it called for drilling out the brass or bronze bushing this would be fine except its the drive wheel and it appears that it is a press fit.
    thanks
    mike
  20. t54, 11 months ago
    Mike,
    The only way to remove the drive wheel is to use a tool that you will have to make yourself, a "puller". It will be made from a chunk of 1" thick aluminum stock, milled in its center, opened on one long side just enough to clear the axle, the other long side drilled and tapped for a long screw of which end will have been machined to a shade under the diameter of the car's drive axle. In other words, you need access to a mill machine and a small lathe...
    Once the tool made, the wheel cover is gently lifted with a thin blade, the tool slipped over the wheel and the wheel carefully pulled from the axle. Any removal attempt made without such a specialized tool will turn into complete disaster and destruction as the mostly old dried-up rubber wheel will pull from its small steel hub and break apart. This is why it is important that the tool barely clear the axle, so that it will rest on the hub and not the rubber.
    been there, done that...
    Regards,
    T54
  21. smellysmp, 11 months ago
    hey thanks for the details i can see where you have been there, but let me back up a little, i did have a little puller and it worked quit well taking the rim off the axle but there already was not a tire, so what i have left is the back hub and the front whitewall piece connected together with a with a piece of brass. i need to get them apart without damage to then reinstall it. i do have some extra wheels that i can use for the tire but the hole seems to be a little too big to use for the press install. hope there is a solution.
    thanks mike
  22. t54, 11 months ago
    Yep, you are in a pickle... not sure on how to separate the two bits!
  23. camia, 11 months ago
    There is a light blue '51 Caddy on eBay right now. I have an identical blue color one that a neighbor, an elderly man, gave to me. He says he played with it as a boy and it has always been blue, never painted. It is complete with the exception of the windows which he said fell out soon after he received the car. You can easily tell by the wear and paint application that it is original and not repainted. I would love to hear thoughts???
  24. t54, 11 months ago
    Hi,
    It must be by another company because Marusan never made that toy in a light blue color. It could be a convertible by Nomura, there was one in pale blue. It could be a 1953 version by Gama, they produced it in light blue.
    If you are sure that it is the same toy as shown in the first post, are you sure that the "light blue" is not "light gray"? Often, a digital picture will show the gray car to be blue. If you are sure, it would be nice to have the auction number for verification, it would take only a few seconds to find out what it actually is...

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