Friday, 17 May 2013

Toy Tinplate Excavator

Any reader of my blog who has read more than a few posts will know that I’m fond of excavators and old machinery. Modelling wise I usually only exercise that interest in 1:35 scale - see this post. The other day I was charmed by a tinplate excavator at a flea market. The asking price was low and although I’m usually very hard to tempt I couldn’t resist bringing the toy home. The sheer simplicity of the toy, the bright colours, its size and the fact that it had Cyrillic letters impressed in its plate work was too much for me. (Having studied Russian I find machinery with relation to Russia particularly interesting.)
The excavator posing in the grass. The cyrillic letters 'AZLK' on the front of the frame.
Rear view of the excavator with bucket raised. What is supposedly the year of manufacture is cleverly positioned as to mimic the usual position of the painted on Soviet license number.
The excavator certainly isn’t one of those antique British or German tinplate toys that fetch huge prices at collectors’ auctions. With Cyrillic letters I wasn't in doubt that it was of Eastern European or Russian origin. A search on the internet showed the letters to be an acrynom for 'Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola' (no wonder they needed the acrynom!). Apart from the famous passenger car 'Moskvitch' AZLK apparently also produced toys. Judging from this article, their toys were well made and heavy. From the article (well written and worth a read, by the way) it seems AZKL stamped year of manufacture into their toys. In that case my example was made in 1972. From my knowledge the toy is not attempting to look like any known type of Soviet excavator.

As a toy the excavator must have been taken rather well care of. Its condition can be described as only less than pristine. The two wheel axles are a little bent, it seems the original wire has been replaced and there is minor scratching of paint here and there. Judging from a single image found on the internet my excavator is missing all the windows that were originally fitted. But there is no sign of rough handling and I found no deposits of sand or dirt in the excavator’s nooks and crannies. The excavator even came with an extra clam shell bucket (made from 2 mm steel) to complement its face shovel rigging.

Now only two things are needed. Figure out where to display the big excavator and perhaps give the machine a minor overhaul. Should you, dear reader, know more about the excavator’s origin or history, please leave a comment.

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