4 Jan 2020

Hamish Coney - Collector

From The Weekend with Emile Donovan, 9:25 am on 4 January 2020

Gerry Anderson created hugely popular puppet TV shows in the '60s - Thunderbirds, Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet -  and the toys which they spawned are still coveted today.

Hamish Coney is an avid collector of these sturdy Dinky toys

He says it stems from his boyhood fascination with the Andersons’ supermarionation puppet shows.

“The toys that were associated with them, that represent the vehicles and the rockets and Joe 90’s car etc, were the most prized possessions amongst me and my friends as children.

“As I recall they were pretty hard to get in New Zealand, there were Matchbox toys, but these die-cast Dinky toys were absolute best of breed. And anybody who had one or two was the subject of great jealousy.”

His current collection was assembled in later life.

“It's taken me years to assemble these. I might have had one or two when I was younger, but of course, you know, as a boy, you play with them, you break bits, you lose bits. But these are all ones that I have collected over the years. And these are in as perfect a condition as I could find them.

“So, there's an element of sadness, a slight mournfulness to them because they've never really been played with and only really admired by old tragic like myself.”

Finding these "childhood taonga” in pristine condition 50 years on is no easy task, he says.

“They’re pretty rare to find in their original packaging, unscratched with all the little rockets and figures and things intact.”

He says tracking down a pristine Thunderbird II was his Holy Grail.

“Thunderbird II is obviously the central rocket ship of the Thunderbirds TV series and due to the nature of how these are engineered, it's very, very difficult to find examples with all their component parts intact.”

He found his intact version in an Auckland toy shop.

“There was a shop for a period of time in Parnell. a kind of a die cast, tin plate toy shop - I'm going back now to the early 2000s - and there was a gentleman there who ran this fabulous toy shop. And he had it (Thunderbird II) there with an outrageous price on it.

"And I sat the visiting over a period of weeks, maybe even months, he held out for his price and eventually I thought well, I'm never going to find a better one.”

The purchase, despite the price, brought him much happiness.

“In my professional life I live in the contemporary art world, and so I'm used to looking at many, many items that give you intense joy and cultural experience.

“But I have to say, I don't think I've ever been happier in acquiring a kind of a personal taonga than I than I was when I finally took possession of Thunderbird II it was a really, really happy day. “

Dinky toys were solid, well-made objects, he says.

“All these conversations around British engineering and all the rest of it, these die-cast Dinky toys were incredibly well made and robust and finished and painted and detailed.

“They’re just extraordinarily well-made and they have so many functioning parts. When I compare them to plastic toys today, there really is simply no competition.”

And they’re heavy too, Hamish says.

"Good old British steel, you know, it's like shipbuilding steel, and when I pick these up, the weight of them, they're kind of almost like little gold bars. They’re so heavy because they’re sort of indestructible as long as they’re looked after they’ll last forever.”

He says the toys are a “mainline” back to his childhood.

“I probably share with lots of guys and women of my vintage ...  just sitting rapt in front of the TV, watching Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, they're kind of extraordinarily complex worlds that were created where there was always this constant battle between good and evil.”

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