Amassed over nearly half a century, many in pristine condition and still in their original boxes, a haul of toy cars lovingly collected by a Fordham enthusiast could fetch in excess of £100,000 when it goes under the hammer next month.
The mass of tiny vehicles, many made by the iconic names of the toy industry Dinky, Matchbox, Corgi, and Chad Valley, were the passion not of a small boy, but of a man who only started collecting when he was 40 after his wife bought him back a toy car as a present from Scotland.
For the next 50 years Rodney Count, formerly of Mildenhall Road, was a regular at toy fairs, swap-meets, steam rallies and toy auctions all over the country buying a huge range of toys but in particular the tiny cars and lorries that had once been every boy’s dream.
Rodney, who was 90 when he died earlier this year at Newmarket’s Kingfisher House care home, and his late wife Marion, had no children of their own, so the new toys he bought were never subjected to the rough and tumble of play and remained untarnished.
Bury St Edmunds-based auctioneers Lacey Scott and Knight were contacted by Rodney’s family and asked to sell his collection, but nothing could have prepared their experts for what they saw when entering the former flower grower’s home.
“I had never seen anything like it,” said Oliver Leggett, the firm’s toys and models department manager.
“Virtually every inch of floor and wall space was covered in toys and models of every description. No sooner had one cabinet been cleared, than another one appeared behind it laden with more toys. It gradually dawned on me that we were going to need to schedule a stand-alone sale.”
The toys now form what has been dubbed the Rodney Count Collection, which contains 1000 lots.
“It is without doubt one of the biggest owner sales we have ever handled,” said Oliver “and we are expecting that there will be very widespread interest in it. I am pleased to say there is something for everybody in there, everything from the affordable to high value serious collectors. There are some items which were play-worn when Rodney bought them, but the majority are in wonderful condition.”
Rodney’s collection revealed he had a particular liking for tinplate toys and the sale includes some fine British and German-made examples. But the familiar manufacturers’ names are there too.
Rodney would have been just 10 years old when Dinky Toys were first produced in Liverpool and 18 years later Matchbox began making toy vehicles with the firm’s name taken from its early packaging which was similar to a box of matches. Of all the hundreds of vehicles he owned, Rodney’s personal favourite is a Chad Valley tinplate and clockwork games delivery van, which is expected to fetch between £150 and £200 in the sale.
Rodney is survived by his sister Miriam, now 88, who said she and her brother, were two of four children growing up in “quite a hard-up household.”
“There was not a lot of money around for food let alone toys in those days,” she said. “Rodney left school at 14 and started work as a ploughman. Later he and my father got the chance to buy some land in Fordham and eventually they had around 10 acres. My brother became a flower grower and I helped him, weeding the fields while he ploughed them. He was noted grower of Scabious particularly the blue Goldingensis variety, and cornflowers, and he sent them to markets all over the country. I remember us taking boxes and boxes of flowers every day to Fordham station.”
Miriam said she knew about her brother’s passion for collecting cars. “We opened a drawer in the house once and it was full of hundreds of cars, many without boxes. Just as he used carefully pack his flowers, Rodney had them all wrapped up, he told us to be very careful with them as he didn’t want them to get scratched.”
The specialist sale will take on place at Lacey Scott and Knight in Bury St Edmunds on Friday November 20 at 10am. The collection can be viewed on Thursday November 19 from noon to 7pm and from 9am on sale day.