This is an HTML version, with additional photos and updates (shown in blue), of the original article,
published in four parts in Diecast Collector November 2006 to February 2007 inclusive.


Put your mouse over the thumbnail images to see the picture caption, and click on the thumbnail to enlarge.

The printed catalogue for 1953 included models 1 to 19 (without numbers) - these were numbered in the copy with handwritten amendments, and other new models were also added by hand to the list.  I have therefore dated these additions to 1954.  The next printed catalogue I have (which of course has numbers printed in it) is 1955, and this had further new introductions.
Charbens No.20 Mobile Crane - earlier versionCharbens No.20 Mobile Crane - later versionCharbens No.20 Mobile Crane - boxesCharbens No.20 Mobile Crane - later version with rubber wheels
No.20 Mobile Crane
Length 83mm (excluding jib), 1954 to 1967, inividually boxed.
CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND cast underneath.  There was a winding handle with a ratchet to raise the hook.  If you can find a working example you are lucky, as metal fatigue usually destroys or jams some or all of the components.
(1)  Red body, green chassis, unpainted or yellow jib, solid metal wheels.
(2)  Orange body, green or light blue chassis, yellow or light blue jib, yellow or red plastic wheels with rubber tyres, or solid rubber wheels.
Charbens No.21 Muir Hill DumpersCharbens No.21 Muir Hill Dumper - with plastic dumper
No.21 Muir Hill Dumper with driver
Length 110mm, 1954 to 1967, boxed in half dozens till 1957, then
individually boxed.
This was not one of the handwritten catalogue amendments, but was mentioned in a Charbens advert in Games & Toys, January 1954.  The dumper is a very common toy, which coupled with the fact that it's a boring model means examples are usually cheap! 
CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND cast underneath.  Colours:
(1)  Beige with green or red dumper, unpainted wheels with green hubs, dark brown driver.
(2)  Orange with green or yellow dumper, light blue wheels with silver hubs, tan or green driver.
(3)  Red with yellow plastic dumper, unpainted wheels with yellow hubs, light brown driver.
The separate casting of the driver on his seat can also be found in plastic.
Charbens No.22 Travelling Zoo (earlier version)Charbens No.22 Travelling Zoo (earlier version) - note the bowing wagon roofs caused by metal fatigueCharbens No.22 Travelling Zoo or Circus (later version)Charbens No.22 Travelling Circus with plastic animals (photo by Vectis Auctions)Charbens Zookeepers - (left) hollow cast lead, (right) diecast zinc
No.22 Travelling Zoo Set
Length about 285mm, 1954 to 1967, individually boxed.
In contrast to the Muir Hill Dumper, the zoo set can be one of the most expensive Charbens pieces because it is hard to find complete and undamaged by metal fatigue.  One side of each cage was hinged at the top to allow the animals to be placed inside.  CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND was cast underneath the cage chassis.
The animals were usually lead hollow castings, later plastic.  The elephant had CHARBENS cast on the blanket on one side, and MADE IN ENGLAND on the other, while the lions and polar bears were at first unmarked, and later each had ENGLAND cast underneath.  The zookeeper was the same casting as the milkman from no.25, and can be found hollow cast in lead or diecast in zinc.  The lead version measures 50mm high overall, while the diecast version is slightly shorter at 46mm.  You can usually recognise the lead version by the pour hole at the top of the figure.  Colours:
(1)  Cages with red chassis, unpainted bars and yellow roof, solid metal wheels.
(2)  Cages with orange chassis, light blue bars and yellow roof, yellow or red plastic wheels, rubber tyres.
All models had yellow shafts, a grey elephant with red trim, two white polar bears, two light brown lions and a zookeeper in dark blue or black. 
The plastic elephant has been reissued by Plastics from the Past*.
The usual card boxes were labelled "Travelling Zoo", but the later colour model comes in a "Charbens Circus" window box.  I have not seen any other Charbens vehicles in window boxes.

No.23 Water Pistol
1955 to 1958, boxed in dozens.
I have mentioned this for completeness in the number sequence, but it is really outside the scope of our review, and anyway I don't recall ever having seen one!
Charbens No.24 Costermonger's Donkey Carts, post-war - lead version (left), diecast version (right)
No.24 Costermonger's Cart with Donkey & Basket
Length 121mm, 1954 to 1955, boxed in half dozens.
There were two pre-war Costermonger's Cart of different designs (see the pre-war article). 
Post-war there were two further carts, first lead and then zinc diecast, with figures of a grey painted donkey and brown or grey man, and a basket (painted beige) which looks like a top hat upside down!  The donkey was initally hollow-cast lead, with RD cast underneath, which is found on many pre-war Charbens items (presumably "Registered Design").  This was followed by a zinc diecast version, cast in two halves.  The costermonger figure also started as a lead hollow casting, later solid diecast zinc.  Details of the two post-war carts are:
(1) Lead cart painted green, with red or yellow wheels.  CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND cast underneath, also CHARBENS cast on the top surface of the cart.  Two types of wheel can be found, first a twelve spoke design, which I think is lead as it comes on some pre-war carts (see the picture of the pre-war Milk Cart).  This was replaced by a 10-spoke zinc diecast wheel.
(2) Diecast cart including side rails, painted red or light green with yellow 10-spoke wheels.  CHARBENS LTD. MADE IN ENGLAND cast underneath.
The lead post-war cart is quite common, but the diecast version is rare.
Charbens No.25 Pony & Milk Cart (post-war)Charbens Milkmen - (left) hollow cast lead, (right) diecast zinc
No.25 Pony & Milk Cart
Length 109mm, 1955, boxed in half dozens.
Both this and the Coster Cart seem more common than you might expect from being in the catalogue for just a year or two, and I suspect may have been issued in the late 1940s, then dropped and revived in 1954/5.  There was a pre-war Milk Cart in lead with the lettering PURE MILK cast on either side of the cart
(see the pre-war article).  The post-war diecast version also appeared as "Donald Duck's Dairy" in the Disney series (see part 1) and the PURE MILK lettering was on paper labels.  The pony, milkman and churn can be found hollow cast or diecast (see the comments on the zookeeper under no.22).  On the diecast pony, the belly of the horse was not fully formed.  The diecast milk churn had a separately cast base.  CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND was cast underneath the cart.
Colours:  Yellow cart with red or light green 10-spoke wheels, brown pony, white man with dark blue or black trousers, unpainted milk churn.
Charbens No.26 Armoured CarCharbens No.26 Armoured Car with plastic turret and rear coverCharbens No.26 Armoured Car - plastic versionCharbens No.26 Armoured Car - plastic version (reissue)
No.26 Armoured Car
Length 94mm (metal version), 99mm (plastic version), 1954 to 1967, boxed in half dozens till 1960, then
individually boxed.
There was a pre-war lead Armoured Car of a different design (see the pre-war article).  The post-war version is quite a good model of a Humber Armoured Car.  The turret rotates.  Curiously, the hatch cover panel at the rear was a separate casting, and consequently is often missing.  The metal wheels were the same as used on the no.6 Tractor.  No identification was cast on the model.
(1)  Khaki body, metal wheels, plastic aerial on turret.
(2)  Desert sand body, rubber wheels, no aerial.
(3)  Desert sand body, rubber wheels, plastic turret and rear hatch cover.
There was also an all-plastic version from a new mould, in sand-coloured plastic with rubber wheels.  The green plastic model pictured is a reissue by Plastics from the Past*.
Games & Toys advert for the clockwork tractorBox for the Charbens clockwork tractor (photo Paul Mellor)Charbens No.27 Large Tractor (clockwork)Charbens No.27 Large Tractor with boxCharbens No.27 Large Tractor - later version (missing exhaust)
Charbens No.27 Large Tractor with colour picture boxNo.27 Large Tractor
Length 115mm, 1951 then 1955 to 1967,
individually boxed.
From 1st March 1951 to May 1952 there was a ban on using zinc, brass and copper in toy production, due to the Korean war.  This particularly affected diecast toy manufacturers, since the alloy used for diecast toys is mostly zinc.  In Games & Toys March 1951, Charbens advertised a clockwork tractor (see illustration), available "while supplies last".  No doubt only a small number were produced before the metal ban, hence the clockwork tractor is very rare.  It was reintroduced without a motor as no.27 Large Tractor in 1955.  The model is cast in two halves, and the motor was sandwiched between the two castings.  The motor drove the front wheels, and in the non-mechanical version there is a circle in the casting on the left side of the engine where the key hole was blanked off in the die.
Colours of the clockwork version were orange body with silver trim, unpainted wheels with green hubs.
Even the non-motorised tractor is quite scarce.  Metal fatigue is usual, sometimes affecting one side of the model but not the other.  The front axle is attached to a sheet metal pressing.  MADE IN ENGLAND cast underneath.  Colours were:
(1)  Red body, unpainted wheels with yellow hubs, unpainted seat, steering wheel, exhaust and air cleaner.
(2)  Orange body, including seat, steering wheel
, exhaust and air cleaner which were then given silver trim (the silver trim was later omitted).  Light blue wheels with silver hubs.
For details of drivers, see no.6.  The box illustrated in the fourth picture has no.33 printed on the label, but "no.27" is written on the end in ink.  It was always no.27 in the catalogues, and I think this must just be a case of a misprint on the box labels.
Charbens No.28 Diesel Road Roller (missing roof)Charbens No.28 Diesel Road Roller (no flywheel)Charbens "Panorama Series" gift set with metal vehicles and plastic figures
No.28 Diesel Road Roller
Length 105mm, 1954 to 1967,
boxed in half dozens till 1960, then individually boxed.
Generally similar to the Dinky and Lesney road rollers, but much harder to find.  CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND was cast high up inside the casting underneath and it can be difficult to see the name.
Colours:  Green or light green, red wheels, with or without unpainted flywheel.
Also pictured is a "Panorama Series" roadworks boxed set.
Charbens No.29 Mincing MachineCharbens No.29 Mincing MachineCharbens No.29 Mincing Machine
No.29 Mincing Machine
Length 100mm (excluding fixing screw), 1954 to 1962, 
individually boxed.
This item of toy kitchen equipment is another piece which is really outside the scope of this article, but as I have one to hand I can show you what it was like.  Actually several manufacturers made similar toy mincers, no doubt for use on plasticine.  CHARBENS and MADE IN ENGLAND cast.  Colours: yellow or green.
Charbens No.30 Scammell Mechanical Horse - LNERCharbens No.30 Scammell Mechanical Horse - GWRCharbens No.30 Scammell Mechanical Horse - GWRCharbens No.30 Scammell Mechanical Horse - GWR
No.30 Scammell Mechanical Horse & Trailer
Length 125mm, 1955.  Individually boxed according to the 1955 catalogue, but I have seen them boxed in half dozens (see photo above).
Quite a reasonable model, and not hard to find in the GWR version since a quantity of old shop or warehouse stock turned up and was sold to collectors.  The LNER version is harder to locate.  The model was only in the catalogue for one year, but I wonder if it was actually released in the late 1940s, then dropped (possibly due to the zinc ban in 1951-2) and reintroduced in 1955.  The use of pre-1948 railway company liveries supports this theory.  Maybe the LNER version was not reintroduced, which would explain why it is less common.  CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND cast under the cab roof.  Update:- a correspondent tells me that he had the LNER version as a child in the late 1940s, which confirms the earlier date.
(1)  Dark blue cab and trailer, LNER paper labels on doors.  The model on the left in the photo above is a more greenish shade of dark blue.
(2)  Dark brown cab, light brown trailer, GWR paper labels on doors.
Charbens No.31 Bedford Low Loader with Cable DrumCharbens No.31 Bedford Low Loader with Cable Drum (photo by Vectis Auctions)Charbens No.31 Bedford Low Loader with Cable Drum (photo by Lacy Scott & Knight)Charbens No.31 Bedford Low LoaderCharbens No.31 - colour picture box
No.31 Bedford Articulated Low Loader with Cable Drum
Length 159mm, 1955 to 1962, inividually boxed.
The tractor unit was a reasonable attempt at a Bedford, although the headlamps were put on the wings rather than attached to the grille.  The low loader trailer had a winch at the front with a separate brake lever, and a string to lower the hinged tailboard.  The load was a cable drum (cast in two halves with a separate winding handle and axle).  This rested in a diecast cradle.  Usually metal wheels, but a late version had plastic wheels with tyres.
Colours:  Red, blue or green cab; yellow trailer and tailboard; red cradle; unpainted cable drum with green or dark blue sides.
No identification cast on model, or with MADE IN ENGLAND CHARBEN (sic) cast under the cab, and CHARBENS MADE IN ENGLAND cast under the trailer.  This later version also had a towing hook added to the cab unit, for no obvious reason.

Hollow Cast Civilian Toy Figures by Norman Joplin and Philip Dean, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2005.
Plastics from the Past have reissued some plastic Charbens items from original moulds.  See
Photos by Michel Sordet are taken from Les Jouets Anglais au 1/43 (CD-ROM), published by MaCollection,

© Robert Newson