By Robin Godwin
All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
I have just received the reproduction Mercury Volkswagen Beetle in Swiss Post (PTT) livery from an Italian dealer. The package includes model, box and a pamphlet (in Italian only) specific to the model, which retails in Italy for 14.99 Euros.
The Volkswagen is number 6 in a series of reproductions of early Mercury vehicles from the 50s, generally done to a scale of 1:48. [Editor – more about this range of reproductions may be found in articles written by Fabrizio Panico elsewhere on this website]. The Beetle itself was initially issued in 1955 (the PTT version came along in 1956), hence the casting is pretty much the same level of fidelity as contemporary Dinky Toys and the recent reproductions of that range. Interestingly, the Dinky reproductions were cast by Norev, and marketed by DeAgostini or Editions Atlas, with the Dinky trademark owned by Mattel. The included pamphlet indicates that Mercury is a registered trademark used under license, but doesn’t indicate who owns it, and nowhere does it say who casts it. The pamphlet also identifies Marco Batazzi as the reference for the historical background. Marco is an acknowledged Volkswagen expert/author, and has also written an excellent book on Volkswagen toys, which compliments both the Houchangnia and Schroeder VW Beetle books. The great Italian collector/author Paolo Rampini is credited with some of the photos of original Swiss PTT models. So it is clear that there has been some real collector input into this effort.
In this article, I’ll provide a photo comparison of an original Mercury Volkswagen, a Scottoy reproduction in white metal, and this Hachette model. Jonathan Scott did a series of reproductions of early Mercurys around the turn of the millennium. These were covered in print versions of MAR at the time. The Scottoy shown here was purchased in 2002. The original Mercury was purchased 30 years ago at a French toy show (and wasn’t inexpensive then).
Left, Hachette; centre, original Mercury; right, Scottoy, which came with windows and an interior. You can just discern that the windscreen opening is larger on the Hachette
Easy to see that the Hachette (left) is from a new master/mould in the engine vents, license plate fairing and the plate mounting itself. Close inspection of the Scottoy (right)strongly suggests that an original Mercury (centre)was the master for the white metal version
It’s impossible to mistake either reproduction for an original
Original box in the middle features stronger colours and a smaller font size for the “15”
Hachette box on bottom features cleaner printing and more of a maroon band than red
Hachette box, left, has the maroon/red band running continuously around one whole edge of the box. The original is offset. The original also has a hole in the middle of one side to view the colour of the enclosed model without having to remove it – missing on the repro box. There are no markings on the repro to indicate it is a Hachette reproduction, so future buyers of mint/boxed original Mercurys should be aware of the box differences. At least the Atlas/DeAgostini Dinky boxes have lots of additional legal information on one side of the box, which is a dead giveaway that they are a repro. I believe the PTT version was sold in the standard box, but the Mercury book by Bocco, Clemente, Coen, Perego and Pontoni illustrates a PTT version sitting atop an early #15 non-illustrated manilla toned box, featuring blue descriptive printing.
The pamphlet cover is a reproduction of the 1950 Mercury catalogue cover. Beautiful evocative artwork, but it predates the models that are being reproduced by Hachette
A trio of fairly recent PTT Volkswagens – Hachette, left, Editions Atlas Dinky Toy, middle, and a proper 1:43 Minialuxe, right. The original Mercury came with three different PTT logos with the differences conveniently illustrated by these three models. Original Mercury logo was a decal, but the Hachette is tampo. Yellow/black colour separation is better on the Hachette than the original (based on photos in the pamphlet and other sources).
All-in-all, it’s a good reproduction and well worth the 15 Euros.