KEITH'S MECCANO PAGE
Meccano has been sold to SpinMaster, a sizeable company producing entertainment toys/games. That may put some spark into development of robotic products, distribution, and promotion, but uncertainty into licensed production of spare parts in the near term.
As of late 2016, sets are in several stores including a small independent one, and the Meccanoid robots are getting publicity for the Meccano name.
I've seen new Meccano in:
- Timeless Toys in Oak Bay
- Princess Auto
- Walmart, starting at $5. (yes, that's five, the old Pocket Meccano concept, an indiciation that Spinmaster and the Meccano experts in the French factory are thinking marketing)
- on the ToysRus.ca website, which helps you check stock in individual stores
So there's hope.
(Plus an expansion of the Meccanoids line down into lower prices with a dinosaur version using the same body part chunks to which traditional Meccano pieces can be bolted.)
(One confusion factor is that some stores in Canada have had sets labelled Erector and others labelled Meccano. Inside they are the same - Meccano parts not original Erector which has different screw thread and axle diameter. I saw only the Meccano name in Princess Auto (mostly old stock) and WalMart.)
My early impression is there are now three packaging colours about, in order of vintage:
- light blue background (last production under Tamiya ownership, labelled Made in France (production had been moving back to France from the Orient due to a shift in cost balance).
- darker blue background (probably early production under SpinMaster ownership, Calais France on the label, sets seemmuch like the last Tamiy production).
- white background with Meccano name in red.
In 2014-2015 SpinMaster were not supporting small stores, but didn't have any product in large stores in Canada either. Sounds like yet another bureaucracy, noting they have product managers and various titled staff.
My impression from SpinMaster PR including http://www.meccano.com is that users of Meccanoids can start easy with features such as the recording of limb positions, progress through dazzling with lights and sound, and progress to actual programming. See
Dave Williams' good Meccano site, has a link to where to buy Meccano but that site's information is out of date.
Erector Construction Sets (SCMEC is a good club for both classic Erector and Meccano)
Electronics in Meccano with link to a source of modules and software.
Russian copy of Meccano, circa 1991
Very nice Meccano site (New Zealand)
BC Meccano Modellers web page People whose main interest is building models.
Wikipedia's article on Meccano
Wikipedia's article on Erector, which has some shared history
Article on Keith's enjoyment of Meccano as a boy - to come
I have several new copies of this poster, received in trade.
You could purchase one or more, or trade for Meccano - contact me.
Availability of Meccano:
** NOT ALL ENTRIES CHECKED LATELY
- BC Shaver & Hobbies on Fort St. in Victoria had several sets, emphasizing normal construction use for older children, but do not have any left for Christmas 2014 and aren't interested in handling the brand anymore.
- Science Works on Oak Bay Ave. in the Victoria B.C. area closed due to business challenges and the owner's interest being primarily in telescopes. There was a home-based seller of scientific toys in the area.
- Down the block there were a few sets at Timeless Toys, a general toy store (not an antique store). Unlikely to have any left for Christmas 2014
- Lee Valley Tools has had a nostalgia-invoking Meccano set for sale, shown in their Christmas catalogue. The parts are in the style circa 1930, braced girders but no flex plates, red-green colours though technically more like 1950s shades. However, the bolt heads appear to be the hex socket type used in recent years, thus compatible with regular sets now in other stores. (The illustration shows a wrench for the traditional square nuts, whereas in recent decades Meccano has vacillated between hex and square nuts - there should be a wrench in each set.) That set was shown on the web sites of Borgfeldt and Lee Valley Tools in past years. I've also seen it in Science Works in the past. It's shown on Lee Valley's web site in late 2016 but they didn't answer my query for verification it is current.
- The Chapters/Indigo chain of bookstores was offering Meccano, at least on their web site, but no longer.
- And...ToysRUs stores have Meccano in early 2016, web site lists Meccano in late 2016.
Meccano's web site provides the manual for each set so you can see what parts are included.
The Meccano product has been sold to SpinMaster toy company of Toronto. What Meccano needs is an owner with ample pockets who is an enthusiast with good sense of business and both traditional markets and new ones like robotics. If anyone has such money and good values I am open to offers to manage the enterprise. ;-o
(Spinmaster was slow to spin up to get product into stores, they have produced a reasonable robot with a name reminiscent of Meccano (Meccanoid) and attachment holes for Meccano parts, and are getting publicity. There is hope.)
A 2004 brochure showed these sets:
> Meccano Heroes, fire rescue and castle sets with people figures, age 4+
> Yoocans, magnetic pieces that make cartoon figures and transportation vehicles, age 3-5
> plastic Meccano, in Construction, Creation and City themes, many sets, ages 4-8 (the Meccano concept but in larger pieces)
> real Meccano in a number of attractive sets, labelled Design or Multi Model, ages 8-14
> Special Edition sets, including well-known buildings & monuments, ferris wheel (evoking Erector), steam locomotive, and Crazy Inventors (goofy transportation apparatus, from old car to space ship)
You may get a feel for later variants at http://www.amazon.com (ensure your young child narrows the search to the Toys section as searching the entire site for "erector" will produce some "interesting" products whose educational impact you may want to defer to a more discerning age - you might also look in Books) or http://www.thesourcecc.com (and muck about to find comprehensive information).
Meccano sells a number of radio control automotive sets, one of which has a connection for an MP3 audio file player that it may have a carrying place for.
Meccano has been producing a large number of different sets, of varying colours, typically each is themed to a particular model though can build others. Some sets are quite small, selling for under $20.
In the U.S. the product is branded Erector, but the parts and even the included brochure say Meccano and are Meccano. Some interchange with traditional Erector is possible, due to half-inch hole spacing, but other parts such as screw threads are different. There may be some new parts that resemble traditional Erector, such as the long flanged plate shown in the ferris wheel illustration in the brochure. (As well, someone - perhaps Meccano and others - are selling sets referred to as classic Erector or such. I have not seen the parts so do not know if they are fully compatible with old Erector or just look-alike in colors and themes as some of the really-Meccano sets like Ferris Wheel are.)
I doubt that traditional large sets remain available, though Meccano's dedication to those has long fluctuated. (Independent dealers are selling spare parts, and there are third-party sources of special parts not produced by Meccano. See web site links above for leads.)
Spykee Robot update 2010
Was a rebranded Tamiya product, no longer offered as Meccano.
Heavy on audio/communications & lights, computer interface to setup, Internet access capability to check on your place, humanoid/insect appearance, about 32 cm tall. Check Spykee World for some details (click on different areas of the page for different versions, at least four). I cannot judge how great it is for robotics - many neat features, the home security robot application does seem very capable. Regardless, it shows some action by Meccano to embrace modern technology, especially programming by personal computer, and may raise awareness of the Erector/Meccano product line. Unfortunately it is not the equal of Lego Mindstorm, which is getting the buzz that Meccano had generations ago, with contests and use for the original purpose of Frank Hornby's efforts" - education (the "Mechanics Made Easy" start). [Beware that the name is spelled two ways on web sites covering it, Spyke and Spykee.]
There are smaller Spykee sets, appearing limited to audio functions, selling for well under $100.
Spykee appears to have little in common with other Meccano sets, it is probably a renamed version of a device from the new owners of Meccano, Nikko.
Contrary to what some people suggest, the finish and quality of Meccano production in recent years has been comparable to the Meccano of your youth - though the Speed Play robot, a product of recent owners Nikko, is poor quality in design and packaging. (If you had Meccano in the late 30s or late 60s and early 70s you may find that today's finish is more durable; if you had Meccano in the late 60s you may find that today's packaging is much more attractive as a gift. (And look for the molded plastic cases that can be used to store the parts after opening the package - years ago only the top end sets had cases (and very few people could afford those huge sets).) Plastics have been used well (gears run quieter, flex plates don't kink from bending - and besides plastic there is a new metal type that does not kink easily) and remote controls have been introduced. Motors are now DC for battery power, safer but perhaps not as powerful as the old AC motors with exposed workings.
The introduction of flexible plates, including triangular ones, especially the thin plastic plates, helped reproduce the more curved surfaces of airplanes and modern automobiles. (The Meccano braced girders and the braced configuration of traditional Erector strips reflect the beam and column configurations standard in bridges, buildings, and cranes at the time of introduction - separate flange and web (still seen today in roof beams of warehouse-style buildings, but not in cranes and bridges).
A wide range of parts have been produuced in the last few decades, some more broadly useable than others (the neat oriental dragon parts, for example, are rather specialized). But hey!, your grandfather may remember the ships funnel, loom parts, digger bucket, and railway parts from the 1920s, as well as the automobile and airplane sets.)
And one area that Meccano has advanced in, though not enough to suit market demand, is electrics and remote control. Perhaps the new owners will increase development in those areas, as they are in the remote control toy business, but they seem very slow (sadly, not competitive with other toys including a metal construction set sold by Radio Shack in the US and Lego Mindstorm).
Mind, Meccano had electrical sets years ago, including:
- a radio receiver set
- a lighting set, in part for the autombile sets
- the Elektron set, 20s/30s vintage IIRC
- the Elektrikit set in the late 60s, with solenoids, relays, and photocells.
- the Electrical Control set in the 70s, with a few parts similar to some in the Elektrikit, as well as a 4EL set that included electrical parts.
The B.C. Meccano Club was quite active again with meetings are a few times a year in the Greater Vancouver BC area, but is dwindling with negligible pre-planning of meeting dates for no good reason, and contradictory policies. Thanks especially to Linda Chow and Sam Chow for their initiative and ongoing work which resurrected the club and kept it up for a few years. It can be an enthusiastic bunch with much knowledge and leads to more, but suffers from having some troubled members so will be gone within ten years. I no longer associate with it, because it is not properly set up.
The BCMC newsletter is long defunct, the effort to produce a 20th anniversary edition floundered - material was given to an individual who has disappeared, hopefully some day the articles written for it will be published (some of us kept a copy of what we wrote).
(Good newsletters are produced by several groups around the world, including one in Ontario (Canadian Meccanotes?) and the Southern California Meccano and Erector Club - check the Internet (some links above).)
In the last decade the 100th anniversary of Meccano and the 20th anniversary of MCBC occurred.
Other toy products were produced by Meccano company. Dinky Toy cast vehicle models are the best known, but there were others like Bayko building blocks., Hornby trains, speedboats, and even chemistry sets.
© Keith Sketchley Page version 2016.12.11
Please advise Keith if any links don't work - sites change.
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