Meccano from Otherland Toys
What is Meccano?
Meccano is a model building toy, comprising plates and strips made from metal that can be screwed together using nuts and bolts. Meccano sets also have wheels, axles and sometimes motors so that a range of items can be constructed.
Many of the original metal parts from Meccano kits have become highly collectable and are traded on online auction sites such as eBay. People who study the toy are affectionately named "Meccanomen", although there are also lots of "Meccanowomen".
When was it invented?
It was invented by Frank Hornby in 1901, and was originally called "Mechanics Made Easy". It wasn't until 1908 when demand had become well established that he founded Meccano Ltd to manufacture and market the toy. Offices were subsequently opened in France and Germany. Incidentally, Frank Hornby also invented Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys.
What is Meccano's recent history?
After suffering financial difficulties, Meccano was bought out by Tri-ang in 1964, and in 1970 electronic parts were introduced. After Tri-ang went into liquidation, Airfix bought Meccano in 1972. In 1980 Airfix also had financial problems and closed down the UK manufacturing plant of Meccano. Meccano was still manufactured in France, now under the ownership of General Mills, a US toy company.
General Mills introduced the "Meccano Junior" set which contained plastic parts, so removing Meccano from its engineering roots.
Further changes of ownership took place in the company, leading to the current owners of the brand, Nikko, a Japanese company, buying Meccano in 2000. However, many Meccano purists prize the original metal Meccano the most, and the current motors are not as heavy duty as those of the past.
Meccano is still enjoyed by collectors around the world and Meccano models are exhibited each year at Skegness, Henley and other locations.
Meccano is to gain a new Robotic add-on, thanks to a new parts pack that includes an interface to the internet and an articial eye. This new 210 piece pack is called "Spyke" and has been exhibited at toy fairs around the world. It is basically a kit to build a WiFi Spy Robot!
However, Nikko is well aware of the army of fans who love the original Meccano, and they are continuing to manufacture vintage sets for the construction of cranes et al.