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New Outfit Packaging (1959)

The 1959 packaging consisted of a box lid design showing a full-width Meccano logo printed in black on a yellow background, a pair of crossed perforated strips, and an illustration of a model that could be built with that outfit.  The parts were packed in yellow vacuum-formed trays divided into separate compartments.  

Mint outfit 1

Mint outfit 1

Packing consisted of the box lid, underneath which was a sheet of corrugated cardboard.  Next came the manual, a sheet of clear cellophane, the yellow tray containing the parts; and finally the bottom of the box.  The photograph shows a mint outfit No.1 The yellow tray partly removed from the bottom of the box.  The sheet of clear cellophane was spot-glued to the top of the plastic tray full of parts.  This explains some of the strange reflections in the photograph!  This set has been sealed up ever since it left the factory - over 50 years ago.

 

The outfits were originally supplied to dealers in brown paper wrappings.  These plain wrappings were usually removed by the dealer before displaying the outfits on the shelves.  This photograph shows three mint outfits from 1960 still in their original factory wrappings.  Sets still in their wrappings like this are understandably very rare today.  (Photo G. Rahn)

Outfits in wrappings

Some of the 1962-64 M sets have been found wrapped in cellophane instead of brown paper.  Not many of these wrapped sets have survived, and I personally do not remember them. It could be that the changeover to cellophane was quite late in the period.  Cellophane had the advantage that it didn't need to be removed by the dealer in order to display the outfit.  The exact date of the outfit in the photo is, of course, unknown as it is still sealed up!  (Thanks to S.Coultas for this discovery.)

These mushroom-headed pins, painted red and green, were used to hold the Strips and Flexible Plates in position in the vacuum-formed compartments.  This prevented them from becoming dislodged during transit.  Unfortunately, the pins were usually thrown away when the outfit was opened, and many of the outfits that survive no longer have them.  The pins came in at least two different lengths, and slight variations in their original positioning have been found.
 
Mushroom pins
In deep compartments, it was not possible to use pins to hold the parts in position, as they would have stuck out through the bottom of the box!  Some sets have been found to have certain strips packed on edge.  Packing the strips edgeways would have solved this problem, and where this method was used, one of the strips was bent slightly to hold them all in position.  When the plastic trays were redesigned for the 1962 outfits, some of the edges of the deep compartments had square, instead of rounded ends, to facilitate this method of packing.  (Thanks to R.Jaggard for this snippet.)
 
Alternative Packing
In the larger outfits, the rods were all packed together and wrapped in cellophane.  As the rods could not be used in this state, these wrappings are only found in unused outfits.
 

Rods

This photo shows typical damage to the box lids from this period.  In their wisdom, Meccano used sticky tape to stick the outfit lids down to the boxes along each side.  Unfortunately, this tape was usually ripped off clumsily by boys eager to get at the contents of their new Meccano outfits - especially in the excitement of Christmas morning!
 
Lid damage
Damage to the plastic trays is also very common.  The plastic was quite thin in places, and stacks of heavy Angle Girders and Strips frequently punched their way through the ends of the compartments.  The trays in the larger sets often cracked around the edges, due to the large unsupported area in the middle.  Meccano Ltd. should really have made the trays much thicker than they did, especially around the heavier parts.
 
Tray damage
Greg Rahn found this cardboard support underneath a late No.5 outfit from September 1961.  He is convinced that it is original, and provides some strong evidence in 'support'!  It is wrapped around the compartments for the long Strips and Angle Girders and provides support and reinforcement for the plastic tray.  Two other examples have recently come to light, both in No.5 sets.  (Photo courtesy G. Rahn) Cardboard support
Every Meccano outfit and product had a pale blue 'Guarantee Slip' partially glued to the underside of the lid in one corner.  The slip read:

"Tested and Guaranteed.  Each product made by Meccano Limited is thoroughly tested before it is despatched from the works and its efficiency is guaranteed.  When goods are returned for repair or rectification the greatest care should be taken in packing them to avoid damage in transit,  All enquiries should be sent direct to Meccano Limited, Binns Road, Liverpool 13, accompanied by this slip".

The guarantee slip was later printed in multiple languages and shortened to read:

"Tested and Guaranteed.  Each product made by Meccano Limited is thoroughly tested and its efficiency is guaranteed.  All enquiries should be sent direct to Meccano Limited, Binns Road, Liverpool 13, accompanied by this slip".

These guarantee slips are particularly useful for dating purposes, as they were overstamped with a simple code showing the date of production.  The English-only example above is from a No.2 outfit dated 7/61.  The multi-lingual one is from a No.6 outfit, dated 9/63

Guarantee slip

 

Variations in Outfit Lids

There were a number of subtle changes to the printing of the outfit lids between 1959 and 1961.  The exact dates of the changes are not certain, and there appears to have been some considerable overlap with different versions co-existing at the same time - particularly during 1961.  These changes are not documented in any Meccano reference work, and this could well be the first time that these details have come to light.

Version 1

This is thought to be the original 1959 version.  It is the most common one, and the one shown on the sales leaflets.

The 3 dots are printed in GREEN, the small text is in RED and GREEN, and the 'Outfit No.' is printed in WHITE.

This version has been found on a No.2 set dated July 1961, and on a No.1 and No.5 set dated as late as September 1961.

1959 lid

Version 2

This No.4 lid from September 1960 has the 3 dots printed in RED, the small text is in RED and BLACK, and the words 'Outfit No.' are missing.

(Photo courtesy C. Weston.)

1961 lid

Version 3

This 1961 outfit still has the three dots printed in RED, and the small text in RED and BLACK.  However, the words 'Outfit No.' are back again, this time in BLACK.

The earliest outfit seen with this lid is a No.1 dated April 1961, so there was some overlap between this version and the first version above.

1961 lid

Version 4

This mint No.3 outfit, which is also dated June 1961 has the dots and all the small printing in RED, and the words 'Outfit No.' printed in BLACK.

(Photo courtesy W. Irwin.)

1961 lid

Version 5

This No.0 lid is similar to the No.3 above, with all the printing in RED.  However, the 'Outfit No.' has gone missing again, as in version 2.  This is from a Dutch outfit, printed in England.  This version seems to be more common on export sets.

The guarantee slip on this lid was printed in April 1959, but there is no packing date stamped on the slip, so the outfit could be much later.

(Photo courtesy W. Irwin.)

One wonders what the point of all these trivial variations was.  Maybe it was a game they were playing with future historians!

    

Mechanisms Outfit

The Mechanisms set also underwent similar colour changes in lid design.

The sets shown are from October 1959 (top) and June 1964 (bottom).  The Mechanisms Outfit was introduced in October 1959, and the Silver/Yellow/Black period started in August 1964, so these two sets are from the very start and end of the period.

This set was not produced in M type packaging.

(Photos courtesy C. Weston.)

Mechanism set lids

Mechanism set lids

As can be seen from the photos below, this same box, complete with red mushroom pins(!) was still being used with the new 1964-70 colour scheme.  Similar outfits have been seen with green pins.. (Photos courtesy J. Thorpe.)

 

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