Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The "Die is Cast" Story

My die-cast Corvette that is a permanent part of my office.
It was an ordinary day.  Straighten- ing out my desk.  Carol spent the last few days designing a calendar to give to all our kids for Christmas and during that time, some of my "items" that I keep neat and organized on my desk became …… well, they just weren't the way I wanted them.  The die-cast Corvette convertible that I keep under my monitor wasn't sitting just right, so I spend some time straightening things out and examining my 4 favorite Corvette die-cast cars that are part of my office.  I can remember when I used to collect die-cast toys and can remember when I used to buy die-cast toys for my kids at Christmas.  The little Matchbox cars and trucks were always a favorite and I even enjoyed playing with my kids and the cars and trucks.  
1950's Die-cast fire engine made by Dinky Co.
Then along came my grandson and I allowed him to play with quite a few of my die-cast 1/18 scale Corvettes that I had collected.  Figured someone besides myself might as well enjoy them.  But, a few of my best Corvettes I kept hidden from him and they now have a home in my office.  Die-cast toys were first produced in the early 1900's in the UK and the USA.  The metal used was either a lead alloy or a zinc alloy which had small quantities of aluminum and copper in them.  
Movable die-cast coin bank.  Place a coin in the pitcher's
right hand and he would throw it into the catcher which
would cause the coin to enter the bank which is in the bottom.
Lead or iron impurities must be avoided in the aluminum castings or zinc pest would occur which would result in distortions or cracking.  Many toys that were made before WWII are difficult to find in good condition because of  zinc pest.  A company called Les-Oney began making die-cast toys in 1947 and called their collection Matchbox 1-75, since there were 75 different vehicles in the collection.  
Many household items were die-cast such as this old
tape dispenser which I have used for close to 50 years.
The term matchbox became so popular that it has become a generic term for any die-cast toy car or truck regardless of who manufactures it.  In 1968 Hot Wheels were introduced by Mattel.  The term die-cast refers to making something by forcing metal or plastic into a mold cavity the shape of the final result.  It is similar to what is known as injection molding.  When the metal or plastic cools the die is taken away and the toy remains.  Die-casting is used for many items in the toy realm.  Model trains are die-cast.  Metal figures for tabletop games are die-cast.  Little Army men are die-cast.  I even have a few old banks with movable parts that are die-cast.  And, my Blue Corvette convertible that sits in front of me under my monitor has been die-cast.  Look around you and you will be amazed at all the items that have been die-cast.  It is a process that shapes our lives both literately and figuratively.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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