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The Palitoy archive, held at the Museum of Childhood, contains an extensive range of products manufactured by Palitoy and its parent and sister companies (General Mills, Kenner, Parker Bros., Airfix, Chad Valley and Denys Fisher) as well as by its competitors. The archive also contains a large number of pre-production items (including samples, prototypes and patterns), design material, artwork and some photographs. The material was donated to the Museum by the Palitoy Company in 1985, having been gathered together by the Palitoy Design Department after its closure in 1984.

The majority of the material dates from the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, and the wealth of pre-production items in the archive illustrate the stages of development of many of the products, through design, testing and approval to the final manufactured item.

Palitoy was originally a part of Cascelloid, a plastics manufacturing company which, in 1931, became a subsidiary of the British Xylonite Company Ltd. In 1965 the toy division, which was based in Coalville, Leicestershire, was separated from the rest of Cascelloid and renamed the Palitoy Division. Three years later, in 1968, British Xylonite Ltd. sold the Palitoy Division to General Mills Incorporated, where it was renamed Palitoy Incorporated. Although originally a North American giant in food products, General Mills had diversified into other consumer products and had recently acquired a number of other toy manufacturers, including Parker Bros. and Kenner. Palitoy became the centre of the General Mills UK Toy Group.

General Mills continued to acquire new companies. In 1970 it bought Deny Fisher (which itself had acquired Wendy Boston Playsafe Toys, manufacturers of the Spirograph, two years earlier), and in the late 1970s acquired Chad Valley.

From the 1st January 1980, the three manufacturers (Palitoy, Denys Fisher and Chad Valley) stopped trading under the umbrella of the General Mills UK Toy Group and became the Palitoy Company (although they were still owned by General Mills). Late the following year, Airfix also became part of the Palitoy Company, having also been bought by General Mills. The Airfix design team moved to Coalville, while the plastic kit production was sent to Palitoy factories in France.

Then suddenly, in 1984, Palitoy’s design and development departments were closed when General Mills decided to abandon all European product development. Production of the major Palitoy products, including the Action Man, Play Doh and Star Wars ranges, ceased (although the latter continued to be produced by Kenner, and Airfix plastic kits and Care Bears, which Palitoy had started producing earlier in the year, continued to be manufactured at Coalville). In effect, though, Palitoy had become a marketing company, repackaging products designed in the United States for sale in European markets.

For more information on Palitoy, visit Toy Manufacturers.

Details of all objects within the Palitoy archive can be found on the V&A Search the collections pages. These include:

Airfix products

Airfix construction kits (approximately 450 different kits), and competitor’s construction kits, original artwork for Airfix model kit boxes and photographs of box artwork. Also material from the Micronaut range, a selection of box artwork for the Captain Eagle range, and a wide range of other Airfix products, including art and craft sets, games, and products from the Weebles and Romper Room ranges.

See also the catalogue for the Airfix archive on the Archives pages, which contains further material relating to Airfix donated by Palitoy.

Denys Fisher products

In total, about 450 different objects, including over 220 design drawings of Denys Fisher products, design samples produced by ‘Tente’, and a range of other products including a number of Spirograph sets.

Palitoy products

Material from the Action Man range, including finished products, manufacturing samples, patterns and prototypes, (including those for the final 1984 range), and a small amount of artwork for leaflets and packaging. Also material from the Action Force, Strawberry Shortcake and Star Wars ranges, and Pippa and Tressy doll ranges, again including pre-production material.

Chad Valley products

Consisting mostly of material from the Holly Hobbie range.

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