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Corgi Model Club USA Recreates Diecast Joy by Subscription

For decades, Corgi has been the biggest player in affordable 1/43 scale diecast. The company has always brought to market a mix of models that are based on stylish, popular cars that aren’t over-represented in diecast. And they were priced accordingly.

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At least they were inexpensive when brand new. The popularity of these models has made prices of vintage Corgi cars soar, especially examples in great condition with packaging. Luckily, Corgi Model Club USA has come to the rescue. Introduced in 2021, Guy Stainthorpe and company decided the time was right to offer replicas of many of the classic Corgi cars. As an independent startup, their offerings were so well done that Corgi (Actually their parent company Hornby) bought the new venture.

The Corgi Model Club’s offerings are usually in the $40-50 range. While that may not be an impulse purchase to some collectors, those prices are a small fraction of what a pristine original in the package might cost. And a lot easier to find. For many collectors, it’s a value that hits a sweet spot.

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The whole thing has a “Collect Them All” excitement that you might have felt as a kid.

“We got to know Hornby pretty well from the start,” Stainthorpe said. “The previous CEO had actually given us the licenses, so we knew the guys pretty well.” After three years on their own, Hornby just went ahead and acquired the Corgi Model Club. “It’s it’s been more of a meeting of minds than a straight acquisition,” he explained. “ I came over with it because they wanted me to head up the group, and they saw a space for me in the business.”

The business model for the Corgi Mocel Club is part online retailer, and part subscription plan. 

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The new models are as spot-on replicas as possible, save for a few minor legal details that set them apart from the originals. Only a few are made from the original molds, however. The old molds were worn out or just completely gone, 

One of Corgi’s most endearing features was, well, special features. The original models had a lot of moving, opening, removable, launching, or parts, at no extra cost. Several of the revival models also included these bonuses or extra accessories. The James Bond Aston Martin was filled with them, the ’66 Batmobile had all kinds of gadgets, and more than a few cars had simulated headlights and taillights. The program includes the Musical Ford Thames Wall’s Ice Cream Van with a hand-cranked music box, which is a delight.

Corgi Model Club USA Ice Cram TruckLicensing for the old models has ranged from using existing agreements with auto manufacturers to having to do some serious negotiations for additional licenses. With the James Bond Aston Martin, for example, separate agreements have to be worked out with the car company and the movie franchise. Luckily both were the subject of long-standing, friendly licenses held by Corgi. “We’ve all wanted to do the Batmobile for, like, since day one,” said Stainthorpe. “You know that that for us was always the one that we really felt was very important to replicate because it’s just been around for a long time. Collectors have always loved them, and I just felt, yeah, it was just. We had to go back to Warner Brothers.”

Finally, it seemed that framing the model as a collector’s item instead of a toy put the folks at Warner at ease. “We had to work very closely with Hornby to get that license, but this is a centerpiece of the offerings, you know.”

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As far as distinguishing the new cars from the originals, there are a few details that needed to change. The box bottom has modern EU consumer warnings, and modern bar codes, neither of which would be found on packaging from the ’60s or ’70s.

So far, each model is only available in a single color from the original range. “We may offer some in additional colors, but will stick with the old colors,” said Stainthorpe. “We don’t want to shake things up too much and upset collectors.” Amazingly, there is a second color for the Batmobile, a flat black version that replicates one of the early releases. And yes, it is forthcoming.

With over 8,000 distinct models in their history, there are so many to choose from. As far as which cars to replicate, there are a few tiers of models. “You’ve got really two lists, we’ve got the ‘no brainers,’ you know the Bond car, the Batmobile, the Saint Volvo car, things like that,” he said. “And then we’ve actually gone for some models that with our working knowledge, we feel will be successful. There’s a group of us, you know, and we argue a bit to reach outside of that first group,” he laughed.

Corgi, being a very British company, traditionally had a focus on UK cars, then other European models, and some select North American models. Since this is Corgi Model Club USA, they have carefully selected some American cars for the early wave of re-issues. “I mean, we’re just trying to take the learnings from the United Kingdom and a bit of the EU activity that we do and just apply that knowledge or those learnings and that knowledge to the USA,” he said. “Now, of course, it’s a very different market. We understand that with different tastes, but we’re trying to really create an offering that we think will work for American customers.” 

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The initial offerings from Corgi Model Club can be bought directly from the site, or you can subscribe to get a different car every month at a discounted price.  “We’ve built models that we think will appeal to a global audience rather than just a very narrow British one, or a European one, and we’re hoping that American customers will fall in love with them because our customers in Europe have.”

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