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Toy car and carry case by Carette & Co

This tin toy car, marked with '50' on the radiator and rear bodywork, is probably the most well known tin toy automobile made by the German toy manufacturer, George Carette. Although toy cars were a small part of Carette's output, they provide a fascinating glimpse into technological and social aspects of their era.

This toy is representative of the style of early full-size automobile car bodies made in the first decade of the twentieth century, which were built along the principles used in …

Parts of this object


Object No.


Object Statement

Toy car and carry case, part of collection (1 of 36), No.50, metal / wood / rope, Carette & Co, Nuremberg, Germany, 1906

Physical Description

Toy car and box, No.50, metal / wood / rope, clockwork-operated, made by George Carette & Co, Nuremberg, Germany, 1906

This tin toy car features an early automotive body style reminiscent of a horsedrawn vehicle. It has carriage lamps next to the windscreen, no doors, a coal scuttle-shaped louvred bonnet and large artillery wheels with solid rubber tyres. Both the passengers and driving staff are painted and sit in seats with tin-printed decoration representing the deep-buttoned leather upholstered seats of the time. They are open to the elements except for a canopy which extends over both the passenger and driving compartments. Sitting next to the uniformed chauffeur is a footman in similar dress. The inclusion of a footman is certainly a hangover from the days of horsedrawn vehicles. In the rear passenger area two women face each other. They wear special motoring clothes typical of the period to keep their clothes free of dust, represented in painted-grey cloaks and caps. Access for the passengers was probably via a rear door. The car is largely finished in red with fine lining for the body and radiator, red for the wheels and white for the canopy. The car is made of tin plate and fitted together with tab and slot construction.



The tin toy car was made by Carette & Co (Carette & cie) established in 1886 by a Frenchman, Georges Carette (1861-1954) and based in Nuremberg, Germany. It was set up with the backing of a Bavarian hop merchant and the Hopf brewery and initially supplied toys to another toy manufacturer, the Bing brothers, who were also helpful in establishing the Carette firm.

Carette made toy soldiers, weapons, gunboats and military vehicles, for an international market changing the flag from the Union Jack to the German flag when necessary. At the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the company introduced one of the earliest toy electric trams. The firm went on to excel at tin toy production with both live-steam and spring-driven locomotives as well as very large and expensive toy stationary steam engines.

Carette worked on developing the process of lithography on metal which was introduced in 1895. It expanded production to include boats, cars, and magic lanterns. Carette's business partner, Paul Josephtal, encouraged contracts with the English firm Bassett-Lowke for toy railway rolling stock produced in British railway liveries. Carette's toy locomotives were also made for the American market.

Early Carette toy cars from about 1905 were made of brightly-lithographed lightweight tinplate, sometimes with distinctive gold line work. Other features include concave brackets connecting the running board to the subframe, simply pressed one-piece wheels, a painted chauffeur and a coal-scuttle shaped bonnet. They came in three sizes: 7½ inches (19cm), 10½ inches (26.5 cm) and 13 inches (33 cm). They were painted and varnished or 'highly japanned' as the catalogues of the day described the finish.

The most famous of Carette's toy vehicles is the four-window limousine of 1911 with bevelled glass windscreen. It came in three sizes, 8½ inches (22 cm), 12½ inches (32 cm) and 16 inches (40 cm). These were very expensive, large floor toys and came in about four versions within each size with the most expensive being about four times the cost of the cheapest. These were either lithographed or for the most expensive, hand-enamelled, to a high standard of finish, together with an optional footman. Other features in the middle and upper range included glass windows, a chauffeur, opening doors and a roof rack made of cast brackets. White rubber tyres and artillery wheels featured on the most expensive model while others were of a one-piece metal pressing. The colours included maroon, red, green and cream.

At the beginning of the First World War Carette was still a French citizen. Despite having a German wife he had to flee Germany in 1914. They lived just outside Paris and Carette died in 1954 at the age of 93. Meanwhile, the firm continued in Germany under Josephtal but closed in 1917 after he was summonsed to enlist as a captain. The toy making pressings were taken over by another toy manufacturer, Karl Bub. Bub had been making toys for many years but only began making toy cars from about 1912. The factory buildings were said to have been taken over by a subsidiary of the Bing company.

Carette's original trademark was a winged figure, accompanied by the words 'Jouets fins' - Fine toys - Feine Spielwaren', but this was changed in 1895 to the company's initials 'GCCoN' (Georges Carette Company Nuremberg) applied onto the tin plate. From 1910 until the cessation of production in 1917 the trademark was a cog wheel with a steam engine governor and the initials 'GCCo N'. This is indicative of the firm's toy stationary steam engines.

Miller, Judith and Martin (eds), "Miller's Toys & Games Antiques Checklist", Reed International Books Limited, London, 1995.

Richardson, Mike and Sue, "wheels:Christie's Presents the Magical World of Automotive Toys", Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1999.



This toy car is part of a large collection of toys purchased in 1985 from the remarkable tin toy collector Ken Finlayson. As a boy Finlayson admired steam trains but never owned a model train. As an adult he began collecting Hornby model trains, and his interest spread to other model trains and tin toys. He developed his collection at auctions, swap meets and market stalls, and through his connections with toy dealers and other serious collectors. Some toys were simply found sitting on the neglected shelves of remote country newsagencies, brand new and never opened.

Finlayson's knowledge and love of toys brought him a collection of nearly 2000 items, including highly collectable tinplate toys manufactured by respected names such as Carette, Bing, Marklin and Lehmann, as well as a variety of other German, English and Japanese makers. The Finlayson collection contains every type of transport toy - cars, trucks, tractors, fire engines, buses, motorcycles, aeroplanes, ships and trains - as well as novelty toys, robots, kitchen toys and Meccano sets. It represents the type of toys that were available in Australia in the twentieth century, including ones made in this country by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, Cyclops, Ferris and Robilt. These Australian toys were usually built from heavy gauge pressed steel rather than thin tinplate, making them sturdy enough for rough treatment in Australian backyards and sandpits.

Cite this Object


Toy car and carry case by Carette & Co 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 October 2021, <>


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