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Meccano Nickel outfits

In September 1907, the name Meccano was trademarked, and Frank Hornby changed the name of their "Mechanics Made Easy" sets to "Meccano".  Although "Mechanics Made Easy" was used as a sub-title, the sets are known as "Meccano" from this period on.  In June 1908 the new company Meccano Ltd was formed.

From 1908, outfits were numbered from 1 to 6.  The parts were nickel plated, and very similar to those of later periods.  The most important difference is the use of the 'tunnel key' instead of a boss and set screw.  We can call this the 'early nickel' period.  The contents of outfits tended to change as often as every year, and outfits from this period are very rare.

From 1913, bosses became single-tapped, and the contents of the outfits were comparatively fixed until 1921.  Outfit 0 was introduced below outfit 1.  This period can be described as the 'middle nickel' period.

In 1922, the outfits were substantially overhauled with a large number of new parts and new manuals.  Outfit 7, the first of the huge Meccano outfits, was introduced above the existing outfit 6, and outfit 00 came in at the bottom in 1923.  We shall call this the 'late nickel' period.

In 1926, a small number of parts were painted in pea-green and pale red, but most parts remained nickel plated.  From 1927 onwards, most Meccano parts were painted.  However, it was still possible to order Meccano outfits in nickel plate from the factory right up to 1940.  We must be careful, therefore, not to confuse these special nickel parts and outfits with the 'normal' nickel-plated Meccano.

Pictures wanted!

Pictures of nickel-era Meccano outfits can be quite confusing, because it's extremely rare to find one in anything like original condition.  Mostly, these outfits have been made-up or restored by well-meaning hobbyists, but they are nothing like the originals.  So the pictures on this page are, by and large, not as reliable as a source as the ones on other pages.

If you have any pictures of missing outfits below, or another picture of an outfit that is better or not quite the same as one that's already here, please help us by sending a copy of it! It would be very much appreciated.  You can email it straight to us, or upload it to the Rust Bucket forum...

The brief history of the changes made during this period is shown below.  Bear these in mind when viewing the pictures...

1907 Mechanics Made Easy outfits start being sold with a 'Meccano' sticker.
1908 Meccano Limited formed.  By the end of this year, outfits are numbered 1-6 and sold as "Meccano (Mechanics Made Easy).  Most parts are nickel plated steel with rounded ends.
1911 Substantial reduction in the number of strips in the standard outfits, and introduction of a wide range of new parts including flanged plates.
1913 Tongue key fixings replaced by bosses and set screws.  Outfits stabilise for a few years.
1916 Many war-time economies introduced, such as gears in nickel-plated steel, and 'economy' bosses in some parts.
1922 Substantial change to all outfits, and a wide range of new parts added. Outfit 7 launched at the top of the range.
1923 Outfit 00 introduced at the bottom of the range.  Minor additional parts in each outfit each subsequent year.
1926 "The New Meccano" launched, with certain parts painted green and red. The end of the 'nickel period', except for special order outfits.

Meccano Main Outfits

Outfit 00 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 00

This picture of a 'late nickel' outfit 00 is from the 1923 catalogue, the first year that this smallest of the nickel outfits was launched.


Outfit 0 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 0

This picture of a 'late nickel' outfit 1 is from the 1923 catalogue.


Outfit 1 from around 1916
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Outfit 1 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 1

This outfit can easily be dated from its manual, and the nickel-plated pulleys and bush wheel.  Note the white paper wrapping and Meccano logo around the 12½'' strips.  It's very unusual to find this still intact.

To the right, the 'late nickel' outfit 1 from the 1923 catalogue.  Note that the small parts box now has a picture label, these date from Christmas 1919 and later.

'Early nickel' period outfit 1 from 1910
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Loading picture nickel-1-1910 To the left, a much rarer early period outfit 1, from around 1910. At this time, the boxes were in a matchbox style, with an outer sleeve that slides off the box. Rarest in here, of course, is the original small parts envelope containing the nuts and bolts, tongue key, hook, and wood screws. Note also the early hex-ended (pre-1912) spanner.


Outfit 2 from 1923
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Nigel Collins
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Outfit 2 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 2

To the left, an outfit from 1923, which appears mostly original although it's a little tatty and is missing its cord. Although the parts look right, the spanner appears to have been substituted for a later (post-1928) thicker version. It is very common for 'original' outfits to have been re-assembled like this, and one impossible part means we can't really draw any conclusions at all from this particular example.

To the right, a 'late nickel' outfit 2 from the 1923 catalogue.


Outfit 3 from 1924
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Les Megget
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Outfit 3 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 3

To the left, a nice honest-looking outfit 3 from 1924, with its original string, bought fairly recently from the original owner. This type of genuine outfit is much more interesting than one that has been 'made up' by a well-meaning enthusiast, often with incorrect period parts. Many of the parts look unused, and it's safer to make deductions from an outfit like this than one that looks more pristine at first glance.

To the right, a picture of what appears to be the same 'late nickel' outfit 3 from the 1923 catalogue.


Outfit 4 from 1912
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Outfit 4 from 1920
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Outfit 4

To the left, an outfit 4 from 1912, with a tatty box but in surprisingly good condition inside. Most of the parts are still tongue-keyed, dating the outfit from prior to 1913, but you can see in the lower tray the 6BA threaded worm and 5BA threaded collars, introduced in early-to-mid 1912. Note that the nuts and bolts are in a rectangular compartment with its own box, but glued down to the base of the outfit. A lid would have gone over this, in the gap around the nut and bolt section. This might well have been glass-topped.

To the right, a 'middle nickel' outfit, dating from about 1920, containing roughly the same parts, but all now bossed of course, and with some later parts such as windmill sails, cranks etc. The angle girders now have rounded ends. Nuts and bolts and other small parts are now in their own small parts boxes.

Outfit 4 from 1923 catalogue
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Loading picture ni4-cat23 The picture of a 'late nickel' outfit 4 shown to the right is from the 1923 catalogue. The box has changed to a larger single-layer layout.


Early nickel period outfit 5 from 1911
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Outfit 5 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 5

To the left, a reasonably good condition outfit 5 from the early nickel period. The parts date it from 1911, before the introduction of bosses and set screws. Note the large number of tin-plated angle brackets, and the milled tongue-key gears and flanged wheels. The 1911 outfit was substantially smaller than the equivalent 1910 outfit, and hence there is plenty of space in the same cabinet. Most large wood cabinet outfits of this period have the gears sitting on a metal plate in the centre, fitted with small rods on which the gears and wheels are placed. The wood-framed glass lid to this section is a very recognisable feature. Around 1914 or 1915, this glass section was replaced by a cellulose/plastic version, which cracks and yellows very easily.

To the right is a picture of a 'late nickel' outfit 5, in cardboard carton, from the 1923 catalogue.


Outfit 6 in wood cabinet, from the 1922 catalogue
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Outfit 6

The catalogue picture from 1922 shows the cabinet, which at the time was the only way of buying an outfit 6.  In 1923, the outfit 6 also became available in a cardboard carton (reinforced with strips of wood), a substantially cheaper option.

In this picture, we can clearly see the later-style rectangular small parts boxes, with the early label (the same square picture as the smaller tins, but with blank sections each side).  Later versions of this box have a larger picture filling the entire rectangle.


Outfit 7 from around 1922
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Jeff Jones
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Outfit 7 from 1923 catalogue
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Outfit 7

This superb example of a very early outfit 7 dates from around 1922.  The picture to the right of a 'late nickel' outfit 7 is from the 1923 catalogue, one year after outfit 7 was first available.


Meccano Accessory Outfits

Outfit 0a from the middle nickel period
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Outfit 0a

This accessory outfit 0a is in a sorry state, and can't easily be dated.  It could in fact date from anywhere between about 1918 and the mid-20's, since we don't have the small parts box lid (which could date it more accurately).


Outfit 1a from around 1916
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Outfit 1a

This 'middle nickel' outfit 1a is from around 1916.  The original circular cardboard small parts box is typical of the lesser outfits of this era, and fading to the outfit box base proves that this small parts box belongs where it is shown.  The parts in the outfit including the wide double brackets, black cranks, and early windmill sails all date from 1916.  However, the angle girders would be expected to have sharp corners at this time, so it could perhaps be a little later.


Outfit 2a from January 1916
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Outfit 2a

This is better, an outfit with an early date label still intact, from January 1916.  The parts all appear correct for the period, as does the small parts box (with a 2a stamp marking on it).  Inset in the top right of this photo you can see the label stuck to the bottom of the box explaining the change from a 25/27 gear pair to parts 26/27a, which happened right at the start of 1916 as we can see.  The gear and 1'' pulley are both early wartime economy nickel-plated versions.


Outfit 3a from November 1919
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Outfit 3a

This nickel outfit 3a is also dated, from November 1919, and is one of the last before the small parts box gained a pictorial lid around Christmas 1919.


Outfit 4a from around 1916
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Outfit 4a

This mid-period outfit 4a appears to date from around 1916.  The giveaway is the set of four 'economy' half-inch pulleys without boss, and the nickel plated gear.  There are five of these pulleys in an outfit 4a, and you can see the extra one is a small brass version.  This may or may not be correct for the period.

Another more significant issue is the 'sprocket chain', part 94.  Although I have two outfit 4a's, both with 3 feet of earlier ladder chain (as per part 42), I'm not certain whether either is correct.  The 1916 manual shows that outfit 5 had a length of sprocket chain, but no sprocket wheels! However, several of the outfit 4 models shown use both of these, and only two models for outfit 5 use chain (one of those clearly showing part 42).  I am tempted to believe that sprocket wheels and chain found their way into outfit 4 at some point during 1915/16, but failed to appear on the contents listing in that manual.  Thus, no type of chain should be in a 4a.

However, we must remember that this was a relatively low volume outfit during the middle of WW1, and thus could easily contain older parts.  Note that the label is a contemporary 'main outfit' box lid, with the corner of a 4a label stuck over it.


Outfit 6a from maybe 1925?
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Outfit 6a

The outfit 6a is one of the rarest of these outfits, introduced in 1922 to upgrade the then largest outfit 6 to the newly introduced outfit 7. It was always supplied in this oak cabinet. The excellent example to the left appears to contain the correct parts for 1925 (the year the collecting shoe was added, but the year before the rubber rings for the 3'' pulleys were added, which are not visible in this picture).

Other parts checked appear to be consistent with this date, although the small parts box with the Meccano diagram on it is pre-1920 and must have been added later. This is nitpicking with an outfit in such excellent condition and containing all the rarest parts.

Additional Outfits

Inventor's accessory outfit from 1915 catalogue
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Inventor's accessory outfit from 1915 unopened
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Inventor's Accessory Outfit

The Inventor's Accessory Outfit was launched in 1915, as a way of supplying some of the new parts without redesigning all the outfits and manuals.  Judging by the frequency that the contents appear nowadays, this was a successful idea.  The picture to the left shows the earliest type of accessory outfit, with the early 2'' pulley.  There are several versions of this outfit, as follows:

Version 1: As per the exceptional example shown top left, with an early 2'' pulley.  This outfit is dated 1915, showing the black crank to come from this period too.

Early inventor's accessory outfit from 1916
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Clive Weston
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Loading picture nickel-inventors-1a-1916 Version 1a: As above, with early 2'' pulley but WW1 economy parts including lead-alloy couplings, nickel plated gear, economy boss crank and half-inch pulley.  The same contents as version 1, but obviously from the following year.

Version 2: As above, but with three-hole couplings instead of two-hole.

Inventor's accessory outfit from 1917ish
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Clive Weston
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Loading picture nickel-inventors-34 Version 3: In 1917, the crank, collars, and couplings were removed from the outfit, and it seems at around the same time the 2'' pulley changed to the WW1 economy 'castellated' version, OPM part 20a.ni1 or 20a.ni2.  This example shown left is very good with some original packaging, but appears to have a stray worm in it.

Inventor's accessory outfit from late 1917 onwards
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Neville Bond
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Loading picture nickel-inventors-4 Version 4: Later on, the same outfit is shown with the "Meccano Prize Models" manual crossed out at the bottom of the parts list on the inside of the lid.  This is a much more common version, and is presumably after Meccano ran out of these manuals.  Note that all the parts in here are still economy versions.


Inventor's Accessory Outfit A, from early 20's
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Inventor's accessory outfit A from 1922 manual
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Inventor's Accessory Outfit A

Around 1918, the Inventor's Accessory Outfit was replaced by two different versions.  The previous version was reduced substantially (out went loom healds, collars, cranks, couplings, and spoked wheels were replaced by 3'' pulleys), and renamed the Inventor's Accessory Outfit A.

The example above left has been photographed with the lid of the "Inventor's Accessory Outfit", but the dates of these parts look like it should really be an Inventor's Outfit A.  It's possible that early Outfit A's used up the supply of old boxes, or it's possible that the lid has been swapped at some point.  Either way, the significant differences between the two are the change to pulleys, the loss of the healds, and the change to a modern style of 2'' pulley.


Inventor's accessory outfit B from around 1920/21
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Inventor's accessory outfit B from 1922 manual
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Inventor's Accessory Outfit B

There's a problem with dates here, because the Inventor's Accessory Outfit B was announced in 1920, containing new parts first available in 1919. On the other hand, surely the previous Inventor's outfit was only renamed "A" when there was a "B"? So perhaps the previous 'version 4' Inventor's Accessory Outfit, the most common version, lasted as long as 1919/1920.

The Inventor's Accessory Outfit B was much more ambitious, and a lot less successful. You can see from the excellent example above left that it sold for 25/-, almost as much as the standard outfit 3. However, in the 1922 price list, the price was dropped dramatically to 15/-. These outfits are considerably rarer, and seem to have been quietly dropped soon after the 1922 manual picture shown above right.


Meccano Electrical Outfit from 1925 catalogue
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Loading picture ni-elec-cat25

Electrical Outfit

In 1920, several electrical parts (numbered from 301 to 315) were added to the system, and supplied in this "Electrical Outfit".  These are very much rarer than the Inventor's Accessory Outfits, particularly the type shown to the left containing the accumulator and nickel-plated sideplate motor.  Later (post-nickel) Electrical Outfits dropped these parts and were supplied in a much thinner box.


Manuals for these outfits

Click on the following files to jump to the appropriate manual for this era. After clicking, you will see the cover of the manual and underneath it a link to download the manual to your computer. Warning: some of these manuals are very large and will take several minutes to download. You have been warned!

Early period nickel (1908 - 1921)

Late period nickel (1922-1926)

Further information

Total number of messages on this page: 12.  This is page 1 of 2.   Next

franco luraschi      (at 1:14pm, Sat 24th Dec, 16)

good morning
I have a Meccano collector Nickel period.
between the boxes in my possession I have a box with 7 entered an accumulator
Original never used complete with 3056 numbering of all the electrical parts.
unfortunately I can not find the year of construction 1922 o1924 or later because the encoding card missing.
I can not therefore carry out a census using your excellent work on the contents of the boxes.
shortly I will be able to send you a photo report
thanks in advance for your help
Merry Christmas
Franco Luraschi

Anonymous      (at 8:33am, Sat 11th Jul, 15)

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Stephen Brook      (at 6:13pm, Fri 15th Nov, 13)

In the Gallery at http://www.nzmeccano.com/image-34897 there are photos of a late 1923 outfit number 6 in a cardboard carton. It is of the "Mostly, these outfits have been made-up or restored by well-meaning hobbyists" type (to quote from the introduction above) but at least the carton and most of the nickel parts are original.

Stephen Brook      (at 5:58pm, Fri 15th Nov, 13)

There seems to be a broken link to the full size colour photos of outfit number 2 (1923), above.

henry      (at 5:44pm, Fri 3rd Aug, 12)

having a little trouble dating the nickel plated reversing clockworkwork motor i have reassembled... had to remove the head of a small, very well secured rivet that held the end of the spring into a loop, before i could then wind the the spring into the motor... spring then hooked round post...accounts of others methods were a great help..motor is not super early as doesnt say made in wurtemberg! probably 1920s.. made in england..mecc...working on building a semi scale version of Babs or Bluebird for it....steering design on the drawing board !!

henry      (at 5:36pm, Fri 3rd Aug, 12)

having a little trouble dating the nickel plated reversing clockworkwork motor i have reassembled... had to remove the head of a small, very well secured rivet that held the end of the spring into a loop, before i could then wind the the spring into the motor... spring then hooked round post...accounts of others methods were a great help..motor is not super early as doesnt say made in wurtemberg! probably 1920s.. made in england..mecc...working on building a semi scale version of Babs or Bluebird for it....steering design on the drawing board !!


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