About paint finishes
One of the easiest ways to identify the age of Meccano parts is from the finish, either the paint colour or the lack of it. However, there are some inconsistencies that can make it a little tricky here and there.
To begin with, the sequence of colours is approximately as follows:
- 1901 Tin-plate MME and early Meccano
- 1908 Nickel plated
- 1926 Nickel, with some parts pea-green and early red
- 1927 Dark red and green
- 1934 Gold and blue/gold crosshatched
- 1945 Medium red and green
- 1958 Light red and green
- 1964 Silver, yellow, and black
- 1966 Zinc, yellow, and black
- 1970 Zinc, yellow, and blue
- 1978 Dark blue and dark yellow
During the blue/gold period (1934-37), the smaller outfits were available in red/green, and these colours were also supplied in many export markets all the way from 1934 to the end of production in 1941. Outfits came in a medium red/green colour scheme with blue/gold crosshatched flexible plates. In addition, nickel parts and even entire outfits could be ordered from the factory right through this period.
Post-war, the medium red/green colour scheme was fairly consistent. However, there are more colour changes during the light red/green colour scheme, some Meccanomen distinguish between three different versions of light green between 1958 and 1963.
After Meccano's first collapse in 1964, things get a little more complex. The silver paint in 1964 was originally painted over light green parts, but was never a good quality finish. In 1966 most parts changed to zinc plating, but several parts changed over quite slowly.
Large circular parts were in black from 1964 (not shown to the right), changing to blue in 1970 (also not shown, but very similar to the 1930s Royal Blue at the bottom of the list).
In 1978, parts changed to dark blue and dark yellow. Some parts also changed to an iridescent finish in 1979.
There are a number of "themed outfit" colours over the years. Principally, these are the Mechanised Army outfit of 1939-41, in which most parts were painted a matt olive green, and the Army/Combat outfits of the 70s, in which the green was similar but not a completely flat finish.
The Crane and Highway Multikit outfits of the 70's used the same yellow and dark yellow as the contemporary parts, but since all parts were painted there are some parts that obviously belong to these outfits alone. Perforated strips, for example, were only painted yellow in these kits rather than the standard outfits.
Identifying a date
Once you have a colour from the table above, the date of the part is likely to be as follows:
- Nickel plate
- Almost certainly 1907 to 1927, but could be a special-order part up to as late as 1941. Small parts (such as fishplates, brackets, threaded pins etc.) continued to be nickel plated up to around 1966.
- 1926 to 1927, and only on a very small range of parts: curved strips and braced girders are the most common. Parts are likely to be stamped Fabrique en Angleterre as well.
- Dark green
- 1927 to 1932/33. Around 1933 the shade changed considerably to a much lighter green.
- Medium green
- 1933 to 1957. Post-war parts are stamped Made in England which makes it easy to divide them up. Pre-war parts are likely to be 1933/34 if from the UK, as only the smallest outfits continued in red/green to around 1935/36, and all later pre-war medium green was for export to (mainly Commonwealth) countries.
- 1934 to 1941. The only Meccano paint to be overcoated with a clear lacquer. Standard colour for all previously green parts in the UK, but not every part was gold in export outfits. French production kept the gold strips in subtly different shades right up to 1969.
- Light green
- 1958 to 1963. Light green is substantially lighter than medium green, but can vary from a fairly puce green to something almost fluorescent.
- Silver painted
- 1964 to 1966. The earliest parts can be identified by their being painted over existing stocks of light green parts. The silver paint comes off very easily.
- Zinc plated
- 1966 to present day. Parts can be dated by their stampings: Meccano Made in England for UK parts up to 1979, Meccano France for French production, Meccano alone for some parts after 1980, and Meccano (N) for post-2000 (Nikko) production. Post-1980 zinc plated parts are considerably shinier than earlier UK parts and don't suffer as much from oxidisation.
- 1964 to 1977. Pre-1970 yellow is slightly orangier than later yellow. If the yellow is on a part usually zinc plated (e.g. strips, angle girders, pulleys) it is from the Highway or Crane Multikits of the mid-70's.
- Dark blue
- 1978 to 1979. There is a very early almost matt finish dark blue from the very start of this period, but most dark blue is gloss finished.
- Early red
- 1926 to 1927, alongside the "pea-green" finish above, for flat and flanged plates and some other parts such as propellor blades. Also called "pea-red" (as it goes with pea-green).
- Dark red
- 1927 to 1932/33. Also called burgundy. Around 1933 the shade changed considerably to medium red.
- Medium red
- 1933 to 1957. Post-war parts are stamped Made in England which makes it easy to divide them. Pre-war parts are likely to be 1933/34 as almost all parts after 1934 were supplied blue/gold instead. However, many circular parts remained red through the blue/gold period, such as pulleys, sprocket wheels, circular girders and strips.
- 1934 to 1941. Blue/gold parts only have the cross-hatching on one side of the part, the other side is plain royal blue. At the very end of production around 1941 the parts lost their cross-hatching and were plain blue. French parts remained plain blue post-war, with the shade lightening until 1970 when the colours were standardised with UK production.
- Light red
- 1958 to 1963. A very bright and almost orangey-red, with inconsisted shades. Red is particularly difficult to match reliably with paint.
- Army green
- 1973 to 1977. From the Army and Combat Multikits (Combat parts are 1975-on). Stamped Meccano Made in England so impossible to mix with Mechanised Army green, and not as matt a finish either. Some parts that you wouldn't expect (flat plates, for example) were green too.
- Dark yellow
- 1978 to 1979. The complement to the dark blue colour, some parts were produced in both colours at different times. Highway and Crane Multikits of 1978/79 are also in dark yellow.
- Royal blue
- 1933 to 1941. Many circular parts (pulleys, face plates) are in royal blue at the end of the dark red/green era, from 1933 to 1934, but changed to red when the flat plates changed to blue/gold with the letter outfits in 1934. Some parts then went blue, such as the boiler ends, from 1934 to 1941, and spanners were painted blue from 1937 for a few years. Note that there are two distinct shades of blue, as shown to the right. The stampings would seem to indicate that the darker one on the right is from 1933/34, and the brighter one on the left is later, from 1934 on.