A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Can't See the Trees for the Wood - plus a small giveaway...

Well, you were warned. I now have my Merit Fir Tree collection safely housed in two wooden boxes. Yes, the trees have magnetic sheet on the bases and, yes, the boxes are lined with steel paper [was that a snort I heard from the back?]. My trees can now be transported in complete safety to most places you can think of. The boxes, by the way, are "Memory Boxes" - it is a very popular activity (I am told) to stow away photos, cuddly toys and all sorts of memorabilia to be kept safe for your descendants, or, I suppose, for yourself many years from now. Even someone else's descendants would do at a pinch - you get the idea - you leave something personal and precious - all you have to do is remember where you left the box, and who it was for.

Excellent. More relevantly, there are some good deals around at the moment on wooden memory boxes - worth checking out for odd storage problems.

Anyway, miserable beggar that I am, all I'm potentially leaving for posterity is my collection of plastic trees - I hope they are appreciated. As mentioned before, these Merit plastic accessories for model railways were manufactured by J & L Randall in the 1960s, and it says on one of my original Merit boxes that they were 3/11d a set - that's three-shillings-and-eleven-old-pence, or £0.19583 for half-a-dozen trees. This was in the days when a Mars Bar was 6d (£0.025) - just to put everything on an understandable footing.

Oh yes - the small giveaway. I have a spare copy of Henri Lachouque's "Napoleon's War in Spain" - in decent nick. If you are an existing follower of my blog (which includes regular email correspondents), then all you have to do is estimate from my photo what is the approximate original value of the fir trees in the two boxes (in Pounds Sterling, not Mars Bars) at 3/11d for a set of six trees - there is unlikely to be a round number of sets, of course. The book is a big format hardback, so if you live outside the UK I should be very pleased if you could help out with the postage charges.

Send a comment (which I shall not publish) with your estimate, or email me at the address in my Blogger profile - I'll award the book to the sender of the best estimate, and I'll keep this open until midnight at the end of 24th June.

****** Late Edit ******

Some perfectly reasonable protests from non-UK readers, not to mention UK readers who were never exposed to the pre-decimal money...

Just to confirm, there were 12 pence in a shilling, 20 shillings in a pound (abbreviations for pounds, shillings and pence were £, s and d) - so 240 old pennies in a pound.

Also to confirm, the number of trees shown here is not necessarily an exact number of boxes - for the purposes of the puzzle, ignore the fact that the assembled trees are different sizes and assume that each tree is one-sixth of a box...

A thought occurs to me - if you bought these from the high street hobby shop in 1960-something, the lady behind the counter would be able to work out how much so many lots of 3/11d added up to, without a calculator and without a barcode-reading till which did the sums and the stock control for her. This lady did not have a degree in arithmetic or anything, she just worked in a shop, and didn't get paid very much. Nowadays such things would be incomprehensible - even with decimal currency, most of us (including myself) rely on the automation.

The other thing that occurs, of course, is that the very idea of a hobby shop in your high street is pretty wild nowadays. 

I bought my first pack of Merit fir trees from the Post Office in Rose Lane, Allerton, Liverpool, circa 1959. My neighbour (and school chum) Hutchie and I combined our model railways (3-rail Hornby Dublo) into one slightly larger railway, but we fell out after about 3 weeks. Through some mystery which has never been explained, I lost an LMS guard's van in the redistribution. On the other hand, Hutchie seems to have lost 2 packs of Merit trees and 2 of Merit stone walls. I believe I still have them.

Dog eat dog.


  1. Well there I was, zoomed in and counting while reminiscing abut the Marx knock offs that came with my Miniature Masterpiece castle and my brother's railroad trees, probably Merit, and pondering how much googling I would have to do to converts pence to shilling and shillings to pounds and wondering why this might be your only legacy and if that meant the soldiers would be cremated with you...when I realized I should stop in case I actually won.

    After all I don't want to be tempted by the Peninsula again and someone else might really want it. So:
    Best of Luck to all contestants!

    1. You could have a sporting (Category B) entry, just for the glory...