Budgie Toys No.434 (248)
Wells Fargo Stage Coach
Issued 1961 Length 189mm
The Wells Fargo Stage Coach is one of the rarest Budgie Toys. One of the reasons is that it had a very short production life, but another is because there is so much uncertainty about it.
To start with the number on the (very rare) box was given as 'No.434' but the model inside had no number on it. The box itself was not a standard yellow Budgie box but a 'one-off' design. Robert Newson in his 1988 book Budgie Models lists the Wells Fargo Stage under the number '248', probably based on Trade Lists of the time. It does not appear in any of the Budgie colour leaflets but cast on the base of the model it clearly says 'A Budgie Toy'.
In 1960 Budgie planned to produce several 'Wild West' toys. These were to be numbered from 400 to 450 in a mixture of sizes and scale. The first ones were miniatures based on the 'Wagon Train' televsion series popular at the time and were to be numbered 430 and 432 but the packs in fact were without numbers when they appeared (see the Budgie Miniatures pages). In 1961 two Wells Fargo Stage Coaches were issued, one larger scale (434) and the other smaller but not as miniature as the Wagon Train models. This last was given the number 410 and sold in blister packs but these are very rare.
Few of these models, large or small, reached full production and as a result are now rare. Probably the explanation of why they carry such uncertainty is that in September 1961 Morris & Stone (London) Ltd, the owner of Budgie, was bought by and merged into the Guiterman Group. A short time afterwards, the new owners decided to discontinue all the horse-drawn items. No.434 was probably already in production so a special box (which carried the name of both old and new owners) was created for it.
The Model No.434
No.434 Wells Fargo Stage Coach appears at first to resemble the Morestone Series stage coaches from the early 1950's but this coach was an entirely new and different casting and the horses and figures were plastic.
The casting of the coach was all in one piece except for the separate roof insert incorporating the luggage which comprised a trunk and a hold-all. On the coach doors 'Stage Lines' was cast and over the windows 'Wells Fargo' is written. On the underside it states 'A Budgie Toy Wells Fargo Stage Coach' and beneath the rear platform is cast 'Made in England'. Two colours are known to have been used for the Coach, mid-blue and red.
All four wheels and the shaft for the horses were painted metal, either a sort of metallic dark-brown or metallic gold on the red coaches and charcoal-black or plain black for the blue versions. The front wheel supports and shaft were cast as one piece and this was fixed to the coach beneath the driver's seat with a central pin. At the rear, the larger wheels had a separate axle set through the back of the coach. All the wheels were on round-head and crimped axles.
Four plastic horses fitted onto the shaft, two each of two different styles, heads up on the right side, heads down on the left. Normally there were two white and two brown horses but all white models are known in two different pairs. They were depicted as being quite frisky as if the coach was moving along at speed. Two plastic figures were included with the set, a driver and a guard holding a rifle. These could be either brown or white and they fitted into slots cast on the front seat.
The box is very unusual and not a standard Budgie box. The two large picture sides depict the coach passing a Wells Fargo Depot. On the remaining two sides 'Wells Fargo Stage Coach' is printed with 'Made in England by Morris & Stone (London) Ltd. A Member of the Guiterman Group'. The end flaps also have 'Wells Fargo Stage Coach' with 'Model No.434'. It is interesting that the Budgie name does not appear on the box.
The Wells Fargo Stage Coach is one of the hardest Budgie models to find and because of its rarity can be easily missed when it does come up at auction. Also, the plastic horses can deteriorate with age or become broken and the figures are usually lost and missing.
The illustrated box is certainly one of the two or three rarest boxes used by Budgie.
Variation 1: Blue coach, charcoal pmw & shaft
Budgie No.434 Wells Fargo Stage Coach
Both variations had white or brown plastic figures of driver and guard
2 white/2 brown or 4 white plastic horses
and were issued in an illustrated No.434 Morris & Stone/Guiterman box
1) BLUE coach CHARCOAL or BLACK pmw & shaft
2) RED coach METALLIC DARK-BROWN or METALLIC GOLD pmw & shaft
Variation 2: Red coach, metallic gold pmw & shaft
Coach id., black pmw & shaft, 4 white horses