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Industry News - February 2010

Published: January 12, 2010

Simm Marketing acquires Darda toy line from Walthers

Milwaukee, Wis.-based Wm. K. Walthers Inc. has sold its Darda line of toys to Simm Marketing GmbH, a long time licensee of the Darda brand in Europe. Darda products include clockwork-powered racing sets and accessories. Walthers has owned the company since 2005.

Simm Marketing, headquartered in Roth, Germany, traces its roots back to 1926 and began producing toys in 1965. The firm also distributes other toy lines in Germany and other European countries, and has been offering Darda products since 1999.

Walthers President J. Philip Walthers said Darda helped his company get involved in markets outside of model railroading, Walthers' traditional niche. "The sale clears the way for us to apply what we've learned from Darda to focus on and grow our core products and services," he said.

The two companies are finalizing details of the sale, including U.S. distribution of Darda products. "Customers should see a seamless transition," Walthers said.

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Ed Rogala

Rogala Joins Quest Aerospace

Hobby industry veteran Ed Rogala has joined Quest as its new sales and marketing director. Rogala, most recently of Midwest Products and widely known as "The Hobby Guy," has 37 years of industry experience.

"We are so excited to have a person that is so highly regarded in the industry join our team. We have a very aggressive expansion plan in motion for 2010 and Ed is a major part of that plan," said Quest president Bill Stine.

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Virginia WGH show breaks record

More than 41,000 people attended the Jan. 23-24 World's Greatest Hobby on Tour show in Chantilly, Va., possibly setting a new record.

The crowd of 41,036 at the Dulles Expo Center in suburban Washington, D.C. is believed to be the largest number of people ever to attend a model railroad show in North America. It breaks the record set a year ago by the Philadelphia WGH show that drew just over 40,000 people.

Show Chairman Randy Bachmann said "the Chantilly show did everything it set out to do - successfully introduce thousands of people to model railroading." World's Greatest Hobby on Tour has now sponsored 25 shows, attended by more than 600,000 people.

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Dragon Models USA and Hasegawa part ways

Dragon Models USA, the North American distribution and importation arm of plastic model manufacturer Dragon Models Ltd., has announced it will cease importing and distributing Hasegawa models as of February.

Dragon's Alain Yuen said that while Hasegawa's models are top-notch, the company's "marketing strategies" didn't work for the current market and economy. Hasegawa has produced few new kits recently, opting instead to introduce a slew of limited-edition products with variant decals and parts.

An industry source said Hasegawa's current production schedule makes it difficult for distributors to get one batch of products into the pipeline before another wave of repopped kits arrives. The situation leaves the distributor with a tremendous amount of inventory and a reduced hope of monetizing it.

Yuen says Dragon's Cyber Hobby brand will fill the niche left by Hasegawa, with original model kits in aircraft and ship categories. The first of these kits will be a new 1:48 Messerschmitt Bf 110D-3.

Interestingly, Hasegawa has been Dragon's exclusive distributor in Japan. That relationship will be terminated in March 2010, Yuen said. How Hasegawa's departure will shape the Japan-based company's distribution in China is yet to be determined, as Dragon also handled supply in that country.

Hasegawa has been contacted for comment, but thus far has not responded. - Tim Kidwell; Hal Miller contributed to this article

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Hobbico acquires Estes-Cox

Hobbico, based in Champaign, Ill., which owns many different radio-control and model hobby brands, such as Revell, Monogram, and Great Planes, among others, has acquired Penrose, Colo.-based Estes-Cox, storied maker of flying model rockets.

Founded in 1958 by Vern Estes, Estes bought out Cox, known for miniature glow airplane engines, in 1996. Other brands that come to Hobbico from the Estes-Cox purchase include Hi-Flier kites and R/C names, Pica Products and Sterling Models.

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Patch Products donates Überstix to "Extreme Makeover" family

Patch Products, a manufacturer and marketer of games and toys, recently donated Überstix UberArc skyscrapers to a family in Buffalo, N.Y., that will be featured on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

In seven days, "Extreme Makeover" host Ty Pennington and his team helped rebuild the home of Delores Powell, a Jamaican immigrant, community activist and mother of four who was struggling to repair a house that was planned for demolition.

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" approached Patch to donate building toys. Patch flew Überstix inventor Dane Scarborough to the construction site, where he built Überstix skyscrapers through the night.

The episode will air on Jan. 24.

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CHA announces winter show venues

The Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) will hold its 2011 Winter Convention & Trade Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Jan. 29-Feb. 1. In 2012, the show will return to the Anaheim Convention Center, Jan. 29-Feb. 1.

The CHA has held its winter show in Anaheim the past four years, but has decided to periodically move the show to new venues to keep it "fresh," according to a press release.

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Scott Hughes

Hughes joins Axial

Scott Hughes, formerly of Pro-Line, has joined Axial as the company's global sales manager. Hughes responsibilities will cover both national and international sales accounts, but he says he will be "working in other areas as well."

Hughes worked for Pro-Line, based in Beaumont, Calif., for 12 years.

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Märklin profitable, says administrator; Lionel takes a look; plus good news from Faller

A reorganized Märklin is making money and has apparently drawn interest from the biggest name in American model railroading, while Faller creditors have approved the company's reorganization plan.

Märklin administrator Michael Pluta has been quoted recently in the German press as saying the company generated 7 million Euro ($10.2 million) in earnings from April-December 2009.

An article in the Südwest Presse newspaper in Ulm said the earnings figures come on 110 million Euro ($160.2 million) in sales during FY 2009. The earnings figure is before interest and taxes.

Additionally, the publication says a delegation from U.S. toy train manufacturer Lionel has visited Märklin's production facilities in Göppingen in Germany and Györ in Hungary. However; a source inside Lionel says the company will not make a bid for Märklin.

Pluta, getting ready for Nuremberg's Spielwarenmesse Toy Fair in February, says he's under no pressure to get the company sold. In late 2009, he said a sale might be possible in 2010. He added Märklin is slated to release 400 new products this year.

In related news, Faller administrator Dr. Volker Grub issued a statement January 13 that creditors have unanimously approved the company's reorganization plan as presented.

Under the plan, manufacturing, administration, and sales will be concentrated in the headquarters town of Guetenbach. Creditors will receive a payment of 10% of their claim within one month; Faller will take responsibility for the pensions of its current employees; and the firm will make a payment to the pension insurance association. In addition, the ownership will invest a minimum of 500,000 Euro ($725,000) in the firm.

Dr. Grub stated that he believes the firm can operate successfully under this plan.

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CPSIA focus of CHA Winter Show presentation

John "Gib" Mullan, director of compliance and field operations for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, will speak about the latest developments surrounding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) during a seminar at the Craft & Hobby Association's Winter Show.

Mullan's presentation will be Monday, Jan. 25 from 9 to 11 am in Room 204B of the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif. Following the presentation, Rick Locker, CPSIA legal counsel retained by the CHA, will join Mullan to give attendees the opportunity to ask specific questions about compliance with CPSIA.

The seminar is free to all CHA members and Winter Show attendees. To register, visit the CHA Web site and click on "Event Registration." Sign in with your e-mail address. To register, contact Andria LaJeunesse or call 201-835-1231.

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CHA partners with Kids in Need Foundation

The Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) has partnered with the Kids in Need Foundation to raise funds, secure product donations and generate greater awareness for the foundation during the CHA Craft SuperShow and 69th Annual CHA Winter Convention & Trade Show in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 22-27.

As part of this commitment, the CHA is hosting a Kids Craft Fair Jan. 21 for 200 at-risk children at the local Boys & Girls Club of Fontana, Calif. The CHA will also host two fund-raising events, including the World's Largest Crop Attempt Jan. 23 (scrapbooking crop) and a silent auction Jan. 24-27.

Proceeds and CHA member product donations will support children and teachers in underfunded and economically disadvantaged schools in Southern California through a Kids in Need Foundation partnership with Inland Empire United Way's education and health initiative, KidSmart.

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Patch Products enters licensing agreements with The Jim Henson Company

The Jim Henson Company has granted Patch Products the license to develop magnetic and foam activities for Dinosaur Train and science-themed kits and toys for Sid the Science Kid. Both shows are on PBS.

"Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train will make great additions to our preschool line, and we are eager to provide Sid and Buddy fans with creative, educational and fun toys and activities," said Brian Maxwell, president of Patch Products.

Dinosaur Train is an animated series that embraces and celebrates the fascination preschoolers have with both dinosaurs and trains while encouraging basic scientific thinking and skills.

Emmy-nominated Sid the Science Kid uses comedy and music to promote and enhance children's curiosity about science.

Patch Products' new toys and game activities will arrive on shelves this fall. Patch, a manufacturer and marketer of family entertainment products, is based in Beloit, Wis.

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Patch organizes 1 million minutes of gameplay

"The Million Minute Family Challenge" has done it again, surpassing the goal of 1 million minutes by 142,432 minutes.

Just what is "the Million Minute Family Challenge," you ask? No, it has nothing to do with getting the gang ready for a long road trip.

Instead, it's a national goal, set by Patch Products, to get families and friends to play games for a total of at least 1 million minutes from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

Participation in this year's challenge rose 5% over last year, encompassing a total of 442 groups, clubs, classrooms and families. Texas finished as the highest-scoring state, with 165,667 minutes, and the Decatur GameHawks - a student group from Indianapolis, Ind. - were the highest-scoring group, logging in 108,000 minutes.

Other top groups and minutes tallied include: the Watauga (Texas) Senior Center, 107,990; REACH Homeschool Group, Locust Grove, Va., 49,564; the Atchley family, Haltom City, Texas, 34,990; the CrAzY gAmErS, Du Quoin, Ill., 30,090; and the Boys and Girls Club at Riverside, Fond du Lac, Wis., 19,695.

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