Research Tips

At the centre of the 10 Most Wanted game are the objects. We want to know specific facts about them to bring our documentation up to scratch and personal stories relating to them to provide them with contexts.

Routes to providing such information can be divided into reference material and personal testimony (see below). You will need to find the reference material or testimony that is relevant to your search. The search may involve a mixture of these routes and collaboration with other players who may be better placed geographically to access potential sources of information.

It is important to document from where the information you find has come so its accuracy can be assessed. Provide images also if you can.

Beware: there is a large amount of inaccurate information published about plastics.

Reference material

There are very many books, journals and websites that may have relevant information. Books and journals can be found in libraries, the catalogues of which can often be searched online helping you find what is available near you.

The publications cited, whether printed or online, are provided as examples to give you an idea of the range and help get you started, rather than as recommended reading. Bear in mind that general histories of 20th century design are likely also to have relevant material and that publications focused on specific object types may also provide answers to your searches.

Printed publications

Plastiquarian, the Plastics Historical Society’s journal, 1988-on going; ISSN 1355-4859

M Kaufman, The first century of plastics, The Plastics Institute, 1963; no ISBN

Sylvia Katz, Classic plastics from Bakelite to high-tech, Thames & Hudson, 1984

ISBN 0 500 27390 1

Susan Mossman ed., Early plastics, Leicester University Press, 1997

 ISBN 0 7185 00202

Pete Ward, Fantastic plastic, the kitsch collector’s guide, Quintet Publishing, 1997

ISBN 1 85076 794 7

Helen Greguire, Collector’s guide to toasters and accessories, Collector Books, ISBN 0891457747

Online publications


Company archives or the personal papers of designers and manufacturers can be a wonderful source of the kind of information you are looking for. If you find a key document take a photograph of it if permitted to do so.

Most business records that survive are kept in local archives. You can search the Business Index in the National Register of Archives (NRA) or look up a business repository in ARCHON or Access to Archives (A2A). Businesses still in operation may have their own archives.

However, you are just as likely to find what you are looking for by contacting History Groups local to the manufacture of the product, which often have a web presence. An example is that of Streetly:, where the Streetly Manufacturing Company which subsequently became a part of BIP (British Industrial Plastics) was located. You can find out about 1000+ local history groups here:


If an object is patented there are a number of online resources for investigating the patent.

Google patents:  allows you to input in free-form any information you have on any aspect of the object, for example materials, patent numbers, application dates, etc. It has the full-text of a wide range of patents but is less comprehensive than the sites that follow. If you find something relevant and open it a Google 'prior art' button appears, which will help you search the text and give related patents.

Espacenet: gives a more comprehensive worldwide coverage than Google, but searching is limited to English-language abstracts of the patents. There is a 'smart search' facility. For searching particular fields, and combinations thereof (title, abstract, applicant name, inventor name, publication number, application date, classification) the advanced search is excellent, but the data format has to be correct.

United States Patent Office (USPTO): is good for full-text searches of US patents, and is also excellent if you can combine data in 2 fields (quick search) or several fields (advanced search). again the data format has to be correct.

Personal testimony

Personal testimony of employees of manufacturing firms and retailers, and their family members can be a rich vein of information.

Local history groups can be a good route to finding such employees. For example the Streetly Local History Group has gathered together reminiscences including that of a former Managing Director of the BIP group:  You can find out about 1000+ local history groups here:

We are also interested in when and why consumers have bought products, what they cost and what they think of them. Do any of your family or friends have any of the ten products?

Please give us as many personal stories as you can. We are interested in images as well as words.