Bayko was the invention of British engineer Charles Plimpton who patented it in 1933.
Originally called ‘Bayko Light Construction Sets’, the name ‘Bayko Light’ was taken from Bakelite, a sturdy early synthetic plastic developed by Leo Baekeland in New York and patented in 1909. Its heat-resistant properties and electrical non-conductivity made it an ideal material for use in many products.
By 1938, Plimpton had named the toy ‘Bayko Building Sets’. These were produced on a small scale by Plimpton Engineering, a company set up in the heart of the commercial docklands of Liverpool.
First marketed in Britain, Bayko was soon exported throughout the British Commonwealth and became a worldwide brand between 1934 and 1967.
Originally created in cream and brown, by 1947 – following a break in production over the war years – the iconic red, white and green pieces became the standard.
Various sized sets were produced and could cost up to 30 shillings, which would have been a sizeable chunk out of a post-war pay packet. Sets of additional components were also available.
Each regular tile measures ¾” square with half tiles to fit over green windows and doors. The steel rods of varying lengths (up to five tiles high) attach the tiles to the green bases which can be joined with small brackets and screws using the tiny screwdriver supplied.
After the death of Charles Plimpton from tuberculosis in December 1948, his widow Audrey continued the business but in 1959, production passed to Meccano Ltd through whom Bayko had been marketed for several years.
Production continued with numerous modifications and colour changes until 1967, but the red, white and green combination remains the recognisable Baykop colour scheme.
A healthy trade in original Bayko sets and parts still exists today, with some enthusiasts even casting their own Bayko pieces.