About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 49-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model soldier collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, therefore I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed. And I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Z is for err.... ZZ!

An unknown maker, or at least; we know it because it marked all its stuff with a very distinctive logo, but it's unidentified, in that we don't know the whole name of the company, or whether or not it's extant like Blue Box, or gone for good like Lucky Toys?

A year ago I still thought they might be an East German outfit, as they were always turning-up in Germany, and seemed to have a Soviet-bloc 'quality' to them - i.e. better than Hong Kong, but not up to the mark of West European toy finishing.

The distinctive logo being two letter 'Z's superimposed on each other, which I put up here a while ago, the serif is a bit lumpier than I CAD'ed, but the basic idea is there. Sadly there was no feedback that time, maybe these will trip a memory or two...

These are some semi-swopett Indians I photographed on Adrian's stall a while ago, they are around 70mm, and I say 'semi-swopett' as they only have a swivel waist and plug-in bases, or the foot figures do, the mounted figure doesn't even get a base. The figures are copies of the Elastolin swopetts, which were more articulated, with separate weapons etc...

They also copied the cowboys (see the Figuren Magazine link at end), and I suspect knights? I've also read/heard somewhere that VEB Plaho might have been similarly plagiarised by ZZ, but have seen no evidence?

Some close-ups of markings and some more shots of the figures, you wouldn't know the mounted figure was a ZZ if it wasn't found in situ with the foot figures. Equally; if you find foot figures without a mounted figure, there's nothing to indicate that they are from Hong Kong!

In addition they made farm and zoo animals taken from Britains' 1:32 scale range and Elastolin's 1:25 scale range, along with some unique designs (see also the STS link at end). I suspect from the logo's on the cards that they were premiums for the chocolate brand; Riesen [Giant, Colossal], but due to the size of each carded bag, possibly a mail-away, or token-save exercise to be exchanged at the retail outlets counter? If not; they were definitely trying to link themselves to the - rather lovely - chocolate-coated toffees. However, they were also distributed in the USA by R. Dakin and Co., San Francisco...claiming to be a product of West Germany? And Skyline of Milwaukee "Made and hand-painted in W. Germany"

I also have two (or three?) small tin-plate toys with the mark on, basically either copies or modern designs of old penny-toys, one is an airship, the other a WWI type 'plane and there may have been a third, but I might have let it go as being well outside the collections range (interactive toy? clicking frog? something like that), but they are in storage so we'll have to look at them another time, the thing about them though, is that they seemed brand-new about 6 years ago, and it's very hard to fake newness with tin-plate, you can fake age, but that shiny, mint paint is err...shiny and 'mint'! So they may well still be manufacturing, now 'Chinese' not Hong Kong per se, but Google's no help.

Couple of Links

German language Figures Journal page - the 54mm mounted Indian with base and bag of Cowboys near the bottom of the page are probably not ZZ originals, they're more common Hong Kong 'generic' figures.

Riesen Zoo and Riesen Farm on STS Forum

Can anybody add anything to what's been found on the two links? It may well be that they ARE a German company, copying animals from closer at home, while buying-in the Cowboys & Indians, and sourcing the tin-plate from a third company? But then why the ZZ logo on the HK bases? I think they've got to be HK and the Dakin packs were (deliberately?) misleading...help!

Y is for Yee-Hah!

I mentioned the Ertl Farm Country range the other day, so we may as well look at my small sample. Like the die-casts I shot them with on that post, they are sculpted to the relatively unique (some modern Japanese and 'China' stuff is to the same size) American 'large' HO of/or 1:64th scale.

This is what I have of the Rodeo, the full set was quite nice with stalls, arena and bleachers (what they call temporary stands or scaffold & plank seating in the States), this is a fair sample, the bucking base for the bull went the way of all flesh, and the seated figures aren't represented...but I might have sorted them into the 'Unknown Seated Civilians' box before I knew what they were?

There were also lots of more standard farm sets, and here are a few animals from them, along with studies of the Rodeo bulls and horse. The vagaries of scale, mean that the calves would actually make nice dairy cattle on a European (or any!) true HO model railway layout, the Rodeo animals, long-horns and adult dairy cows are far to big, but could be used with 28mm role play set-ups. Also a close-up of the bases for this range - where present.

A couple of the cards, these being with pigs on the left; a very disappointing set of eight identical animals with identical paint, and the other much better value with a figure, six piglets, some poultry and a really nice dog; is it a coon hound? I think it's meant to be.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

X is for.....there isn't one really is there....?

Xan Miniatures
XB9 / xB9 Games
Xcel Concepts LLP
X Concepts    
Xebic Toys
Xeno Games
Xenos Minis / Xenosmini / Xenos Miniatures
Xiloplasto / Xiloplast
X-O Facto
Xth Legion (10th [Tenth] Legion)
X-Toys / X Toys
Xtreme Hobby
Xyston Miniatures

Have I missed any?

X was always going to be harder than Q, and Q was always going to be harder than Z, so looking at the bottom of the tag list, I think I've managed quite well, but we'll put X to bed for a bit. One day I will do listings pages, and at the moment the above is the list of X's to be covered, seriously...have I missed one!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

W is for Waiting

I haven't forgotten that I am halfway (closer to a third of the way) through the look at small scale copies of Britains combat infantry I started back in...checks his own Blog...February...was it that long ago? Blimey!

The images for the next section (where Crescent desert troop piracies join the mix) is sat in Picasa, where they have been since err...February (it says March? Ignore the 2003, that's how I move stuff around in Picasa, change the year to an empty one!), and I have cropped them and started to do the collages.

Once we've got this A-Z out of the way, I must do a Plastic Warrior new issue review, and a 'News, Views' as some of the things I've bookmarked for it have got old hat, not least the yoga-troops Kickstarter which went a bit viral on Facebook the other day (Google them, they're amusing, if nothing else!), then I will get back to the Hong Kong stuff as I need to finish them before the years out, so I can reschedule them all together (I'll stick them in March) without upsetting the years total!

V is for Vending Eggs

'Capsule toys' by another name, gum-balls in the States, because they are dispensed from the same machines that are also stocked with balls of bubble gum. Indeed the gum came first. Often very tacky little looped charms in plastic or plated jewellery, early ones came in base-metal. The same little trinkets were also used in early Christmas Crackers and there is still a cross-over with the lower priced crackers today.

They used to be a few pence when I was a lad, now they start at a pound, with the banks of Tomy/Takara supplied machines in the bigger stores being £1.50 or two-quid, I think. Obviously for those sorts of lost-deposits you want a bit more than a chrome-plated ring with painted jewels, so some of the toys are quite fun, and there's a whole sub-branch of collecting out there that caters to the gum-ball/capsule enthusiast.

Sometimes, the toys are figural, or other-ways grab my attention and this machine at the pound-end of the scale (The Meads, Farnborough) managed to wrestle a pound from me last Christmas!

This is a Beaver machine, resupplied by toys from Fravend, a company based in Kromstraat, Delft, Holland. As you can see I quickly tested the Alien to destruction, conclusion; destruction is easy!

U is for Unknown HO Railway Flats

Straight into the image I think...

...right; these are a mystery. They look at first glance to be Märklin, same size; HO, same design; flats, same slightly lozenged oblong bases, but then you notice the colours, far too bright for Märklin, so next thought is did Märklin produce a 'budget' range in simpler colour schemes? Well, there are as many colour changes on these as on Märklin originals, just a brighter - more primary - pallet, so that doesn't really wash.

OK, turn to Schiffmann's catalogue, volume 12...nothing, not under Märklin or anywhere else, what does become clear though is that these aren't Märklin poses either, similar to but not the same, to the point where you think that they are trying really hard to look like Märklin?

I'm guessing they aren't German, so early French? Jouef liked some bright decoration? Two of the poses who might be mistaken for railway staff seem to be a postman and a wagoner (wagoneer? Spellcheck's not happy), so they might be for enhancing a wooden toy village or something and nothing to do with model railways? Although the guy in blue buying a paper seems to be rail staff.

So does anybody have any idea who made these and when?

Added the next day; I'm going to suggest they are by Spielwaren [Hans] Wettig, who were apparently the supplier of the Märklin flats, and who made a set of their own 28mm flat civilians (see the above mentioned Schiffmann pp.196), and might therefore have also produced an HO range, despite the Märklin contract. The fact that some of these figures are similar to both Wettig's 28mils and the 18mm Märklin's helps?

T is for Tractors

Definitely had that header before! We have visited Tractors on more than one occasion and will doubtless visit them again, as I like tractors, I used to drive them...Massey's* of course! These aren't Massey's though...

This is a boxed set of Matchbox 1-75 type small scale models, die-cast with plastic wheels and plug-ins, otherwise available separately. The indivdual boxes simply being dropped into a larger liner.

All represent John Deere machines, a brand which has the same kind of fan-base among American farm kids as Massey Ferguson inherited from Furguson's 'Fergies' over here. Ertl made their name as a toy company with their relationship with 'JD' and there's a very good book on Ertl tractors kicking around with all of them in it.

They are nominally HO Gauge sized, but...the American toy industry has two HO's. The HO gauge they use for model railways (or 'railroads' over there) is - as far as I know - the same as everyone else's (maybe closer to the UK's OO in the modelling of passenger cars?), but basicly what you think of as HO in Europe, but - through the radio control hobby - they have a slot-racing HO size, which is actually aiming for 1:64th scale...these are they! [Potato Pottarto, Tomato Tomartto!]

I'm not going to show you all of them for three reasons, first, we might look at some another time, second, they look like the drawings on the boxes above and thirdly...I hate row-crop tractors, I really do, it's irrational, I know, but really?...holding your legs together like a virgin on a crowded-train is not macho, tractors should be macho, and row-crop tractors are stupid-looking! "Ooh, get me! Tip-toeing through the tulips like a ponce!" is what a row-crop tractor says to [shouts at] me!

Luckily, the early models and later beasts have their wheels where they should be - so here's one of each to give a flavour of the set. The figures are from the Ertl Farm Country range, specifically the Rodeo sets.

* There was a short while with an all-white David Brown I like to draw a veil over...Tractors should really be red (or green at a push!), with WIDE front wheels...have I told you what I think about row-crop tractors...

S is for Sacul

I think I photographed this back before I started blogging, but it's sat in Picasa, being moved to each 'new toy images' file, every time I have a sort out, and for some reason never got blogged and never got stuffed in the archive dongles...anyway, here it is, a colourful little thing!

Sacul was one of the smaller firms making hollow cast toy soldiers in the post-war period, and along with all the usual guards and highlanders illustrated on the box, made some larger TV character toys and such like. These are chrome-plated with little feathers for headdresses.

With the paint; there's enough lead in this box to produce a whole cabinet of retards, given that Sacul were apparently over-priced (Garrett), clearly only well-healed Conservative types could imbibe, which explains a lot...I'm not sure pink is a true heraldic colour though!

R is for Rocketry

A couple of poorish images for you in this post I'm afraid, but it gets a new tag in the list and clears some stuff from Picasa, so win-win for me!

I love this, branded to Lyvia, this Hong Kong made money-box has a mechanism which allows you to fire the coin into the cone, how long before it would crack the cone or knock it off is open to question, but what a fantastic, practical 'toy'! I also love it because it has a combination lock at the bottom; when I was a kid, I had a post-box money box, also made in Hong Kong, so there's a nostalgia hit in this. I occasionally see the post-box one on evilBay, but so far have managed to resist!

I never saw one of these when I was a kid, if I had some serious badgering and car-cleaning would have ensued! A forerunner of the modern Estes rockets, and slightly safer, this seems to rely on 'Epsom Salts' tablets and the instructions are interesting reading, comparing what was acceptable for sale as a plaything 40/50 years ago with what is acceptable today...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Q is for Quack, Quack-quack...Quack-quack-quack!

I call Ducks Quack-quacks, so this little lot had to be 'Q', only taken into the collection today, I was going to cop-out with something quadrupedal! I found them in a local charity shop (Shelter, if you're wondering), no price and I can't tell you what they cost as they had whatever was in my pocket as shrapnel, over four quid, because the shopkeeper counted the four and threw the rest in the counter tub for another charity!

The lot included a porcelain goose which might be Wade but is a bit small, and too well painted (for Wade) and a resin chick for a tit-bird (non-native so I can't give more, like a colourful long-tailed or grey-tit!) both of which have gone in the TBS (to be sorted) box, where they will be joined by these as soon as this is up. But I'd like to ID these if anyone has a clue.

All ducks, the large one (top right) is terracotta, hollow (slip-cast?) and not so needful for putting a name to, but the others aught to be identifiable, and are within the scope of the collection, being a clay or composition duck (bottom left) and a set (or part-set) of dark brown or black plastic ducks, not much bigger than 1:32, and usable with Britains farm figures.

I say part-set with a question mark as there are three pairs as far as mouldings go and two singles, I suspect there should be ten - 5 pairs. I thought they might be Marx, but they are unmarked, I'm assuming Hong Kong, and the sort of thing Marx would have sourced over there and sold on a card as an adult collectable for cabinets or mantle-shelves. Google is no help, nor is STS on this one, so if anybody knows these; let the rest of us know.

The composition duck also failed the STS search, being too small for Elastolin or the other obvious candidates, and as I say, I'm not sure what it's made out of, and with total paint coverage I can't do my usual exploratory scrape-test! Again; if you recognise it, please comment.

P is for Premiums

This is being re-written and re-photographed...not least to reflect that they are Quaker Sugar-Puffs...not Kellogg's!...Found the Cluck disc...and another website!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

O is for Ougen (by Elastolin!)

'O' is another difficult one to come-up with! And I've already got this out on STS the Animal collecting forum, but it's an interesting shot I took two and a half years ago and which has been sat in Picasa like a proverbial turd ever since!

A quick Google reveals that what little there is about Ougen is all Elastolin related, so not premiums (as I had thought - getting mixed-up with Onken I think!), rather the French marketing arm of Elastolin (Germany - the old enemy!). I'm sure Plastic Warrior has told us all about them in the past, but mine are in storage and Garrett says nothing!

Really just a packaging comparison shot, for what will have been late-1970's-mid '80's? With an Elastolin original on the left (contents aren't original though! Or; very 'played with'!), the Ougen item in the middle and then an 'HEIA' header-carded bag to the right, not sure if it was a brand as in Heia, or just an abbreviation for the information in the yellow disc...Hausser Elastolin International...Animals?

N is for New (Production)

Who'd have thought 'N' would be as difficult as 'X' or 'Q' (Z's easy!), nothing in Picasa I could easily hang the N hook on, checked the dongle for archive stuff; nothing there...not many N's in the total master-list either! So, bit of a cop-out with 'New'! But they are new, new but not nice maybe...

I photographed these 65/70mm figures on the store's rack, as although I have a side collection of paratroopers, they had plenty, so I'll grab one next time I'm passing! they are what they are, multi-generation sub-piracies vis-a-vis poses, but 'new' sculpts, that is - a bit thin and lacking the detail of the parents, but 're-cut' if you know what I mean!

These two 'toobs' were among the last and with these discount stores there tends to be a 'when it's gone it's gone' system of stock control, so I thought I'd better get them before they disappeared altogether. Indeed the military one had been raided through the bottom of the tube and may well be incomplete?

Marked-up to 'Top Toys', as are the paratroops, one suspects this is the store's (99p Stores) own branding for a generic toy and the true maker will - like most Far Eastern production - remain unknown.

These poses are quite common, and can be found in various sizes and materials from soft PVC's through to this hard polymer, probably propylene, or a dense ethylene? Bachmann carried several of these poses in a set about 15 years ago in HO, and the figures have turned-up in Italy, unpainted 'on-the-sprue' (Majorette?), while these are about 50mm and I've seen them at 60mil. Note the release-pin holes which mar most figures in both sets.

My ruling with these modern equivalents of the old rack-card toys, is to keep one of each figure pose in each colour, marked up with all the brands or importer 'marques' they are found in, with the photographs of the packaging cross-referenced (in the case of more than one source) in the archives.

Thought for the day; Course (with an s) and Source (with a c)...what's that all about? Bloody English!

Monday, October 6, 2014

M is for Mounted Medievals

Halfway through the alphabet! I'll leave the rest for Wednesday or Thursday, but to finish for now, a rather nice set of mounted knights from Crescent. Crescent always did their mounted figures in threes and the trick for a collector is to get one of each of the three horse poses, in each of the three colours...

...I fail, with two dark brown and no white, but that'll be easier to correct in the future than the figures themselves so not too shabby! Note how the lance plugs-in to prevent loss, the pose though is a bit awkward for that figure.

L is for a Little Lone*Star

One of which may not be...a sort of bitty post, but like the rest of this weeks A-Z push, designed to empty the Laptop of all the stuff I've been squirreling away!

Starting with the probably-not-lone-star figure; This is a Lone*Star pose, from the 'Harvey Series', but is believed to be a Harvey original. Like Britains taking Herald in-house, so LS (a mazac die-caster) took Harvey in-house for the production of their plastics (although they got the Bakelite type wheels and nylon linkage for the Treble-O Trains made elsewhere), or - at least - that's how I understand it, this figure is therefore thought to be one of the very early Harvey originals.

Lone*Star also made a very small range of 'swoppet' farm animals, the trick being to collect them with the original tag intact, seen here on the rear left leg. Both the above were photographed in that show-and-tell a while ago, and don't belong to me!

We looked at these a few months ago, I shot them on Adrain's stall at the Plastic Warrior show in May (new PW to revue, will do soon!), but he had them out again the other day, and although some have since been snapped-up, I had more time to sort them out and take new images of the various colour variations. Both of paint and plastic - it seems each figure has a reverse-colour plastics version, while paint variations are confined to the evil elves or pixies...or whatever they were; see older post!

K is for Knights Knot Known

I think we may have had that heading before too! Also; I DO know something about these, I know they are Portuguese and I know they were premiums, but beyond that I don't know who made them, or what product they were presented with?

These are about 40mm, and go very well with the Starlux knights and medievals by Merten and Elastolin, in fact they look like they might have been sculpted by the same hand that produced the Starlux figures? Anybody know who made them or what they were issued with? Ajax washing powder?

J is for 'Hexan'

In the UK 'Swoppets' tends to mean either the quality of Britains (who invented the term that - through generification - has become THE word for all multi-part figures) or the colours of Timpo for the cheaper, commoner figure we all had a few of. But - in fact - most companies had a go at swoppets, changables, plug-ins or whatever they chose to call them and these are a rather nice carded example from the Spanish company of Jecsan;

You get a cowboy and an Indian in the same blister, so a story can be acted-out as soon as you open it, but far nicer is that the smaller blister contains a whole bunch of accessories, far more than each figure needs at any one point; spear/lance, shield, knife, two revolvers, rifle/carbine, shield, bow, tomahawk and Stetson. so lots of play-value, even if up to the point of being given this, you'd had no figures at all.

The figures are also nicely animated...far better than most Timpo, that's for sure! But a bit bigger than the UK standard 54mm, at around 60mil.

I is for Imposters

I think these are Fontanini, or at least I think the pair on the left are Fontanini, the two on the right are the titular 'Imposters'! Fontanini are an Italian company aiming at the Tourist keepsake market with figures in various sizes, taken from various subjects.

What's unusual about these copies is that while the originals are solids (in polyethylene) with a separate base, the doppelgängers are blow-mouldings with an integral 'rock' for a base! These figures are between 5 and 6 inches in height, a bit academic when the bases are so different, the swordsman smaller and the copies are also pantographed a little smaller, but I'm calling them 5 inch!

I only think they're Fontanini as they are missing the 'Italy' mark and spider logo commonly seen on this makers figures/bases. They are also likely (the originals) to turn-up with more ornate 'rococo' bases and I've seen other Fontanini figures with chinoiserie bases, always in that plain-chocolate brown plastic.

H is for Heritage Toys and Games

Or; is it Russimco? Can't remember if this has appeared here or over on Moonbase, but it's stuck in Piacsa waiting to be processed, so process it I will! Heritage Shops were (or still are? The town centre units seem to have disappeared during the recession but the airport outlets may still be going?) a chain of very expensive shops selling touristy tat, sometimes of some quality, but always for ridiculous money, hung on various 'hooks' of historical period, art movement or famous events/places.

This being a case in point; an all paper/card version of Battleships, with artwork that can't decide if it's 'pulp' or Jules Verne in style and which cost around £15.99 or something - a fair few years ago. Just wait until it turns up in a charity shop for 99p, I did! To be fair, it's the artwork I bought it for, mixed or not, the ships are Pulp!

There is a similar chain of shops who's name escapes me, who where selling a remake/re-issue of the old Answer Robot game last Christmas, again it was £12.99 or nearabouts and for a single modern copy of the old Johillco plastic robot, it's not worth the investment when it'll turn-up at a car-boot sale soon...

G is for Golden - Stamp Books

Some shots from the archive. Who had one of these...who remembers these? We had a Wild West one I think, and possibly a dinosaur one? But as a Toy Soldier collector; this is the one to get! Of course; they're not stamps in any meaningful use of the word, having no monetary value, being only pre-glued, perforated labels on sheets you have to separate yourself.

These have been pasted-in with some care and lined-up nicely etc..some you see have been glued by an unsupervised 5-year old and can be in a right state, although the real trick is to find one with the [licky-sticky] sticker sheets still in the front of the book, undamaged.