About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. 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, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' 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”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

L is for Little and Large


Little and Large!

Carved, painted wood, probably from Bavaria or the Black Forest region on the left, an off-cut of elephant's tusk on the right. It's still hot. Is he on the right or is he underneath? Is this a duplicate post? My brain's not working . . . the heat, the heat . . .

Saturday, June 24, 2017

D is for Danger Mouse

Too cool for Secret Agent School, which given the heat here this week; is no bad thing!

Bendy Toys!

DM, Penfold, the other one and a 'bad-guy' frog*. Made in Hong Kong for Telitoy, 1981, factory-painted, wired PVC, between approximately 50 and 100mm. That's your lot, it's too hot.

*Yes I could Google them, but it's TOO HOT!

Friday, June 23, 2017

W is for Who's Wild West Won What Where When?

A quick question mark today, some sort of premium, but who's? There are at least three versions of these Wild West flats, some (seen in Plastic Warrior magazine 155, courtesy of  Rainer Maul in brown and a puce-maroon colour) have the base - with similar pod-foot, chamfered-edge  design - connected directly to the base, there are soft plastic versions I can't describe accurately as they are all in storage, and then these . . .

. . . where the base (or 'baselette'!) is separated from the bulk of the figure moulding by a little pilloti or 'columnette'? Again I have a larger sample in storage, but nothing noteworthy, maybe more of the brighter, primary colours like the reds and blues seen here, greens, yellows, that sort of thing?

The two inset below were being sold as WHW's and while I doubt that moniker, they may well be contemporary . . . 'ish? While the connecting rod might be designed to locate into a card or holder for sale or display they are not all that clear; the cowboy standing with rifle hardly has them at all, so I think they may be more incidental to the whole.

But I do wonder if they are from cigarette packets, possibly German, hence them turning-up in WHW lots. The grey and silver ones are very similar to some WHW's as we have seen here and the marbled one is very 1950's.

Also, while I have sorted them into three versions in my master collection, these additions - if studied closely - could themselves (all polystyrene) be sub-divided. The marbled/mottled one has differences from the red version, the blue cowboys have thinner bases with hardly any chamfer to the base edges and the silver mounted Indian looks very different (and could be WHW, but from a set unknown to me?), while the mounted cowboy has lost his base so can't prove anything!

However, if a mass-appeal, consumable product like cigarettes, selling millions of packs a week or month carried them for some time, years even (they do turn up all the time, but in little mixed lots), that would explain older and newer-looking plastics, design differences &etc.

I think they were also seen in PW139 (provided by Pekka Allan Manninen), but my copy is in storage, and while both correspondents have sought an ID, one has as yet not been forthcoming. As I believe there is a disconnect between Online and Print Media subscribers of around +10%, maybe a viewer here recognises them?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

News, Views etc . . . All Sorts!

It's funny, I thought I was doing too many 'News, Views' this year, but looking at the dates on some of these newspaper stories it's a while since we had one, I must have filled the Blog with other stuff? So anyway; well overly time for another!

In one of those synergic acts of coincidence which happen from time to time, and - indeed -have only recently happened to this very brand (Noki) on the Blog already this year, I saw the other set in a charity-shop window the other day (right-hand shot - the same one my Fontanini came from a few months ago!), which happened to be the day-after I found an old Amazon sales image of the same set it different packaging on the 'unknown' dongle - left hand image.

Seen before - just Picasa clearance!

They both confirm my assumption in previous posts that the bread 'soldiers' cutter would be the same as the one in the E1 tank we looked at last time; not the first time an educated guess has won-out here. Worth noting also that there are slight differences in the old sales image over the actual retail version (different spoon, sharper nose), this is often the way with catalogue images or press-release/sales shots, as they call upon pre-production items to photograph so that artwork is ready for the launch date.

The first catalogue image of Airfix's 1:32nd scale Stalwart amphibious artillery re-supply vehicle was very different to the finished product, as was the contents of their HO Waterloo Assault Set, even on the sides of early boxes; one of the reasons for the 'Items may differ' disclaimers many catalogues and packagings carry.

Colin Penn - who most of you will know from the pages of Plastic Warrior as a collector who uncovers some real treats in his searches - was corresponding with me the other day on a pretty special find of his which I won't detail here as it is destined for Plastic Warrior itself (so subscribe - if you don't already!) but if anyone knows anything about a toy company called (or logo-branded to-) F&G / An F&G Product; he'd like to hear from you (almost certainly not FG Taylor & Sons), and I can pass info on or you can go direct to PW.

He also kindly sent me the above two shots of Vitacup animals he's obtained, including a gazelle/deer (with curved horns) which wasn't in previous posts on the range, nor - I think - was it in the listing, so this set continues to grow! Thanks Colin.

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Having just looked at WHW's again, an interesting recent snippet in the press at the beginning of May concerns the auctioneer Breker in Koln (Cologne), Germany who were visited by the police with a view to removing what sounds like rare 70mm Lineol or Elastolin's from a forthcoming sale. The Nazi era figurines - including Goebbels and a moving-arm Hitler - had been flagged-up as banned Nazi 'memorabilia'. The auctioneers were ordered to 'cease & desist' the distribution of the sale's catalogue, while Astrid Breker, current boss of the company stated "Those were normal toys in that time - you cannot deny history", it seems however that the catalogues had already gone out and Breker now wait to see if they will face prosecution, as some of the toys had not had the swastika's obliterated from the images.

Also connected to WHW's is this, or at least it reminded me very much of the wooden flats issued as WHW's in such sets as the VDA (Verein fur das Deutschtum im Ausland - aid for Germans abroad) Schoolchild Collectors issue of 1935 or 1937's German Fairytales & Legends, both of which involved plain, block-painted, figural, wooden flats.

These however are life-size and of mostly Afro-Caribbean subjects, something that wouldn't have got past Goebbels! Actually these are by Lubaina Himid from her work 'Naming The Money' from 2004, Himid is one of the four shortlisted contenders for this year's Turner Prize, and the oldest ever nominated, being 62 years of age at the time of the press release.

Getting back to the Breker story and breaking in the tabloids today is the tale of a cashe of Nazi memorabilia found in the posh Buenos Aires suburb of Beccar, Argentina which includes toys "...used to indoctrinate German children of the time..." that's the language of the small-sheet press for you! But it does make you wonder if there is lickly to be a bigger backlash against the ElastolinLineol type toys?

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A good walk spoiled, but look at that trophy! I believe it represents the clubhouse at the Augusta club where the 'National' was held this year? I can only see it in use as a fine full-veranda 'Southern plantation house' for the centerpiece of an ACW war game! You'd have to chuck the plinth, and obtaining the - probably solid silver - piece of scenery might be problematical!

March of the PC brigade

PC's and Laptops are gaining ground again after a few years losing-out to Tablets and dumb-phones. Having recently inherited a iphone4 which seems unwilling to talk to my Laptop by either Bluetooth or USB cable, and which won't allow me to the save music files on it to my Laptop in a Windows compatible form, I do wonder at the use of it and am therefore glad we may see a return to the more established and trusted form's of bigger, easier to use, larger memory devices

Could we hope the next generation of Laptop/Desktop will have built in mobile telephony technology, rather than the clumsy VOIP? If I can download music or view smallscaleworld on a dumb-phone, why can't I use the keyboard of my laptop to make a call - it's not rocket science!

Still on computing - I've seen (and heard) stories about the new Windows X-Box One-X, Nintendo Switches and the other things, along with the news that Atari (who have been out of the game - pun intended - for years) are to stage a come-back; so I guess we're about to go back to the console wars of the noughties? Can't say I'll do much but ignore the whole over-hyped business - as I did last time; but an ear will be kept to developments!

Other News

No longer a significant 'player' in premiums anymore, so a bit leftfield, but some may be interested to hear that Weetabix have just been sold again (to Post Holdings of the US), for £1.4bn, that's more than you can spend in a particularly extravagant lifetime!

As a fair few of you carry-out your hobby from your sheds, you might want to know that Cuprinol - the wood treatment people - have narrowed this year's entries for 2017 Shed of the Year, more info can be found at readershed.co.uk where voting is now over - sorry! I voted for the Tardis!

The Muppets - or fans of them - are seeking funding for their continued existence, albeit only as museum exhibits. New York's Museum of the Moving Image is seeking crowd-funding for a preservation package of around 32,000-squids at current exchange rates.

Stanley Gibbons have been in the news with three angles on a sorry story of the 'fallen mighty' in recent weeks, first it sold its stake in Masterpiece London (organisers of the Art fair) through it's subsidiary Mallet & Sons in order to restructure, then about three weeks ago it announced it was in takeover-talks, then - as they fell-through - it announced last week that it was putting itself on the open market.

While for teddy bear fans planning summer-holidays with younger children; the Spanish rental site spain-holiday.com is offering a reuniting service for teddies left behind (quite common apparently!), see details on their website for #NoTeddyLeftBehind.

Hornby Hobbies are expected to reveal profits down 6% this week, but given their tribulations over the last 18 months (specifically) and in recent years more generally, that will be a good sign of the restructuring going according to plan! However, the slim-line stock marketing-model is set to continue for some time, so no new lines for a while I'm afraid.

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Alibaba who have a retail platform model and are under-reported in the Western media and all but ignored by our hobby despite being bigger that eBay and Amazon combined; have seen their share-price rocket on the news of strong grown forecasts for the next twelve-months, around 47%! Coming on the back of a revenue increase of 56% (below expectations!) in the year to March; Trump and Brexit won't stop the march of China. The machinations surrounding Yahoo/Altaba are also interesting but I won't bore you with them!

However I will suggest that the news should be read in conjunction with China's new 'big idea' the Silk Road trans-continental rail link. At the moment there is a delay adding a day or two to the journey as gauge-changes lead to trans-shipping of each train's load twice en-route and locomotive/driver changes to boot. However, with The West pushing Russia and China closer with every speech, it's only a matter of time before a new correct-gauge direct route is established, and seeing how quickly they've (the Chinese) built the first part of their East African railway - we need to look out.

On the loss of Western hegemony and the rise of the - no-longer - 'Sleeping Dragon', a computer has played Go better than a human, a Chinese computer, that is; winning a complicated Chinese game (one of the last games to be bettered by AI) against a Chinese champion (Ke Jie, 19).

Which leads us neatly on to chess, also beaten by computers, but a while ago! The Association of Teachers and Lecturers have called for Chess to be taught in all schools in England as a 'mind sport'. This follows a similar call three years ago which fell on deaf ears in Westminster - too busy wreaking the country and flogging everything in the larder to their mates?

A story itself linked to one stating that school lessons should be broken-up with periods of juggling or Plasticine model-making! The research revealed that learning is best carried out in 15 minute bursts of information, with periods of ten minutes of 'unrelated activity'. This is a non-scientific study but seemed to gain results for schools in Sheffield under the Hallam Teaching School Alliance.

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No additional text needed! Seeemples!

The only event I've noticed recently is that the medieval fayre and jousting tournament which featured in a  pre-Easter 'News Views' will be at Herstmonceux Castle for the bank holiday weekend of August 26/28th with falconry, fire-play (?), costume and folk music, tag line: Party Like it's 1499!

Leo Baxendale, creator of the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx for The Beano comic has sadly passed away. He was also responsible for Sweeney Toddler, Little Plum, The Three Bears, and Willy the Kid along with the co-creation of both Wham! and Beezer comics.

We've also lost Adam West the proper Man Bat, Peter Saliss (voice of Wallace from Wallace & Grommet), John "Down Shep, DOWN BOY" Nokes from Blue Peter and Play School's Brian Cant - the passing of the five all serving to make me feel a little older - but no wiser!

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Finally - who remembers these? On the backs of early-to-mid 1970's era Britains Herald long boxes, we have panels depicting - from left to right - Mini Sets, Herald, Herald, Eyes-Right and Swoppets, although - from the scenery - the second one can't decide whether it is depicting Herald Khaki Infantry or Mini Sets US Infantry?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

H is for Heilpflanzen Des WHW

A bit of a bitty post, but like yesterday's it gets them in the tag-list and adds to the 'whole' on that tag - which you can find under each post (specific to that post) or down the right hand column of this page (all, alphabetically).

Taken from recent acquisitions and Adrian's stall at Sandown Park recently it's a return to the Winterhilfswerk Abzeichen or 'winter-help-work tokens'; some of the earliest plastics in our hobby, although there are a few non-plastic ones today.

Here we see five of the 1942 Berlin Guard set issued by the Gau (regional authority) of Berlin with one of the Police figures from a 1940 issue; he still has his hanging cord - with this you could pin the token to your collar or lapel to prevent yourself being 'button-holed' by another fund-raiser/seller down the road or the next day.

The military set; it's funny we've looked at these before briefly I think, and I now have a full sample of the foot figures in storage, but even with this post we still haven't seen them all here, the half-track is still missing as is the two-man vignette setting-up a range-finder, and this stick-grenadier is broken, so we will return to these at least once more, one day!

This was actually issued by the Deutschen Roten Kreuzes (German Red Cross) in 1941 and titled 'Examples of the Armed Forces'. Also absent are a second, more streamlined submarine (which - having no bow-wave - may be from the question-mark set we looked at ages ago, with the KMS Hitler-like carrier) sand a motor-boat with troops in.

It can be seen that propellers suffer loss and here all three types are missing parts of propellers.

On the left is a few more from the above set which have come in over the last few years, a Heinkel Bomber (early version with open roof-gunner position) which seems to be missing its propellers, but may have been converted to take little clear discs - now missing? The paratrooper - who was the largest-scaled figure in the set at around 35mm - is one of my favourites; this is my second, for painting at some point. Also a badge of a German soldier from a set for which I don't know the details.

On the right are various oddments; The bisque trawler-man comes from the occupations set of 'Industrious Germans' issued in March 1939, it was one of the larger sets with 20 figures (I think we've looked at the coal-miner before?) and all were given a pin-broach fitting on the reverse, again for wearing as a 'badge of contribution'! An earlier, similar set of regional costumes from 1937 in the same style look like a technicolour take on the Commonwealth dancing dolls!

The terracotta plaque has no method of wearing and was a common meme in WHW's, there being various sets of buildings, people, shields etc in the material, while the base-metal dog with semi-precious stone eye was part of another series of similar tokens which included sets of 'Germanic Swords & Daggers' (1939) and ' Historical Tomahawks and Battle-axes (1940), they're from page one of the 'how to militarise a nation' book!

Finally a vulcanised-rubber (or ceramic - it's hard to tell after 80-odd years) chicken's head which may or may not be a WHW token and may or may not be meant as a pencil top?

Some close-ups; The four artillery pieces donated to the blog by Wouter Wyland, shot from the other side from last time! My two planes, head on, and another submarine. The Pak-36/7 is almost HO-gauge compatible (wheels are a bit close together due to the semi-flat nature of the sculpt) and has a cavity number '2' on its underside.

The Stuka is slightly smaller that the MPC-Minis one we've looked at before, and both examples in these images seem to have miss-moulded wing-tips. Unsurprising in a nascent technology, and most are well formed with little flash or other signs of production problems; a few of the ships are miss-registered down the mould-split/join-line though.

The badge looks like it could have been made yesterday, not by a regime consigned to history 72 years ago! The glued-in sub-assemblies of the Stuka dive-bomber - if you invent polystyrene you have to invent polystyrene cement! - which has run up the sides of the fuselage, just as it would on my Airfix Boulton-Paul Defiant 30-odd years later; Doh!

Monday, June 19, 2017

NZ is for New Zealanders

You should have had this on Friday afternoon but it was postponed due to another unpleasantness, and while I said I'd do it for the next day I couldn't be arsed to bimble up the library on Saturday, so today's the day.

Also I've noticed he leaves his attacks on me at the top of the page for a day or two, so giving him a bit of his own dumb-juice medicine and ensuring the maximum number of visitors will have found it over the weekend, won't have hurt!

I was alerted to these by another blog, no need to name it, it gets enough self-publicity from its monkey-lizard's back-link posting about the place, and was itself alerted to Sanitarium by my Dancing Dolls page, prior to the publishing of which, the firm was 'unknown, probably Australian figures' to the Euro-US collecting community!

As a result it's only a box-ticker which will enable me to simplify the links on the A-Z page for Sanitarium by getting these in the tag list and deleting a now-spurious link over there.

A full set consists of two white settlers (farmstead couple), a white dignitary in top hat (carving-up someone else's land in the name of the Great White Queen Vicky), four Maori and a native levy type soldier for an eight-count.

They're big boys! "If only we could get them to stop fighting us for their land and learn to play rugby", said somebody, somewhere, probably!

As with the posts the other day I've measured them both from foot sole to eye-line and from under-base to top of headdress. Semi-flat (demi-ronde), softish/soapy polyethylene.

Some of them have a fade-out of the colouring dye, which remains in the crevices like the old Airfix HO Guardsmen and they all have two little dinks on the upper side of the base, which may point to some production technique or process which remains a mystery to me.

Cereal Premiums. Sanitarium. New Zealanders. Box ticked.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Stadswatch - Really?

I see Stadinger is still bleating about Fontanini like an arsehole full of shit! Really, he thinks he's finally scored a point and he's going to labour it 'till Labour Day! The man's a fucktard. [http://www.stadsstuff.com/?p=9559]

You can almost hear the saliva hitting the screen as he rants like a fuck-witted fuckwit.

1 - He is now complaining about stuff I haven't included! I did a six-parter and he's winging because something's not there? Not 'in it'!

Covered my arse - obviously wasn't that bothered about the minutia of the thing; in what was a conversational post about a larger subject.

While it's heartening to know that someone took the trouble to show him how to use a computer, it's worrying that they've now left him unsupervised in front of one! Where's his carer, for fuck's sake?

He produces an ' article' on Cané which he as good as admits is taken from two copyrighted Italian books, neither of which is acknowledged in the text (nor are the authors named), illustrates it with images that have been around the Internet for so long most of us already have them in our archives and then has the neck, the gall, the dumb-as-fuck stupidity to make my not naming someone a bloggable 'offence', the man's a fucking moron!

2 - Bit of paranoia setting in there Paul? Or are you just too stupid to comprehend English? I haven't put words in you mouth.

3 I said it - I have used what you said to suggest [myself] that Mr. Lemmon was influenced by Mr. Simonetti as Mr. Simonetti had established his style a decade or so before Mr Lemmon's similarly styled figures started appearing!

Fuck! Too stupid, too funny for a comedy sketch, yet; tedious, risible stuff!

Anyway you'll be pleased to hear I'll be box-ticking Sanitarium tomorrow, which will enable me to remove a link to you from the A-Z posts - one less connection between us! You ignorant, illiterate, unschooled, plagiarist, twat.

More here - where you will also see I didn't say the other thing either! Yawn.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

W is for What'EV'er!

Yep! I'm being lazy, it's hot, it's humid, web-traffic's down for the holiday season and I'm just struggling to find my mojo! You nearly more edibles (from New York), you nearly got a news-views, you nearly got WHW stuff, but instead a bit of eye candy that need little blurb!

With those long ribbons they are technically tournament knights, so the fact they have the same crest is fine - Knight practising with his bearer prior to 'his turn' at the tilt! Probably should have a leather sponge-pad on the tip of that pole-arm; ouch!

Britains Swoppet Knights - box ticked!

Rights-free image from a disc attached to a book on costumes - I can't find it on Amazon, so I'll give you the title tomorrow!

The next day...

Costumes (Library of Ornament) by Clara Schmidt

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

T is for Two - Loose Ends

Just a quick one today, bit of a lazy post, still working on that A-Z entry (keep my shadow's on tenterhooks!), so throwing a couple of 'odds & sods' at you . . .

  . . . following on from a post and comment about six weeks ago, they were from a part work, I picked this one up at the Plastic Warrior show in May, handled by Bisset elsewhere in the world and Hachette Publishing here in the UK, title varies and the run went to over 70 issues, but not all were these figural statuettes, there were other things Ankhs and the like!

Shot on Adrien's Stand at the resent Sandown Park show, probably Forest Toys and about 8/9-inches high, carved from wood, it's hard to be certain and although I've posted Forest before I think; it doesn't seem to be in the tag-list so it may be that I was posting [animals] on another platform, last time. Grenadier!

He has a little house, it's like a little box, it hasn't got a kitchen, but there's room for drying socks!

Monday, June 12, 2017

B is for Best Toy Ever - Again

We have had several 'Best Toys' now (I think this is the forth) and I'm pretty sure I've tagged that, if not I will when I post this so you can compare and decide if you agree with any of them!

'Mechanical Machine Gunner' . . . I'd suggest the box is very early Airfix'y, but one of the PSTSM might burst a blood-vessel and "...other brands were available". This is the Best Toy Ever since the last Best Toy Ever, which wasn't here on Small Scale World, and wasn't that long ago - a parachuting, fully-armed, sentient simian - how cool is that?!

Cooler, and probably more intelligent than the PSTSM, that's how cool. Funny how they all ended-up talking English with a slightly American accent - the armed-simians that is; I can't speak for the PSTSM, they probably just grunt at one another.

360° free-fire zone! Legs splayed, back padded with the large pack and rest'able against the sandbag wall - give him enough ammunition and old Ma' Atkins little boy will give the enemy hell 'till it freezes over!

He winds himself-up (back to the PSTSM!) with ease and key-less'ly, although his past exertions have split the bottom of the toy which is current BEST TOY EVER!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

N is for Not Fontanini - Part Not The 7th - Rome Today

When he heard I was preparing articles that would cover the Carrara marble figures, Brian Berke kindly sent me these shots of a trip he took to Italy a while ago; they give a flavour of what's on offer now that Fontanini has bowed-out of the tourist-trap trade to concentrate on its US partner - Roman Inc. - and explore the East; where the fourth generation of the company are stated to be looking for new markets.

These are timeless and - in various guises - common if not universal, but they are fun! They just wouldn't 'represent' anywhere, even if they reminded you of a visit to somewhere. We had smaller versions when we were kids (a tiger and a zebra I think?), and I've blogged a modern soldier-guardsman here before.

I'm always looking out for the ones we had as kids, just to replace them for nostalgia reasons (as you occasionally see older ones on evilBay), but the trouble with them is that the day their string or fishing-line fails, the bits fly everywhere, and they never get put back together again!

Looks like a poured-resin Swiss Guard, and long-time followers of the blog will know I don't rate the stuff, I'll collect it, I’ll blog it, but it's a low-tech, cheap tech, which damages easily. At least this is or says 'Italy' or 'Rome', anywhere in the world you'll find a tropical fish fridge magnet with that town's name marker-penned into the plaque-space left for such labelling!

I don't get the very long drum sticks? Is it meant for overnight storage of rings and jewellery, or just poorly finished? Or is it some form of foreshortening caused by the angle of the photograph?

These are starting to look better, hard to tell if resin or white-metal is involved and the chap out of focus (front left) seems to be a different make (heavier sculpt, different base?), now does anyone recognise these? The distinctive hex-bases should be known to someone and I'd happily bring that masked, wolf's headed signifier back from a trip to Italy.

More Swiss Guards and Napoleonics from at least two makes, again; does anyone know who they are made by - I know Figur are still going, are some of these theirs? The two mounted Napoleonic figures look to be rather superb.

Meanwhile; Carrara now seem to be using aged or distressed copper-bronze casts, they could just as easily be white-metal or resin, but the verdigris looks like a chemical dip, not a painting technique? Still - it's rather nice isn't it; that chariot?

It seems to have found an excuse to take the Thomas Toys charioteer's sculpt forward for another decade or two as well! Although scaled-up and just out of shot is what appears to be another scale-up; of an old Atlantic Greek! But might be something else entirely and more 'Roman' - a sword and a foot's not much to go on!

Can anything be added to this!

I think a caption competition - just for fun; put your lines in the comments, I'm going with the Danny De Vito lookalike saying . . .

"Are you representing the Army of the State of Rome, or are you representing the state of the army of Rome?"

. . . but at the back of my mind I can hear Waynetta Slob yelling "I AM HAVIN' A FAG!"

They look like they are recovering from a fight - with each-other! Thanks Brian, four interesting toy photographs giving us some idea of current tourist mementos where once Fontanini featured heavily - and one priceless shot.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

F is for Fontanini - Part 6 - Odds and Ends

There is an A-Z entry in the pipeline, but the listing of the figures is proving a nightmare, so while I was hoping to publish it with this post, I'll be working on it over the weekend and maybe get it out Monday sometime.

In the meantime; a few lose-ends which didn't fit into the other posts or which I only thought of later . . .

A few marks which missed the boat in Part 1, labeled collage so self-explanatory, I defy anyone to argue the spidery'ness of the three - quite different - logos! Note also how the numbering of the Rococo figures is more than a hundred-count apart?

Cleaning - The pirate was quite filthy when I got him, and while I thought about a quick dry-brushing, in the end I got the ear-buds out and did a proper job. Here you can see how one corner of the base and plinth came up.

In the course of which a lot of Fontanini's ageing wash came off, I didn't mind, as while it 'adds' to the two Rococo figures, if anything; it subtracted from the Pirate, who came up much brighter for losing what was in effect a water-soluble layer of yacht-varnish brown!

He also had a furry base, which I cleaned with postal-labels as they are gentler that parcel tape! Work out from the centre and always at a slight angle from square so you don't pick-up an edge and lift the whole flocked patch.

You can still get flocked material, but it's backed on modern vehicle/shop-sign vinyl, whereas Fontanini/Carrara used flocked paper labels which I'm not sure where you'd get now.

You can also use costumiers felt cut into suitable rectangles, or even crafters self-adhesive felt, but trying to get them cut and glued square to the piece is hard work and it's a much thicker material - useful for chessmen and the like as you just cut a larger piece and trim-back to the edge, but these need to have a very thin layer of flocking and for it to be cut back from the edge a mm or so.

Sublime detail/sculpting given that the material is a dense PVC.

Bit of fun - I had to go to Farnborough today (Thursday) to get a part for my Vape (three years; no fags!) and popped into the old (independent) party shop to see if they had anything new, and while I balked at two quid for these chrome-finished, placky-tacky 'Sexiest Costume' awards, I thought they were suitably statuesque to 'shelfie' for this post - remember also the Hong Kong Grecian lady in white styrene we looked at a few weeks ago.

Growing-family portrait!

Friday, June 9, 2017

F is for Fontanini - Part 5 - Chinoiserie; the Oriental or Asian Statuettes

Firstly a big thanks to Cristianu Hardy ('Ludoprimophile' on the Forums) without whom this post would be a very complicated text-heavy, hard to follow affair with few images! He kindly allowed me to use scans of his original web-posts from ten and more years ago, to illustrate the points/figures as we go.

They have been taken from word.doc documents - as the links from his homepage have become problematical over the years - so are low-resolution, and I've filled the gaps so they are a bit mixed-up. As you'll see lower down, these are a mess really (not on Cristianu's original pages - I hasten to add), as over the years people have added figures to the wrong sets, swapped bases to fill gaps in their collections and not properly annotated the changes, or the finds, so try to ignore the bases until you get to the bottom of the post, where hopefully it will all start to make sense!

Cristianu's website seems to be still viewable from the sub-sections; Elephas Maximus (Andrew) on STS recently found a working bookmark to the animal section, and the home page may still work on older machines, but newer ones won't allow the old Windows Frontpage coding to work; specifically the 'fphover' button hot-links on the homepage.

If you have working links/bookmarks to any of the other sections/sub-sections, let me know and I'll do a post with them on, which can be linked to the original link (top right) through tags. In the meantime the animals are here.

I'll kill the myths at the start

Chinese 'Dog of Fu' (pronounced foe)
or lion guard, carved in celadon jade

Myth 1 - They are 'Chinese' sculptures

The common mistake (going back to Fontanini's original issues) is of calling them Chinese (chinois), they are not necessarily Chinese in origin or particular influence, and definitely not in style and while some of the characters depicted are clearly of Chinese dress or origin, others aren't.

All original Chinese sculptural figurines whether plain or stained (pigmented) soapstone, the harder celadon-jades, 'Blanks' (or 'Blanc de Meudon' - white glazed porcelain), Famille Rose & Famille Verte (porcelain decorated in the Western style) or the carved bamboo (often lacquered in reddish-brown to give the appearance of an almost plastic finish), are in - or tend toward - an anatomically rounded or fuller (well-fed) style; as are most Japanese Satsuma figures, no . . . the output of Fontanini (and their copyists) we are looking at with the 'oriental' sculpts are actually aping Japanese Okimono ivories or bronzes. Chinese Tang-ware is older and more stylised sculpture - you may be familiar with the painted pottery horses, or think of the Terracotta Army.

But back to Okimono - they ape them well; both to the caricature aspect and taller slimmer styling and with the fact that they were originally produced by Fontanini in various shades of white and cream plastic, sometimes wash-stained to mimic aged ivory.

A set of six early Fontnini sculpts are to be found here.

Further complications come from the fact that some characters have several conflicting stories with origins in fact and/or fantasy. They can have up to four spellings of a Chinese name, another Indian (Sanskrit?) name and/or several alternate names - with subsequent spelling variations. Characters can move between myths, fairy-stories and history rather too fluidly and several religions (Buddhism, Dao/Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Japanese Shinto) claim several of the characters - for different reasons.

(thanks to Peter Fox for letting me shoot these)

These are Chinese in influence (and origin?) and may even be Fontanini, but I am not aware of them being such, have no evidence of such, and firmly believe them to be Hong Kong tourist figures, which do ape the 'Blanc de Moudon' figurines from China - the reason for their inclusion here; you can see they are after a very different style, like Fontanini however, they are an 'ivorene' plastic, antiqued with a dark-grey wash, worked into the incised detailing.

However, as well as priestly personages or religious deities, Okimono are known for both their depictions of occupational/craftspeople and/or 'everyday' subject matter as well as for - specifically - figures with fish, and this set has five or six fish or fishing related poses, another sign of its Japanese or part-Japanese origins.

Within the figures below are Gods, priests, rural craftspeople, classic tourist tropes, a couple of possible known characters, some dancers and - hiding among them - Kinder's apparent made-up-names, several of whom have parallels in the stories of old! And one must also bear in mind that culturally speaking; China, Japan, pre-Mogul India and others in the region were closer once, than they maybe now.

One figurine looks more Siamese (modern day Thailand); the female dancer in a tall hat, another looks more Indo-Asian; the chap with his arms folder and having a large sword hung at his waist, while two do have very Chinese-looking top-knot hairpieces (striking octopus tentacles with a sword and playing flute), but such hair was worn by the Japanese too, while the chap with an alligator/crocodile (salt water?) is a known Japanese tourist thing. So the jury's still out on this one, but not Chinese overall, maybe 50/50?

It would be easier and more accurate if everyone could get in the habit of calling them the Fontanini 'Oriental' or Asian figurines!

My two (I have a bunch of similar figures in storage), both sourced in the UK and therefore possibly Lyons Tea? They are very rough, poorly finished versions of the Fontanini originals, with no sign of having had a plinth, while the integral bases are crude and misshapen.

Myth 2 - They represent the 'Immortals' or other specific groups

Several commentators have tried to tie the 8 Daoist (Taoist) 'Immortals' or even the 18 Lohan characters into these 'sets' [see Myth 3 below], but only three of them pass muster as such characters - and then only barely!

The guy holding a 'dragon' fish as tall as himself over his shoulder could (and only 'could') be either a 'Lung-man' (with a sturgeon) at the Dragons Gate from Chinese mythology or Pan-t'o-chia (Panthaka in Sanskrit?) the 10th Lohan who charmed a Dragon, while the man with a feathered fan could (again; 'could') be interpreted as Chung-li Ch'uan (Zhongli Quan)- one of the eight immortals, or Chu-ch'a Pan-t'o-chia (Chota Panthaka) the 16th Lohan. Of the women - the lady holding a bunch of flowers can be taken as Ho Hsien-ku (He Xian'gu) with her lotus, one of the Eight Immortals? Yet the flowers - as modelled - don't look like lotus blooms, let alone a single 'magic' lotus - so it's a stretch to take her thus.

Six of the characters have been given Chinese names on one or two websites, but these seem to be the names awarded them by Kinder in their set of diminutive, die-cast copies, which came late to the oeuvre and I can't find them in Derek Walters' Chinese Mythology, the book I've been working from.

Google revealed that two may be taken from The Water Margin, with one also having the further choice of being mythical or an Empress, while another could choose between a scholar or a Prince; the other three drew a blank, so I guess - as a group - they may be fictional 'Chinese' Ferrero-names, with some happening to be common enough names to attribute by random happenstance!

Likewise, the various premium issues in France gave their sets Chinese titles (Chinese Occupations, Chinese Saga's etc...), but with some Fontanini-sourced exceptions, these are or can be crude copies, possibly from Hong Kong (they mostly aren't marked) and pull various poses from the larger range of original sculpts with little or no sense of order. Mir (washing powder) went with "Chinese Statuettes".

Myth 3 - That these are all made by Fontanini*

While you can call it 'a' set (the whole line/range), they seem to have been designed/used for issuing in pairs, sixes, twelves or eighteens with more than 34 sculpts - that I know of - and not every figure was issued in every style or size, at least four (like the Napoleonics) being confined to the larger sizes, another two being re-cut at some point, while one has a mirror-geometry version.

With most of them more easily available to people lucky enough to still be in the EU, that's where the work still needs to be done, to find out which sets in which sizes were supplied by Fontanini, copied by someone else (who? With or without a license from Fontanini? Where?), or sourced from Hong Kong.

Although it's equally likely some may have been sourced closer to home - the number issued by French or French-based companies suggest France, but if they were unlicensed it's likely somewhere more lawless like Yugoslavia or even a factory beyond the 'Euro' law of the time; maybe Spain, might be in the frame?

*Not really a 'myth' as I don't think anyone's claimed them all 'made by' Fontanini, but the origin of manufacture is questionable for the bulk of them, also while they are all originally Fontanini sculpts, a few of them have been taken directly from the Japanese Okimono originals.

My recent purchase (95/110mm; higher number is guesswork due to absence of plinth), cleaned-up and perched temporarily on a knights plinth - he is clearly marked HONG KONG MADE IN on his kilt-hem - possibly a UK-issued Lyons Tea figure?

In both cases (the various premiums or the later Ferrero/Kinder issue), we are talking throwaway playthings aimed at younger children, and just as one talks of 'Chinoiserie' in English when talking about things which may be Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese or Korean, so I suspect these figures ended-up 'Chinese' through a combination of laziness, ignorance and a lack of a need to care terribly how accurate the moniker was.

First appearing in the 1960's, from Fontanini they were quite striking figurines, especially in the larger sizes, with various shades of faux-ivory (white, cream and pinkish shades) polythene (PE) they were later made in the same dense vinyl (PVC) as the rest of the Fonplast work's output and found their way onto Carrara marble sample blocks/tiles for tourists to take home - all over the world.

Ageing/antiquing was applied with washes in black, brown, dark gray or an oxide red-brown, and these often prove to be water-soluble so on tatty examples can be removed easily to clean the figure up. This is true for all Fontanini, Premium and marked HONG KONG versions in the larger sizes, but not always for the smaller sizes.

Now, the various sets of premiums come in two sizes, but different finishes and on several different plinth types, and I can't be too specific with my three here and few in storage, all copies of Fontanini, but not Fontanini! While the Fontanini originals came in at least four or five sizes and with various - more ornate - plinths.

So we will just go through listing them in no particular order (I've blocked them together by subject matter where I can - men first; in an institutionally sexist fashion!), numbering is pointless as different collectors have used different orders/numbers for different sculpts over the years, names/titles are equally pointless for the reasons mentioned at the start - some of them have dozens of 'original' (Asian mythological-) names, others have never been given a name by Fontanini, Kinder or any of the premium issuers, and I don't know the Fontanini cavity numbers - in any size!

The known sculpts (Kinder titles in red) are:

Male Sculpts
- Large curved sword across body [Yang Zhi]
- Arms folded, large sword and flame/lions-mane headdress
- Holding large sword over and behind head
- With large bullwhip
- Striking downward with sword (Sculpt only available in larger sizes?)
- Carrying or wrestling an alligator or crocodile, sword hung at waist (Sculpt only available in larger sizes?)
- Striking at octopus legs with large sword (sculpt only available in larger sizes?)
- Running with sword or strap in right hand, rice lunch-box in left (Sculpt only available in larger sizes?)

The guys with bull-whip and crossed-arms both look to be from more exotic Asian countries, Thai or Siamese maybe, while a lady from the Oriental Ceramics Society (OCS) informed me the alligator/crocodile fighter/carrier is a popular Japanese tourist piece? Conversely the man wrestling three octopus tentacles is clearly very Chinese!

Fish or Fishing Related
- Basket of Fish, throwing carp over shoulder [Zhang Shun]
- Giant 'Dragon' fish (or Catfish?)
- Large carp counter-balancing basket of fish over shoulder pole/yolk
- Giant carp in right hand, fishing rod in left (sculpt only available in larger sizes?)

Again as a grouping these represent a very popular Japanese trope, but fish are also associated with various characters from the myths and legends of the whole pan-Asia region.

The guy on the right has a different base to mine; squared-off and may be a Fontanini original from a larger set - all the figures with the more ornate pierced-plinths are to be taken as such.

- Playing flute, long top-knot
- Two fans
- With a hood/pack on his back
- Wagging finger and stroking his beard
- With fan [Song Jan]
- Holding a bird and a pipe (Sculpt only available in larger sizes?)

A similar sculpt to the flute player but with a sword was issued as a pirate in the smaller, painted, PVC set by Fontanini.

The last two on the right might/could be from the 8 Immortals or the Lohan, but their 'signatures' aren't clear enough, one is known for having his fat belly on show, another for being learned, but he should be carrying a book, which would look more like a box to our eyes.

Female Sculpts - Vase holding variants
- Low vase - no crown
- Low vase - crown
- High vase - no crown
- High vase - with crown

Are those with finer detailing from Fontanini, the others copies? Note that with the right-hand pair the vase differs, as does the holding forearm, the first figure having no lid and a heavier forearm.

- Crowned dancer
- Holding fan up
- Holding folding-fan down [Zhang Shi]
- Shallow baskets on yolk

Was the first one (Thai/Siamese?) issued as a pair with the crowned chap holding a sword? A variation exists of the second girl, with the whole figure bending/glancing the opposite ways to the figure above.

- With flowers [Jiu Tiun Xuan]
- Balls or parcels on a pole/yolk [Pan Qiao Yun]
- Playing small lyre
- Playing large lyre
- Bird resting on a pole over shoulder
- Tai/Siamese dancer with dragon
- Holding open-sieve or pearl-diving basket? (Sculpt only available in larger sizes)
- With fishing rod and fish on board (Sculpt only available in larger sizes)
- Bird on branch, stick in left hand, simple shift/dress (Sculpt only available in larger sizes)
- Playing harp (Sculpt only available in larger sizes?)

Was the fishing-rod lady paired with the similarly equipped male sculpt? The pearl-diver could be Polynesian - if that is what she is representing? When I first found the Harpist I thought it was one of Fontanini's Christmas/nativity angels, but she clearly has an Oriental hair-style.

In total - 34 poses, 37 sculpts (that I know of).

Premium Sets

This is the pose layout/pose count for the smaller premiums although some larger ones have been used to fill the gaps in Cristianu's original line-up and a couple have the wrong bases but right plinth (yellow dots). The green dots are figures with the better bases (arched-filigree edged hexagonal drums), the red dots are of poorer finish (beaded edges) like my two above.

Some issuers released these in three tranches of 6 figures which seems to explain the red dots; different source? They also seem the commoner poses - from what I can tell!

65mm 70mm (65/85mm)
Hegaxonal 'tablet' Plinths
Body - Cosmetics (UK)
Café Scarpia - Coffee
Lutin - Haberdashers
Mir 'Nylon' - Washing Powder
Pur Crem - Cheese

Oval 'basin' Plinths
Café Damoy - Coffee
Café Mokaden - Coffee
Grosjean - Cheese Spread
Unmarked (3 bars) - Unknown
Veuve Amiot - Sparkling Wines

No Plinth
Montblanc - Dairy Products

Cristianu's original larger set rearranged to fit the page for a screen-shot with alternate versions of the high-hold jar lady; again sometimes issued in two tranches of 6 poses.

90mm (80/100mm)
Crenellated Plinths
Cafes Maurice - Coffee
Lutin - Haberdashers

Rectangular or Wood-look Plinths
Axion - Washing Powder
Café Damoy - Coffee
Geigy Agchim - Agri-chemicals (UK: CIBA-Geigy)
Laden - Household/Domestic Appliances
Thé Lyons - Tea (UK; Lyons Tea?)
Valnoble - Wine

Oval 'basin' Plinths
Mir 'Nylon' - Washing Powder

Three of the products known so far have links to the UK, but with only one known to have issued in the UK (Body Cosmetics), yet the smaller figurines are quite common over here, and with a domestic appliance firm and agri-chemical company issuing them, it may turn out that someone like Hoover or Pifco may have given them away at some point? But - that's thinking out loud - not a fact!


Additional-plinth types for the premiums and smaller Fonatini's; larger genuine Fontanini's come with more ornate plinths in several designs (some of which have found their way into the above screen-caps, they are also sometimes found on Carrara marble plinths

For the sake of completion, the actual names of the Eight Immortals (Pa Hsien - the Eight Fairies/Eight Genii), not to be confused with the Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup - a bunch of drunken poets! Wikipedia name first, should you wish to dig further - I'm about done on mythological Asian celebrities;

- He Xian'gu - Ho Hsien-ku (female)
- Cao Guojiu - Ts'ao Kuo-chiu - Ts'ao Ching-hsiu
- Li Tieguai - Li T'ieh-Kuai - T'ieh-Kuai Li (Li with the Iron Crutch) - Li Yüan - Mung Mu - Li Ning-yang
- Lan Caihe - Lan Ts'ai-ho (androgen/sex unknown, debateable)
- Lü Dongbin - Lü Tung-pin - Lü Yen - Shung-yang Tzu
- Han Xiangzi - Han Hsiang-tzu - Ch'ing-fu
- Zhang Guolao - Chang-kwo Lao
- Zhongli Quan - Chung-li Ch'üan - Chi Tao - Ho-ho Tzu - Wang-yang Tzu - Yün Fan (Han dynasty)

While a little on the Kinder names;

- Yang Zhi (Sizu - Water Margin character, Eastern Han Dynasty official or EmpressYang Zhi (259–292), Jin Dynasty (265–420))
- Zhang Shun (Water Margin character)
- Song Jan (?)
- Zhang Shi (Prince (died 320, ruler of the Former Liang state during the Sixteen Kingdoms period or Song Dynasty scholar (1133-1181))
- Jiu Tiun Xuan (?)
- Pan Qiao Yun (?)

Rack toys - Bazar figures (severn)

In the course of researching this post I also discovered that the Patron Saint of sodomy is called Chou Wang - I kid you not! It's apotheosised from the last Emperor of the Shang (surly 'shag' - ed.) dynasty who was a tyrannical deviant, with an even more deviant concubine! I love this - do you suppose gays know they have a Patron Saint? Or that he's a wang chewer! It's priceless; someone tell Donald, he might explode with rage and do the world a favour! Whoops! There goes my entry visa!