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”.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

News, Views etc...Museums...

Two in a row? Well, there's a certain symmetry to these...

In less than a week, the ACW Soldiers National Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania will close its doors for good, due to falling interest, a victim of both tighter belts and more museums...

...while a Mr. Phil Collins, a crooner with a beat combo of some repute - I believe, has given a boost to another; The Alamo, which should secure its future for another generation. See...symmetry!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

News, Views etc...Around the Web

Lots of stuff coming into the Op's Room recently, so a dissemination post is well over-due!

Starting with a brilliant Blog which has escaped my radar for it's first 100-odd posts, a fantastic resource for that intermediate period between the vintage and the modern (although he does cover the modern), and a subject that doesn't get the coverage it aught to. I'm definitely going to be identifying a lot of my unknown fantasy and sci-fi figures over there, and can't believe he's only got two followers, so buckle-up people and support...

Fantasy Toy Soldiers by Shaun Christensen

Sticking with Blogs for a second; I loved this Battle Report, it's very old school! While for the politically-minded, there's a quite cerebral, yet very funny Blog at Scarfolk Council

Meanwhile; back in the real world you can't make it up....Council Meeting or Ork hoards?

I mentioned these the other day, I'd bookmarked them some time ago, and then a couple of weeks ago they pop-up on Facebook! They've since gone viral, more than doubled the sought funding and will go into production;

Yoga Joes!


An alternative look at Toy Soldiers and the world they represent over The Pond here; Bay Area, last day today for the exhibition (sorry!), if you're in the neighbourhood over there, you've got a few hours to drop-in, but some nice images with the article...it's a slow-loading jerky page due to to much advertising shite!

And missed This One by half a year...doh!


Wall Stickers - we may have looked at these before, but this is a UK outlet, I think it was dollars last time?
Swarovski Crystal Ear-Rings - Lovely, they couldn't be anything else despite being a stack of 'random' beads!
Mugs - Every war-games club should have a couple of sets of these!
Cards for every occasion.

That'll do for now!

Monday, October 27, 2014

M is for Minotaur

This has been in the not finished zone for so long, I can barely remember when I started it! I wanted (want!) to do a little vignette of the mythical creature belonging to King Minos of Crete, being despatched by Theseus.

The base is a Hong Kong copy of a Gulliver 40mm piracy of an Atlantic American Indian, to which I have added a real Stag Beetle's head...no I didn't, it had been hit by a car! The head is a loose fit, but a bit of filler will help get it looking right and blend it into the body.

Placed next to a 1:72 scale figure (Zvezda?) for scale, he is intended to be Theseus goading the beast. For accuracy I suppose I should be looking at a bulls head, but I like the slight fantasy element of using something else, which still has 'horns'!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

D...eluxe is for Reading...

Continuing to box-tick all this American made American GI stuff, we come to a 'minor make'; Deluxe Reading. The vehicles are in a bit of a state; the main gun is missing, the rocket-launcher is in bits and its half-track is missing etc...but all the figures are on show, or at least they are now the kneeling firer has turned up!

I say 'turned-up' - we saw his base here a couple of years ago and he's the only one I've got, the rest were photographed at a mate's place back in 2007 and are from the 'archive'. That's it really - similar sculpting to the Marx 54mm late production, maybe the same sculptor? Four foot poses and the driver, 54mm 'ish soft polyethylene...1970's...set was called 'Armoured Battalion'...that's it.

News, Views Etc...Dan Dare Puzzle Post

Visitor Andy B has sent a lovely scan of the box-top for the puzzle I blogged at the start of the month, the vastly improved post can be re-seen here;

D is for Dan Dare - Pilot of the Futurepast

Saturday, October 25, 2014

H is for MPC!

Harbert...a really Italian sounding word isn't it! These were going to be part of a larger post on the various copies of MPC mini aeroplanes, but closer investigation (to see which of the Hong Kong piracies they were, revealed they were in fact MPC originals, repacked for the Italian market, so; as I haven't done the photographs for the other article, and still need to clear tons of stuff from Picasa, they can sit here under their own name!

There are a number of aircraft types named at the bottom of the card, but A) the blister doesn't contain all the listed 'planes, B) the list isn't a complete list of the MPC range and C) there are other types not printed on the card contained within, so I guess the list is just to attract attention, and that they were random-packed, a few purchases or some playground 'swapsies' being the best way to get a full set. Can any Italian visitors add anything?

P is for Plastic'o is for Osul

I bought this about ten years ago now, maybe longer? I have this thing about not buying everything I see or not being 'greedy', which is a bit bollocks really, as I do have piles of duplicates of things and often will buy stuff I've already got, yet I often leave things on the dealers table, thinking to myself "Leave it for the next chap - you only need a sample!"...well this was on a table with another cow card and a card of kneeling shooters in helmets, and I bought this; not the shooters!

I don't regret not getting the shooters, but do wonder sometimes why I didn't get both and leave the other cow card, I know why I didn't just get the shooters, my reasoning was that the shooters were probably more popular and would 'turn-up again'...they haven't!

Portuguese 20mm plastic flats.

T is for Tobler (or SR?)

This was being sold by the dealer as an SR item, but I suspect it's Tobler, only because it matches the illustrations in the Tobler catalogue doing the rounds a while back - I'll leave you to decide! Is it a Renault?

As with a lot of early metal makers, Tobler's range was given as being 55mm, but the vehicles were sub-scale, presumably to keep them within a price bracket? As a result this is perfect for small-scale/25mm WWI and inter-war stuff, as shown by the Blue Box German officer flagging it down!

Right...and err...wrong! See comments, it is SR and it might be Tobler...wondered what all the points were for! Got Tobler in the Tag-list though...

L is for Lido

Mentioning Lido the other day and not having the Wild West figures to hand, we'll have a quick look at the GI's. As I was late to large scale collecting (figures not info) I only have three originals, but because I'm known for the collecting of small scale Hong Kong stuff, good chaps like Trevor Rudkin, Gareth Morgan and Peter Evans who previously saved the small ones for me have now developed a tendency to pass-on HK tat (thankfully) in the 45/50mm range as well, along with bigger ones in the odd mixed lot, this has led to a shot with most of the poses, just not all Lido originals...

 ...or at least; nine out of ten of the commoner ones - according to Kent Sprecher's experience! I'm missing the crouching ex-Marx officer and if you follow the link you'll find the other five poses - one or two of which I may have in the mixed, base-less, Marx or 'might be Marx' box!

The originals are tagged '1' in the three corners, 2 are the nearest copies, being slightly smaller pantographs, 3 have lost detail and been given new helmet nets, 4 is a crappy thing that won't even stand-up and 5...well he's the business!

He's the only one I've got, so I'm guessing/supposing either Christmas crackers or gum-balls, usually if they came as rack toys they turn up in larger numbers or more frequently, One found in fifty-years suggests they (he? It may have been the only pose so pirated) were thin on the ground from the get-go. We will be looking at the commoner Marx HK small scale shortly.

A bag of type 2's which Gareth sent my way the other day to share with you, there's an opaque sticker over the old price (on both sides of the card), which I think is in cents, so imports of imports, and late 1960's?

A right old mix branded to Petrel here, mid '70's I'd say; I think - from the belt/water bottle detailing - that these are the ones I've tagged type 3, and come with two out-of-scale vehicles and a piracy of the Action Man/GI Joe binoculars!

Does anyone know if the other two poses are 'from' anyone or just cut-and-shuts of the one on the left? I think the card-art will reappear on the blog as I'm pretty sure it was used on more consistently 'small scale' set contents.

Friday, October 24, 2014

M is for Might be Märklin

And they might be even more 'Märklin' than these which we looked at the other day. Not least because they all come together!

Like the funny Welsh lady we looked at a while ago, they look to have been styled for composition, particularly the rail staff in the middle shot. There are no similar figures in composition in the Schiffmann guide, so I guess either further afield than Germany, or new sculpts in the old style, but for the new material?

18-20mm each, they are 7/10 black and pink plastic, so possibly from two batches, the black ones getting the pale flesh paint, the pink ones having the bases painted black.

I know Märklin are supposed to have produced a set of plastics, briefly, after their metal flats and I've never seen them, only an unillustrated listing in - I think - a US market MAERKLIN catalogue from the late 1960's? Does anybody recognise them?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News, Views Etc...

The P is for Premiums faff-up is now back up with 3 new pictures and 7 collages, all K's changed to Q's and the text revised!


Or about 11 posts down the page!

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...