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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

C is for Cowboys (and Native Americans!)

Well, I had a day to spare so I dug into the box I've been blogging the Giant Stuff from and had a half a sort-out of the Cowboys and Indians, at the same time because I needed the 40mm canoeist, I got the box of carded sets out of the loft and the result is a stultifyingly tedious look at the minutiae of Giant Wild West - if you are a casual visitor to this blog; or a decent overview of what is or isn't Giant to those who get so excited about this HK-production importer from New York.

These are the 6 Giant foot poses in the wild west range, apart from the canoeist (below) they are the only known poses used by Giant, all other foot figures (and there are many) were imported by other firms.

Even with these 12 there are question marks over when they are Giant (dealers premium - kerching!) and when they aren't (dealers description "Believed to be Giant"), more of that below, in the next part you'll find a explanation of the base marking changes with these guys, in the meantime, the simple rule is the better the quality the more likely they are Giant, however as with all rules there are exceptions.

The 6 mounted poses, there are as you can see three Cowboys and three Indians, in my articles for One Inch Warrior magazine I think I identified 40 or 50 mounted poses of hollow-horsed Cowboy or Indian, and only 6 are Giant. Again these poses are used by non-Giant brands and carriers, usually of a poorer quality.

In the Cowboy image, all three are on the horse I have christened 'Smoothie', in the Indian shot, the centre rider in on another Smoothie, while the archer to the right is on a 'Mexican Small' and the chap in the full war-bonnet (not necessarily a chief) is on a 'Mexican Large'. Along with the medieval charger these are the horses typically associated with Giant, but again there are exceptions, and again the other 20/30-odd hollow horses out there are not Giant...unless they are!!

From the left; Mexican large; Mexican Small and; Smoothie. Occasionally a smaller version of Smoothie appears in a Giant lot, usually towing wagons or artillery, he's called 'Pony'. The Smoothie seems to be based - loosely - on the Marx running horses, lacking the wave in the mane of the more common horse based on Crescent's running pose, but with the stirrups removed and a fatter tail, while the Mexicans seem to have something in common with both the Ajax 60mm horse and the Rel horse.

Colours of Giant horses are usually pretty reserved, being black, either a solid or slightly translucent white or many shades of brown, however as we saw the other day, there are exceptions and sometimes wild colours appear like red, green, pink, mauve, purple...in fact; any colour the figures come in.

Ideal would later carry a larger version of hollow Mexican in their Fort Cheyenne play-set.

The only other figure I've linked to Giant is this copy of the Thomas  'girl' paddling a canoe. It's hard to give him a scale as the original series was all scales for making box-dioramas from cereal packets, so in the bag with the others he looks like a boy, on his own in a carded canoe set (see 2nd post below) he is a 40mm adult.

It's not a terribly clear picture but it's the best I could do and I took dozens of shots with and without flash or natural-light and at all angles, but the plastic blister is old and tatty and very scratched so this is it. Also; of the four figures in the set he's the only one not damaged, it's rare for this HK stuff to get brittle, but it does happen!

An idea of the colours you'll find these figures in, it might look as if you can find them in any old colour under the sun, but when you look at a sample of Giant against another brand or unbranded set there are differences.

Typically Giant are matt rather than gloss, have a pastel hint/tint to them and are 'solid' colour - it's hard to explain but it's there! Indeed one way to tell late/post-Giant issues of these figures (as opposed to all the others) is that they get shinier the later they are dated - not because they're cleaner, but because the plastic is different

Top left shows the 'spruelette' as it leaves the machine, they survive like this as they were issued in a non-Giant branded Canoe set, with the long connecting pieces between the first and last pairs of figures wedged into slots on spigots in the base of the canoe. I should have stripped the home-paint from this one but I have others and was hoping to use them...but they are in the missing 'proper' boxes!

Below that is an interesting sample of Type II figures (see post below) in a limited colour range that all came together. To the right are a hot-pin conversion above and a sharp-knife conversion below.

I is for Indians (or Native Americans!)

Carrying on from the post above I want to look at the markings of the cowboys and Indians in greater detail, as to the Giant purists this is everything; if it's marked Giant it must be Giant'. There are three distinct phases of marking on the foot figures bases, while there are dozens of horse types and the different horses have different marks while the riders have no mark at all, so we'll concentrate on the foot figures.

These are the least common, and best detail so by default - the oldest! It is a rule of thumb that the newer the toy soldier the poorer the quality, you only have to look at the Britains Detail Americans and how they slid to see that particular 'rule' in action! Likewise the harder something - originally mass-produced - is to find, the further back in time it was issued. Not hard-and-fast but a useful starting point in these things. A larger GIANT above a smaller HONG KONG, I call these; Type I.

We then arrive at the problematical one, a smaller GIANT on all the Indians and the odd Cowboy with the same HONG KONG, but with most of the Cowboys just having a HONGKONG with no space between the 'Hong' and the 'Kong' [and bloody difficult to capture on film!].

The reason these are problematical is that they are not that common so the above rules suggest this is a 'Type II', but the quality is poorer than the ones we will look at next? Yet for reasons we will come to the others pretty well have to be Type III, also these are sometimes mixed with the next type, but only occasionally. It is my view that these were a poor mould, hence the need for a third, and were phased out a bit sharpish?

These are the most common, sometimes with the colouring of typical Giant I tried to describe in the above post, sometimes shiny and 'new, sometimes in Giant sets sometimes not, sometimes not even with Giant horsed mounted figures, and they seem to have overlapped the Type II's, and gone on for a long time (a bit like the last version Knights - but that's for another day!).

The most important thing about the Type III is; No GIANT anywhere. Just a neat blocked MADE IN HONG KONG, this gets a little fuzzy on very late non-Giant product.

When I say quality is good or bad with these figures, I'm really talking about the level of detail in the tooling, the rifle of the yellow figure above shows that otherwise they suffer from all the usual problems of HK production - a lack of care in the finished article! One of the problematical things about the Type II is that the actual detail is poorer than I's or III's?

Direct comparison of the Type I/II 'GIANT' size differential, the bases are also different in outline and as I've said the figures are overall poorer with the Type II, almost as if they are copies of the I's while the Type III is a new or re-engraved mould?

Western wagons, the upper one is likely to be the later one with it's (P) conceit, while the lower one was typical for earlier sets. Note also that the early ones have no seat/footstep and are - apart from the marking - identical to many other non-Giant HK wagons.

B is for But is it Giant?

So, are they Giant or aren't they? We'll look at all those Wild West sets in my collection with some element of Giant in them and try to make head-or-tail of them...

The upper set has properly marked Type II figures (you can see straight away the poor quality of them) and reasonably good Smoothies with a Giant-marked wagon, yet is clearly not Giant, nothing about Giant on the packaging (bought in the UK - along way from New York), not typical Giant packaging or layout, this is 19660's salesman's sample-case sell-through and nothing more.

Below we have a similar pack without foot figures but including Giant quality Mexican Smalls (post-Giant versions of this horse can get very poor indeed, these are good though), but again NOT Giant in my opinion, not least because one has been overprinted with W.H. Cornelius's (WHC) 'Success' label! [They were still taking a stand at the January-dated British Toy Show about 6 years ago, so should still be around somewhere, still shipping-in HK rack toys 48 years after they took delivery of the pictured card.]

These are all Giant-marked horses, with Giant type riders and the set to the top left has Type III foot figures,all in typical Giant colours, I would say they are contemporary with Giant, but again not Giant product, just production from the same plant/s supplying Giant Toy Corp Co Inc Ltd of New York, New York NY, NY! But it's just not the same thing...

Note the set bottom-left; yellow Indians on black Smoothies, green Cowboys on brown Mexicans (both large and small).

Here we have Giant product in Giant style packaging with Giant style graphics, but no Giant logo. I believe these are Giant, shipped over to Europe by Giant either from NY, or by pre-arrangement with the HK suppliers - direct from the colony? These are probably worth a premium to a dealer, but not the silly money people were giving for Viking sets a few years ago!

On the left we have a genuine Giant set with the logo and address and the whole nine-yards, but instead of the oh-so-collectable little 'one inch warriors' we have a poxy piracy of a Thomas/Tudor*Rose paddler! Notable for the brittle state of the figures - boats are OK but the figures are shot.

Which brings us to the last one, more brittleness, more Giant in a non-Giant set. It doesn't ever get more Hong Kong than this, two Cowboys and and an Indian on Giant Smoothies supported by a Giant wagon fighting six Giant-marked mediaevals who are - apparently - Crusaders!

Points to note with this mish-mash of a set; the card was never used, the chads for the towing horses are still in place as are all the other cut-outs; the entire contents of the bag were in a heap at the bottom with the shrivelled and crumbled remains of a couple of elastic bands, but nothing had been placed.A Friday afternoon job if ever I recognised one!

Secondly is the brittle wagon; the Coyboys's horse - same colour - is also brittle, while the wheels (different shade of brown) are fine (as is everything else in the set) and can still be bent double, which backs-up my theory re. batches and production problems with over/under or re-cooking leading to the flaws that heat, damp or - mostly - ultra violet then exploit to release the free-radicals that lead to the polymer breaking-down.

Monday, January 30, 2012

B is for Beton or the Bergan Toy Company

These are late and common soft ethylene examples of a line of toys going way back, much better described on Ponylope (link to right) or in O'Brien's books than I could here. I like them because they ooze 'toy' charm.

They have had the original WWI 'Brodie' copy of the British 'piss-pot' - with which the early phenolic or cellulose figures were equipped - replaced with something resembling...?...err a piss-pot! Except the paratrooper who was a late addition to the set, he actually has a reasonable rendition of the M1 helmet. Also of note is that these late figures often release a coloured waxy deposit as the lower-right hand standing firer has, the other range with a tendency to do so is Matchbox!

That's it; small sample in poor condition but they are up here, tagged and ticked-off! Enjoy.

B is for Bowl...But is it art?

For only three or four hundred dollars you too can be the proud owner of a bowl full of holes...

'Mosleymeetswilcox' War Bowl...$399.00 and more some more I think this is theirs too and still more here

or you can go with the budget alternative;

'Raw Design'...Less than $35.00!

or...you could get a wok, turn the oven up and...

Hey! Woah-there!...I will not be held responsible for any damage done to your better-halves's utensils, you're all grown-ups, I'm just planting the seed!

D is for Delhi Durbar

A lot of Hollow-cast and 'New Metal' collectors have a bit of a thing for the Durbars that were held in India in 1877, 1903 and 1911, and one of the new metal producers has a whole range dedicated to those spectacles, that were such a display of Imperial power and prestige. If you are active on the Treefrog forum, you might like to bring this to the attention of those aficionado's...

This is the layout map of the various camps and compounds of the visitors and units involved in the Coronation Durbar of 1911, the last as it happens, the abdication putting off the next and WWII/Independence putting paid to what would - almost certainly (with hindsight) - have been the last if it had gone ahead.

In order to make it readable I've photographed each of the three folds separately and stitched them back together as a Picasa collage, and clicking on the image and clicking again should get the image about 6 screens big! As the book is 30 years out of copyright I can hardly claim copyright for the image either, so I suggest anyone wanting a decent printout;

Right click "Save Image to..." - Desktop, then cut or copy to disc or data-stick and take it to a reputable high-street print shop and get a high resolution print on an A3 or A2 sheet and trim the margins.

Elephants next.

[Well - it only enlarges to twice screen size, so may print A4 only anyway...if there is a demand for a larger image perhaps someone with better knowledge of imaging on PC's/for the Internet can suggest a way of improving the presented article!]

M is for Minimodels

The Havant (Portsmouth suburb) factory of Minimodels was part of the Lines Group/Triang Empire, which means that at some point it probably supplied figures to any, all or none (?!) of the following; Almark, Capri, Corgi, Berwick, Frog, Pedigree, Penguin, Playcraft, Mettoy, Minic, Subbuteo, Triang, Waddington's and Wickets, with latterly; likely connections to Hornby and the Dunby-Combex-Marx group.

It seems to have been set-up in a new-build unit (I delivered too once! But sadly after it had ceased to be a toy factory...boo!) to consolidate the work being undertaken by several other factories in Tunbridge Wells, East Grinsted and (probably) the closed Merton works in London - but that is guesswork/assumption on my part based on previous sources of figures (and other product) to some of the above listed clients/members of the group.

These 54mm hard styrene polymer figures were first sold like this - factory painted - as 'Minimodels', before being supplied to Almark as unpainted kits, however the larger items don't seem to have been issued by Almark.

The Mortar is a clear attempt to compete with the - then con-current - Britains Swoppet British mortar team, and the bombs are almost identical (too long and thin for 81 mil/3 inch mortar rounds) to the Britains one. The sculpting style of Charles Stadden is self-evident in the figures, he seems to have done a lot of figural work for the Havant facility including one generation of Subbuteo figure for Waddington's.

The pack mule places this set firmly in the Pacific/Burma campaign or New Guinea, however they did use pack animals in the Italian mountains as well.

This is an exquisite model, very well executed and as good as anything Britains were doing at the time, the poor reception to these figures (and their relative scarcity today) must have been a portent to the changing tastes that would bring all these companies down as the seventies ground slowly and full of toy manufacturing bankruptcies into the eighties.

W is for Wellingtonians

I may be neglecting the Airfix purists at the moment but I'm giving the Giant chattering-class a handful of Katzini's this week instead! As this is a non-box that should be split between the other two - missing - boxes, I have no mounted figures in this sample (they're as bad as the ACW ones - believe me!) and as their artillery is identical to the Civil War stuff we looked at the other day (C is for Copies) it's just a look at the foot figures...

..where we find the blue-force commander wishing - as the rounds wizz ever nearer - that he hadn't let his Godmother choose his new uniform the last time she went shopping in Paris.

They are really quite good for Hong Kong production, copied from the SAE figures of Holgar Eriksson, and with the detail so well preserved they may have used 54mm figures (or technically; 55mm if Comet/Authenticast's were used?) as donor models.

With regards to the officers - I'm not too sure how effective a light-sabre duel will prove to be once they are 20 paces away from each other?

A close-up of the kneeling firer, there's nothing in it between this figure and the various new production sets around at the moment from HaT or Strellets*R, indeed this chap is a darn sight better sculpted, proportioned and even detailed than some recent sets I could mention!!

U is for Unidentified Infantry

It's been a year or two since I did a post of all unknowns so thought is was about time for another batch, especially as I seem to have proportionately more unknowns in the fledgling large-scale collection than I do in the small-scale stuff.

I think these are of French manufacture, and the paint is probably 'home-paint' to be removed - once that suspicion has been confirmed. I also wonder if they may have been either premiums or Sobre/Lucky-bag type product as metallics are unusual for everyday toy soldiers?

They are not that rare and I should know who they are by, I further think they are 1970's soft plastic (they are soft plastic!) copies of earlier 1950's hard plastic figures, possibly from two sources, the larger running and firing poses seem familiar (and are larger), from a book possibly? Can anyone help?

[The next day - I Should have mentioned that some of the smaller ones are similar to Tim Mee poses, Paul Morehead (PW's 'Ed.') thinks the larger ones might have originally been Clairet hard plastic poses, I wondered JIM?]

[12th December 2015 - These are actually by Vilco, two sets have been on FeeBay for the last few months with reasonable prices, but no takers..tightwads, all of us! And - it is home-paint which I can now strip-off]

This guy is about 70mm or he would be if he stood up, maybe 80mm even, he's made of a dense Polypropylene or Nylon type polymer. The lower picture shows him next to a Deluxe Reading figure for a comparison of the base marks. The materials are different and the base marks aren't close but DR were quite a large 'general' toy company in the 1960/70's over in the states, and they would have been sourcing/buying-in from all over, so it's a possibility? Can a US reader help here or am I wide of the mark?!

[Months Later - It's Remco, probably Star Trek, and thanks to err...me! For finding that one...looking for Tim Mee on Wikipedia!...Link]
My preferred suspicion for these two 54mm figures is Italian production; cheap bagged rack/dollar-tree toys? The bases would go on to be much pirated by Hong Kong usually with PVC copies of Britians or Timpo Wild West figures. But the figures themselves are similar to the Texas Cowboys & Indians also from Italy but they have deeper bases...can a European reader help us with these?

[The Next day - Paul also thinks probably Texas, but not happy with the bases - unlikely to be original. They are like HK copies of the Lone*Star swoppets, but unmarked and of better quality? Should add they have only one foot-spigot/locating stud each.]

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GI is for General or Government - Issue or Infantryman

The American GI, turned up just in time to save us from a German breakthrough in WWI, turned-up a bit late (it has to be said, thanks Orson, no thanks Hirst) in WWII, became the villain of the piece in Vietnam for no really good reason and is now along with most of his Allies running around in the sandpits trying to get his head round whatever rules of engagement apply from whichever Blue, Red, Green, Buff or bloody Rainbow-coloured card he is supposed to be consulting on any given day prior to opening fire, so that if he has killed one of the people trying to kill him, it is at least Lawful to the folks back home with a big liberal chip on their shoulders!

I have already got 27 fast-food tubs in the large scale 'US Infantry and Marines' box, which covers all the WWII through to the 1970's figures, and while I'm going to blog some of them, an awful lot of the tubs are filled with Airfix/Marx/MPC or their many many copies, and they are a bit boring really, all green and common and stuff! So we'll be looking at the less usual ones...

When covering Americans; it's always a good idea to start with some Spanish Troops!! These are Montaplex 54mm copies of the old Reamsa figures (at least I think they are Reamsa poses!), and came in a little Sobre envelope they were fighting to get out of before they left the shop! While they are meant to represent the Spanish Army of the 1970's, they still look American enough to fit in here.

Atlantic's large scale were the same as the 1:72 (described by the maker as HO) scale figures, with various greens for the Americans, a fetching blue for when they needed to pretend to be French for a while or the 'had a run-in with a chocolate factory' set (crawling - front).

The flag-raising vignette is nice but easier to get together in the small scale, this one has a very heavy flag that kept slipping out of the men's hands before I got a decent photograph!

Modern production by BMC, these are a cut-above; very superior sculpting, casting and accuracy of detail have these up there with the best in white-metal connoisseur castings for the serious 'figure painter' types! The B.A.R. is particularly good and the animation is well done - I like these; can you tell?

News Views Etc...Bits and Bobs

His Majesty's Imperial Cadet Corps
Mustering sometime in 1911 in the run-up to the Delhi Coronation Durbar

First I'd like to thank all the new followers to this blog, all traffic greatly appreciated and my hits have doubled since October, indeed my stat's make interesting reading and I may do a blog on them soon.

Some of you may have noticed I've added a lot of new links in the last few days and there are more to come, basically I've lost so many useful bookmarks in the various crashes on the old laptop, that I felt it was easier to get all the bookmarks I still have on it, this new one and the PC placed here where A) everyone can use them and B) I can't lose them (or can rant like crazy if Blogger loses them!).

On the subject of Blogger; Quite apart from all the other problems;
* Deleting and adding blog links.
* An apparent 300 blog link limit.
* Lots of "received invalid response" messages, causing loss of work.
* Lots of "Blog Not Found" messages, causing loss of work.
* The layout reset to one post per page the other week (I'm still not back-up to my 15 posts per page, despite saving it as a change to 20 - twice!).
* Problems with three-column blogs and the right-had widgets moving over the central column images last Wednesday evening.
* Some people having trouble uploading images from their PC and having to use Picasa.
* Some people having trouble uploading images from Picasa and being limited to their PC!
* "Memcache value is null for Form Restoration" messages when trying to comment from Wordpress....

...and adding all the problems with layout (automatic Div's and Para's in the coding leaving great gaps, and the problems I had on the Airfix page with the 'updated blogger interface') back in the summer, this all adds-up to a failure by Blogger to understand the philosophy "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"...

...there is also the new limit on Tags/Labels, which has been set at 20 words per post OR 200 characters in total, whichever is reached soonest. This limit is farcical....while I can understand the overall limit of 5000 words per Blog (if anything - over-generous?), the post limit means that some of my past posts have already 'gone over' the new limit meaning that I will never be able to edit or update them again as they will not save without me taking out labels that have been there quite happily for years!

Now while I realise that a lot of the problems listed above are due to the increasing complexity of the Internet, the introduction of another coding language and the fact that it's all being written (the coding) for three new operating systems as all this mobile technology speeds and spreads causing compatibility problems for all users, it is equally true that the post limit is down to Blogger and no one else.

If people have been taking the piss out of tags, shut them down or warn them or something, don't hit the rest of us. 30 words would be a far better limit, a lot of people don't even use their tag list, or produce minimal labels that don't help at all. This is a problem caused by the commercial guys using Blogger templates on their own-hosted web-pages, who are using as many words as possible to drive traffic to their clearance white-goods or whatever.

I sometime produce posts in which the products of several companies from several countries in several materials and scales appear together, and collectors following me need to find those figures under any of those headings (maker, nationality of maker, scale, material), along with nationality and era of the figures shown (or whether they are infantry, cavalry or sailors etc...) meaning a 20 word/200 character limit necessitates leaving out a load of valid tags.

So - if you go on the Blogger Forums, please fight for an increase to 30 tags or 300 characters - whichever is the larger, and better policing of the piss-takers.

The feeling is that Blogger provide for free and we should live with it, well yes...but they also make a fortune from the Adsence carried by some blogs, which is one reason I've dropped mine, why should Google (who own Blogger - and "will never do anything bad") and Blogger take two cuts while never actually sending me a penny? And if they didn't provide - someone else would.

The rant sort of over; I tried to re-tag the first month of my blogging the other night and ran into horrendous problems with the new limit (and once you've reached the limit on one post you can no longer edit all the posts with that tag, as the changes won't save!), and can see that I'm going to have to re-do the tags on 460-odd posts, taking out all plurals, extraneous (to Blogger) words and using abbreviated forms wherever I can. This will take a month or two, but should be worth the effort in the long run as it will be easier to find past posts on a given subject or theme.

So; some days that will keep me away from posting, however; coming in the next few days are American GI's in larger scales (already started) and Giant Napoleonics continuing from this odd box I've got. We'll also look at the Elephant pictures in the 101 year-old report into the Delhi Durbar from which the above image was taken and there will be more art links involving toy/model soldiers and things.

I also want to close down the 'Other collectables' blog and transfer the posts to this blog, I don't know how to do that so that they appear when they were originally published, so you may find, one day, four pages of shite from over there...over here!! But I'll soon bury them with new soldier posts! I will also ask blogger if there is a way round it using the 'Import Blog' feature I now can't find but which used to be there somewhere! I may also Bring the Airfix page over here as well...but don't know yet?

Thanks for popping-by, do keep checking back when you have the time, try requests - I may be able to help, do report dead-links and please comment or correct, it all adds to the bigger picture.

Hugh.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

L is for Lost Patrol!

When I covered my Brother's Detail from the attic back in December (D is for Detail) I was bemoaning the fact that I didn't have all the poses and that the Japanese I thought I'd obtained for my own collection weren't there...well it turns out that I do have some US Detail figures in the large scale 'US Infantry and Marines' box! So here they are...

At the top we see a comparison between the older and newer standing firing pose, the older one is so much better for a number of reasons...better paint in better colours, sensible sized bayonet, no over-blousing of the trousers and a very realistic M1 Garrand rifle (which I've used), unlike his replacement in the later sets who seems to have equipped himself with an 1880's Winchester, all right - after zeroing - for a target competition, but I suspect not much use on the 'Sands of Iwo Jima' (shouldn't that be 'Pumice of Iwo Jima' ?!).

In the middle are a couple of the missing poses and another kneeling firer and the lower shot has two new (left) and two old (one incomplete; right) advancing figures, showing various shades of green plastic, early and late bases etc...

At the end Britains were struggling, and painting them up as first UN infantry (upper shot) and then 'Attack Force' or something wasn't going to help. The colour scheme of the lower lot was also applied to the British Infantry from the Detail range and they looked even worse in it than the Americans...they look like they're dressed in pyjamas and wearing chocolate buttons on their heads!

The Bazooka I thought was a new pose is among these late ones and the advancing pose appears again, what with my Brothers figures in the attic we've got that pose well and truly covered!

C is for Chariot

Paul over at 'Paul's Bods' has been treating us to a real nostalgia hit with his refurbished Atlantic Chariots in the last few days (his 'before' shot of the Roman chariot looked uncannily like mine of 32 years ago!), which seemed like a good excuse to roll out a couple of Giant chariots, not that I need an excuse; somewhere in the infinite universes - of the current string theory and CERN findings - I am blogging nothing but Giant ancients...every day, twice a day!

A poor angle this one, shows the chariot all right, but the horsemen are a bit hidden, Paul (Morehead; my editor at Plastic Warrior) is always telling me not to shoot too high!

But of interest here are the red and green horses, these are both clearly marked GIANT and came with this group, but in wacky colours is not normally the Giant way, there are bags of multi-coloured horses in the post-giant boxes, but Giant usually went with Black, solid or translucent white and a range of browns? Although I do have some more odd-coloured horses in the Cowboy & Indian box.

Main constituents of the Giant 'Ancient' range - fort was covered a while ago. Most of the figures are taken from the Britains Trojans, with a couple of Marx poses (standing to the right). The chariot was a nice little thing, with the decoration looping over the wheel-mounts.

Two-horsed variant/copy here; Lucky Clover

Larger sample here; Lazy Post

I'll be looking at the two-horsed ones in detail another day, and will find an excuse to return to these again!

P is for Pixies, Dancing Pixies!

There aren't many companies who have made a concerted effort to take the crown away from Cherilea for 'Most Leery Figures Ever', but if anyone was seriously trying it was this lot out of Italy.

These figures from Nardi are barely earning the epithet 'swoppet' being only articulated at the waist and with a swivel born of the single plug-in feet. No matter; whichever torso you try with whichever legs results in some kind of anatomical shenanigans that you'd only expect to see in the freak show at the Zglmorg Bros. Circus "The Greatest Show Off Earth".

All that said though; still amoung my favourite figures and I wouldn't part with them!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

G est pour la Guerre Civile

Having covered both Cherilea and Timpo albeit not fully, it seems to make sense to look at some of the other swoppet types before moving on to pastures new. These are all small samples, and a lot are 'unknown', but they give a flavour of what else is out there.

Another British firm; Charbens, did a set of swoppets which are clearly Timpo rip-offs, as kids we always thought these were better Hong Kong production due to the ridiculous pistol holster/belt. The flag's a belter though, bit of paint and it would knock the Timpo guidon into a cocked hat! No Union yet - I'm afraid, but they were the same mouldings with blue shirts.

These are a common kind of Hong Kong pirate, again taken from Timpo and possibly some connections with Linda or Blue Box, but it's such a firm 'don't know' I'll not be putting either name in the tag list. I do have somewhere images of HK ACWswoppets - that could be these - under another name entirely, if I find them I'll update this post in pink!

Very similar - even to the plug-in boots, this chap is by Transogram. Several of these HK sources adopted the double belt-loop and over system in vinyl for the braces that replaced the actual leather or canvas belts used in the civil war, this was due entirely to Timpo's influence and lead!

This guy is actually quite a good moulding from the waist up. A small HONG KONG on the top of the base helps separate him from all the similar figures. The third hole in the base is for the running legs that came with some of the Cowboys and Indians in this range.

Of the four HK sets looked at so far these are the best, they also have the plug-in boots but are otherwise very good copies of the Timpo originals, even down to the guidon, leading some unscrupulous dealers to try passing it off as Timpo - it actually has much cruder stitching and an almost unreadable 'th' after the 7.

These may be by Ellem for Cherilea, but I don't know so for now the same note applies as to the first lot (re. Linda/Blue Box) and once I've identified the Ellem bases, it may all become a little clearer?!

This 45/50mm lot are more Britians based, with PVC vinyl-rubber torsos on ethylene legs. Origins seem to be half Herald (bugler) and half Britains Swoppets. At some point the torsos were used on larger legs making 60mm giants - far-left in the lower left image.

I love what they've done to the Britains lying firing pose, reminds one of the Airfix prone or mounted poses that Montaplex put on bases!

"Lookout! Observation balloon!"

"I'll poke you with my big stick!"

"Go on then...I'll get my sabre out while you ignore yours shall I?"

"Blame the Photographer for posing us like this"

"Hmm, all right, I blame the photographer...you're still a long time dead"

Elastolin Yankee waves a red-flag to a Giodi Reb-bull...ha ha - I shouldn't be allowed! I think he's one of a set made for Kinder in the 1970's. These are both good quality figures - as you'd expect from European manufacturers, although the Giodi figure has some disturbing similarities with some of the HK production?

L is for Large Scale!

Fancy painting yourself green this weekend? It's safer than the TA and less vicarious than Paint-balling, but it's not really re-enactment either....

BBC Caption Competition

Costume Hire and Costume Design and Not Safe For Work - Fnar fnar!!

Stephen King Stage Show

Tumblr Photoset

Eurodisney Toy Soldiers

Real Toy Soldiers (Video with pop-ups)

College Humour Someone painted their mouths!

I've lost a bookmark to another one, it had a couple of Chinese or Croatian chaps painted as toy soldiers but in a trenched landscape with a bazooka, so a little 'closer to the mark' as it were, anyone got a link to it?

C is for Civil War, Cherilea and Confederation!

These appear to have been sculpted by the same guy responsible for the infamous UN infantry and East African Rifles in the 60mm solids range, and while the 'swoppet' system has allowed him to break the surly bonds of his previous sculpting limitations, it hasn't prevented his desire to sculpt double-jointed dancing daemons completely - and it does rather show...

The 54mm swoppet Confederates, I only have the three, and these are not as easy to find as the 60mm figures, the one on the right of the line-up has a Timpo base which is something to sort out as and when, while the guy in the middle can only muster with the aid of some Union boots!

"Pri'vet Hawkins?"

"Sir?"

"Arr'you intendin' ta where'a them damyankee boots for the whole of this here waw'ar? 'Cos if you is boy - you'll be feelin' more than ma words across yow'a back see, I ain't havin' non of my men bringin' the Con'fed'der'acy into diss-repoote by warein' non-regoolation aparrell, you hear me Boy!?"

"Sir, Major, Sir!"

The 60mm figures, same sculptor - same pack-drill. There are two poses of Confederate soldier (possibly the two above) that exist in vast numbers, with dealers trying to off-load whole boxes of them for years now, the Union though have to be sought out as any other old plastics.

Earlier ones had the solid bases (green above) with holes specific to the figures, while the later issues had a generic base (sand above) with a choice of four holes and a hollow underneath.

As for the right-hand Confederate figure;

"Haww'kin's!"

"Sir?"

"Boots!"

"Sir, Major Sir!"

On the left a comparison between the two sizes of figure. to the right; Cherilea also made a set of solid cavalry with very heavy bases, these were around 50mm, but sit OK with 54mm figures due to the base, mine seems to have had his tail docked! And is a re-issue from Dorset or Marlborough from the 1980/90's.

They also made 60mm solids of both ACW and 7th Cavalry but I only have one or two at the moment, all Union/7th blue, so they'll have to wait a while before they appear here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

B ist fur Bürgerkrieg!

Following on from the small scale last night, here are the big boys! Familiar to most - so not much waffle tonight - these are the much copied first issue Timpo American Civil War 'swoppets', I only have a couple of mounted so feast your eyes on the infantry!

Confederate revolutionary terrorist insurgents first! They were originally issued with a brown hat from the cowboy range, but in the end they were given a grey one, eventually as they geared-up for '2nd type' launch date; kepi's were issued. Sandy bases are also later (what the internet geeks would call 1.2!), while the guidon is from the medieval range.

Mounted Confederate, this is the charging horse I mentioned in passing last night as being similar to both the Crescent and Britains running posed horses.

Union foot; I suppose if I'm going to call the confederates 'insurgents' I should point out that these were the equivalent of fascist right-wing capitalist bankers wanting to federate everything and make money!

They also got kepis at the end and switched to sandy bases, but they got 7th cavalry guidons in four colours (red (illustrated), yellow, green and blue) these are considered uncommon, with the yellow being the easiest to locate. The guy holding the standard yellow guidon with the kepi also has the 2nd type neckerchief, which may not be right for these 1st types, but like the bases and kepis, they were probably phased-in?

My other mounted figure, again this horse is similar to both the Crescent and Britains galloping mounts, and all three companies adopted the clip-on base. Timpo are easy to tell with the over-moulded halter and stuff, but not the early ones - where each company had hand-painted leather-work.

C is for Copies, Copies and err...more Copies

Thinking it was about time I did some more ACW stuff - I had meant to get more done last year, but the beauty of a four-year war is that we'll have the 150th anniversary for another three years! - I dug out the ACW box last time I was at the storage unit. I then thought I really aught to do the Airfix HO/OO ACW over on the Airfix blog, but that won't happen for a while due to the storage question, however I thought I could do the Giant ACW figures, as it's a while since I covered them in One Inch Warrior magazine.

Now; my Giant have been split into three in the move, with the box containing the Ancients, Mediaevals and Mongols along with all the 'stone' forts I covered back in the summer (Giant, Accoutrements, Lucky Clover) is buried deep in the storage unit (although I have a handful of Roman/Greek Giant originals here by a stroke of fate) so I won't be featuring them for a while. The carded sets might (big MIGHT) be in the attic here, and if they are I'll try and get some up here in a month or two. While the rest happened to be in sight when I picked up the large-scale ACW the other day (coming soon), so I can present them now...

Nine foot figures; one prone and eight upright, taken from the Marx 54mm range they come in various shades of grey and mid to dark blues. These are original Giant, and are of a reasonable quality and detail, some are a bit 'bent', sometimes this is curable with a little just-boiled (never 'boiling') water, however some are too far gone. This kind of damage is caused by removing the sprue from the mould too soon, leading to uncontrolled shrinkage - left in the mould for another second or two the figures would cool/shrink 'in pose'.

Six mounted figures (top image) are obtained by cut-and-shut of foot figure uppers onto a pair of mounted legs! This works reasonably well for all bar the 'Firing musket to the left pose' who remains one of the most ridiculous figure poses ever in any scale. There was an even more idiotic mounted pose in the Backwoodsmen range.

Their artillery seems to be relatively original in design, although - ironically - much copied by their fellow Hong Kong'ese! A rather clunky and slightly medieval carriage carries a piece of ordnance looking like an eighteenth century naval gun but - one suspects - wanting to be seen as a Parrot Rifle? A decent little limber comes between the gun and a couple of paired horse teams.

One of my samples (all Union foot figures) came with six Giant wagons, the covered 'GS', and both open and tarped stores loads. There were three with covers (all yellow) two red stores wagons and the single green tarpaulin covered wagon illustrated above.

As I wrote above, the Giant Civil War figures were much copied by other HK companies and here we have three samples by at least two different suppliers;

In the upper photograph the complete gun-team and all the figures in front of it are from one source/sample, the yellow mounted figure and the two foot figures in front of him are of another purchase (but seem to be late production of the previous source (?)) while the lying shooting in pale blue is a very poor sample from another maker entirely.

Note how the later producers have added red and yellow to the mix (I've seen mounted figures in pink), and also taken the Giant flag bearer from the Napoleonic (Wellingtonian) range - itself a copy of a Holgar Eriksson SAE foot miniature - and used him has a mounted cavalryman - Giant having mounted him in that other set which we'll look at another day.

The lower picture shows how the Limber has deteriorated; from the left (with the corresponding figure in front) we have the Giant original with a full Giant marking, the early and late production of the copies in the middle and on the right the copy of the copies, this last one (along with the late production 2nd generation limber) has a lot of mould damage to the interior walls and it would seem that the HK chaps were having problems with the male half of the mould?

I only have two prone infanteers and three gun-teams for this late/poor quality (?) sample, so don't know what their foot figures or cavalry looked like yet. The gun-teams however, for this set; were single-pairs like the Christmas cracker limber-less guns I looked at a while back (W is for Wagons ...again!).

Again; comparison/identification shots of the four samples I've so far identified, I have given all the HK horses names to help identify them and they were all published in a past issue of One Inch Warrior, so for now if the next bit loses you; don't worry - it's all farty, navel-gazing, rivet-counting, obsessive, hardcore-collector stuff!

At the top is the Giant original, this is the very best type of HK hollow horse I call 'Smoothie' as it's a well finished moulding. Next; the 'initial' copies have two horses, one sometimes associated with Giant which is used here to pull the gun teams; 'Mexican Small', the other - which the mounted figures came on (in several separate samples) is the horse I called 'Wavymane' because err...it's got a wave in its mane! This is actually a copy of the Crescent 54mm horse (which is itself similar to both the Timpo and Britains Hearald running posed horses) and is the commonest form of HK hollow horse encountered in the UK, usually with Cowboys and Indians and which are not Giant copies.

The later versions of the initial copy and the late/poor copies have versions of what I call 'Remould' as the moulding has had some serious re-engraving done, particularly to the mane and tail, the last one is barely hanging together detail wise!

There are also notable differences in the draw-bar/horse-furniture with the little locating-studs being the easiest way to tell them apart, Giant having quite heavy 'arrow-head' finials, while the late set are very lightweight.


Giant originals bottom left and then first (?) copies next to them and later ones above, as you can see the Giant figures are marked 'GIANT (P) HONG KONG', while the others are unmarked, but similar mould marks on both the flag bearers is the reason I'm linking both sets despite the different horses and lowering of detail to limbers and things, the foot figures - at least - were coming from the same producer.

It's likely that as the horse mould wore out, or the source/s of the two original horse types dried-up, they got the later horse from somewhere else, or maybe they just re-cut the mould themselves - it's very much swimming in the dark with the history and relationships between all these pocket-money producers from the New Territories!

It's all very well putting 'Giant' on everything for your New York office/partner/commissioning client, but it makes it harder to sell them where Giant (whoever they were really) don't operate (not that that stopped Giant-marked items ending-up in non-Giant sets as we saw with the D-Day sets (Barbed Wire) I covered a year or two ago!), some non-Giant, is actually late-Giant...sometimes, but not - I think - with these.

The 'P' is presumably meant to indicate 'Patented' or 'Protected' and is otherwise meaningless, further it was probably designed to resemble the (R) for 'Registered' used in the US sometimes. Otherwise the usual marks found on toys are; (C) for 'copyrighted' and TM for 'Trade Mark [registered]' worldwide or; Reg., Reg.Des. or; Regd. for 'Registered/Registered Design' here in the UK.

Finally the locating-studs on the legs of mounted figures are another good way of documenting and identifying Hong Kong horses and figures origins. Here we see that the Giant figures (top left) have some on the largest of all HK mounted figures with the exception of the officer illustrated, who has quite a pointed stud without the heavy flange of the other figures.

The rest are the early and late (?) versions of the better copies, with the earlier ones top right and the later ones below them, you can see the drop in quality on the silver flag bearer, despite the fact that the foot figures are almost the same.

The figure to the bottom left is a neat conversion done by the original owner (not me) to the 'Napoleonic' (or Wellingtonian) flag and makes a cavalry guidon by the simple expedient of cutting the flag-pole where it meets the flag, shaping the flag above the damage into a triangle and then threading the pole (no glue, no heat) through the loops made by the cords flapping against the pole!