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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

T is for Trojan Trooper with Tennis Ball

In the Plastic Warrior special on Trojan there is was one item still waiting for a positive ID; the 'Red Devil Paratrooper...

...it's been ID'd!

Although I don't buy much on evilBay (the odd bag of naptha moth balls when I see them!), I do keep an eye on it for research purposes! The other day I spotted this, it had a high BIN price (£45), three watchers and a failed offer.

I thought "Wow, better download the images before they disappear!", but then spent a couple of days thinking I was ignoring the number one rule; if you don't get it when you see it you'll regret it.

As I have saved about forty-quid giving-up smoking in the last three weeks I decided that if it was still on-line the following morning, I'd buy it; it was, I did...

So, here is the elusive chap, not mint but in bloody good condition for something last listed in a 1960 catalogue (to PW's knowledge), so it's older than me and I'm not exactly in prime condition myself!! I dare say they will start to come out of the woodwork now, it often happens that once something has appeared once it turns up again, a few more times in the next few months.

A typical rack toy or pocket-money item, it makes you wonder why people like Britains didn't do more of this kind of thing, Timpo did, and it's an easy money-spinner.

By coincidence, Adrian (Mercator Trading) had let me have this 'unknown' figure about a year ago and he's been sitting in the paratrooper box (it's a side collection) for some time, we both knew it was a 'cut above' but suspected Italy (which seems to have produced a lot of these paratroop toys) or Japan (it's a blow-moulding, with the looks of an over-fed Japanese super-hero character).

Like all the khaki infantry, there are paint variations; one has the boots painted, the other doesn't, one has green goggles, the other silver, one has the quick release buckle silvered, the other doesn't, and there is a marked colour difference in the plastic, so there must have been a fair few made in more than one batch.

He seems to be a 'Red Devil' not because of any association with the German's nickname for British paratroopers in World War II, or the eponymous display team, but because he is a devil...check-out the hat/head? I love the suggestion you should wrap him round a tennis ball for maximum height...not something I remember any other paratroop toys advocating when I was a kid.

I took the figure straight round to Paul Morehead's, so he could photograph him for the next edition of the 'special', and we had a bit of a chat about Trojan, some of the points from which I'll dwell-on quickly. Quite apart from the known, suspected or unknown relationships between Trojan and the rest of that cluster of small, 'early', British plastics makers round London (Kentoys, Speedwell, UNA and VP), there is also first; the fact that Trojan was possibly only one of three 'names' coming from this house, the other two being W. Shipton 9earlier) and - probably - AJ Novelties, with secondly; additional brands being Lilliput (typewriters) and Tiny Trojan. So while their works may have been small; a mews stable in North West London among others, they were clearly quite prolific for a short period.

This figure may well have been from the AJ Novelties branch, although in Trojan packaging, as they were marketing "A wonderful range of tea sets and plastic novelties" which sounds like the sort of unit likely to have an ethylene blow-moulder? Equally they could have been bought-in, even from Italy or Japan!

When I bought the 'mother load' back in October 2010 (which got me 'into' large scale, and early British), from the Priddy's, Bill told me that his uncle and him had actually been to the factory in the Granville Mews...one of the things he was adamant they had seen there was a 'large vat of liquid' in the middle of the stable.

Now - I said it couldn't be plastic, that's not how it's handled - he thought it was, but couldn't remember much else, just that there was this vat of 'stuff' being dipped into. If Shipton's model aeroplanes had die-cast or lead/white-metal parts, or if the Lilliput typewriters had alloy parts, this may explain the vat, as they are all (relatively) low-temperature melting metals?

It may - equally - be that one of these names/brands is also responsible for some of the otherwise unidentified hollow-cast figures kicking-around in the late 1950's or '60's, and that the vat was for producing such figures?

So, there is still a lot to discover about these companies, their relationships and wider ranges, however, we now know what the Red Devil looks like.

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