About Me

My photo
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. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

F is for Fat-Flat French Fellows from Figurines Historiques

And so to the London Toy Soldier Show, which I wasn't planning on attending, and haven't been to for years, certainly not since the move to the new venue at the Business Design Centre in Islington. I can well recommend the trip to anyone who's umming and arrhing, it's a light airy venue, with plenty of space and wide aisles.

I had my eye on these all day, but wasn't supposed to be buying much (budget not stretching to three shows in a month - I also did Sandown last weekend), so - at the end of the show - I asked the vendor; an old mate, if he could do me his best price, and he quoted a fair-one, so the deal was done.

I had taken a few looks at them/rummaged through them during the show and having not seen any obvious duplicates knew they would be worth a punt, but was pleasantly surprised - when I'd got them home and sorted them into chronological order - to find what seemed to be four full sets of 12 semi-flats or 'Demi-rond'.

Being the Mokarex re-issues by/as Figurines Historiques for Historex/Historex Agents, less the 3 Napoleonic sets which may not have seen a FH re-release (Historex having their own extensive range of fully-round 'multipose' 54mm Napoleonics), and the other set of French Personalities, which - ironically - I have bagged, in storage! The missing figures being;
  • Bayard
  • Conde
  • Connetable de Bourbon
  • Duguesclin
  • Hoche
  • Jeanne d'Arc
  • La Tour d'Auvergne
  • Mal de Saxe
  • Marceau
  • Roland
  • Turenne
  • Vercingetorix
However; let's look at what I've got here . . .

  • Gaulois 300 (Gaul)
  • Franc 400 (Frank)
  • [King] Clovis 465-511
  • [King] Clotaire 1 558-563
  • Merovingien 600 (Merovingian)
  • [King] Charlemagne [The Great] 768-814
  • Carolingien 800 (Carolingian)
  • Capetien 1000 (Norman)
  • Chevalier Croise (Knight Crusader 1100'ish?)
  • S• Louis 1226-1270 (St. Louis)
  • [King] Louis XI 1461-1483
  • [King] Francois I..1515-1547
As these figures are from more than one set of original Mokarex premiums and/or separate runners (as Figurines Historiques) I stress the above is not a set, but rather figures from up to three sets, arranged chronologically by date/s given.

The Figurines Historiques runners do all have 12 figures, arranged as branches of a 'tree' format; six each side, and were sold bagged with a header card. They are in the same pure-white, slightly soapy or soft polystyrene as the rest of the Historex range, holding detail well, and easy to clean-up, glue and or paint, however . . . compared to the silver, gold, bronze or gunmetal of the Mokarex originals: a bugger to photograph!

  • Archer 1520 1520 (date repeated, no bow, so; man-at-arms?)
  • Cent-Suisse de le Garde 1558 (Landsknecht type)
  • Lansquenet 1562 (Conquistador type)*
  • [King] Charles IX 1560-1574
  • [King] Henri III 1574-1589
  • [King] Henri IV 1589-1610
  • Piquier [of the period of] Louis XIII (Piquet/Night Watch?)
  • Mousquetaire 1627 (Musketeer)
  • Garde Cal Richelieu 1628 (Cardinal Richelieu's Bodyguard)
  • [King] Louis XIV 1643-1715
  • Fusillier [of the period of] Louis XIV 1667 (Fusilier)
  • Carabinier 1692
*Where the term 'Landsknecht' comes from?

Mokarex (another French 'x') were a coffee brand in France (and predominantly French-speaking Belgium) based in Paris, and issued all these along with fully-round solids and hollow plastic figures as premiums in their coffee, and I mean 'in' their coffee, I believe you had to break the seal and pour the coffee carefully into another jar, or dig-about with a spoon, to find your 'prize'.

Being the earlier figures I assume these were designed by Leroux, with the later solids being of Leliépvre's hand? While the 1976 Figurines Historiques revival - from which these figures date - seems to have been exclusive to Historex, JG Garratt reports that Nathan Polk (of Polk's Hobby Store) stated he and the Brethiot family (owners of Mokarex) were responsible for getting the project to fruition.

  • [King] Louis XV1715-1774
  • Garde Francaise 1724 (French Guard)
  • Infanterie [of the period of] Louis XV 1745 (Infantryman)
  • Grenadier 1771 [of the period of] Louis XV 1745
  • Fantassin 1792
  • Infanterie [of the period of] Louis XVI (Infantryman)
  • Colonel De Hussard 1804 (Colonel of Hussars)
  • Grenadier 1804
  • Tambour Major 1804 (Drum Major)
  • [Emperor] Napoleon I.. 1804-1815
  • Chevau-Leger 1810 (Heavy Cavalry)
  • Cuirassier 1810
I would imagine that these are actually less common than the Mokarex originals, as despite the customer base of Historex back in the day (and Polk's), there were - like cereal premiums - millions of the metallic-plastic ancestors issued.

One thing I have noticed about this type of polystyrene is that it tends to yellow if left in direct (or bright/long-term indirect) sunlight (the Airfix 'Multipose' and 54mm collector's kits suffer the same problem), so to find them mostly so clean-white is another bonus . . . however, if they are painted, that's not a problem . . .

  • 6085 - D'artagnan 1611-1675
  • 6086 - Athos
  • 6087 - Porthos
  • 6088 - Aramis
  • 6089 - Maitre Bonacieux
  • 6090 - Madame [Constance] Bonacieux
  • 6091 - Planchet
  • 6092 - Anne d'Autriche 1601-1666
  • 6093 - [Earl of] Buckingham 1592-1628
  • 6094 - [King] Louis XIII
  • 6095 - [Cardinal] Richelieu 1585-1642
  • 6096 - Milady
. . . the seller threw these in as well. They were only 11, but by some stroke of luck, I had picked-up the missing 12th pose (Mrs. Bonacieux ) three weeks ago at Plastic Warrior, from another seller! Painted by the same artist and numbered consecutively on the base, I don't know the significance of the numbering, which I have reproduced above; it could be a Mokarex catalogue thing, a Figurines Historiques thing or the painter's record-keeping thing?

Such a coincidence suggests, and it's only a suggestion, that these might be painted by William J. Carman (due to other offerings from both sellers and a recent re-auction of a portion of the Carman Collection), who was a fan of flats, when he wasn't designing solids! Whatever the truth, they are painted to a professional level, in an expressive, fluid style and I won't be dipping them in cleaner, overnight, ever!

If they aren't Carman's work, and you know who is responsible, please let me know as I'd like to credit the artist. D'artagnan looks as if he's been knocked over by his own caption!

"Right gang . . . circulate; you two watch over His Royal Holy Majestyness;
We'll both keep an eye on that slippery turd-bastard; the Cardinal"
A lot of Mokarex's output was based on figures in famous paintings, and one feels some of these might have been taken from a court view?

The discolouration I talked about above, also, a comparison between a spare figure and the new, painted one shows how, despite the figures being already quite well-detailed, the artist has added hints of so much more.
Below shows a few base variations, the one in the middle has the base typical of the Mokarex originals with a sort of orange-segment indent, to the left is an apparent attempt to remove the indent, resulting in a raised hump which makes the figure rock slightly, a few of the Figurines Historiques figures suffer from this, while the miss-placed base-block of the third example suggests a certain degree of changeability in the mould-cavities, which would only add to the confusion with trying to tie-down 'set' contents.

And we've hit one-million and 65 hits!


Stad said...

Hugh if Polk was involved they were very likely sold in the United States in bags contain a certain number of the figures. Polk Hobbies was a six floor hobby store in New York City. It was a great place that has been long gone.

Anonymous said...

Polk no longer exists as a retail store but they remained in the toy business as Aristocraft Trains.

Also, http://www.landsknecht.com/html/history.html will explain who the Landsknecht were.

Jan Ferris said...

Very nice post and figures. And I might add an interesting topic, as well.

Hugh Walter said...

Hi Stad - Yes, six each side of the runner, 12 per bag (for these; the full rounds may have had a different packing format and the chess sets were sold in 8's I believe, front row or back row from either side, but it may well have been 16's?). I have a bunch of Polk's catalogues and stuff (from the Chase collection) which will go on their entry in the A-Z one day!

Anon - I was musing on German-French etemology, I know who they were thanks! And I hope I wasn't suggestng Polk's were still going, but thanks anyway.

Jan - Cheers, the luck was finding the other figure 3 weeks earlier!