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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

F is for Fort Liberty

The sharper-eyed among you will have noticed that the pinky-brown 'grey' fort in yesterday's post was actually called Fort Liberty, not the Revolutionary Fort of the 'gold' fort. In fact it was in the same box (with unreadable date) as the . . .

. . . 1975 retail issue as seen here. And . . . before we go any further; I am loving the stock-code number of this later issue - That is too cool for mathematics' school!

This is the standard boxing for Fort Liberty, usually in a hard polystyrene plastic, and a mid 'Mediterranean' grey - the same grey as a lot of plastic kits. You can see the earlier box behind it, while that had a resealable 'play set' type box, this is basically a standard carton with minimal over-printing.

Here's what I reckon is the time-line of these fort sets:

The 'gold' (soft plastic) fort came first, when Innovative (as a relatively new company) offered, or managed to persuade (?) Shell into running the Men of '76 as a 'liberty' premium, several years before the big year (actually 1976), beginning in 1972 (or '73, the earlier date could pertain purely to production contracts and/or artwork rather than availability) in its (screen-printed) white box, as Men of '76 Revolutionary Fort.

I think this was - as much as anything else - a testing of the water, by this newish company, possibly with/on a sale or return basis - meaning that Shell had no financial liability if the promotion flopped? The 'flyer' note on Kent Sprecher's Toy Soldier HQ points to a flexibility among service station owners/franchisee's with regard to the retail pricing of the fort which would suggest Innovative were accepting any 'hit' to the pocket?

Bill Nevins (a New York collector who's supplied all today's images) remembers buying left-over's at a gas station, which may have been stock or display, but seem to have been from a less successful outlet, however the point is; I believe the promotion overall was far more successful than anticipated, and so the [interim] 'grey' (also in soft ethylene) was issued as a stop-gap, in the plain carton.

A plain carton which was already in the procurement line for a hard plastic fort destined for the 1975 'rack toy' Men of '76 retail issue. That change being [perhaps] due to feedback from customers - not liking the bendy walls? The same carton we saw with that 'grey' fort at the head of yesterday's post and are looking at here with a hard plastic fort?

It's all conjecture, complicated by the final shot today, but those are my thoughts, can anyone help with a date on a carton with the soft plastic, pinkish 'grey' fort in it? Or share their thoughts on the various issues. There is no doubt that this is the commoner of the MO'76 forts on eBay, but possibly not as common as the one below, which I have seen several times?

Confirming Bill's 'rule of thumb' as mentioned yesterday; the polystyrene forts have accessories (main-gates and whole 'jail') in a colour probably best described as metallic coal!

You can also see how much more rigid the hard plastic fort is, but it's always a compromise; large flat areas of polyethylene will tend to warp in the short-term (and go brittle over time), but take a lot of punishment from clumsy little hands, while hard styrene's will build a more solid structure, which however - can be more easily damaged during the construction and dismantling phases, tabs being easily snapped off - for instance!

Problems which with modern toys - in the same sort of price bracket - have been alleviated by using polypropylenes or other modern plastics which have the better properties of both the older materials; being flexible enough to take punishment, yet rigid enough to retain shape.

All those action-figure play-sets, Galoob aircraft carriers and fold-out mini-van city's and things are made of many different proprietary polypropylenes (PP's), high density polyethylenes (HDPE's have a high tensile strength) and various polystyrene/styrol (PS's) hybrids

Bill also sent this which is an old Internet image, I have seen a few of these (Jefferson Sales Corporation of Oak Park, Michigan) and have a theory (another?!!) about them to:

Note - there is no MO'76 branding attached (although all the Innovative bumph is included), and the artwork (a full-colour, photographic-quality, laminate 'foil' [sheet of paper!] over the carton's card) is similar to the Arco set of Noah's Ark Brian Berke (another New Yorker - it can't be denied; those New Yorkers know their toy soldiers!) sent us last year - ie; I think this is a clearance item or exercise in flogging an already very successful line for another few furlongs, through a jobber (as they call them in the 'States), what we'd call an importer - or what anyone might call a repacker/wholesaler!

Dating from maybe '77-'79? It's lost the MO'76 tie-in between 1776-1976, and been given the standard 'Christmas catalogue' artwork of two impossibly cute'sie kids grinning like loons as posed by the photographer! Indeed - this type of set may have been responsible for some of the odd-coloured bases, or those without the Innovative mark.

Bill wondered if the common occurrence of the hard styrene grey fort was down to a UK issue, as he has seen a few in our evilBay portal, but I don't remember them being available over here. I was a 'mere' twelve-year-old in 1976 so I should have been the ideal age-group to be attracted by such a thing, do any of you 'old gits' in the 60-something bracket remember them being sold here?

It has to be said - while our political (and military?) bigwig's would have attended various official functions in the 'States and/or those organised by the US embassy in London, it was a celebration of a war we err . . . lost! Also it was a really, really, really hot summer! We were all lying in the shade or panting on the beach with our Tudor Rose bucket & spade and tipper-truck! By September '76 the South of England looked a bit like Ethiopia!

So I don't think there was much of an appetite in the High Street or on the coiffured lawns of suburbia for celebrating the bicentenary, although I do remember the hype surrounding it as all the ad's in glossy magazines for American products (airlines, cigarettes & booze particularly) were draped in bicentennial/'76 iconography.

And the news programmes on telly carried various '200-years since this or that specific action/event' type tail-ender stories occasionally while there were historical programs and such-like. I think there was a National Geographic 'special' as well?

Tomorrow we will tie-this up with a forth look at the figures in less than a year! And thanks to Bill Nevins again for the photo's.


Terranova47 said...

Hugh, I have to say it's painful to see;

Brian Berke (another New Yorker - it can't be denied;

I'm an uprooted Londoner that has lived in New York City far too long. Yes I like toy soldiers, and back in the 70's when I bought Men of '76 I never saw the Fort for sale. Is it possible that it was only sold earlier as a Petrol Premium? I visited Fort Ticonderoga back then and was amazed that it was sited where artillery could be placed in the hills overlooking it with clear shots at the entire fort. As you mentioned it was founded by the French.

Regards, Brian

Hugh Walter said...

You must have been commenting as I was editing the bloody thing! I don't know why the last two posts have published black text!

I tweak the time-line in the next post!


Hugh Walter said...

PS - Clearly the French learnt nothing about building forts in valleys...Dien Bien Phu!


Jan Ferris said...

Very interesting! (The black text-damn MS)

Hugh Walter said...

It was my fault Jan, I didn't check the 'Preview' page before publishing!