About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening 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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

P is for Pyro (and Others)

So from Banner lets move across to Pyro (They share the same container so I could take all the photo's at once! Another of the dime store plastics producers from the 1940/50's, indulged in a fair amount of mould-sharing, and a bit of 'l'Homage'! The executives of Model Shipways called them 'Pirate Plastics'!

Very much compatible with the Banner trucks at around 1:48th scale is this - really quite sturdy - model of a generic 1950's tank. Sort of Centurion without toolboxes crossed with a T44!

This is also about 1:48, with hard styrene figures glued in. It's this arrangement which I'm sure Ive seen with the Banner trucks below, but with plug-in soft ethylene figures? There were several body types for this truck, which is similar to the Dinky or Lone Star takes on the post war British Humber 15kwt class utility truck (which - itself - became the basis for the 'Pig' which served-on in Northern Ireland with various engine up-grades/up-armours until the late 1980's) but without the cab-roof rings for convoy sentries.

These are much smaller and can be used with 20/25mm figures without looking out of place, especially if your doing 50's pulp or steam-punk roll-play. One trailer-bed gives three very different looking wagons and I've covered the jeep in depth before.

Top; I have the four non-articulated versions as Kleeware, so will cover them next, however to show that these are identical bar the stamp in the roof - the one behind is the Pyro...I think!

Below; The Wannatoys cab-unit and two trailers, these were separate designs, rather than the Pyro variant-glued-to-standard-flatbed. While the Wannatoys tractors were styrene, the trailers were cellulose-acetate and suffer from shrinkage and warping which pulls the tow-hitch off eventually!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

C is for Cold Cast Bronze Animals

Wasp in the greenhouse

Woke this queen up the other day pulling out last years Tomato canes, she wasn't too amused!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

B is for Banner, Bergan, Beton (in alphabetical order!)

The order is practically reversed alphabetically in that Beton, the trade mark of Bergan was bought by Banner! Having won a few late - ethylene - production Beton (Bergan Toy & Novelty company) 60mm figures I thought it would make sense to photograph them with their trucks. From top of helmet to underside of base they're actually 70mm.

Having only the older edition of O'Brians book, I'm not sure if another version of this - approximately 1:48th scale - truck exists, as he only has the same two body-types (page 252 - 1988 ed.), yet I have a vague memory of one other, similar to the Pyro/Kleeware ones, i.e. with smaller scale hard-plastic (styrene) sitting figures, the cab being completely different on the other makes.

Certainly the truck bed has little square holes cut for 6 'somethings' on the benches (three each side) and another 2 on the tailgate/step. However this moulding was used for civilian toys in brighter colours, and the holes might have been for milk churns, a wrecker-truck superstructure or something similar?

The Banner Staff Car, marked clearly (inset) on the bonnet (Hood) in the manner of US military vehicles of WWII through to the 60's or later. The scale of this is greater than the trucks at around 1:35, while its wheels are ridiculously small.

I don't know the make represented (any more than I do the trucks or final photo!), but it's what the Americans called a Woodie, and we named a Shooting Break, the Americans a Station Wagon and we an Estate Car. What they actually were is best described as an non-aerodynamic brick!

We had Morris Travellers when I was a kid, and they hit the air ahead of them like a turd hits a pond, while on the motorway the rear turbulence caused the fuel-gauge needle to drop in front of your eyes!

The figures, the best explanations of the history of these figures are probably O'Brians books, however Kent Sprecher's toysoldierhq has a good guide as well. Suffice to say they started life in Cellulose Acetate in approximately 1938, and went through various incarnations with/without separate bases, and have been copied/licenced/supplied to/by a dozen or so other concerns.

These are the commonest form, softish polyethylene, with the clearly visible BT mark (inset) of 'Bergan Toys' in a disc'ed indentation on the underside of the base, note the one on the far left has suffered from the release of an oily-powdered residue in the same manor as a lot of Matchbox Production, particularly the brown ones (British Inf., DAK, and 8th Army). There are more poses than shown here, and I'm after the kneeling MG gunner for starters!

Interestingly, the Paratrooper betrays his later addition to the range by having a nicely moulded M1 helmet, rather than the generic bone-dome/dime-store design of the older moulds. The marching figures - to be fair - also have a better helmet design (rifle, telephone, bazooka and flag), while early acetate mouldings have the British Mark 1 'piss-pot', called a 'Brodie' or M1917 in the States.

Finally and closer to HO scale is this Grader/scraper/leveller, I believe it can be found in the 'Army' green, but I only have a silver one! Notable here are the rubber wheels; Banner also made a gun similar to the one issued by Merit over here and Auburn (among others) in the USA, but they both used hard wheels, while the Banner one used the same wheels as this road builder.

O'Brian reports that Banner were sold to Rel around 1958, but Rel (Plasco - Plastic Art Corporation) only made Wild West stuff, so presumably either ONLY bought the intellectual property rights, OR sold/scraped the moulds. Selling the molds would explain why some Beton copies are both as good as the originals, and of 'younger' plastic?

Monday, February 22, 2010

S is for Stagecoach by Cofalu

Well, as I suspected the carded set I bought the other day WAS another example of Cofalu, or at least I'm as sure as I can be given that they normally have 'Cofalu' on their packageing and this is not given a makers name. This could be because it was part of an order for a chain of stores who wanted 'generic' packageing?

As it arrived; the bases are unmistakably Cofalu, and while the general 'look' of the packaging and colours of the figures have the appearance of Hong Kong production, they are not marked and HK companies were usually quite keen to mark themselves. Also you could say the same about late production by numerous European and other companies; Comansi/Novalinia ended up using florescent plastics, Remsa and Jean both went for bright colours as indeed did MPC in the US., while Heller/Humbrol chose some wacky colours for Airfix re-issues in the 1980's.

It was what they thought might be the answer to attracting kids who were gravitating to other things, and the main reason most of them went bust/disappeared/bought each other out between the release of Star Wars in 1977, and the final desperate wave of closures in 1980/81.

The card was so far gone, after I'd got a few Photographs saved to disc, I took the contents out and started the fire with what was left of the packaging. Sacrilegious - I know - but sometimes it 'ain't worth the effort!

The Stagecoach, even in a mint set it's missing the lantern not visible to the purchaser, and one piece of luggage (the largest) both signs of a company that is desperate to save money by any means? The horses are crude copies of the Jean horses and I say 'crude' as they are worse than the Blue Box Piracy's!

The guy waving his pistol, who we looked at the other day in red plastic, is - I think - a variation of Cofalu's own Circus animal trainer, made as a food premium, but don't quote me, I'm not that sure...I'll try and check that one! The red plastic Indian here looks vaguely like a Domplastic moulding?

Since writing the first article on Cofalu the other day and doing a bit of research, I realised that one of the figures to have come in in a recent mixed lot was an early factory painted Cofalu cyclist, they did quite a bit of 'Tour de France' type stuff.

S is for Seeds and Fir Cones

These may look like normal cones, but they are both the size of a house-brick!

N is for New Acquisitions

As I mentioned the other day, here are a few bits I've been picking up in recent months, most - it has to be said - for peanuts!

These four are all eBay wins around the 99p mark. Clockwise from top left;

These two were poorly described by a 'non-toy soldier' seller and I was expecting 'curiosities' around 4/5/6 inches tall, sort of - mantelpiece ornaments/tourist items (I had just won the 5 inch copy of the Britains Robin Hood, sans base in a hard vinyl), but what turned up was a couple of rather nice 54mm figures with small indentations in the base marked 'HONG KONG' in the manner of Marx or Blue Box HK production. I have a feeling I have seen a Henry VIII or Raleigh in this style, and am going to tentatively suggest they are British/Swansea Marx, made in HK as an answer to the US Marx 'plinth' series of Presidents, Disciples, Nativity etc...? Designed to depict personalities from British History. Thoughts? [I should point out that these are marked on the front face of the base; Julius Caesar & Lord Nelson. Further - I've just picked up a damaged 'Duke of Marlborough' in a mixed lot, so rather confirming the likelihood they are a set of major characters in British History?]

10/12/2012 - I've been told they are Blue Box.

Speaking of Marx, this is the 60mm 'swoppit' Indian/Native American, I've encountered these in ethylene going very brittle, but this one is vinyl as are his accessories and all are still in rude health.

Two Speedwell Robin/Sheriff of Nott's. figures. These came from a dealer called blackdragoncollectables, and I got them for the magic number (99p!), he had lots and started putting them up in three's and fours, so as people gravitated to what became a bit of a feeding frenzy, the hammer price rose a bit, but they were still very reasonable. Worth checking him out has he did have 300+ lots on at one point. [I don't represent him in any way]

Finally I ought to know these as I've seen them before, and got one in desert scheme, however I've lost (or failed to take) the notes pertaining to them, they are by someone like 21st Century or New Ray and came/still come (?) with Die-cast vehicles.

A 'first toy' or infant toy I couldn't resist, this is a unique take on the stacking cups of a 1960/70's childhood, in that; large chunks of ethylene can be built in a number of ways into an ever changing castle. The maker?...Merit, the reason I had to have it!

The colours are the same as the colours of the Circus & Noah sets I covered back at the beginning of this blog, so this must have been part of the same range. Best displayed with a few Christmas Cracker HK guardsmen standing round the base! I'd love to track down some spare orange and/or yellow components if anybody has some hanging about in their odds box?

As well as loose items I've had a punt at the odd carded/boxed lots, and these are a few of them, as before;

The Dimestore Dreams re-mould of the old Pyro X-200, sold in the UK by Great Gizmo's a few years ago. I have one of these, but thought it would be nice to have a second for a future painting session, and as the box is also tattier than mine, I'll slice it open and stick it in the paper archive.

Air Raiders Battle Squad by Hasbro, I have over the years picked up a few of the Purple Force soldiers, and listed them under Hassenfeld, but had no idea what set/series they belonged to, now I know! And only have a purple officer to track down to make the 'set', I will de-card these, they were meant to be played with, and the Action Figure collectors (another branch of the hobby altogether) will - I'm sure - have plenty of these saved for posterity in immaculate condition!

The HK Wild West set are pile-of-junk copies of Britains/Timpo 'swoppits', apart from the figure top left, who has parted from his base but seems to be quite an interesting hybrid copy of Nadi & Cherilea! Also; the trade mark/name (Benkson) gives another entry in the eventual book!

The Precision set came from the US, and I bought it purely as an 'Example'. The back is type-written 'MADE IN WEST GERMANY', so they will originally have been Noch or Kibri or someone like that.

Finally - doing the rounds of pound-shops, discount stores and market stalls are these die-cast and plastic AFV's, the generic 'Patton' tank in around 1:68th (?) is a bit big, while the Hover-craft (judging by the windows) is a bit small (1:100?) but both are OK for any small scale wars where you're not too fussy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

M is for Minerals - Rocks and Fossils

Thanks to 'Liz' for this nice group of Rocks, polished fossils and the like...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

E is for Elephant Ties

W is for Wild West by Merten

One of the favorites in my collection are these H0/00 scale figures from Merten in Germany, great rival to Hausser Elastolin in 40mm, they also produced a prolific range of primarily model railway figures. Indeed until Preiser arrived in the late 60's Merten had pretty much cornered the market from the composition/wood/plaster makers of the inter-war period.

As what the Americans call 'Old Timer' trains became popular, this little range was produced to play along with them.

The 'Cowboys' could become Mexican 'Banditos' simply by changing the sprue, while the Indians were quite superb for figures so small.

Sets to augment the Wild West figures include the 'Early 19th Century' sets and the Blacksmiths, several other rural sets could be used to populate your western village. Here we see three sets of 2162 showing colour variants and a set of 2156.

The studs under the crinoline dresses designed to hold the figures in the pack would need to be removed before employing on a layout, these are more diorama models than 'toys'.

Finally a set of 20th Century children (2197) playing give us a couple of apprentices!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

C is for Cofalu

Well, the great all-scale collection begins, with strangely a French company, only because I already had the 30 and 45mm figures, and won a couple of French eBay lots in recent weeks.

Garratt with his usual love of plastics describes them as "Poor quality and obviously derivative.", and it's true that they follow a style common to a bunch of French minor makes, and if the carded Wild West set I bought the other day is Cofalu when I get a better look at it, they are mostly Lone*Star or Jean copies. But the military figures in this post resemble Starlux if anything?

The full range of their output is ably demonstrated in this first picture, a 30mm figure rubs shoulders with two closer to 65mm. He is ethylene, they have ethylene uppers (cowboy), nylon type legs (both) and over moulded heads, he is solid, the others are a form of simple (few parts) swoppit, a style also favoured in Italy.

The six combat poses, the grenade thrower on the right is a hard styrene plastic and I suspect an early moulding. The 54mm range is a bit small, closer to 50mm. The ethylene 30mm's were apparently given away as a food premium.

The basic range of poses was used throughout the Cofalu ranges, and here we see Foreign Legion (50mm'ish) and Marines (closer to 60mm) sharing pose with each other and the previous 'combat' set.

A single cowboy completes this photo, suggesting there are many more to find, and Indians too!

I think these represent Gendarme/CRS from the 1950's/early 60's, with the metallic blue ones being the earlier with factory paint, the green ones being a later attempt by Cofalu to turn them into soldiers (the CRS being very unpopular in France in the 1970's [Like the SPG in London around the same time]).

R is for Russian Cap and Lapel Stars

S is for Scalecraft - Saladin Armoured Car

As I begin to collect the larger scales seriously, and as I experiment with eBay and try to build up the dreaded (and increasingly meaningless) 'Feedback', I have been picking up a fair few bargains which I'll be showing highlights of over the next few days. This was one of them.

Reasonably accurately described by the seller, as 'Scalecraft Saladin Tank Near Complete' or something similar, it had no bids and I picked it up for 99p with a hour to go? When you see what two people will bid each other up to for a pile of schisser sometimes, you begin to realise eBay is a madhouse!

It is in fact totally complete, even down to the stickers and has only two bits of minor damage, a loose command pennant and a broken lifting ring/towing eye, which was broken by the good old Post Office and is sitting in a clic-seal bag waiting a superglue session, as this is made of an ethylene and will be hard to glue.

It's true that it has no motor, but they were sold with or without, built or in kit-form to fit every budget so that's no problem!

Scalecraft made a few of these kits, including an imaginary amphibious truck, an MTB in near 1:76 scale and the best Thunderbird Two! I think they made T1 and T3 as well? All clip together and pre-coloured.

I guess the lack of interest lies in the fact that it's not German, American or from the Second World War? But it's real life cousin has seen more action than a lot of post war designs, famously in the streets of Kuwait City and along the beach front when the Iraqis invaded in the early 1990's, but also Oman/Radfan, Indonesia, Central/South America, Sri Lanka and various African conflicts.

When the Saladin was withdrawn from service 'down under' the Australians put the turrets on their US supplied M113's, but proving top heavy they replaced them with Scorpion turrets as soon as they became available (rather like our 432B/432-30 with the Fox scout car's 30mm Rarden turret), however it meant half-a-saladin saw service in that iconic cold-war conflict - Vietnam.

L is for Late War 25 Pounder, Limber (and Tractor)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

O is for Oriental Ceramic Bowl

A is for American Half-tracked Carriers WWII

M is for More Space Stuff!

This image was sent in by a reader/follower from Finland, who wishes to remain anonymous, however many thanks to him for doing so as there are two bits of real interest here...

First is the reversed colourway for the Space Hawk/Spaceship from Pyro/Poplar, which rather confirms my suspicion that the 'Tudor Rose' one below is actually another Poplar moulding. I was told it was Tudor Rose and the 'Made in England' rather throws you...but the Welsh (in the 50's) weren't as bothered by their status as some are now, and 'England' would get exports more recognition than 'Wales'?

Of more interest in the photograph are the four X-100 Space Scouts at the back, these are in a semi-transparent/marbled plastic, and in conversation with the guy who supplied the photo, the thought is they are local production. If not Finnish, then Scandinavian at least...Now, the Ajax/Beton/Everybody else mounted figures from the very early days of plastic, were carried/produced in Europe by an unknown French company, Airfix, Remsa and, in Denmark, by Riesler...could Riesler have produced these four?

The other two are a silver X-200 Space Ranger like the red one below [this is a pyro original] and an Atomic Space Ship (with a damaged nose), [marked] Tudor Rose.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

P is for Poplar Plastics (and Pyro?)

Normal service will be resumed in a day or two, in the meantime here's a couple more additions to the 1950's space fleet. I will re-do the last few posts in a more informative and ordered fashion soon.

On the left is a Poplar Plastics (UK 'Spaceship'), copy of a Gilmark (US 'Space Hawk') model, on the right is [probably not] a Tudor Rose (UK 'Rocketship') copy of a Pyro (? US) model, but being reversed colours to the Poplar, it could be another one of theirs? [I think it probably is - see above post] The Poplar is unmarked while the single engined one has the typical 'MADE IN ENGLAND' of Tudor Rose, and Poplar were based in Wales. It could also be a Kleeware design, or even Marx, they used bronzey colours on some of their readymade/dimestore stuff? Either way it's missing its dorsal fin!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

M is for Monopoly - Playing Pieces Through The Years

Originally posted on the 'Other Collectables' site - which I've now closed down - without text, I guess I should add a bit of text to explain the image...
They are basically arranged oldest to the rear, newest to the front, with a plastic set (which I believe was a limited edition) as the full front rank, with a new car design and a sausage-dog/Dachshund.

During the war there was a set with card flats in little slotted wooden holders/bases, which I have yet to track down, and there have been a few changes over the years with the battleship being replaced during my childhood with a Norfolk Broads type river-cruiser thing, the thimble changed for a scottie-dog, and the slipper becoming a boot. The racing car was also 'modernised' (and one assumes there must have been somthong before the mid-cenury design?

Maybe the gun, as I have seen antiqued lead versions of it, but this one with the other three items are from a recent limited edition. The rat might have no connection with the game whatsoever, and the two plastic cars at the back were from another - racing car - game altogether and were also issued by Tom Smith in Christmas mini-crackers.