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.

Friday, April 2, 2010

S is for Soldiers Of The World (SOTW)

Not 'Warriors of the World' - a Marx moniker, although Kellogg's did call them Warriors Through The Ages & Famous Warriors. A while ago in Plastic Warrior (PW; Here, subscribe, now, that's an order! ) issue no. 134 there was a very interesting article on these figures, which dispelled a few myths while creating a few questions and kicking-off a major response which PW published as a readers feedback section in issue no. 136 back in February.

Definitive base-marks solve debate.
ORIGINS - Nationality/Sculptor
One question which has always been debated is; from where did they originate? And with people suggesting both the US and Australia as the probable country of origin, it was a question to which I knew answer, if only because I had several marked MADE IN ENGLAND. A Highlander, Egyptian and Viking. At least 5 or 6 Highlanders have now turned up out of 10 or so marked figures, all told.

I photographed them and got them off to the editor in the Autumn, only for Kent Sprecher of ToysoldierHQ (link to right of page) to publish a 'spoiler' to the 'exclusive' a week or two before the issue hit the doormat - hey, them's the breaks! These are rare (if anything plastic is ever 'really' rare) and seem to occur in a ratio of about 1 in 300 figures. Now, as mine are from both 'sets' of eight (more later), it may just be that all sixteen will turn up marked, in the fullness of time? [Apologies to Kent, his link wasn't to the right, it is now, nestled with the other main dealers, and here; Toy Soldier HQ ]

So that question can be put bed, or can it?! There are also the questions; who designed them? & who manufactured them?

Well, the next myth to dispel is that Charles Stadden had anything to do with them, this myth (pretty much quashed in the PW 134 article [subscribe - you know you want to]) seems to go back to 1981 and the publication of J.G. Garrett's The World Encyclopedia of Model Soldiers, where he writes, and I quote; "(dare we to think they were designed by Stadden?)", in other words, he [Garrett] didn't really believe it himself, but thought he'd mention it!

If there is a single set or group of soldiers - toy, model or connoisseur - anywhere in the world that resembles the SOTW, you will find them in the manifest of MPC, USA. Their larger set of knights in red, white and black, the US Cavalry or the G.I.'s. Likewise some late production Marx 54mm sets seem to have the same similarities. I would imagine the SOTW were designed by a jobbing sculptor who also designed for MPC and Marx, whether we will ever know his name is the only mystery there.

Comparisons between SOTW, MPC & Marx.
ORIGINS - Maker/Manufacturer
Not just the sculpting of the figures, the bases scream MPC/Marx, apart from the absence of the little hole and mould-number indentation that sets MPC apart from most production while confusing them with the above mentioned late 54mm Marx! The SOTW Highlander is a classic MPC/late Marx production pose. I'm thinking Jap's, Russians, G.I.'s & jungle natives here, plus the Marx 54mm Saxon/Norman charging pose, Marine officers, G.I.'s, WWII Brit's, Russians & French, also; all these late sets are 16 cavity moulds, and we have 16 SOTW??!!....

However, don't think I'm suggesting they came from MPC or even Marx factories...humm...see below. The moulds must have spent some time in the UK, or they wouldn't have the mark they do. So myth 3; Rubenstine/Bowman (Ratcliffe) or Rubenstein (Stadinger)? That they came in the latter's bags is not in question, Paul 'Stad's' Stadinger (link also to the right and here; Stadstuff .) is a long-time documenter/researcher of this stuff, and would have held them in his hands before ascribing them. I believe Ratcliffe takes his "Bowman" reference from Garratt, who refers to 'Bowaters' as having been recipient of some of Stadden's work. Bowaters are now a global conglomerate in paper pulping and paper re-cycling, but back in 1970 seem to have been more closely involved in the production of finished product, such as...cereal boxes and board games.

In the follow-ups in PW 136, Philip Hamilton of the Hamilton Toy Collection (details here) mentions the nearby location of the Tri-ang works in Merton as being a possible source of what appeared to be sell-through of factory overstock of SOTW figures in the late 70's. This is significant, as Tri-ang were part of the Lines group, they would end up as Dunbee/Combex/Marx and Marx were just mentioned by me above?

Not only that, but Bowaters, was one of C.J. Parker's companies, and he became Lord Parker of Waddington...Yes, THAT Waddington[s], another company connected to Lines Brothers, as I mentioned in the Marx/Blue Box articles that I wrote for PW's little brother; One Inch Warrior. Minimodels in Havant (Lines Group) and Subbuteo, East Grinstead, along with Waddington's were three companies that Stadden DID work for, but I think that coincidence is as far as Stadden goes in all this.

Ignoring the above leaves one going down the Rubenstein/Bowman route another way, and while there is a Charles Bowman making Popcorn (which may have had a need for small military premiums/giveaways) in the US, his partner was Reden../Reddenbacker/..bacher not Rubenstein/..stien/..stine!

So most likely set up - at the moment - is; Member of the Lines group or Bowaters commissions (for Peak Frean's initially?) a well known (to the industry) sculptor, probably American, to produce a set of premiums (1969/70'ish), which are then hawked (as finished product or moulds) to the international food premium/giveaway and rack-toy market around the world, with possible stays - for the moulds - in Australia (mid 1970's) and with Rubenstein (late 1970's) in the US.

UK production might (big MIGHT - don't want to start a new myth!) have been in the Marx, Swansea unit or equally - if not more - likely; Tri-ang's Merton plant and were probably lost or destroyed in the massive round of toy industry amalgamations, takeovers and bankruptcies in the late 1970's/early 1980's. Or; They could still be in the States somewhere? [Or Canada, Bowaters had big plants there then and bigger plants there now, the fact that they concentrate on pulping doesn't mean they know the total contents of every shed or store room...Ohh, is that a new myth started?!]

[I notice that several of these images and some of the subsequent images below have been stolen by Ghislain Oubreyrie and poorly 'Photoshoped' for his mostly plagiarised website, there's nothing I can do about it at the moment, the man's a thief, but one day I'll sue his arse, and the more he puts (of mine) on his site the more I'll sue him for, at his current rate of thievery, I'll be getting the price of a small house off him one day...any French Intellectual Property lawyer fancy an easy case? It's just comparing images (with originals) and site-editing dates! meantime; the high quality originals will always be found here]

Variations in shade and colour.
- Colour & Pose
Rarity of colour variations; top shows the 4 'main' colours as a line of Highland Reavers coming to 'mayhem' a farmstead near you! Bottom left shows the comparison between the commoner gold, and less common bronze and between the silver and milky silver/brushed aluminum, with - on the right - the two reds, these tend to wash together under flash photography, but are clear to the naked eye. There appears to be only the one shade of blue which is a mid-blue somewhere between powder-blue and ultramarine, not the navy-blue ascribed somewhere. Neither - to my knowledge - has a cream coloured one ever surfaced.

The real rarity seems to depend on how long you've been collecting, how diligently you have sought these out and which country you live in. In the UK - for instance - Silver was considered common, with the other colours being 'rare', in recent years plenty of red and blue have surfaced and the gold are getting easier to find.

As to rarity of pose; the same applies. In the UK, Cluck Cereal Surprises (Ratcliffe) lists the British Grenadier, FFL, Roman and British Tommy as being "...harder to obtain", my own collection suggests that the Zulu and Swiss Bowman are the 'rare' ones, some believe that all those on the 'second' Nabisco list (Tommy, FFL, Musketeer, Cossack, Egyptian, Crusader, Spaniard & Zulu) are rarer, while the photo of painted figures from my mates collection below would leave the casual observer to believe the Tommy, Cossack and US Cavalryman were the uncommon poses.

Alan Copsey in PW 136 gives Roman, Crusader, Conquistador and Highlander as his list, but goes on to give a reason why they might be rare in his sample but not really rare at all. PW editorial say the Roman appears the rare one while P. Manninen in the same issue states that the second list of 8 is negligibly/marginally harder to locate...and so on.

I personally suspect the bronze and darker red are slightly less common being a shorter run, while the marked versions are quite hard to get, but I now know of at least 9/10 in three locations, so compared to the Lone*Star musketeer, they're not RARE, just relatively uncommon - for now! While, with regard to pose, none are more or less common than others.

I don't usually deal with value, but as I'm trying to cover everything here, I don't think they are worth more than a quid ($1.50) unmarked and have been selling all colours for 99p recently. Marked, they should fetch about a fiver ($7/8) .

The full 16 poses.
I have shown them in a vaguely chronological order above, but will list them as per. the Nabisco adverts, which illustrates them as two sets of 8. Text is from 'CLUCK', taken from Tiger & Jag comic - Neither set being the same as the Kellogg's 8? Reference to the photographs will be row, from the top, then figure from the left giving the Legionnaire (bottom, right) as 4/4.

Also, as a couple of them have 'common' names given them by collectors over the years, it struck me that in fact most of them could be given a character/moniker, and have done so in {parentheses}. I wonder if that was ever the original intention, and why they were given the more every-day names they ended up with?


US Cavalry - 4/2 {Custer}
Lieutenant Dixon of the 7th US Cavalry helped open up the West. He protected settlers and fought the Indian and Mexican armies. [One thing I forgot to mention, this figure is very uncommon with a full flag as pictured, usually it is a truncated blob.]

Mexican - 4/1 {Pancho Villa}
Pancho the Mexican bandit fought many battles against the United States, including the battle for the Alamo. Base mark believed to have been changed to 'Mexican' from 'Mexican Bandit' when the molds were moved to Mexico? [Fontes]

Turk - 3/2
Hasseim the Turk believed that to die in battle was the most glorious of all deaths. he fought for Saladin against the Crusaders. **[In Ottoman dress!]

Swiss Bowman - 2/2 (sometimes referred to as {William Tell})
Fritz was a Swiss mountaineer who fought the Hapsburg Austrian armies. with [sic.] William Tell.

Roman 1/2 (sometimes referred to as {Caesar})
Marcus the Roman belonged to an army that conquered and ruled the world for well over 500 years. He fought in Caesar's victorious legions.

British Grenadier 3/4
John Cartman was a man with great strength. He fired the heavy cannons for the early British army. [Not in that Miter-cap he didn't!]

Scots 3/4 {Wallace}
McGregor was a Scottish Highlander who joined Bonnie Prince Charlie's army and was defeated trying to win back the English throne for him.**[Kellogg's call him 'Highlander']

Viking 1/3 {Erik Bloodaxe}
Eric the Viking sailed the seas on a huge long-boat. He was a merciless, ferocious warrior and a great explorer. He landed in America...(the rest is missing in CLUCK and unreadable in PW, anyone got the last line?).**


The British Tommy 4/3 {Tommy Atkins}
The British Tommy fought alongside the Australians in the First and Second World Wars.

Foreign Legion 4/4 {Beau Geste}
Henri Gaston of the French Foreign Legion fought in the hot deserts of North Africa against fierce Arab tribes.

French Musketeer 2/3 {d'Artagnan - which they use}
D'Artagnan was a gay cavalier, an expert swordsman, a skilled rider and a keen shot with his musket.**[Kellogg's call him plain 'Musketeer']

Cossack 3/3 {Bohdan}
Ivan the Cossack was a fierce fighter and joined Russia's Imperial Army to help defeat Napoleon.

Egyptian 1/1 {Ramses}
Sihue the Egyptian wore a water bag on his arm for long desert marches. He fought in Cleopatra's army against the Roman Legions.** [Except he's not in Ptolemaic garb, but wearing stuff from 1500 or so years earlier]

Crusader 2/1 {Richard I}
Sir Robert de Courtney [maker of fine medievals?] journeyed to Palestine to capture the Holy city of Jerusalem. His leader was Richard I, King of England.**

Spaniard 3/1 {Co'rdoba, Alvarado or the given Cortez}
Miguel the Spanish Conquistador sailed with Cortez to Mexico and conquered the land of the Aztecs.**[Kellogg's call him 'Spanish Infantryman', in Canada; 'Infantry']

Zulu 1/4 {Shaka}
Ibuktu the Zulu warrior was a tribesman of South Africa. He fought many fierce battles with British and Boer Troops.**

** denotes Kellogg's UK 'set' of eight figures

The other thing to note about the full 16 is that with a bit of stretching, you could pretty well pair them up, biggest stretch being the Imperial Roman with the Biblical Egyptian.

Six of a possible seven.
Peak Frean's offered a fort for 17/9d (p) + a token from the pack as a mail-away with cannons and flags "..etc."? this was probably stiff card or hardboard and it goes on to say "...you'd have to pay much, much, more" [in the shops], and most forts of that ilk/era were pressed, stamped, screen-printed (on one side) hardboard.

Nabisco had a 'posing panel' on the back of the box, different for each figure.

Kellogg's Finnish issue had a three part cut-out fort on the back of the box, with each part requiring one of three different boxes.

Typical packet/dry-food delivery container.
ISSUES - Known or Suggested
Australia - (?)
Kellogg's Factory (?), silver, 16 poses.

Australia - 1976
Nabisco, Shredded Wheat & Crispies breakfast cereals, Soldiers of the World, silver, 16 poses

Canada - 1960's (?) [I would imagine 1969 at the earliest. Actually- boxes dated 1968!]
Kellogg's Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies, Froot Loops, Honey Smacks, Puffa Puffa Rice, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies and Sugar Pops breakfast cereal,  Soldiers of the Ages/Soldats de Tous les Temps, Silver, 16 poses, Boxes have cut-out scenery (8 boxes make a whole fort) and collectors cards (1 per box). [Mr. M. Purchase via Stad's and Dan Humar, Plastic Warrior Magazine No. 151]

Finland - 1972
Kellogg's Raksuja (Frosties) breakfast cereal, Sarja Historian Sotureita (Warriors from History/Historical Warriors Series), Silver, 16 poses.

Ireland (?) [mentioned by Hamilton as being noted by Garrett, I can find no mention of Garrett writing this but I've only got two of his four books?].

Portugal? [Miguel Fontes, Plastic Warrior 137 letters page]
Kellogg's? Translucent Brownish plastic, 16 poses

Portugal - 1970's [Bourbonese Braga - Parai'so Artificial Blog]
Ajax, Washing powder, Soldados Historicos (Historical Soldiers), silver and gold, 16 poses

UK - 1970
Kellogg's, Puffa Puffa Rice breakfast cereal, Famous Warriors/Warriors Through the Ages, silver, 8 poses only - Conquistador, Zulu, Egyptian, Viking, Highlander, Crusader, Musketeer & Turk.

UK - 1969 (Garratt ?), 1959 (Hamilton ?)
Peak Frean's, Pom Poms biscuits, Soldiers Through the Ages, Gold, Silver, Red & Blue (Opie thinks Gold only?), 16 poses, mail-away fort 'with cannons'? [I'd have to go with Garratt, they don't say 1950's to me. Actually 1968 - James Opie via Plastic Warrior Magazine No.152]

UK - ?
Petrol/Gasoline premium [mentioned by Ratcliffe as being the source for the non-silver figures, I think that this was probably the Peak Frean's Pom Poms?].

US - late 1970's/Early 1980's
Rubenstein, [about 4 conflicting titles - anyone know the correct name on the cards?], header-carded, bagged rack-toy, Silver & Blue (?), 16 poses (?)

I have seen these at the German show in Herne, and would assume they were issued somewhere in France, Germany or the Low Countries, by someone?

Various attempts at painting the figures.

Looking at the above, taken from one dealers stock, I'd better start by thanking all those unknown Toy Soldier Collectors, Modelers and War-gamers who painted (or part painted) the above!.

Also this article is the result of many years research by me, and all those listed below, oldest source first;

John G. Garratt, The World Encyclopedia of Model Soldiers, 1981, Muller Publishing

Wayne Ratcliffe, CLUCK (Complete Listing Un-completed [of] Cereal Kollectable), Issue I, 2001, Private Publication

Plastic Warrior Magazine No's 134 (2009), 136 (2010), 151 & 152 (both 2013), Subscription Publication (so subscribe!)

John Begg, Bourbonese Braga, Alan Copsey, Miguel Fontes, Philip Hamilton, Dan Humar, Pekka Allan Manninen, Paul Morhead, James Opie, Michael Purchase, David Pye, Kent Sprecher, Paul 'Stads' Stadinger, Kevin Strood, Terry Westlake, Jan Yarzembowski (hope I spelt that right! - I have now!) and others whom I've chatted to, bought from or - recently - sold to.

The amount of time people spend talking about these figures at shows, the interest shown in even common silver figures on eBay and the uncommonly large feedback to PW would suggest that you can forget the Airfix Tarzan, you can forget Britains mounted War of the Roses 'Swoppet' knights, these guys have a piece of the heart of every collector of a 'certain' age! So if you can add anything to what is still only conjecture and an incomplete list, email or comment...

112/10/2012 - Sadly; the mystery seems to have been solved - see last comment (funny this is the 4th most popular post of all time, yet comments diametrically thin on the ground?), they were made by Tatra and an update will be forthcomming any day now. 

Now full update is Here


Anonymous said...

Oh, wow! What a marvellous article. By far the best I've seen on these figures. What a pleasure it was to read that.

Just one thing niggles away at my pedantic pre-decimal brain. Should not that Peak Frean price be 17/9d rather than 17/9p? Or did you use a "p" for those young-uns who won't have a clue what a "d" means in that context? ^_^

Hugh Walter said...

hummmm....the words swine and nit-picking spring to mind, as they might have said in Private Eye..?

p for kiddies, d for coffin-dodgers like us!!

Anonymous said...

If it helps, immediately after posting I kicked myself for being so pedantic ^_^

Hugh Walter said...

No worries, C'est la vie, as the French say, and they know what they're talking about, they speak French.

Anonymous said...

They must be cleverer than me then, cos I can't ^_^

Anonymous said...

I think Mr Hamilton may be wrong about the Tri-ang Merton connection, as the factory closed in 1972 and was demolished to make way for housing not long after.

Sean (who bought your Blue-Box Bedford Ambulance.)

Hugh Walter said...

Hi Sean (Who bought 'one' of my 'spare' Blue Box ambulances!!!)

I don't think he was suggesting they had come from the factory that morning - just that there was such a quantity they must have been ex-stock. Local being most likely he then looked around for the nearest culprit, in this case the Merton site.

'72 gives a good deal of time for the moulds to travel to Australia, perhaps via somewhere else?

All grist-to-the-mill! I'm sure the debate will go on for a while to come, it's amazing how much interest there is in one little set of figures, given the million or so out there?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know anything about white SOTW. I have two one a Foreign Legion and the other the Muskateer?

Hugh Walter said...

No - but you don't say what country you're from? If you are from somewhere not in the above list (greenish-khaki bit above), it may be they represent a local issue to you, not yet documented - they do seem to have got around!

If you are in UK/US/Australia, they will probably also be from an as yet un-listed set or issue.

If you live near Merton...they could be factory samples!!

Did that help!!!!


Unknown said...

I was given a bunch of these figures in about 1974 from a friend whos mother worked at Tatra Plastics, she apparantly got them at work, I assume they made the figures there. Heartfordshire.

Hugh Walter said...

Thanks for that Gareth, could I ask what colour yours were?

It's funny, I'm talking to a chap about a plastics company no one's heard of, who made the plastic couplings for Lone Star's Treble-O trains (and probably the other plastic components of that range) and it's interesting how much of this stuff comes from third parties!

Cheers again

Anonymous said...

Ive just received in a lot from uk a tan brown mexican bandit. Ithought it was a copy but it has the name in the base which doesn t appear in copies

Hugh Walter said...

Cheers anoymous, they are out there, there's a pinky-cream, pure white and a brown which turns out to be a dark-bronze/gold, follow/click-on the Tatra link to find more on these here at Small Scale World!