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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

B is for Buried, Better, Burger King, BMC, Brent, Bandai and Benbros

As this is the season for getting as many things on your plate as possible (without letting the gravy flow over the edge!) I thought it was the ideal moment to cover a few minor makes or smaller samples from my collection, so here are some minor 'B's'.

On the left (and marked "MADE IN ENGLAND") is a pawn from the Buried Treasure ice cream (?) chess set. These were also sold in the states both as Buried Treasure (?) and Sherbet Surprise. The question marks are down to my not knowing if Buried Treasure was ice cream or some other edible product, and not knowing if they were available in the states as BT or just Sherbet watsit!

On the right and dateing from 1949 is a joke/stag-novelty of a naked woman from Better Novelties Inc. of the US of A, who will only stay in her bath for the person who knows the secret - a sliding magnet. I have similar toys of naked women in [on] a bed and the kissing dolls I think I've covered somewhere in the 450 posts now gone below?

This is apparently a very early Burger King toy from the 1950's or 1960's and consists of the King (himself!!? Who knew or remembered he originally existed?) riding an air-powered go-cart/cartie. Coming as a kit of 4 parts in a nylonish plastic, maybe a polypropylene? His only mark is the R in a circle so favored of Giant - this must have been an American thing, we had the Copyright 'C' and the Patent 'Pat.' but the Registered sign was never of legal worth in Europe and didn't appear on our products.

Above are two bits of hollow-cast I've ended-up with; a Benbros calf and a 30mm BMC penny-toy of a mounted Life Guard, with below; the only other 'volume' producer of composition figures in Britain (we looked at Zang the other day) was a company called Brent, who produced these generic WWII British types with picture-frame nails as weapon barrels/muzzles.

There were about 3 sets of small scale Pokemon, these are by Bandai, I think I've also got smaller unmarked ones and same sized ones by Tomy probably from their gumball machines.

As these are yesterdays 'fad' now, and space needs to be made for Ben10 stuff, there might be good pickings for this sort of stuff at car-boot sales this year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

C is for Christ's Mass

Just finished listening to the midnight mass on Radio 4 (Oh...; I'm an old softee really, curmudgeonly and intolerant but a softee!) as I got the tree dressed, this is the old 'Family' tree at mums and some of the decorations are over 70 years old, been to India and back in the 1940's!

And it got me thinking...dangerous - I know - but stick with it...I've been doing this blogging lark on and off through a difficult period in my own life, and a strange period in the life of the wider society for the last 3 years, and while every year a few people do some sort of 'Happy Christmas' post before they go off for the holidays, in past years it has been only A FEW, this year not only have most people done some kind of 'seasonal' post, several people have done a few, often quite nostalgic ones.

Now I'm sure this is due to the credit crunch (a dreadful expression for the beginning of the end of white western capitalism), in that it seems to me that it has concentrated minds a bit more than normal.

I have a little book in which - since I was a pretentious teenager - I have copied sayings and quotes which grab me, sometimes well known, sometimes not, and I don't always know (or note) the source and one of these is;

"The best time of your life is that to which you always return [to - in your mind] when the present proves too unbearable"

Now; I'm not suggesting that we are all finding right now 'unbearable', but just that you don't remember past birthdays on your birthday the same way you remember past Christmases at Christmas...you don't remember the dead on your birthday the same way you do at this time of year...you don't cast your mind back to childhood birthdays, school birthdays, birthdays with lovers, drunken birthdays in Berlin, other peoples birthdays ON your birthday in the same way you remember these things AT Christmas EVERY Christmas.

We mark the passing of time...by Christmases! Yes; it's close to New Year, but how many drunken New Year's meld into each other in our memories? But Christmas...from the first one we can remember at 3 0r 4 or 5 years old to last years, all the 'big' presents for most years, the disappointments, the snowy Christmas in Bishop's Stortford, tobogganing down residential streets and being hauled back up by your godmothers dog! The first Christmas you could buy your parents things with your own money, Your first Christmas away from home and family because of a new job or new partner, drowning your sorrows in alcohol with your mates stuck in Berlin on Christmas Duties, phone calls home on Christmas Day, jobs that gave you two weeks off, jobs that gave you a day off, early or late 'Christmas Day' with a lover - in secret, unhappy or happy, we mark the passing of time in Christmases.

The point I'm getting to is that this year more people seem to be giving more thought than usual to Christmas Past, and I think it's a valuable lesson as it shows that no matter how commercial the bean-counters try to make it, despite the MacWendyKing's Cranberry Wrap two-for-one offer, it comes down to family, to lost loves, lost innocence, absent friends, family traditions, daft rituals, stupid jokes in cheap crackers, memories - some painful, some to make you smile, some that leave a roomful of people laughing at the re-telling, others that produce a groan...every year, but would we have it any other way...?

I'm a cynical atheist, but once a year I think I'm allowed to waver!

To all the followers of this blog, to any casual visitors, to the several contributors and all commenters, thanks for dropping by and taking a bit of my wittering away with you, and wherever you are, whoever you're with - have the best Christmas you can and may 2012 be an improvement on 2011 for all of us.

A is for Action Man

I imported the listing for these from the dead page the other day, so thought I'd better post the figures while they were still fresh on my mind.

Imported into the UK by 3D Licensing, these were a Hasbro product, and I have an idea a company with 'Strawberry' in the title may have been involved somewhere, but not the old Strawberry Fayre. 35mm factory painted poured resin figurines with a pre-inked stamp in the base producing 20mm images, you could regard as flats!

As far as I know there were only the 6 poses, I get a few of these 'Stampers' from time to time (Kinder often does rolling ones with a continuous/endless track) and always take an image for/on the record card that goes in the bag with the figures.

Sold as pocket money toys, the resin (Oh! Sorry - 'Polystone'...yeah, right, got real stone in it has it?!) is brittle and the ink wouldn't last a day in the hands of a kid, this is the shite-end of the toy market, and you'd expect a company like Hasbro to stay out of it...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Bears Say;

Happy Christmas to all visitors to the blog; eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow our civilization might collapse like a pack of damp, moth-eaten cards in a hurricane - who are we trying to fool...ourselves?!!!

B is for Boys Toys

This is in my mothers attic, I don't know or remember when it was given to us or how long it was in the games drawer, as both my brother and I were not 'football' kids. I have a vague memory of playing it once or twice but as to who gave it to us and when I haven't a clue...

...but if you were a Football Kid, this would be the best under the tree on Christmas morning, a big box printed in two colours with the magic word "soccer" writ-large!

From the late 1960's judgeing by the hybrid tin-plate/plastic construction, although I think it soldiered-on for most of the 1970's pretty much as an unchanged design, however, the box got more colourful with each generation.

Close-up of the players, the ball - if I remember correctly - was a Subbuteo-sized thing but of lesser quality in a browny-orange? Chad Valley was resurrected a few years ago by Woolworth's, I don't know what happened to the trademark after Woollies demise?

H is for Have a Happy Christmas

Everyone has a favourite tree decoration...

Mine are Pine Cones, old; to the left and glass - modern; bottom right and blow moulded polyethylene.

Painted cones would have been among the first true decorations, along with sweets, nuts & fruits and the odd small carved wooden trinket or straw dolls/craft pieces

Have a lovely Christmas and best wishes for a better year in 2012 whatever your 2011 has been like!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Christmas

Self-explanatory if you happen to be a reader from Japan...

To everyone else; Happy Lucky Cat Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

C is for Christmas Nostalgia

The other day over on the Moonbase Central blog, they showed an old chocolate-bar multi-pack of the type that were one of the seasonal treats at this time of year in days gone...I can't remember if this was from one of those gift boxes or a set of Christmas crackers, but as the one posted the other day had cut-out figures that caught my eye, it reminded me that this was still in the family games-drawer...

Cadbury's, Rountree Macintosh or Tom Smith? It has cut out counters and a spinner, which would both be things you'd find in budget crackers, and the graphics are so 'glam-rock' post-psychedelia but still trying to be hip-60's...with a set of pantone magic-markers!

Just as cheap crackers would be likely to have a small bag of tiddlywinks to use as counters and a plastic spinner to use instead of the card one, they might also have a mounted Cowboy or Indian to chase each other round the board! Or - if you were really lucky - Roman Gladiators, ex-Quaker Foods.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

B is for British - British Made, British Infantry

I haven't included Lone*Star in this round-up of modern or modernish British Infantry as my sample, while being of a fair size is to say the least a real mess, with a lot of repaints from the big purchase of last autumn, or hardly any paint's from evilBay or charity shop/car-boot buys.

So these are the other British made figures of the 19500's and 1960's, half of which will be re-blogged over on the Airfix page when I get round to spending some time on that page!

Upper image shows the Taffy Toys (probably part of the Thomas/Poplar Plastics group) figures from the big play set we looked at some time ago, they are 65/70 mil, and about as big as they get in British plastics after the Marx 6" figures. As far as I know this is all the poses, but there may have been others in other sets, or even sold loose? The EM-2 is again in evidence; see my note in the Crescent post below this one.

Lower shot shows the Cherilea 60mm paratroops, not all eight poses, and in various styles, this set ran for a while and comes in various single and mottled plastic colours and with various paint treatments, this picture gives only a hint of what's out there to be collected in this set.

Airfix chucked out two modern sets toward or right at the end of their true reign. 7 poses per set the British infantry are the earlier of the two and are a nice set, I looked quite like these guys during my final training exercise at Depot Lichfield, but; firstly, I remember the Karl Gustave 84mm being larger (and heavier!) and we all used the rifle sling all the time, a serious omission. The only exception being in Northern Ireland where troops tied the butt-end of the sling round the wrist to prevent the loss of the weapon in a riot situation.

The SAS were only issued in the smaller 14 figure boxes right at the very end, and while all sorts of otherwise intelligent people will tell you all sorts of urban myths in their desperation to convince themselves they MIGHT have existed in the HO/OO range, for at least one day...there is no evidence to suggest they were anything more than a dream in the marketing departments eye, transferred to paper in one catalogue as the company missed its arrester-hook and disappeared headfirst over its own flight deck to reappear as a marketable trademark/brand for the half dozen or so companies since associated with the Airfix name!

H is for Half-moon!

Crescent to be precise, and as there is a detailed history of the company currently being serialised in Plastic Warrior magazine (you are subscribing...aren't you!) I won't touch on the company much here, except to say that unlike their rivals they never produced Germans, not even to fight their own 8th Army figures, whether this was because Arthur A. Schneider - one of the founders - was a refugee from Nazism or because the Luftwaffe bombed the toolroom is unknown? So we'll just look at the 4 figure sets in 'Modern' garb, that's 1950's/60's so; half a century ago 'modern'!

The beretted 1950's infantry in 60mm, I'm not sure if they actually produced them in SAS berets, of if the guy in pale green plastic with the Stirling SMG is a home paint, having handled many of these when I worked with a dealer, I don't remember seeing them with this colour beret, but then I didn't remember seeing them in that colour plastic either, so it may be a factory attempt to tie-in with the actions in Malaya or on the Indonesian border regions?

The two insets show both base types and both the smooth and the 'sand-blasted' sculpts. The finish that looks like sand-casting, is true for all poses and extends to the Guards, Cowboys and others from Crescent.

The 54mm helmeted troops, the blue ones are really unusual (even 'rare'; a word I try not to use about mass-produced plastics), being the closest they (Crescent) ever got to Germans, as they are 'enemy' from a game or boxed set (possibly an artillery set?).

The standing firing guy has the experimental bull-pup design known as the EM-2 which was trialed at Warminster by the Demonstration Battalion of what would become UKLF (in my time) alongside the FN Fal and Armalite AR-15 (later adopted as the M16), as a result there is a whole family of Toy Soldiers equipped with it, despite it's never being taken into service - ignoring what various combat-wombats have written on the wikipedia page devoted to it; I knew someone who worked with the troops at Warminster in the 50's, and well remember reading the Soldier Magazine article on the 'end game' and decision following the trials; which were won by the 7.62-chambered FN (licensed as the SLR) and got the story from the horses mouth as it were.

As toy soldiers go these are really quite common, so I apologise for the poor quality of my sample, but as you know I'm relatively new to collecting the larger scales and will 'upgrade' over time! Much copied in smaller scales by the industrious of Hong Kong, they will be covered here one day...promise!

60mm with helmets, the radio operator from this set has been pirated as often as the 54mm set (and the 8th Army) but the other five haven't been. Again the insets below show both base types, colour variations and the moulding variance of the kneeling firing figure, who appears to have an M1 carbine/Ruger Mini 14! The other two rifle-equipped troops have FN/SLR's while the 'Tommy-gunner' seems to have a grease-gun?

The 60mm range with beret could also come with a US style MI helmet, which looks OK on the flamethrower, but doesn't go very well with the '58 Pattern webbing of the other figures! The plug-in heads bring to mind a small range of similar figures from Cofalux, who could be Para's, FFL or regular infantry with a head swap, one wonders which set came first? I only have these three, I think there are 8 poses? One is on evilBay at the moment but it's not matched - colour-wise - head to body.

The Blue figures are meant to be RAF Regiment (who secure and guard airfields) and were going to be more prominent as the Hawker Harrier came into service...they could - of course - be used as enemy, and lose - badly...bloody 'Crab Air'; not real soldiers! Having worn this garb daily in the late 1980's I can assure you the kidney pouches of the kneeling guy are too far apart, but the webbing is otherwise very accurate, for 'skeleton order' - lacking all the extra pouches we tended to add, water bottles etc...

Friday, December 16, 2011

L is for Let's hear it for Lidl

Not quite as cool as jelly Daleks, but getting there, and they compensate by being tastier than any Dalek!! From the current Lidl's Advent calender, and to celebrate the news that Lidl and Aldi have moved ahead of M&S in food sales!

Santa Clause, Clown and Snowman, edible 'flats'...nuff said. More free advertising, I don't know whats wrong with me...must be something in the food!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

News Views Etc...New book...sort of?

Well, you have two choices, and under capitalism 'choice is good' (like four legs, or is it two?), you can go to WHSmith and pay £19.99 or thereabouts - maybe you have a something% off voucher from you last visit, they seem to be giving them away like sweeties at a kids party, in fact they'll give you a voucher even if you only buy sweeties!

Or you can go to The Works and pay £6.99? As the previous title in this series of almost identical tomes was also remaindered to The Works, I held on and er...didn't go to 'Smiths' whom I'd happily see bankrupt tomorrow!

At seven smackeroonies it's worth it for the new photographs, there's not much else new in it! However also at The Works are some tins covered in Airfix and Hornby Logos, I think they contain cards or something, one had Spitfire artwork and the other the Evening Star (I think), some licensing thing that didn't grab me at all, but some Heller/Humbrol/Hornby addicts somewhere might want one of each for the downstairs loo.

What with clip-together puzzle tanks, lead figures and a constant stream of HK/China dinosaurs, construction workers, farm, zoo and emergency personnel The Works has had better pickings this year than either the pound shop or poundstreacher!!

I have not been paid for this blatant advert!!! And yes; I've photographed it on wet, gravelly, concrete, and no; I'd not be found using a similar 'studio' setting for the rest of my library!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Z is for Zang - Zang for Timpo

That's the last of the Lines/Triang/Minimodels and Household Cavalry for now, I actually found the Corgi-Mettoy box today pottering about in the storage unit, but Spot-On have their own box and it's buried somewhere, so Tommy-spot will have to wait - probably a year or two, in the meantime here are the Zang composition as promised the other day, and I'll start on large scale modern British troops in the next few days.

The Civilians - as far as I know I'm missing two; the third mechanic from the set that included the pair to the left in the photograph above and a Chauffeur, who can be seen on the Timpo solids site to which there is a link on the right of this page or go here for the pic; http://www.timpo-solids.com/solids4sammelgbiete.htm I had the chance of one of them years ago at one of the old PTS auctions, which I failed to bid-on (it went unsold!).

There is also a question mark over the New York cop, as he seems to be of a higher sculpting quality, although it's the same pumice mix, and Adrien over at Mercator Trading thinks there may have been an American police car in the old Timpo slush-cast car range, which is where these figures originate?

All 35/40mm to go with 1:43'ish cars, although the kneeling mechanic will be 8 foot tall if he stands up!

The military figures known to exist with the exception of...again the Timpo link above gives a helmeted version of the WWII Infantryman I have yet to locate. As with the civil figures these were all made by Zang for Timpo in the late 1940's/early 1950's - probably before they (Zang) were working with Britains. Makes you wonder what input Zang had to early Timpo polyethylene production...perhaps that whole family of Britains Household Cavalry and clones can be traced back to the Timpo hollow-cast with his orange jacket!?

The small pilot is 20mm and came with the lead Flying Fortress, the Highlander 35mm and suspected to be a whiskey mascot/givaway, while the rest are around 54mm. Thanks to Paul Morhead for the Highlander, John Begg for the grey (German?) pilot and Adrien Little for the other 54mm pilot.

G is for Gold; Spanish Gold!

I first came across these at a Plastic Warrior show in Richmond about 15 years ago, only three poses, but quite a bunch of them, with the base studs removed, and a quick factory paint job I imagine (with the benefit of hindsight) that they had been sourced from an outpainter or factory worker in the Portsmouth/Southhampton area and used as a war gaming unit.

The three to the left and the contents of the bag are that original find along with a few more that have turned up over the years. I have thinned the bag out with the odd swap from time to time.

Having found them and had the odd older collector say things like "I think they're from a game called Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe or something like that", I turned to Board Game Geek and searched endlessly for the game, trying (in no particular order), Treasure, Island, Robinson, Swiss Family, Pirates, Tall Ships, Sailing, Naval, Navy, Armada, Raleigh, Drake, Nelson, Trafalgar, Sea Battle, Buccaneer, Privateer, Caribbean, Smugglers, Conquistadors...and anything else I could think of! No luck, nada, ziltch, not a dickey-bird of a clue...tons of games though; umpteen versions of Buccaneer (which a lot of people thought aught to be it - it has no figures), all sorts of ship related stuff, more versions of Battleships by more companies than you can shake a big stick at, but no game with the pesky figures in it...

By this time I had obtained the various sample saved for posterity by Brian Knight and/or David Pomeroy, and this shot shows them laid out in no particular order,

The top two rows were one sample bag, with all poses in both colours, the next three rows were each a different sample, middle row have been reversed so that you can see the pin-release marks prominent on their backs (click next to the image to get it up in a separate page), these had been dealt with by the time the figures were issued with the game.

The next row had a pose missing and a duplicate, will never know the significance of that! A final all red sample rounds them off. Both the all red sets are two shades of red and they were obviously playing with what shade to use, they went with the lighter shade in the end.

The content of the bag from a game, also from Mr Pomeroy or Brian. A few years ago I carefully unbent the staples, photographed them with my old 35mm camera, and re-bagged them, the two images to the right are the result.

The game when I eventually found it was Spanish Gold by Triang! There should be some little ships and a dice cup as well, but they probably have their own place in the box.

With the heavy bases these go well with the Revell Conquistadors and not badly with the smaller Merten and Preiser HO Renaissance figures - if you sand the bases down. The two shipmates/men-at-arms (bare legs) also make bloody good Scots insurgents! They can also all be used in ECW war games.

S is for Star Buy

What with all the moving and legal crap, lying baronets and two-faced housekeepers this Autumn, I never managed to do a report on the Birmingham show, and while I have some shots they are on the PC which is very unplugged at the moment. However this chap got left on the side of something and ended up in the car touring the watering-holes with me so here he is...

These are not that popular with collectors, gangly, late production, garish colours, inaccurate historical detailing, blah, blah, blah...I - being typically difficult - have always liked them and even when I was collecting small-scale only, delighted in sorting my mates out for him. They are easy to find; Cherilea late version knights that is - this guy however had not been seen before by anyone I showed him to at the Birmingham show.

Or at least the dragon banner has not been seen before, the rest is quite common, and I can't check my back issues of Plastic Warrior to see if Matt Thier covered it in his Cherilea knights round-up. The shield is not as common as the geometric ones either, thinking about it?

The beauty is he was only a couple of quid or so and with me being a tight-arsed skinflint a bargain methinks? Now; if only I can find a shield with a dragon on it....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

W is for Wasps Nest [Leather Jackets]

The most beautiful architecture, Rogers and Foster; eat your hearts out. Sadly, as soon as I'd taken this photograph I sprayed the whole nest with Foaming-wasp-nest-Armageddon in a can stuff...I'll report back when I have the balls to go back up there and see if any of them a still alive.

Cowardice in this instance being the better part of valour, as they had already survived a can or two of non-foaming-instant-waspicide in a can stuff...and several hard frosts!

H is for Havent

The Minimodels plant in Havent, near Portsmouth is responsible for lots of the figures that turn up in mixed lots of small scale and the hand of Stadden with his angular folds is everywhere in the sculpting. These are mostly more game playing pieces, but there is a Spot-On 'Tommy-spot' figure or two as well.

Some of these and some of the Wild West and - forthcoming - Spanish Gold figures were saved from the factory by either Brian Knight (artist on the Lettraset/Patterson Blick rub-down booklets) or David Pomeroy, all came into my possession before I met Brian, so I don't know who saved what, but thanks to both of them for having the foresight.

Triang's game Helmsman provides the little yacht with a plug-on base at the back, the divers are from the 'Underwater Battle from Thunderball' James Bond tie-in board game, with all air-tanks missing, the painted one is from an actual game, the other two are factory samples.

The 40mm Guardsman is from the Rolls Royce by Spot-On, one of six on the grey plinth-like bases the Tommy-spot figures had. The two cartoon characters obviously come from a board game aimed at younger players, I don't recognise the characters, not do I know from where in Lines/Mettoy/Corgi or Triang/Spot-on/Pedigreee empire the game will be found.

The other figure with the similar base I did find in a Corgi (or Spot-on?) catalogue and I had his name and everything, but it's lost in the depths of a shipping container!! Although he looks like a Diddy-man, he was in fact a mascot for whichever catalogue or product it was? His sloppy shoe-painting points to an outpainters guide/master rather than an issued piece [See comments for all three names].

The Sweeny was a popular TV series with a spin-off movie or two here in the UK, and these are from the Omnia game of the same name. Taken from the Tommy-spot range, but given sensible bases there are two each of the photographed figures in a full set.

Unpainted Subbuteo, possibly just undecorated samples, but might be from a board game, the player on a conventional base pointing to the latter, but there was a 'sub' warming up in one of the accessory sets I think?

It's almost certainly through Waddington's and their connection to Subbuteo and the factory at Tunbridge Wells that Stadden came to do all this sculpting for the Havent works. He was already known for his sports trophy figures as much as his military work.

Couple of scans of old film-camera shots I took years ago giving a different angle to the Triang/Almark figures I posted the other night.

Next I'll look at the Spaniards...

Monday, December 12, 2011

B is for Britains...and friends

Well, this is the rest of the contents of my less than comprehensive Household Cavalry box, and consists in the main of Britains and their clones, one of the downsides of being THE household name for toy soldiers was that everyone else wanted a piece of their pie, a situation not helped by Britains then moving their production to Hong Kong, a place where if you give a man a Lee Enfield at breakfast, he'll give you an identical working copy by teatime!

Britains Herald, Top shot, left to right; UK black-based x2 (made by Zang but marked Herald?); a green-based one from after Britians had bought-in Zang/Herald; six HK for Britains with earlier and later (deeper) bases, and two with integral bases which predate the six separate-based ones.

Below them are some of the mounted from the range, they are a mess and I don't know which figure belongs on which horse, whether the brown horse is correct, whether any of the saddles are matched-up with the right rider....all I can say is that the horse far left is a UK made piece with the Herald mark, the rest are 'HONG KONG FOR BRITAINS'

Top are the Eyes Right Household cavalry, again I don't know if the saddles are correctly matched. Third from the left is the band-master from the Lifeguards mounted band and slightly rarer as he only came in the larger boxed or trayed 'full band' sets. However Cavendish Miniatures had sell-through on the remaining stock of a lot of this stuff and may have had tons of bandmasters for all I know!...?

Below we go from the sublime to the ridiculous, an early Zang for Herald mounted Horseguard (incidentally my favorites over the Royals) with next to him two of the New Metal figures that were just coming into production when my brother and I were turning to other things, Camel, Guinness, and girls if I recall correctly - I don't know what the horse looks like but from the vicious arse-spike on the rider I'm guessing the horse was metal too?

The inset shows how the little plastic sword has blown away a scab of hip, on a figure getting so brittle I was afraid to photograph him at all! The horse is a two-part hollow moulding with glued on saddle, probably all made of cellulose acetate, but the lack of shrinkage suggests some form of early styrene polymer.

Near clones and true clones; Top left is the Timpo lifeguard from the touristy range of little boxed sets they did, his jacket is always a bit too orange in the scarlet. Next to him we have the common HK copies in blue and red, I've never seen the trumpeter in this range, but he may be out there. They also copied the Herald khaki infantryman standing at attention, and the old hollow cast RAF regiment/marching with rifle, along with all the highlanders.

The figure on the end - very play worn - is a bit of a mystery, he has some of the hallmarks of the Speedwell Japanese officer (which could make him Kentoys or Trojan...VP, Paramount or...) and I'm hoping some expert like the 65th follower of this blog might be able to help identify him! Thanks for 'following' Brian - any ideas?

The bottom row are equally lost on me although I feel I should know, they aren't Gem, I have them somewhere else, likewise they're not Charbens or Cavendish for the same reason. They seem to be early British although very shiny-glossy, and have no HK marks, yet the obvious missing make (Hilco) usually mark at least some of a sample? Again any of the five in the previous paragraph could be in the frame.

M is for Marketing

Continuing with the whole Triang/Lines thing down at Minimodels Havent, with Mr. Stadden in tow, we come to these chaps, four poses in approximately 25mm from the master sculptor, made to go a long, long way by the fellows in the marketing department.

All the variants in my collection, with the bog-standard shop-stock boxes. The Orange-brown ones were Culpitts, as we had them as kids, and I remember getting them for a birthday cake in little packs of two - foot or mounted.

On another occasion we hunted for them in a garden as 'Party Favours', although I don't think they were called that then...just prizes or presents? That lot would have been Minimodels from Webb's newsagent in the - then - tiny village of Hartley Wintney (home of Denzil Skinner, Hart Models and another guy who's name escapes me!)

They are such fine castings that getting them - the Indians particularly - intact is a bit of a miracle, and with plastic colour and paint versions it'll be a while before I stop hunting them down!

As well as shop-stock and a supply to Culpitts, they were issues in at least three board games, two by Triang (Warpath and Wild West Checkers) and one by Omnia (Geronimo) and these are various bits from some of them.

Top right sees the Wild West Checkers [Draughts] figures with the same type of spigot mounting as the Battle Game variants of the Almark British Infantry, allowing you to remove one to make 'king'.

Below that is the famous wagon 'square' used by trekking pioneers heading West, to protect themselves from herds of wandering wildeersloth, all that rubbish about wagon 'circles' being white-mans propaganda. Taken from the Warpath game which seems to bear some similarities (in game play) with Waddington's 'Battle of the Little Big Horn'.

Bottom left are figures from Omnia's Geronimo game, along with an unpainted sample of a Culpitts figure. Above them are some factory samples either colour tests for the Checkers game, or a set for another - 4th - game entirely?

They also seem to have appeared in two boxed sets, the contents of the other being unknown. James Opie is to thank for saving this one; 'Ambush at Yellow Rock', for posterity.

The first image above was given the full Scarfolk Council treatment, and while without permission, that has all been sorted and it's very funny!

The Omnia game pieces complete, scanned from old 35mm images I took for Plastic Warrior. This is a game with an unusual mechanism as you have to build a 'ladder' of collected cards, to get to the top of the box tray and secure Geronimo's treasure before the other three players.

News Views Etc...Magazine Articles

W is for 'Well, Fancy That'...as Private Eye would say!!

Actually I'm sure it's a complete coincidence or a bit of synergy, rather than the close relationship between my posting and an appearance elsewhere, that the article below has appeared so soon after I covered them, not that I haven't influenced some other's output; Subbuteo cricketers and Midgetoy space cars springing to mind - as fast as they follow my posting them here!

As a further act of synergy a reader in NZ brought the article to my attention the same day the issue was issued over here, so it's nice to know that a magazine gets launched at the same time everywhere!!

If you enjoyed my 7 or so posts on the mini-trucks based on the Dinky 1-Ton Humber, you really must get a copy of this months Model Collector magazine, where Nigel Robertshaw gives them equally full coverage, but very much from a civilian point of view, and including the metal I omitted. Some of the body types are new to me, including lovely construction vehicles and tanker-trucks, while it was interesting to see my childhood Christmas cracker fire engine ladder-truck carded with a pumper, cherry-picker and others.

He also has a decent shot of a restored radio-shack bodied Humber with expanding side-canopy. Lovely shots of both boxed and carded HK examples and civilian versions in the larger sizes from both NFIC and Sam Toys made this a fascinating read for me and I'd already bored myself to death with the things!!!

The real gem in the article is a Military 'Services M.T. Garage' which he suggests is HK, but I suspect is Kleeware, it's a dead-ringer for their civilian 'Service Station' with the three little ex-Pyro cars. Do try to check it out, these magazines so rarely cover plastics; anything we can do to encourage them...

Also; and at the risk of being accused of blowing my own trumpet, some of you may have noticed that I'm 'Letter of the Month' in the January issue of Toy Soldier and Model Figure (TSMF), only by dint of happenstance, however; the first I knew of it was the arrival in the post without warning of an American Minuteman - British colonial insurgency, not stray ICMB! - from W. Britain.

As someone with the level of cynicism that never quite believes media announced prizes ever get given (why are they aways won by an elderly couple from oop'north?), it was nice to see they actually do! Although he's already been lost in the move, it's a temporary 'lost' to a TBS-box [To Be Sorted], and when he turns up again I'll blog him with some Britains and Marx, as I have so few 'New Metal' figures in the collection - in any size!! So - many thanks to the Editor; Stuart A. Hessney for the award.

My insurgency 'dig' aside; there's also an irony in that the rump of Britains, a British company who made - among other things - the lovely Eyes Right AWI are now wholly American owned - the very people who broke away from their governance at Westminster - now making Revolutionary War figures...history huh? Makes you glad not to be French...

Right; that's everyone plugged or insulted! Back to toy soldier blogging!....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

News Views Etc...

Well, I said I'd be getting thematic and the two posts below (Household Cavalry and Almark) are from the HC box and the Triang/Minimodels/Omnia box, so more of the two subjects in the coming days as I've dragged them both back from the storage unit, I've also got the Zang box for Paul Morehead over at Plastic Warrior to look at so I'll be putting some quality composition on here in a day or five.

I also updated the Almark and Silverlit text-only imports I loaded on here the other night, and added a text only on Armtec as it ties in vaguely with Almark - immediately below.

I've updated all links to other blogs in and out, as Blogger seems to have lost half my links to other people back in the summer when they were 'improving' things. I've also dropped the AdSense, complete waste of time with traffic at the levels you get on a collectors site, and makes the page slow to load for anyone without Broadband, anyone on dial-up, anyone with a mobile-Internet dongle etc...The Internet - like 'Western' Civilization - seems to be coming to a slow halt!!!

As stated the other night, the Manufacturers A-Z blog (which never really got started) is no more and all the relevant entries are now here with their tags in the index, and a more general cross-reference list is starting to take shape at the bottom of the page, this will not just be cross references here, but all the cross references you might come across in the hobby, helping with research, google searches etc...it will take a while to get to a useful size though, so be patient please - I'll 'News, Views' when it gets major additions/updates.

If anyone can think of anything else I can do to improve the blog let me know, I'm 41% into my Image allowance, so you've got about 4 more years of my pontificating to look forwards too!!!

Cheers - H

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A is for Armtec

Armtec, 5 Belinda Lane, Enfield, Connecticut 06082, USA
Polystyrene kit accessories/detailing parts lead to marketing deals with Crest and Canuck, resulting in a nice range of subjects available by the time their illustrated catalogue was published in 1976, two updates would also be issued and the three when combined with the early advertisements have lead to a bit of confusion re; set numbering! Carried by Almark and laterly Micro-mould in the UK.
Product listing
Accessories 1:76
Set № 1 - German Machine Guns
Set № 2 - 10 Jerry Cans
Set № 3 - American AFV Tools
Set № 4 - German Pioneer Tools
Set № 5 - German Spare track Section (swaps numbers with 7 in the 1976 catalogue)
Set № 6 - German Vehicle Breakdown Equipment (also; OVM – Outer Vehicle Material!)
Set № 7 - 70 Scale Feet Length - Tow Chain (swaps numbers with 5 in the 1976 catalogue)
Set 8 - Hetzer Road Wheels
Set 9 - 15 Sandbags
Set 10 - British Tools and 7 gas-tins ( ‘Flimsies’?)
Accessories 1:35
Set № 8 - 35 Scale Feet - Tow Chain (renumbered 1976; Set 1)
Set № 9 - German Machine Guns MG34 (renumbered 1976; Set 2)
Set № 10 - German Machine Guns MG42 (renumbered 1976; Set 3)
Set 4 - Tow Cables (72 scale feet)
Set 5 - German 81mm Mortar
Set 6 - British Weapons (Bren gun and Boys A/T-rifle)
Accessories 1:48
Set 1 - Tow Chain
Set 2 - German Gas Cans
Accessories 1:72
Set 1 - US .50cal. Aircraft Type and Accessories (also; AA1, became; Set AC-1)
Set AC-2 - F101-B Conversion Kit (canopy, nose extension, tailpipe extension and rockets)
Vac-formed conversion kits
Conv.1 - Cast Hull and Sand-shields for Airfix Lee/Grant
Conv.2 - Cast Hull and Sand-shields for Airfix Sherman
Crest Reproductions - Artillery (“manufactured exclusively for Armtec”, metal)
Set#1 - German 105mm Howitzer
Set#2 - German 150mm Nebelwefer
Set#3 - German Pak.40 Anti-tank Gun
Set#4 - German 8.8cm Pak.43/41 Anti-tank Gun
Set#5 - British 17lbr. Anti-tank Gun
Set#6 - German 7.5cm Pak.36 Anti-tank Gun
Set#7 - German 3.7cm Pak.36 Anti-tank Gun
Crest Reproductions - Artillery (“manufactured exclusively for Armtec”, metal)
Set M-1 - German 20mm Solothurn
Set M-2 - US .30cal. Air-cooled Machine Gun
Set M-3 - US .30cal. Water-cooled Machine Gun
Set M-4 - US 75mm Recoilless Rifle
Set M-5 - German 2.8cm sPzB.41 Gerlich
Crest Reproductions - Vehicle kits (“manufactured exclusively for Armtec”, metal)
#A1 – Jagdpanzer 38t Hetzer 1:76
CT1 - Cast Hull Sherman Conversion (1:76)
CT2 - Cast Hull Lee Conversion (1:76)
CT3 - M4A1 Sand Shields (available for Sherman and Lee – probably the same as; Conv.1 & 2 above)
CT8 - L-33 Tankette
CT9 - L-35 Tankette
#FC1 - Boar War Highlander (using Airfix 1:32nd Napoleonic Highlander)
#FC2 - WWI Highlander (using Airfix 1:32nd Napoleonic Highlander)
#IT1 - Tank Crew Member (1:35th Italian tank crew)
#IT2 - Tank Crew Member (1:35th Italian tank crew)
Decals (transfers, by Canuck Decals)
D-1 - RCAF Sheet

WD is for War Department...

...the precursor to the modern Ministry of Defence (MoD), and the title of the range of WWII figures Almark produced in part from ex-Minimodels plastics moulds and by returning to the original sculptor to expand the range with Germans (small scale) or fill gaps (54mm range) in metal.

Two sets of British Infantry were issued and two packaging types appeared, always sold on the sprue there was an 'infantry' sprue and a 'support weapons' sprue. Much anticipated and covered after release by Military Modelling, they appeared [1970/71?] several years after the Triang Battle Game [1968'ish] that had first featured them.

It must however be assumed that the idea was always for someone to market them, as the Set WD-2 sprue was never utilised for/in the earlier Battle Game? Maybe the Battle Game was dreamt-up for Christmas while they ironed out teething problems with the mould for the second set?

Poses and contents - Set WD-1 to the top left; WD-2 - top right. Below them are the Triang playing-pieces with their locating studs/spigots, and right at the bottom; a couple without helmet paint which probably came from an outworker somewhere in the Havent area, being bought at a car-boot sale on the A3 out of Portsmouth.

The helmet paint code was dealt with on the Battle Game post, but I'll repeat it here, green is troops, brown is engineer, red were the NCO's and white the Officer.

The latter [1972/3?] German 'foe' were available as 5 poses each of regular infantry (early war uniforms) or paratroops, sculpted by the same Charles C Stadden who had designed the plastic figures. Initially sold on the same (now sticky) vacuum-sealed cards as the plastic figures, they soon moved to the more common type of shop stock-box that Minifigs, Hinchliffe and others were using.

It has to be said; these knocked the socks off Airfix 1st version Germans and Combat Group, and probaly led directly to the Airfix 2nd versions being released a year or three later [1974-77'ish].

H is for Houshold Cavalry (Blues and Royals)

It is I'm sure no coincidence that all three of the 60mm'ish sets of ceremonial foot figures of the British Army's Household Cavalry seem to be rather similar to each other. Produced by (alphabetically); Cherilea, Crescent and Marx - Swansea.

The fact that they mostly come in several variations of paint, plastic colour or plastic type means that with little effort and a bit of judicious feeBaying you could get quite a display of these together in a short time should you wish?

Top we have 'Marching with Sword' and from left to right they are;
  • Marx, white hard polystyrene plastic, possibly a repaint.
  • Marx, cream, polyethylene, factory painted
  • Cherilea, white with green base
  • Cherilea, red with black base
  • Crescent
Note the mould variation in the two Cherilea figures shown in the swords and the breast-plate straps. The middle photo (again from the left) is showing 'Standing with Sword';
  • Marx, cream, polyethylene, factory painted
  • Cherilea, red with black base
  • Cherilea, red with green base
  • Marx Nylon/Polypropylene (?) re-issue (Marksmen?)
Note - again - how the two Cherilea's are different heights/moulds. Finally we have trumpeters, three from Marx, all cream ethylene and a Crescent.
This guy is quite problematical; he appears at first glance to be a factory painted Marx figure, but closer inspection reveals that A) he's made of the same nylon'ish plastic as the re-issue above and B) the painting is 'clean' yet of poor quality, so he would seem to be a more recent tourist item sourced from China, or a re-issue painted by someone who (to be kind...) had little experience of such painting?!!

Finally we have the other member of the Household Cavalry produced by Cherilea, in the chunky-based mounted range,half his sword is sadly still in a Russian gunner somewhere in the Crimea!

These come in various plastic colours and paint schemes, but I've never seen one painted as a Horse Guard ('Blues'), as indeed I've never seen the Crescent figures as anything other than 'Royals', excepting those re-painted by their owners.

Friday, December 9, 2011

B is for Blitzkrieg

It is one of those perennial questions, often leading to heated debate; Why the interest in German 'Stuff', if you add SS/NAZI party organisations to the mix it gets even more heated, but ever since I have been reading or buying modelling or wargame magazines there have been regular debates on the subject.

And it can't be argued that when it comes to AFV's or Figures (the formula doesn't carry over to warships or 'planes), the manufacturers will tell you the Germans out-sell the rest of the combatants 3 or 4 to one. My brother's Detail was no more an exception than my Airfix kit stash; as could be seen from the box shot the other day, and here they finally are...

Sorting them out lead to 4 piles; Filthy with no stickers, dirty with stickers, needing a wipe and on the right - almost as good as the day they left the factory.

I have read all sorts of complicated suggestions for cleaning vinyl/PVC, and have learnt the hard way not to use paint-stripper (they just blister), there is no great science to it and I've just used a dollop of shower-gel in a bit of warm water, soak for a minute and clean with an old toothbrush.

Before (above) and after (below), they clean up very well, and while the 'wash' finish on the early British Infantry, Wild West and 7th Cavalry did tend to wear-off, the solid colour used here was itself a kind of vinyl, so is pretty much 'welded' in place, and a quick clean brings them right back.

A few years ago Andy Harfield actually sourced some vinyl paints, but there was a poor take-up at the time (I believe) and he only carried them for a year or three. I once did some work for a corporate entertainments company and we used large tins of the stuff to make 'It's a Knockout' (Jeux sans Frontières [JSF]) type structures and I can only tell you that it runs at two to three times the cost of equivalent emulsions or oil-based household glosses.

There are only one or two decent arm-swaps in this set, while my Brother converted (through necessity) a broken MP38/40 guy into a Mauser armed NCO or dismounted AFV crewman? The butt being explained by the fact that a clip-on rifle type stock was available for the Mauser!

I realised while cleaning them that the officer is the only figure from the Afrika Korps set repainted by Bro to fit in with his early-war temperate theatre guys, while one of the missing helmet-stickers turned-up on the rear stock...where I have a vague memory of placing it many years ago!

Notice also how our mother (My MUM!), ever resourceful - has taken the sidecar in for a service and sent it out with an aerodynamic wheel hub...she'd used a domed upholstery pin to mend the broken axle! I can report that it still works perfectly and is neither stiff nor loose, 30-odd years later.

His whole collection putting in an attack supported by an emplaced gun and the Sd.Kfz 215 from Dinky Toys. Between those shots is a pose line-up, missing being only the radio operator from the 2nd pose issue. Broken mortar's teams providing crews for both the AFV and the Britains artillery piece.

The third figures along (in both rows) are often described as having MG34's or 42's (even the wikipedia entry for Detail makes the mistake) when it is in fact - in both cases - a close representation of the Panzerbüchse 39 (PzB 39) anti-tank rifle, why Britains would produce such an obscure weapon (for a toy figure to be equiped with) not just once but twice is a bit of a mystery, although with the early-war uniforms, such weapons would have been common at company if not platoon level.