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, April 22, 2012

News, Views Etc...eMail

Right - I think I've caught-up with everyone over the weekend, also caught-up with all the Blogs I follow. Back to the Internet signal-free zones West of the A303 South in a hour or so! Anybody who's expecting a mail/reply from me and didn't get one this weekend - eMail me again and I'll try to get to a signal on Wednesday of this coming week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Product Reviews

Well - we've got the 'New Look' without a choice and already I'm wondering why? Orange text with pale grey? Readable? And what's happened to images (shut-up Hugh, at least they're getting them in the right order now!)...the only way I've found of getting this paragraph written is in the HTML window as the old 'compose' window won't let me start writing above the image?!

Anyway. I'm sure there'll be more whingeing from me on this score (why is the 'stats' page less wide than it was a week ago, despite the fact that the whole world is trending toward wider screens?!!), so to this post...a new thing for the blog; new product reviews.

A few words on the subject - I've never asked a company directly for 'free stuff', as I've seen how it can lead to sycophantically false copy, however, like just about everyone I like to get something for nothing, and if people want to send me things I'll look at them and post a review here. My budget only goes so far and is primarily dedicated to vintage figures and old ephemera, new production being very much an afterthought...So eMail me (top left of page) if you'd like to send me free stuff! But bear in mind that I will be honest.

So paragraphs now centre automatically do they? Here are today's review items, the book was supplied by Pen & Sword publishing (thanks to Rachele there) while the figures came from a new company; AJ's. (thanks go to Jim who is - I suspect Mr 'AJ'!), both items are easy to review as both are really good at being what they are - a book on war-gaming and a new concept in toy figures.

We'll look at the book first;

This is a timely book as I've noticed in the four years I've been Blogging that this period is not only gaining in strength, but is also popular in the larger scales, where it can involve 'Toy Soldiers' as several of the blogs I link to attest. Written by a Neil Thomas, who I don't know from Adam, it is a good primer on the subject, and covers the period between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the later part of the nineteenth century.

About half the book is put over to historical battle 'scenarios' with each receiving a potted history, suggested number of moves played, disposal of forces, special rules if applicable and so on. There are also various appendices; a very useful annotated bibliography, a guide to the various figure scales and a list of useful contacts. I found this third one to be a bit thin, but I'm coming at it from the angle of someone archiving ten-thousand-plus toy and model figure companies...for someone interested in this period I suspect the list is a good guide to the main publishers and figure/accessory suppliers..

I wouldn't say it was 'profusely' illustrated, but it has all that is needed with regard to maps and diagrams, lists and tables with the added bonus of a colour section in the middle.

As the period was one of great change the most useful sections for me (as a non-wargamer) were the historical background, time-line and army lists. I also liked the fact that throughout the work provision is made for converting those relevant pieces of the rules for use in different scales.

The reason for the strange date is that this book is specifically about Europe, and therefore ignores the American Civil War and the various colonial adventures in Africa, Asia and further afield. Starting with the congress of Vienna and finishing with that in Berlin following the end of the Russo-Turkish war and the formation of Bulgaria. In fact; the most fascinating period of recent European history and a period not taught well in school, if at all?

So - Very happy to recommend this book. I believe the author has also published a book on the Napoleonic era, and one hopes he will complete a 'trilogy' with one on the foreign wars of the 'colonial' period mid-to-late century? It is also so rare to get an entirely new book on the subject it's nice to read one that doesn't have the familiarity of the old in a new jacket!

Our second sample for review is just fantastic! Soupie covered these on his blog a while ago (MinifiguresXD/Toypedia) and Plastic Warrior covered the 'rival' set from Kid Robot the other month (Plastic Warrior, subscribe!). Clearly a trend toward non-military 'army men'...Green? Check!...54/60mm? Check!...small bag with header card? Check!

But that's where the similarities end, these are very well sculpted/finished figures, and with 3 each of eight different poses you can produce a small skate-park of fun  in seconds. Obviously they are not aimed at me or my generation, but if they bring the younger collectors back to model figures so much the the better. And with snowboarders and surf-boarders on the way this is shaping up to be a fine range of figures.

One needs also to bear in mind that two of the best 1950/60's sets for holding on to their value and/or commanding a high price are the Mettoy/Playcraft hospital figures and accessories and the Britains ballet dancers, so it's never been only about killing and guns...or marching up and down the sqway'er!

Here we see (from the left) front and rear views of the figures described as; Tail-grab, Nose-grab, Cruising 2 and Ollie. The figures really are very good, with some having the awkward 'gangly' stance of a teenager growing faster than his wardrobe can keep up with him, others having the 'too-cool dude' attitude of the guy with the pink kryptonics at my own school 32 years ago!

This really is a 'new concept' and with Kid Robot producing Brake-dancers and street-performers, there is mileage in them if they prove popular, with the whole gamut of teenage-culture and 'extreme sports' to pick from...how about a set of Italian Lambretta-kids showing off down the sea-front promenade? BMX/Griffter-kids? Also for the older readers; a couple of these will make excellent message 'runners' for your middle-east scenarios!

If you have a young lad between say; 6 or 12, buy him a pack and see what he does with them?

The other four figure poses; Manual, Smith, Pushing and Cruising 1. 'Pushing' is the annoying one we've all seen careering down the centre of the pedestrianised town-centre oblivious to the 'No Skateboards' signs and everyone else!

There's a website at www.toyboarders.com and also a short stop-frame animation;

Toy Boarders on Youtube

These are made of one of these modern hybrid plastics and while being I suspect - mostly an ethylene type polymer, there seems to be  a bit of a softer material like a PVC included, giving the figures a slightly rubbery surface texture like some 'posh' kitchen knives, hand-tools or cigarette lighters these days and I think they will take paint very well. Certainly the detail is worth the effort with a paint brush and so - 2 out of 2 on tonight's reviews!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A is for Abzeichen

First-off apologies to anyone waiting on eMails or eMail replies, but as I suspected the other week the move to Andover has been problematical, mostly because Vodafone have seen fit to deny any sort of service to the community - Mobile/Cell-phone as well as Internet? Although Belkin not providing drivers for Windows 7 has meant the back-up plan failed as well! Modern Technology - I swear it's going backwards!

Consequently I'm doing this on my lap in an industrial park with half a battery - I'm watching like a hawk so don't expect it to be spell-checked as at some point I'll hit 'publish' in a panic! Also while I'm trying to follow other Blogs when I get a one-bar signal for a few minutes, commenting is out for a while...that'll please some!

But I will catch-up with everything next weekend and every other weekend thereafter hopefully. In the meantime, by way of one of the unsent eMails; Thanks go to Wouter Wayland of the Netherlands for sending me these, and while it ended up as a mutually beneficial 'swap' he originally proposed sending them to me for nothing, so thanks Wouter - they were in the postal system so long I thought they might have gone AWOL!

These four are all the artillery elements from one of the more sought after sets of WHW (Winterhilfswerk) Tokens from the flag days (Heilpflanzen Des WHW) held every two weeks or so during the latter stages of the Nazi regime. The set is not that rare and I will come back to them another day as I have most of the set now in the storage unit, however it is sought by both figure collectors and WHW/Militaria collectors so there is a greater demand for it.

I have also seen presentation boxed sets in two sizes which were presented to dignitaries and - perhaps - clubs or organisations who raised money separately from the collecting-tins carried by SA-men or the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) and similar girls organisation (Bund Deutscher Mädel) who made-up the bulk of the collectors.

On the right is another item from the set Wouter sent above, in the same silver-grey polystyrene, the others are from a rarer set issued exclusively by the Gau (local authority) of Berlin (in about 1943 if memory serves - I'll get the details right when we come back to them in the future). They seem to have been issued twice, once unpainted in the same silvery-grey plastic and once painted in 'base' coloured plastic to match the figure depicted, in this case police units of the civil and NASDP/Nasi party.

They have a hole for threading so they can be worn to show that the wearer has 'made a donation' although propaganda made it impossible not to contribute, which is why none of these are really rare, not even the Gua issues, there are literally millions of them in the 'odds' drawer by the 'phone, in the attics and cellars and basements and game drawers of Germany, and the homes of German sympathisers, and all over the occupied territories, and come to market often in handfuls, sets or part sets for around 15-quid. You should never pay more than a fiver for a single WHW token and you want to be aiming at around a pound a piece, whether tin, white-metal, paper, wood, ceramic or plastic.

Some others that I happened to have on the hard-drive, these (along with rest of the previous shot) were all purchased at Beltring about three years ago, there was an English dealer asking 15/20 quid each for some pretty tatty WHW's, but plenty of Dutch, Belgian and German dealers had them for a pound or two.

The trumpet with the sig rune in missing its mouthpiece and is a pin-badge, as is the fired-ceramic miner, he's part of a set of about 18 rural and work (arbiter) subjects, the pin set into the ceramic with an early polyurethane resin/two-part epoxy type adhesive. The '88mm is interesting as it appears to be from an undocumented second issue of the common set, being in black plastic over-sprayed in silver paint.

The MG-crew and Horse-rider are also from the common set, there is a version of the rider with a second horse in tow, laying comm's-cable which I have and which will be covered another day. The pack is from a set of belt-order fighting equipment, and was described as a Hitlerjugand set, the accompanying pieces being the canteen, water bottle, zeltbhan-roll etc...I've included a second shot of the Wouter donation and a close-up of the Gestapo-mans arm-band. Oh - and Abzeichen...equals 'token'!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

T is for ToyMark

Breathe deeply...calm down...ffffwwooooooossssssssss...arah! That's better...here's a gratuitous picture of a 'plane, everybody likes a picture of a 'plane don't they? The best plane ever built; a Hawker Harrier VTOL 'Jump-jet' from Toy Mark under guard in a farmyard somewhere in the Sauerland, that's it really...it's a Harrier (the prototype was called a Kestrel or something? Ptarmigan? Pheasant? Foxbat! No...that was OpFor!), by Hawker Aviation (actually this one's probably meant to be by MacDonald Douglas!), the best 'plane ever built (except for Concord, the SR71...) under guard (he's asleep), in a picture (it's fake - it's a toy!)...by ToyMark - box ticked.

N is for New - to the collection; Acquisitions, Donations, Gifts etc...March

I hope that people don't think posts like this one are designed to 'show-off', at the end of the day this blog is about collecting toy and model soldiers and figures, based on my collection, and I feel it's as interesting to see how a collection develops as it is to give chapter-and-verse on a specific maker, range or set.

I hope it gives people thinking of starting a collection the idea that everything counts and you don't need to spend a fortune tracking down otherwise mass-produced Airfix, Britains, Timpo, or Marx (because 'demand' has pushed-up the prices) when there is so much other stuff out there!

As it happens; there is nothing really special in the next six pictures, but there are a few nice pieces or interesting pieces and a few oddments that have joined the slow-build mountain of plastic, vinyl, silicon, paper, card, metal, rubber, ceramic, resin and wooden crap that constitutes my eclectic horde; 'Quality Crap' - as I'm always telling John, Paul and Adrian (who replaced George and the other one - that's a bad Merseyside beat-combo joke there!).

James Opie has posited the question both on his web-site and in his books - and I paraphrase; "How many different toy and model figures have been made?"...well allowing for copies/piracies and knock -off's but ignoring paint and colour variations I'm sure it's well over a million, add those two variables and a collection of 'one-of-everything' would probably require room for 4?, 5?, 6 million figures?

Here are 0.00001% of them!...

This little lot came from a chap on the East Coast who got in touch with me back at the start of the month, I won't name him as he has said he'll look out for more and a contact like that is to be treasured not shared! Especially as the Car Boot sales round here have been picked clean for a decade, and if there is a nugget to be found it gets dug by Messrs. Harding, Harris or Lewarne at Oh-six-stupid-o'clock in the morning...I think they use miners lamps and a couple of big shoulders! He will get a full acknowledgement in future books!

This is a typical bag or box of mixed, played-with ex-childhood stuff, random in it's acquiring and bundled together for sale when childhood things are 'put-away'. Of note (numbers in red above) were;

1 - A couple of the FFL/Arabs currently under the microscope in Plastic Warrior magazine (but you know that as you're subscribing - aren't you?!), minor damage to the rifle will be fixed.

2 - Above the numeral is a 'nice-paint' Cherilea US Cavalry officer and an equally good horse, sadly missing it's tail, but worth keeping until a better one turns up, and I should be able to photograph it with the damage hidden by camera-angle at some point in the future! Below the numeral are a couple of good (and one damaged) Cherilea ancients.

3 - A Robot bubble-gum dispenser/capsule type figurine.

4 - Two wagons marked 'HONG KONG' but seemingly perfect copies of the Tudor*Rose covered-wagon, is that where the moulds ended-up?

Speaking of Hong Kong; the modern mark is always 'CHINA' and a lot of the production is undertaken on the mainland but this stuff will always be 'HK' to me! A pound each and I photographed them in Asda's car-park and gave the vehicles to a lad throwing a tantrum in the back of his dad's car! Don't worry - his father was there, I wouldn't advocate approaching children you don't know in public with a handful of toys!

Close-ups of some of the Funtasic figures; the fireman is quite a good pose, the policemen on the left is awful, he's holding that automatic pistol like he's at a handbag fight - "OOH - Get Her!"! But I like the other one; "Ma'am, could you walk along the curb-line for me please? Don't put you arms out or up, don't look down, don't deviate from the line..."

Last week the Dr. Who Adventures magazine gave us another 'army' but there were two new poses, they will appear separately in the next few months, sure as eggs-is-eggs, so to be looked-out for. More firemen from HTI and the Knights originally sold by Supreme/SP Toys (or Accoutrements?) now in Halsall packaging.

Mimi sent us Martenitsa this March and they are interesting in that they are reverse colours, around 35/40mm and new to the collection! Also of note - not that clear in the photograph - is the girl in the right-hand pair has some silver-ribbon detailing by way of an apron.

Finally my haul at the London Toy Soldier Show a week ago, I'm keeping the main shot small as some of the bits were bought with the express purpose of future Blog posts, something that is new to the way the collection builds. Again of note;

1 - A plaster tree; semi-flat/reliefe sculpt which was in two pieces, but the break was clean and a quick glue has returned it to its original state. it's Plaster-of-Paris so not a fish-tank ornament? Possibly a fair-grownd piece from the mid-20C? Below which is a bag of the Aoshima (was it? or Tamiya?) Samurai, they were a bit broken-up but all the pieces were in the bag and with my brothers bits I should be able to get a decent sample.

2 - A nice Roman and some Starlux bits below that, including a Giraffe and two of the early-based firemen missing from the post the other day.

3 - Another Roman, this one is marked RP (for Res Plastics), but is too bulky for a Kinder egg, so actual RP issued production?

4 - Left is a push-and-go racehorse and jockey from HK, right is a huge fantasy thing and above are four French Algerian/Moroccan Tirailleurs (?) which I was informed are early Jean, I'd always thought they were one of the minor French makers?

The insets are; above - what I found on the floor at the end of the show and below - a Charbens wagon from Steve Vickers who trades under the same name on evilBay and always has something nice or unusual on his stall.

Finally; Speaking of 'future books' as I did above - my fellow conspirator and I had our first proper editorial meeting this week and three books are now 'in the pipeline', subject matter still under wraps! But with me off to Andover for six months on Tuesday, it will be a while before there is major movement on those, however a framework is appearing out of the gloom!

Monday, April 2, 2012

A is for Angel...Airfix Angel

...coming at you out of the sun, to do some worthy stuff! The Airfix Captain Scarlet 'Angel Interceptor' piloted by Destiny Angel*. This came via a mixed lot from a car-boot sale years ago, in a hell of a state and several pieces, however all the pieces were there except some pitot-tube/sensor-probe thing [*] coming out of the top of the nose which still needs to be fashioned from stretched sprue, but I'm waiting for a piece of white Airfix sprue of the right age and if I wait any longer there will be no point in posting it as I believe this model is scheduled for a re-release from Hornby - if it hasn't already hit the stores?

[*It's actually the cannon! How many times have I looked at the old box art! So: complete...?]

I had to remove a lot of yellowing glue-stains with very gentle scraping of the bodywork using a new scalpel blade, then put everything back together with a modern non-staining liquid poly-cement and er...that was it! Luckily the canopy was not too bad, and I've held it in place with one of these non-invasive aqueous liquids railway and car modellers use to create window glazing, and apart from a set of transfers - still to be found - was going to leave it like this.

I will get one of the re-issues and give it a wacky 'Trigan Empire' paint job with panel wash and staining, move the canards to either side of the nose rather than under it, and give it some landing gear from an airliner - multiple wheels instead of skids (maybe the Concord quadruple wheel arrangement?) and turn either the wings or the tail the other way up so that the geometry of the tips match, but this one is in a near perfect 'out-the-box' state now and can stay that way!

* Other 'Angels' were available and your statutory rights are not affected by this fact.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

P is for Pirates - Part I; American Makes

And so to Pirates, not Hong Kong pirates, but "Ooh-Arrrh" Pirates, although some of them are made in HK! I should have held this post until International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which if memory serves is late summer some time, but as I'd though of a good April First skit a week or two ago which I now can't remember, and as the blogging will be taking a back-seat from 10th April till mid-late October (I've got a date for my residential training course), and as they were in the queue to be 'done', they are published today as a sort of 'thank-you' for my hitting 11,500+ views last month. I shall now be content with between nine-and-a-half and ten-and-a-half thousand per month and stop chasing 'hits', as last month's 46 posts was hard work!!

We look first at the production of makes based in America...and both posts will deal with the larger sizes only, I have the original issues of Strelets*R and Orion/Dark Dream but Dave has them covered well on PSR (along with more recent sets I think?) and the Starlux small scale have been covered (or will be soon - I know I've done the images!!?), which really only leaves the larger ones to get their moment in the limelight.

These are the Marx 50mm set, made in their HK factories from polystyrene and hard to get in this condition, there is a pose missing, but short of going and looking at Kent Sprecher's Toy Soldier HQ I can't tell you which one!...It is there!

Marx also did a set of 54mm Pirates and the top shot shows two painted - probably from the USA, three unpainted - probably from Swansea and two remoulds (bottom left shot) from Mexico or HK? They were also given the 'Warriors or the World' (WoW) treatment, with polystyrene and individual names.

The other six (bottom right shot) are the quite common set of re-issued Ideal Pirates, they originally went with a toy boat I believe, hence the lack of bases?

These are the big boys, with 60mm ring-hand figures from MPC, the shot includes a couple of the accessories they did for the hands, with - below them - a couple of the baseless or mini-based Pirates from Tim-Mee, I don't know if these are US production or if they were made in the factory they had in Europe, as far as I know only the GI's were produced over here but who knows with these things?

P is for Pirates - Part II; Other Makes

So to the non-US makers, surprisingly not that many, which may be because I haven't tracked down many examples in these larger sizes yet, but seems to be a more due to a general lack of interest on the part of the manufacturers.

Starlux did do some, in different sizes, and Merten might have made some figures that would pass for Pirates, but generally they seem to be more an American thing, possibly because we have a greater range of historical subject to chose from? But the US was responsible for lots of ancient, medieval and Robin Hood sets so the argument fails as soon as it's proffered! It's more likely linked to Hollywood being responsible for the majority of films on the subject?

The top shot shows the Charbens Pirates, I'm not sure how many were in the full set but it will likely be 6 or 8, so; one or three to find...see mystery below! The other shot shows the Hong Kong pirates of recent years, first issued in Hing Fat packaging, they have since appeared elsewhere under other monikers, sometimes as sub-piracies in a poorer quality, these are HF originals and are one of each pose as far as I'm aware.

19-09-18 - I was told (by a  large-scale collector) they were Hing Fat, when I posted this (a couple of years into large-scale collecting myself); I now think they are the donors for Hing Fat's lesser copies.

So to the mystery, the three poses above were thought by me to be Charbens...but the Charbens set turned-up looking very different, the one on the left has a markedly different base, while the one on the right is much smaller than the other two. Meanwhile the creamy-white and black paint seems pretty consistent on all three.

Then you get the grey remould in the lower image (Probably Dorset or Marlborough?), but only of the guy with the different base, and it's quite a common figure in the rummage boxes at shows so must have been produced in large numbers?

Now I'm pretty sure the middle figure is actually a 'Nelsonesque' figure from the Charbens set of sailors we looked at one Trafalgar day a couple of years ago on the blog Here and we find the same remoulds there too (but in white), so presuming the three here are the historical element of that set, that would give us 8 poses, but they all (the sailors in the old post) have bases like the 2nd two above which leaves me thinking the one on the left may still be something else? Indeed - if the middle one is the only one from the sailors set, could the small one be the 'missing' ships-captain pose from the otherwise pink set of Charbens pirates giving two sets of six poses and the odd figure?

It has shades of Cavendish about it and they did commission, carry or copy all manor of stuff, so...can anybody help with placing all three, or confirming that they are in fact Charbens sailors and in this post under false pretence?!

The last - green - one is an Italian figure by Cane or Cromoplasto, I don't know for sure, neither do I know how many other poses were in the set, nor whether he is a meant to be a pirate or just a Renaissance 'Dandy'? I do know the sculptor is the same chap who did the ceremonial figures later issued by Heller, and he was also responsible for a lot of Atlantic's figure-sculpts. [Of course he's meant to be a Pirate; in Picasa he enlarges to reveal a skull & Crossed-bones on his hat!]