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, July 31, 2012

J is for Japanese

Having had the Blue Box and Rado boxes out to take the photographs for last nights post I shot these off at the same time. I have a bit of a 'thing' for the Japanese, mainly because so few have been made it's quite possible to get all variants of every one made, although having said that, I'm short on 'New Production' figures and both the Speedwell figures and these Blue Box originals!

So - my few Blue Box originals, I was really lucky to split a pair of the mounted figures a few years ago and while he does fit on this horse (sans base) it's unlikely that it is the horse that he's supposed to come with, for one thing he fits so far down the mounting spigot leaving enough daylight for one of those HK copies of a Britains or Timpo saddle-cloth, yet this horse (copy of Britains Herald ACW) has all the detailing moulded-on. He fits quite well on the Barratt and Britains donkeys which is how you usually see him in friends display-cabinets, but someone must have an original?

I have several duplicates of the unpainted poses above, so they must have been commoner (the G.I.'s in 50mm also had an unpainted phase), but the painted (well; 'remains of paint'!) guy in the middle seems to be less common.

Rado/Ri-Toys went with a set of at least 12 poses, some based on other peoples figures with a couple of the Airfix poses instantly recognised. The darker ones with heavier bases are later figures by Hing Fat who seem to have picked-up (or - more likely - ripped-off) the mould at some point.

The lower shot are the figures in 30mm released in the UK by Marksmen, I've seen these attributed to CTS or someone recently, but as they were getting their stuff made in HK, they would have encountered the Rado moulds there. Rado (as Ri-Toys with the tree logo) issued an ACW set with the horses missing from the Marksmen sets. They are taken from the old Marx moulds which have the previously mentioned connection with Blue Box, where Rado seem to have got/taken a lot of their ideas.

The upper shot show a similarity (but only that?) between a Rado 50mm and a Marksman 30mm pose, the other shots are colour variants and the base-mark changes between the Rado (two on the left) and Hing Fat figures, the Hing Fat are deeper and have the same 'MADE IN CHINA' as their spacemen. The Hing Fat figure is also of slightly poorer quality, so copy rather than mould I think, but it could be down to production factors as it's not that noticeable?

Blue Box also did a nice set of Australians, seen in the upper image, with the Rado re-moulds below. The marching guy has been given the same base as the farmhand/zoo keeper for this shot, but I think he may have been from a larger-based vignette.

Upper shot just shows the sizes of tonight's figures in comparison with each other. Lower picture is both a comparison between the Rado and Blue Box gunner, and the mounting holes in both the marching figure and the machine-gunner from Blue Box, again I've never seen these in a mint box, but someone must have one? Are they mounted together on a single large base or vignette/diorama thing?

Monday, July 30, 2012

B is for Battle-Space and Blue Box

One of those little quirks in collecting toy soldiers back when I started was why did I keep finding small quantities of brown versions of the Blue Box 'penny-based' rip-offs of Britians and Crescent Khaki Infantry in bags of mainly civilian railway figures?

The answer was that they weren't Blue Box (or were they?!), but actually the Tri-ang (Later; Triang-Hornby) 'Battle Space' commandos. Almost certainly actually supplied by Blue Box, the original catalogue illustration for the space marines was a shot of the Marx miniature masterpiece US Infantry/G.I.'s, but as far as I know they were never actually included in the Battle Space sets.

A second quirk (there are still a lot of unanswered 'quirks' in my 'unknown...' boxes!) was the similar but rarer grey rip-offs of the rip-offs...

Above are the commoner brown versions, being straight production from the Blue Box green ones, with the same stab-and-hope paint style but in a different palette. The grey ones (below), although being similar, are 'original' sculpts, having subtle differences from the standard Britains/Crescent/Blue Box poses. Although in the case of the three closest matches, that consists of simply lifting one foot off the ground and placing it on a pink rock!

Both types came in a little bag stuffed into whichever box or set they accompanied. With the case of the brown ones the rule is simple; 6 or 12 assorted figures - as per the catalogue, usually from or including all five poses. However, the later grey figures tend to come in 7's and 14's, being one or two of each pose. I guess being smaller (which they are) there was room and it meant they could be painted on the sprue and then decanted into the little bag, which - in the case of the rocket-firing tank - was just wedged against the glacis-plate.

Blue Box originals - Top left are the four poses made in the same hard styrene as the Battle-Space figures, to the right are the soft ethylene plastic versions with both sizes of base so far identified for the radio-operator (penny and er...cent!).

Below are the versions I consider the older as they seem to appear in the earlier Blue Box sets, I call these the kidney-based. They also include a grey type, as enemy, although of the same pose and a lighter grey, rather than the olive-drab-grey of the Battle-Space figures.

Turning to the rest of the kidney-based figures (the Marx-like Germans having Marx-like bases, along with the Resistance fighters - we'll look at both another day), we come to the Blue-Box US G.I.'s.; seven combat poses and a medical unit, one of the poses doubling-up to serve in both squads.

Top left is again the hard styrene polymer, with the medics below, while to the top right are later soft plastic versions with no paint and no medics. The lot bottom right - although stored in the same box, by me - are almost certainly a rip-off by one of Blue Box's cheaper/smaller rivals, and with a Blue-Box-like paint job and mish-mash of poses from both British and US sets along with the old Monogram radio-man!

In the harder plastics there is a clear difference in plastic colour with both olive green and olive drab being issued. The red helmets of the US figures are very rare and must have come with some specific play set (although someone will now start painting green ones red and sticking them on eBay - for sure!). I also have a memory of yellow helmeted figures form my childhood, but have yet to find one, despite loads of these in the collection along with various play sets and carded items, so I'm guessing it's a false memory based on the later unpainted yellow ones from Rado/RI Toys (look at another day!) and the amount of yellow in the paint scheme of the earlier Blue Box ones.

The various base marks and styles, the unmarked brown base is less common than the 'HONG KONG' one, but not as rare as the grey figures, so I'm guessing an interim or transitional version, next to them you have hard. soft and small green. Note how the little rip-offs have different markings, while the soft plastic version looks similar to the Marx mark. The fact that Marx keeps cropping-up when dealing with Blue-Box is something I looked at in Plastic Warrior's of-shoot; 1 Inch Warrior and will come back to here one day.

The medics paint-up quite well, the artist is unknown, give us a shout if you recognise your work!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

News, views etc...Help!

A chap called Patrick Kelley has got in touch with a request for some pretty specialised stuff, I couldn't help myself but perhaps someone out there can? Message reads;

Hello. I was wondering if you have on hand an English-language translation of the rules for Friegur? Also looking for English rules for 'Schlachtenspiel'.

Also, do you have an image of the late-war addition to Wehrschach taktik of the so-called 'Wunderwaffen' piece; and an example of how they affected the regular rules? I have several Wehr Schach sets, but none including these. I am able to offer an English-language translation of the rules for Wehr Schach if you have need of them.

Thank you!

If anyone thinks they might be able to help eMail me and I'll pass Patrick's eMail on to you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

C is for Classic Charbens

These are relatively common, and in recent months I have picked up quite a few in various states, the early ones having very little paint on, but some of the later ones are reasonably good. Michael Melnyk is to be thanked for some of these.

As with the recent post on the Crescent/Kellogg's guards, I have started with a shot of the whole lot marching up and down, oldest - or believed to be oldest - to the left, later issues to the right.

There are basically two versions, the earlier being taller with smoother bearskins, the later are shorter with more textured headdress. At the back are a set in polystyrene, which - by the nature of the material and the ability of paint to adhear better to it over time - are harder to date, but are the later mouldings.

Trumpeters (someone's bound to say they are cornets or bugles!); again oldest on the left with the hard plastic one on the right, the paint changes (black base to apple green to summer green) seems to be the same as with the Highlanders by Charbens, which we will look at another time.

The earliest base is flatter than the more domed versions of the later moulding, and there is a shot of the three base types with the white-styrene one to the right of the line-up.

More instruments, more variety, the very short guy is a heat-shrink, caused when the figure is pulled from the mould too early, but he's usable. Charbens had quite poor QA with these and they often turn up with the odd deformed one.

The Band-Major, these are all the late version, with quite gloss paint on the first one, both sides of the second and rather different painting on the third, who is again a hard plastic one.

Finally a few of the ceremonial poses, these are in poor condition and with only four poses, probably not even half a set, but they do show the difference between the early squarer bases and the later rounded ones, this 'marker' is shared with the Highlanders.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A is for Arco or Argo or Ahco or Giant!

I've been looking for these for a while and they turned-up the other day in another box of other stuff! I was trying to find them following the post and discussion here Argo Toy Soldier with RPG with the blog's owner 'M-7'. Since his post there has been more information diseminated around the place and it seems that ARCO (who sometimes put ARGO or AHCO on the base!) were some new framework for the old Giant importer of the 1960's. however they seem to have mostly sold through to Mattel as a budget brand.

Clearly based on the film Rambo II - First Blood the figures here are from the Mattel carded rack-toy 'Vietnam US Recon'. The references to the film (head-band, RPG and er...bow!) date this set to no earlier than 1985 and while the figures are typical HK/China stock - quality wise - they are none-the-less, original poses.

The lower shot shows the A for Arco logo, it's clear that an earlier Hong Kong mark has been removed, so this might be a post 1997 reissue, or...near-1997 as the film Rambo III was issued in '96?. Whatever the relationship with Giant and/or Mattel the one thing that is absolute is that they weren't the second biggest producer in Hong Kong as someone has suggested; Universal, Lucky, Marx and Blue Box all being bigger for a start!

Big 'John' Rambo himself - all ready to take out a Hind D with a bow and arrow! Yeh...whatever...in the first movie he ran amok in the good old US of A...probably with an unregulated firearm...you can see where this is going can't you;

For god's sake (and the sake of your children) join the civilised world and regulate guns dudes! And hey - Hollywood; instead of taking good European films and ruining them, why don't you stop churning out violent pap (soma for the brainless masses) and learn to make films as well as your own Independent sector...just a couple of thoughts there for the good'ole'boys as BATMAN - the Darkened Franchise goes mortal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

News, views etc...Posts Updated

I've added a couple of pictures to the bottom of the Marx 40mm G.I.'s article I did the other day here;


And an image to the Matchbox Spacemen post; two posts below this...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

News, views etc...Plastic Warrior 148 (July 2012)

The latest issue of Plastic Warrior has come out and is - as always - packed with interesting bits and bobs, among which are;

* A very interesting follow-up to the Marx Capus Cuties from issue 146 by Mark Hegeman
* WW2 French Conversions from Giamperio Larizza (who has a new Toy Soldier blog on Wordpress)
* Matt Thair continues his round-up of Cherilea's British Commandos (part 3).
* Crescent Oddities
* Coverage of other new products from
- Lancashire Painted Soldiers (Painting service)
- Toy Soldiers of San Diego (TSSD - Tombstone Collection)
- Replicants (Culloden)
- Paragon (US Cavalry)
- Ivanhoe (1980's Afghans)
- Barzo (AWI)
- Supreme/SP in Tiger packaging (they are also now in Halsall!)
* Tibidab0 - Giampiero Larizza and Antonio Ballarini
* Large Scale news from Peter Evans (Papo, Bully, ELC, Revell and Schlicht)
* LJN swoppets (well; 'swivel-heads'!) also from Peter Evans
* Lone*Star Vehicle variants from Daniel Lepers
* Book reviews on two new titles from Spain
* Plus all the usual news & letters with figures from around the world (Tipple Topple [Austria], Spojnia [Poland] and Russian figures), and the usual special shots on front and back covers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

M is for Marx and Matchbox

While digging out the Marx WWII G.I's the other day from the 'Marx - Odd Sizes' box; I found my little 'space' fire engine, God knows where it came from, although I remember having other vehicles from the range as stocking-fillers one Christmas when we were kids. I seem to remember the guys over at Moonbase Central showed a few a while back, and a Google search might help find the article, although they are starting to add 'tags' to their blog now.

So here it is with the 30mm Space Commandos from the Matchbox 'Adventure 2000' series of 1977. There was a bit of a fad for this type of vehicle around the early 1970's, as I also remember small animals with similar wheels (mouse, puppy, kitten etc...) and others with wind-back-and-run motors.

Having enhanced the fire truck 'photo-shoot' with the Matchbox figures, we may as well have a look at them - all three from both sides, they are in a pale blueish-silver metallic polyethylene and are in the same rather dated style as the Airfix 54mm set that would follow these in 1981, not surprising as both lots were the work of one man - Ronald Cameron!

HG, a US play-set issuer in the 1980's produced several Buck Rogers sets with cheap Hong Kong rip-offs of the Matchbox figures, which were slightly larger, slightly cruder and a more greyish-silver, the HG figure is the left-hand one in both shots above. Click and enlarge the image and you'll see the faint 'HONGKONG' on the much fatter base.

A few lose-ends; A nice painted figures that came in with a mixed lot - top left. The connecting plate that held the figures in under the card liner to the box and the little spruletts - as I call them - on the base of the figures in the shots top right. All three can be found with them but only the two ray-gunners are joined.

We looked at similar nodules Here and the main perpose of them is to ensure that the figure itself moulds completely by giving the hot resin somewhere to flow to 'beyond' the product itself, rather like the channels in a hot-metal mould.

Being metallic, these figures are starting to get quite brittle now, a fate they share with the very similar coloured Marx navy and others, bottom left shows the detritus in the bottom of their tub! The final shot - bottom right is a comparison with other Matchbox products, showing how Mr. Cameron has his favourite poses, with two Battle Kings and a figure from the Super King airport crash tender.

Added 17th July 2012;

Courtesy of Gog over at Toys from the Past comes this image of the guys in situ, the box is actually a reproduction, but a good one! Might actually be an original...translation issues!

Monday, July 9, 2012

H is for Husky

I will be covering all the Corgi I can in the next few weeks, along with all the train stuff, but both are still works in progress and it will be a few more days before I start posting them. However, having seen these recently described as Triang Modeland in a definitive work the other day, I thought I'd put the record straight! Ooh, I'm mean.

The top photograph shows 1671, the reason it's not on a green background is that it was missing a figure when I took the main set of images, but I had got the missing figure at Plastic Warrior in Richmond in May, and although I recognised it, thought (assumed!) I had it. Anyway to cut a long anecdote short - it was 'here', while the rest were 'there', so when I realised it was in the bag from a mate of mine (thanks Gareth - from Morgan Miniatures - see link to right) I got the rest from there and took another photo...here - it was the lady with the basket!

Below is a carded example of the range, with the complete second set; 1672. Note how the first set has a bin-man you'd expect to find with the other in the second set?

The second set again, the only real variant with these figures was the paint, and really only the blue and the tan/brown which both changed over time. There are slight size and pose variations but that is almost certainly due to the material - PVC vinyl, the size (small) and the usual problems of shrinkage and deformation due to cooling with this polymer.

1673 had 6 figures along with the last set in the range, there was also a detachable wheel which as far as I know seems to be the wheel used on earlier Huskys; before the little grey plastic wheels were used.

The last set; this is the set that confuses the uninitiated, as there are two poses that are similar to the Triang Modeland/MinicMotorway sets (which will be covered soon), namely; the school crossing 'lollipop' man and one of the policemen. However with one set being exquisite HO gauge polystyrene figures almost certainly designed by the master sculptor; Stadden, and the other set being Hong Kong sourced 25mm PVC lumps, the difference is there to be understood!

I am still missing one pose from this set; a policeman with dog, he is a scale-down of the Corgi moulding we will be looking at in the next few weeks, as is the one in the lower shot here. I think I have him somewhere but he wasn't in the 'Unknown Public Service' box, so I may not have him at all, if anyone can supply an image I'll stick it here to complete the article. This set also has 6 figures.

07/10/2012 - Futher Info now posted HERE

B is for Best of British Bandsmen!

Over the next few weeks I will be trying to put up here as many of the guardsmen available as I can and hope to publish both company specific sets like tonight's and thematic posts on individual poses, or at least that's how it's supposed to work. First up - the reasonably easy to find Crescent Guards and Musicians and the Crescent-for-Kellogg's versions.

From left to right we have the unpainted Kellogg's, which were definitely given away in breakfast cereal, then a set marked Kellogg's but apparently painted to the Crescent scheme with black bases but with yellow instruments, followed by a similar set with silver instruments also marked Kellogg's, the final row shows the Crescent marked versions with gold paint and black bases and tucked away in an almost invisible fifth file is a Crescent tuba (?) player with an unpainted base.

These four main variants seem to show up all the time, so I don't know if there were a lot of fathers faithfully following painting instructions on the packet sides to the point where they all ended up the same all over the place, or whether Crescent used the mould with the wrong base-plug day-in day-out? Maybe there was a set of paints to send away for, or some were issed (in a foodstuff) painted before the modern approach to food hygine got off the ground? Whatever the truth; all four seem to be valid 'variants' for the purposes of collecting.

Also worth note - the plumes on the 'standard' paint Crescent figures are on the same side as the moulded-in plumes of the non-band figures shown below, while all the 'Kellogg's' (?) paint variants have the plume on the other side - thinking about that; perhaps the (inordinately large quantity of?) unused Kellogg's went on to some clearance house type outfit who did the painting...

The last two shots show a whole band in standard Crescent paint and a couple of lousy shots of the base marks - it is very hard to do macro-photography of red anything, especially shiny red plastic! The 'true' Crescent sets have smaller, smoother Bearskins, suggesting that the change from a Kellogg's base to a Crescent base came with a re-cutting of the mould?

A closer look at the five variants listed above, the unpainted base of the fourth (Crescent marked) figure is unusual, but apes the silver painted bandsmen with Kellogg's graphics. The trupmpet and trombone are the two most likely to suffer damage and I must thank Mike Melnyk for the examples shown today.

Crescent also produced a set of six ceremonial or 'fighting' Guardsmen, these were never issued with Kellogg's bases but I say that with a caveat I'll explain below. The upper shot shows the full set in the rarer (less common!) dark red in the 'standard' scheme.

Below are a few different types. On the left is the 'sandblasted' moulding, which due to it's usually haveing poor paint I'm placing as the early version with - next to him - a slightly 'redder' sand-blast with surprisingly good paint.

The next one is my 'caveat', you find really clean/paintless figures which look like they should be Kellogg's, but they are marked Crescent, can anyone over fifty'ish (!...I won't tell) remember if these non-band figures were issued by Kellogg's...or someone else...Peek Freans?

We then have the 'standard' in dark red plastic, another with a seemingly factory-painted green base (they do turn up occasionally so would appear to be genuine) followed by the guy in green 'trews' with a painted jacket. Again I have seen this paint style before once or twice in a dealers stock so it could be a Crescent 'thing', or just a common home-paint? If it was a company originating paint-job, the presumption has to be an experimental finish, perhaps for a Canadian or Danish market - I'm no expert on Guards uniforms but I know some of you are!?

Again; close-ups of the main differentials, from the left - Sandblasted, dark red, unpainted base (like the lone tuba player) in a pinkish shade of the common red and 'clean'. The 'Sandblast' finish/phenomina also exists with the Romans, Combat Infantry, Wild West and others, so was something to do with the production of the early moulds...some kind of sand-casting or mould cleaning?

The sandblasted one and the unpainted one both have thinner bayonets and no trigger/trigger-guard which is a bit odd? The sandy chap having the finest moulding, the pinkish guy being probably the worst.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

J is for Just as cool as the others!

I don't know if you remember the edible Daleks we had up here a while ago (Exterminate us, exterminate us!), but here is another take on the edible figure 'sub-genre', these are currently being sold reduced in BP petrol stations ('Filling' or 'Service' stations, to out of UK readers), made by Maynards and included in the Sports Mix.

Yes - I know is a bit off the wall, and they aren't very realistic, but think about it...cut them off the backing-lump with a craft knife, seal them with super-glue (for rigidity) and then PVA/wood-glue and give them the black undercoat/dry-brush paint technique and you could fill a cycle-rack in one of the darker corners of you layout without anyone spotting what they really were, especially if you put a Merit, Prieser or Airfix bike at the front of the row!

And the waste tastes good (the hard-gum not the super-glue!). The man from Rovex, he say; "You looking at my bike?!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

R is for Red Route

When I saw this I had to have it, not because it's a perticularly nice toy, nor is it in good condition and it's not military, but it does seem to be the origin of the logo used by the Hong Kong producer known as ABC.

ABC was - it seems - a US trucking company who sought protection of the 'Route of the Red Diamond' tag-line in 1977, but who are long gone now, although - due to 'phone-book placing, there are currently several ABC trucking concerns about the place!

The logo is clearly the same as the HK 'ABC' toy concern (seen; Here), although this was made in Japan, and is a 'transitional' piece from tin-plate (motor and tilt) to plastic (body and wheels), going very well with the Wells Brimtoy trucks of the same era.

T is for Two - New Metal

By way of getting back into posting gently, a bit of a box ticking/tag-list increasing exercise here! These two are probably covered in grater depth in Stuart Asquith's book on 'New Metal', but as it's in storage with everything else at the moment, I can't check.

I rather like these, from Metal & Soul they are around 40mm, and look to be commercially painted, they seem to be a magazine subscription part-work by Andrea Miniatures for someone like Del Prado or De Agostini? I have found a few others on eBay, and a Japanese Naval Officer on a Japanese retail shop web-page. Other than that, I can't tell you much else; Last ten years - probably? 

These were also for sale from the same vendor, and are by a company called Mulberry Miniatures, again Google doesn't reveal much - a possible connection with King & Country (bought them out?) a possible location in Lewes, Sussex and a possible sculptor and/or painter in Gavin Collins - again quite recent I would imagine?

These look to have been home-painted from bare castings, but that may just be the age/tatty condition combining with the paint-style to make them appear worse than they were in the retailers cabinet!