About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 60-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”. Likewise, 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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

N is for New Finds, Pt.3 - Here and There

Some other bits that have come in over the last 18/24 months or so (it's all got a bit behind!), some of which I can't even remember the source of, but they should all be available off a Google search!

These (Homade iSoldier) were reduced somewhere, designed to be some sort of a ipad/ifone/isnob prop thing, I couldn't see how they would work that well but hey, I wasn't buying them for an ithingy, I was buying them as a couple of GI's on pitchers mounds!

The four on the left all came from Wilkinson's before Christmas, the natural successor to Woolworth's, they often have useful toys, and these were obviously meant to catch the eye of parents looking for stocking-fillers. The bag of China rip-offs was a mix of ex-Matchbox DAK poses in herb-green, While I can never resist a bag of paratroopers.

The space vehicle erasers were broken when I go them home but a bit of glue sorted that and the wooden guardsman was a trip down memory lane. The two to the right...did I say I can't resist paratroopers...top from Asda a year or so ago, the lower from a discount store in the Autumn.

The two to the left here were both bought from a new cake decorating supply shop, sadly the shop has already folded, but they managed to find two interesting items; The Goofy is a late Culpitts vinyl with the Culpitt moulded into the rear of the figure, while the other one looks like Grandmother Stover, the character for a brand of cake decorations and dolls-house accessories from the US of the 1960's? How they ended-up in the window of a new unit is anyone's guess.

The blind box was one of the last (?) and came from what used to be Esdevium Games in Aldershot - again - over a year ago and I can't remember what the new name of the store is . The angels came from a Christian Charity pop-up, just before Christmas and went on to special people.

More Toy Story (check the link-list) GI's, I ripped into the silly train with a small tool kit and scalpel and ended-up with three nice 70mm 'Disney' figures for the collection and a pile of bits for the spares box!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

N is for New Finds, Pt.2 - The Works

I've mentioned this shop before quite a few times, but they do keep finding stuff through the global clearance system and then offering it for next to nothing...all these are currently available in one store or another; I regularly check four now; Basingrad, Fleet, Newbury and Woking and they don't always all have the same items at the same price so it's worth searching about, although there is a web-store as well.

These two came from the Fleet store, B'stoke and Newbury were out and Woking still had 7.99 on them. Forgetting that Airfix only produced a 1:32 scale Cromwell in the olden times, the real times, the before the evil Heller times, then getting further confused by the fact that Matchbox did make a Cromwell and Airfix made a Crusader with similar track guards (well, they look similar in my memories!), I assumed they would be the 'old kit' with an added wading sprue!

The modellers and WWII war gamers among you will know, I was being an idiot! It is in fact a brand-new and very good tooling (there seem to be some photo-etch and resin after-market detailing sets out there as well) with solid track units in a new style. Anyway my retarded assumptions aside; well pleased and will do one in wading gear with new barrel for D-Day as a Royal Marine  Centaur IV and the other with hedgerow-device and camo-strips as a later Normandy/Bocage slugger.

The Works also have 1:72 scale aircraft and larger scale car kits in the same promotion.

This is actually branded to (or at least; 'Imported by/for') The Works and is a bit poor. It was cheap and I bought one specifically to show here and so was expecting something a bit basic. It's really aimed at smaller kids and has a clip together construction and no traversing of the turret due to the turret basket mounting sockets!

I say 'clip-together'; you have to force the hull halves together and force the turret on and then find all the other parts are too loose! However...if you are gaming 28/32mm Sci-Fi and you want a cheap source of vehicles it has potential and is cheap enough to cut-up and/or convert to a hover-tank, SPG or turretless APC? Or it'll put some bits in the 1:48th scale spares-box!

December 2020 - Currently available in the US under the Grafix craft label with the same four PVA paints and a brush.

Then this turned-up about four weeks ago...you may remember we looked at the blind-bag clearance nearly four years ago World of Warcraft, how the starter sets can be released as clearance four years after the collectables is beyond me, but maybe it was a one-off that fell down the back of a radiator at The Works warehouse! Worth Looking out for though.

N is for New Finds, Pt.1 - AC Models and Modelscene

I was visiting my friend Jimijames down in Chandler's Ford the other day, during one of our big storms, needless to say when I got to Eastleigh the trains were all shot to buggery and so - having a few minutes (!) to spare - I went for a wander. A few hundred years found me out side AC Models, an old-school model shop, redecorated to a modern standard, filled with goodies and staffed by really friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff.

I wandered in, had a mosey-nosey about and found that Modelscene are now issuing the old Merit figures unpainted on sprues consisting of three old sets together. I bought two straight away!

Further study (ha! Further 2 minutes on Google!) reveals a third set (5200); being the various passenger sets. I assumed they must be the original sprues from the Merit days, but Paul (Morehead - Plastic Warrior) reminded me that the Army were produced in khaki plastic at one point and the other two sets weren't, so it would seem that Peco / Guagemaster / PPP have made up a new mould with the old cavities from the three old mould-sets brought together. The Boy Scouts cart is loose in the other card's blister along with a steel axle, cut to length.

They (AC Models) also had a 50p rummage bin, and the next day I returned and bought another Triang cable-drum flat and some accessories from the recent Hornby military sets along with a set of bear-naked ladies! We've looked at the Hummers already Here, while the - full-price - Preiser rudie-nudie beach-babes will feature in a post one day with the Noch naughties and one or two other items in a similar NSFW vein!

The cable-drum carriers are for a retirement project and I have collected (amassed?) various flats in tin-plate, die-cast and plastic with Matchbox, Elmont and other road vehicles, along with the Airfix telegraph pole set, and various cable drums painted and transferred, kit and commercial, it is intended to get one of the big steel-mill kits from Atlas/Terminal/Walther's, cut it down the centre-line, mount it against a painted backdrop and have a marshalling-yard for all the cable-drum lorries and rail wagons laid out in front...one day!

While I was there I also grabbed a few Zvezda sets, they are simply exquisite, and while you only get four or so figures or a small AFV, AT or Flak-gun, they are only 1.99! They are made out of a very pure (?) styrene, which looks and feels at first like an ethylene, soft'ish to the finger-tips and very shiny, but when you apply a spot of glue you get a neat and instant weld, and realise that it's actually a hard plastic when you have to mend the grenade!

Old fashioned high-street model shops are as rare as rocking-horse shit these days and so to find a new one is a nice surprise and given that my childhood memories of model-shops is one of them all peopled by miserable sods who sighed all the time, it's a double bargain to find such nice staff and pleasant atmosphere.

AC have a website here AC Models, but try and visit them, these few survivors need all the patronage they can get, I'll definitely be going again! They have a second half next door which may have been Gaming/Role-play or R/C stuff - I don't know because I didn't have time to visit it!

L is also for Lyntek (ЛИНТЕК)

Coming from Yekaterinburg in the Urals, this set is hard to age, but I think quite recent, the quality of detail and sculpting being easily as good as anything Zvezda or Engineer Bassevich are producing today, and the material is an advanced polypropylene or modern ethylene 'hybrid' not the soft ethylene of the Soviet era, nor the brittle styrene of that period.

Three troops and an officer - who is slightly taller - and a nice painting guide based on an old print, whether the other poses were available is something I don't know, these four constitute a complete set, nestling behind the card in a heat sealed bag just big enough for the card and figures. It would be nice if a drummer was included in some bags, anyone know for sure?

Thanks to Steve Vickers for the sets in the last three posts and Mimi for translating!

L is for Leningrad Forging Factory

These are an interesting set of figures - I had been picking up grey plastic sub-machine gunners since before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the tearing of the iron Curtain in 1989, to which a decade or so ago I managed to add a grenade thrower, all in hard styrene plastic to a standard 40mm compatible with Elastolin and Lineol smallies.

I then ran into fellow collector Chris Smith who carried a very wide range of Soviet era figures at the Plastic Warrior show in Richmond for several years, he had a few and we got chatting, he told me there were silver versions (I may have bought one at the time?) and that there were also an officer and flag-bearer but that they were quite hard to get.

The reason for that rarity is simple to see when you get the set complete, there was only one 'commander' and one flag-bearer per set and only two grenade throwers for every six 'automatic men'. With the flag easily damaged it's no wonder they are impossible to locate!

The title of the set is simply 'Soldiers' and you can see from the underside that while so-called experts might mutter "vac-metallised" under their breaths, the figures are just sprayed silver on a conveyor of some kind which prevents the paint covering the base underside, revealing the more common grey plastic colour.

Monday, February 24, 2014

P is for Progress (Пpоrресс)

This set came into the fold a couple of weeks ago, made by the Soviet Russian 'development company 'Пpоґресс, which I'm assured translates to Progress, it is a lovely set of 'Rus' warriors through the ages. The direct translation of the cover is 'Glory to Russian Weapons', I suspect the meaning is; Glory of Defence of Russia, or; 'defenders of Russia'?...Russian defence...something like that.

Painted to a basic standard on red polystyrene flats and tied in with plastic coated wires - a practice the Chinese were also adopting at this time (1991) albeit with clear or black plastic casing, rather than the coloured sleeves used here). They have not been placed in any particular order, but from the left (ignoring the biro'd numbers) are believed to be;

Dragoon - War of 1812
Hussar - War of 1812
Partisan - War of 1812
Ulan - War of 1812
Warrior of the XVI (16th) Century
Warrior of the XIII (13th) Century
Infantry - War of 1812
Militia (Volunteer?) - War of 1812

The two early ones are open to question and could be the other way round, the difference seeming to be length of coat and number of buttons! I love this set and was going to blog it with those little dancer/ethnic dress plastic flats from the Far east, but forgot the were in storage, but they are very similar and when I do blog them I'll link back to these for a direct comparison.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

J is for Jeep & Gun from J & L Randall

A quick addition to the small family of much copied 1950's pocket money toys we looked at Here which I picked-up a while ago from Adrian, in fact he couldn't find the gun so I held-fire on posting it for a month or two, but it turned-up in another box the other day!

I then thought I'd lost it somewhere on the rail network getting my ticket out, but I'd 'tidied' it into the wrong box and it turned-up for the second time a week or two later! It's now firmly all together in a self-seal bag, waiting for the Merit box to come out of storage.

A similar card to the 'jig-toys' that Randall sold, both as Bell and Merit. I managed to label this Randell with an 'e' but couldn't be arsed to change it as there's a cost to reloading this stuff if you're stupid enough to rely on Vodafone for your internet!

Friday, February 21, 2014

News, Views Etc...All Sorts

Since I've been diagnosed with Asperger's I am able to be both more critical of myself and more self-depreciating...while remaining arrogantly self-assured underneath!

One of my foibles is....I like order...and it was my intention to continue with the Hong Kong small scales until I'd finished the British from Britains and Crescent sculpts, then after a week or so - once everyone had seen them - was going to use the new time-of-posting change feature to stack them up in reverse order so 'Type 1' was at the top of the page with the others in numerical order below them! In the past I would have loaded them in the right order and published them all at once!

However the need to pop a panicked message up here last night re. the hacking of my eMail means that that plan is now untidy, it's not going to look right (in my head - you can only ever see one or two posts on the screen!), so I will publish a few other thing that are stuck in the queue, and return to HK Brits next week or so after I've taken a few more photographs. Having mentioned Giant at the end of the last post I know a few of the incurables will be twitching, but they'll just have to sit on their proverbial for a day or few!

In the meantime there are a few bits and bobs to clear so we'll have a quick News,Views etc...

One Inch Warrior Magazine

Paul Morehead at Plastic Warrior dropped me a line the other day pointing out that there are still a few back issues of the old small scale sister magazine; 1W.

Limited numbers of issues 3-11 are still to be had of what was (and remains) the only magazine dedicated to small scale figures. This author contributed a certain amount to the publication and I have published an index for it on here somewhere.

Anyone looking to fill their missing numbers should eMail Paul directly at; pw.editor@ntlworld.com

Plastic Warrior Magazine

I also popped round to see Paul the other day and drop off the Doctor Who kit figures I'd grabbed for him and mentioned the website wasn't working before Christmas and he pointed out it was a temporary measure in the Autumn and is now up and running again, but will eventually be dropped in favour of the combined new Facebook/Blogger platforms.

I've checked it and it is up and running again! Link is to the top right of this page.

Horrible Histories

Paul also mentioned that Peter Evans (PW's roving reporter) had dropped into the UK Toy Fair in January (I used to go and aught to start doing so again?!!) where he had seen the second tranche of HH blind Bag figures, these were said to be due to have an April release date I believe.

Yet I also believe it won't happen - The entire range was heavily discounted in the run-up to Christmas as I reported at the time in my attempts to track down the last few figures. And they were HEAVILY discounted - sets that were previously around 12-odd quid were going for £3 in Toys'R'Us as well as the Entertainer chain, while on-line everybody - including the traders on Amazon - was shifting all sets and figures for next to nothing.

Now it may be that the profit target had been met and they just wanted to clear the selves, but they were discounting the core and starter-sets as well, so I think it was 'claerance'. Equally, while they may have taken them to the show for real, I suspect it had more to do with saving face (they won an award at a previous Toy Fair) or because they had designed the stands and had nothing else to fill the gaps?

I hope they do appear; as you know, I've done what I can to promote them, they are a lovely bunch of figures, but I've heard nothing from the PR company since the late summer of last year and there's nothing happened on the website for the longest time?

What it does mean is that the new figures have been down the production line of some vast factory in China and - even if they don't see the light of day under the current marketer - will turn-up as clearance somewhere in the next two or three years for sure...lorry-loads of them.

Help Needed - I

Can anyone help identify/put a name to this company, it's a Hong Kong producer, copying German and Italian figures, tin-plate toys and animals.

Shown is my vague attempt at the logo litho-printed (tin-plate) or raised (plastic) on the toys/items produced by them...

Star Wars Names

This was passing round Facebook the other day....take the first three letters of you last name [Wal]ter and add the first two letters of your first name [Hu]gh to get your Star Wars first name.

Then take the first two letters of your mothers maiden name [Ha]ll and add the first three letters of the town or city where you were born [Ald]ershot to get you Star wars second name.

Walhu Haald is mine, what's yours?

Some Links of Interest

Jean Pierre Seguin This is a bit old hat now, and while some of the previous artists we've seen have used their imagination, this guy seems to have jumped on the bandwagon with a pixellation programme in tow...or am I being unkind?

Sd.Kfz. 8/DB 10 Rare as rocking-horse shit armoured half-track recovery and restoration.

Haribo - again! Where will the stupidity end!!

New Pages

The pages I've added so far have been up for a while now and had a few hundred hits each but little feedback - I take that as a good sign! If anybody would like me to produce other pages let me know and I will see what I can do, likewise corrections or additions are welcome and will be credidted.

Pages coming soon include; Gauge/Ratio/Scale/Size, Polymers, Other Materials, Manufacturing Terminology, Marks and Markings, Abbreviations and a 'general glossary', can anyone suggest other subjects they might like to see?

Help Needed II

Can anyone identify these....I know they were early premiums in - probably - breakfast cereal over here (UK) and always assumed they were Siku mouldings, but now I'm not so sure, can anyone tell us who made/supplied them and where else/with what else they were given away...margarine? Soap powder? There were wild animals as well and domestic/woodland types and they are a dense hard polystyrene 'Ivorene'

That's it for now, thanks for visiting, following etc...H

Animals now identified as Coleman's (the mustard people) 'Vitacup', they were also issued in Europe as Vitacup and it would seem there might have been an airbrushed 'stained' issue as well.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

E is for eMail

At some point in the last 24 hours my Hotmail was compromised and some stuff has been sent out to people in my address book...don't open it, it will be some sort of spam. I seem to be back in control now? Anything with today's date is suspect as I've only just found this out (18:40hrs) H


So I think I've replied to everyone who got the spam-mails, it was the most bizarre hacking, they seem to have sent quite innocuous links to Mining Companies, Good Housekeeping and a Stationary Wholesaler!

The lesson for everyone is change your password occasionally (I haven't changed mine for years) and make it complicated (mine was geographical, numerical and had punctuation), but don't rely on it because it's a good one, in the end a robot-programme  will get through.

I was hacked at 6.40am while asleep with the laptop turned off, so this was an automated attack on Hotmail's servers, by 6.44 they had sent 10 emails from my account to 60-odd people from my address book, and moved-on...to someone else's account no doubt!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I is for Intermediate Imposters

So holding the link with Blue Box - but generations beyond them - come the intermediate sets, the first two having the BB poses, the third; the penny bases.

There are penny bases on some of the poses in the type 15 sets, but not all of them, and while the sculpt quality is similar in both sets there are notable differences making the two sets separate and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that either the originating factories were close rivals OR close co-operators, perhaps owned by relatives!

The first set which I'm calling 15a come in a wide range of subdued greens, oranges and yellows, quite a dune-like or desert palate methinks? I have a soft spot for these, they were common when I was a kid (in both versions) and have the toy charm that can only come with bright colours.

The second version (15b) are slightly smaller, have a more limited palate of colours and different base markings, it's as if they are trying to be the others, but whether that is to fulfil orders or to steal market share has been lost in the mists of time

Comparison with both types, 15a, green; to the left in all shots. You can see how chunky yet smaller the type b's are, with the larger markings and broader rims to the bases.

The other interim design doesn't get numbered in the sequence at all, this is due to the fact that while they have penny bases, the poses are nearly all new, there are no Crescent poses present and I remember these being on sale in the late 1970's (the two jade ones came in a Lucky Bag from the newsagent off Pleasant Valley road in Saffron Walden in 1978!), so they are quite late for this type of figure...the 1980's and 90's belonged to the Matchbox and 54mm Airfix piracies!

There are two base sizes for each of the 8 poses - some obvious some just a tad, all being the Britains Herald figures with the exception of the kneeling firer, who looks more like the Wend-Al figure! there is also evidence of multiple moulds with difference in size and etched detail.

Therefore despite the bases, this is a stand alone set, copies of copies, poorly executed and belonging neither in the penny based sequence nor the coming family of Britains/Crescent from the source of Giant.

B is for British Boys by Blue Box, Pt. II - Penny Based

So we move to the figures I call - for obvious reasons - the 'penny-based' family. These start with Blue Box 30mm originals, move through the Hornby-Triang commission and then get into the realms of copies and copies of copies until we're looking at 20/23mm blobs that could be used to reinforce the old Combat Group from Airfix.

I would suppose that in order to fulfil the Triang contract for Battle Space figures a  permanent change was made to the bases, which meant that when green figures were required by BB for their own issues, they too appeared with the new discs.

The top row above are the hard plastic (polystyrene) figures from Blue Box that replaced the older kidney-based figures. The figures themselves are exactly the same as the older ones, in the same five Crescent poses, led by the Britains Herald officer.

Eventually, like the US troops there was a soft (polyethylene) issue - unlike the US troops though, these were painted as the older figures had been. The shade of green varies so I've shot a darker group and a lighter group to give some idea of the variation.

Decoration on  these was crude, as with all BB figures, what I call the stab-and-hope school of painting - the impressionist period! There was a variation; smaller figures on smaller bases, so far I have only found three, in two poses - the figures bottom centre; standing firing and the radio operator.

There are also a few Polypropylene figures in a tinny-sounding rigid 'soft' plastic, there is no visual difference at all, but I've shown one bottom right for the hell of it! Other shots are colour variations and a shrinkage figure who appears to have gone to the Airfix Paratrooper training school!

There is no real reason for numbering the soft plastic ones as type 3, but with the extra bases it sort of makes sense. The Battle Space figures on the other hand only get a 'b' as they are to all extents the same as the green styrene figures, but in brown! There is a type 2c, the unmarked based figures that come between the BB set and the grey set, which being all new poses (albeit very similar to the Blue Box figures) deserves a number outside the sequence.

All the above types were also looked at in the previously referenced earlier post Here, so apart from lining them up there's not much new here.

Close-ups of a size variation or two and the bases, along with decent views of the two type x prone poses. The smaller grey officer seems to be standard mould shrinkage (his chest has swelled as it fills with the plastic withdrawing from the extremities), however the smaller (unmarked) type 2c brown figure is a separate moulding, and - along with the smaller based type 3's - would seem to point toward mould damage leading to the x type being developed to replace the old Blue Box moulds?

However, before the mould was replaced it was run with various colours of soft ethylene by Blue Box and a seventh figure was added (type 4 above), namely; the standing firing pose from Britains Herald, similar to but distinct from the Crescent firer who had been run since the kidney based days of the late 1950's/early 1960's.

As this was all happening around the time of the Triang figures, the shrunken officer and the smaller bases, it all points to the moulds coming to the end of their useful life, although these figures are very clean and well detailed so they were probably cleaned-up at the same time as the additional figure's inclusion.

Type 5 are pretending to be Blue Box, but are smaller, and made from a more modern glossy polymer. Probably Ri-Toys, they came painted (a) and unpainted (b) and there has been a slight loss of size and detail.

The subsequent types listed above take us firmly into the realm of sub-piracy's, ie; those figures form small Hong Kong manufacturers, who rather than bothering to go to the source material (Crescent and Britains 54mm figures), just copy the copies from their 'rivals' down the alleyway, across the road or at the other end of the industrial park!

7a and 7b are the same mouldings with different base markings, they have yet to come together in the same lot, so can be considered different 'sets'.

A closer look at the type 4; Size differences point to a second set of mould inserts and as can be seen from the officer this is not a case of the coloured ones being later, both sizes come in both colours in the same lots and were clearing running together...by the 1970's there was more wealth in the west and greater demand for pocket-money toys. The second mouldings are clearly both smaller and thinner than the first and will have been copied from the earlier set. Along with the problems already covered it's another pointer to the death of the Blue Box/model railway's penny-based British Infantry.

There's also a close-up of the new Herald pose and the grenade-thrower on the far right has been caught by the machinery and pinched in half!

Comparison between the above figures, excluding the Triang-Hornby sets, with a size comparison and the various base markings. Photographing the bases is - to put it mildly - an inexact science!...trying to get then all readable, in focus and out of glare or flash-back at the same time is not easy. Also, these three shots are not to the same scale.

A heat-shrink top left and the marking variation of the 7's. Also shown here is a close-up of type X2, this is not actually a true member of the penny based family, as it is a throw-back from some figures we'll be looking at in about three posts time (if I've got my head round these!). As a pose it seems to be the torso of the Britains Herald charging with pack attached to the Britains Swoppet mortar crewman's legs!

The final true penny based figures based on the Blue Box offering (we will look at the 'interim' sets next) are mainly in small samples of poor quality and were mostly issued with Lucky Bags or in Christmas Crackers, in small quantities - often only one or two. As a result they are hard to find or amass in quantity, and there will almost certainly be other poses missing from the above samples, and other types/sub-types still to be annotated into the family/oeuvre.

Another size-comparison shot - the final figure (type 14) is every bit compatible with the contemporary Airfix 23mils and most of these late figures can be painted-up and used with that size of war gaming figures. Some of these - if not all - will be copies of copies of copies.

The weapon used by all the British Infantry figures in the penny based family - and the later figures we will be looking at soon - is the EM2, a bull-pup designed automatic weapon which never saw service. Wikipedia EM2 page states it did, but uses few references, mostly a single Canadian work. The fact is that it was given a designation; the Rifle, Number 9, but outside of the Demonstration Battalion at the School of Infantry, Warminster saw little or no 'real' service.

The Demo. Btn. would have provided the troops for press-days (and the Lulworth Cove fire-power demo's) in the Cold War, from whence it (the EM2) would have garnered column inches in the tabloids, and through them the boys magazines and annuals. This coverage of it led to Britains, Crescent, Lone*Star and Taffy Toys adopting it for their toy and model soldiers.

Interestingly, the first Zang Herald figure was equipped with a Lee Enfield and the latter Swoppets had SLR's.

The beauty of these small scale copies is that the external appearance of the weapon is similar to the modern SA80 and when painted these figures make better late 1980's figures than they ever made 1960's troops!

Monday, February 17, 2014

B is for British Boys by Blue Box, Pt. I - Kidney Based

While the French Resistance were a nice diversion in the world of 1960's small scale, and the Germans complimented the very similar Miniature Masterpieces by Marx, both the US figures and the British gave rise to or - more accurately - were part of much wider families of Hong Kong pirated figures...

...but before I go running off to look at all the others; we'd better look at the 100% Blue box figures first, easier said than done as there are more to come! The US troops will get their 'in depth' coverage another day - we looked at the immediate Blue Box and some of the post-BB the other day.

So these are the first, we know they are the first as they come in sets with 'friends' [green] and 'enemy' [grey] in those very 1950's recycled cardboard boxes with a simple two or three colour litho'd artwork. They come with the motor-cycle (ex-Dinky O-gauge) in both colours, and the other early vehicles also in green or grey. Greys can vary in shade as with the Resistance figures.

Of the six, five are Crescent poses the sixth being the Britains khaki-infantry Officer, he is the one we'll be following through over the next few posts. They match the US figures in material [hard polystyrene plastic] and in the base type; being kidney-shaped and of vaguely constant thickness, unlike the German Infantry and Resistance Fighters - who have the more Marx-like pile of earth. As with the US post the other day, we have looked at them before; Triang Hornby.

The numbering I'm going to be using for these next few posts is entirely arbitrary and is as much for me to make sense of the hundreds of photo's I've been taking for the dozens of collages I'm going to be putting up here than to force anyone else to use. It will also help to cross-reference these posts/pictures with a round-up list at the end, however as we shall see, numbering such ephemeral stuff is problematical as new types keep turning up, but we'll see how it goes!

Some peripheral figures which have more in common with the Brits than the Yanks but which were included with either set of figures or the others we've looked at in the posts below (following this one).

The 'gunner'/equipment operator was also looked at in some depth another day, here; Plagiarism with help from the guys at Moonbase (Project Sword), the puke-green figure top right is the early driver for the Jeep and Austin Champ, he would later come in a dark-green more matching the vehicles.

The two equipment operators to the right on the top row are odd because I have found several of these, with the legs cut-off at about the same place, and used to think they were the crew from the DUKW**, but all my DUKW crews have full legs, therefore; I'm assuming there is a vehicle I've yet to locate from the military range, a possibility backed-up by the figures on the second row, who are hard styrene (everything else is soft ethylene in this picture) and moulded from the waist up, only. Again I have found several loose examples, there are none in any of my vehicle collection and yet they seem to have been 'meant'.

If the hard plastic mystery figures were phased out, it may have been relatively easy to remove the plug and legs of the equipment operator to do the same job? There's also a shell which comes from the copy of the Crescent WWI artillery piece that Blue Box made.

The bottom row - in both pictures - are clearly from the US sets we looked at below, and are hard to find (as Brits) ; the above three seem to be all I have (there may be more in storage?), the green one being almost certainly early Rado Industries / Ri-Toys, the yellow ones being later sub-piracy's. I'm not including them in the numbering as they will come in the US figure's round-up another day.



You can call a DUKW a 'Dee-you-kay-double-you' or a 'Duck', with a silent 'w' and invisible 'k', it is not a Duke, nor is it spelt D.U.C.K. and it most certainly isn't a Duck-wah as my brother and I spent half our childhood attempting to re-christen it!

Stolen from myth-busting (!) Wikipedia;

The designation of DUKW is not a military acronym; rather, the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC
  • "D" indicated a vehicle designed in 1942,
  • "U" meant "utility",
  • "K" indicated driven front wheels,
  • "W" indicated two powered rear axles.
Decades later, the DUKW designation was explained erroneously by writers such as Donald Clarke who wrote in 1978 that it was an acronym for Duplex Universal Karrier, Wheeled. However, the name is not an acronym.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

V is for Variants

We first looked at these as part of the round-up of the Hornby-Triang-Minic figures a year or so ago (18 months - where does the time go!) here; B is for Battle Space, but here they are again with the later sub-types and piracy's...

We'll get the medics out of the way first. These weren't issued in the larger 50mm range so are pretty unique. Five poses of foot figure and an ingenious stretcher that could be carried or stood-up as a field surgery-table/gurney type thing; two long metal 'staples are held in place by a piece of glued-in plastic which allows the staples to rotate.

This set also included another female military subject (the Blue Box French Resistance having the other). Above we can see various shades of blanket from a dark grey through to a dirty white. Bottom right shows a couple painted-up by someone for war gaming.

While top left has a stretcher-bearer who never got his red-cross armband...while in the centre we can see that they didn't always get their yellow cross belt, this is the only pose that consistently gets this variation, so it must have been a deliberate - or change of? - painting policy at some point. I suspect (like to think!) that 'with'; they were Infantry and without; medics?

To accompany the Medics (and provide them with casualties!) are the fighting soldiery, and at the top we see the Blue Box originals from the from and the back with a paint variant of the radio operator we'll look at again below.

Below them are the unpainted ones we also looked at last time and then the smaller ones given the same silver and yellow paint scheme, these are early Ri-toys and were soon being issued unpainted, this is the commonest form you'll find them in (2nd to last full row), the yellow ones are not so common and tend to be a bit heavier so might be by another maker, they were around in about 1974 as I remember buying them about that time. The three figures to the far left are a glossy home-paint and two heat-shrinkage variations.

Then we have the lesser copies of copies; first another scale-down (the painted guy is a home paint) and finally a whole new base design. These will not be Ri-Toys but one of the many little family businesses in the colony (Hong Kong) who took product from the bigger boys up the road and chucked out the poorer products.

A comparison of all the variations and their bases from 30mm on the left of the line-up to about 25mil on the right. You can see how the soft ethylene Ri-Toys figures share a common design through the painted and unpainted generations but the yellow ones have a new base marking which could suggest another maker while the last two are both smaller and quite different in execution.

The Ri-toys painted figures were clearly designed to deceive, as they follow the silver/yellow painting of the styrene BB originals, and I'm still not sure what the relationship between the two was. The links to Marx and Triang, the Merit piracy's and the supply of some of these moulds to Marksmen decades later all muddying the water! It may well be that they worked closely with Blue Box, equally they could have been straight copyists?

 So - to red and yellow helmets etc...

When I was a kid I know I had some of these with red and yellow helmets. In my present sample I have a radio operator with a red helmet, I also have a guy with a black helmet and a silver badge (German?). In addition I have the chap with all the red piping and another guy with a yellow badge. I suspect the yellow badge is just a careless yellow brush movement as the painter has also covered half the base in black boot-polish!

But even discounting him, the others have the 'smell' of genuine about them and with my memories it would seem that some out-painters would get a bit creatively artistic...maybe on a Friday afternoon!! See also the top left stretcher-case in the first image, he's been given a dressing from nose to chest!

There is one other sub-type of the Blue Box US figures and they are interesting for coming not with copies of the Blue-Box Germans, but with four of the similar Marx figures.

They came in two main tranches, the standard army greens (various shades) and a multicoloured set in brown, red, blue and silver. A sub variant in a muddy brown-green swirl are shown about the main line-up along with one who's retained a section of mould-tool runner (sprue!). At the top are three OBE's with a decent paint-job.

The only set I have on me with any of the above are these as the are small enough to go in the same bags I use for all the smaller samples so they have ended-up being filed with them. The name of the importer/jobber being Nadel and Sons of New York. You got eight poor quality figures, there would be a dozen or two attached to a larger card and sold near the till/check-out like sweets or nuts - impulse purchase/nag-buy!

Monday, February 10, 2014

F is for Free French Fighters, Firemen and other Fellows

Although now solved by several sets in the 'right' size, for years there was only one source of plastic resistance fighters for the 'old school' war-gamer who didn't want to pay the rates to obtain metal figures. That set was not commonly had and therefore became quite mythical, I well remember arguments at school between those who'd obviously seen them in their local corner shop (for that was where you got them in the late 1960's-early 1970's) and those who hadn't and wouldn't believe they actually existed.

It should be pointed out that similar arguments broke out over Lancers (probably the Marx Miniature Masterpieces getting confused with the Airfix catalogue mock-up or the Montaplex envelope) and Ancient Greeks, the latter being settled when I swapped some Anglo bubble-gums with Palmer for a handful of the Giant piracies in bright red he'd picked-up in Webb's newsagent in Hartley Wintney...they were added to my Airfix Romans as officers!

Those resistance fighters were - in fact - the 30mm figures from Blue Box (above) and they were like gold dust, being issued in very few of the BB sets, usually 3 or 4 figures to a vehicle in the single vehicle window boxes or the all-transparent boxes with a card base-tray stapled in, again usually with one vehicle...or a Jeep and trailer.

One of the annoying things about life is that it never works-out as you'd like; life and convenience are strangers to one another, and because of that, while I have all the loose figures here, all the boxed and carded BB stuff is in a shipping container 20  miles away which I haven't even visited in over a year and which has been moved on someone else's lorry since I last saw it! God knows what the contents look like but the BB stuff is at least in ridged boxes.

This absence wasn't a particular problem when I was Blogging the larger scales by Blue Box last year as I don't have any mint packaged stuff in the bigger sizes, but it is a bit of a bugger in this case, as it would be nice to blog some of the sets...well; they'll make a nice post another day, and I might have a few shots kicking about somewhere for a follow-up!

As can be seen in the pictures, there were six crudeishly sculpted figures, one; a female. All given a basic stab-and-hope paint-job and issued in various shades of grey and pale-grey-blue. The bluer shade being the commoner. A couple of the poses also seem to bear a resemblance to Marx cowboy poses?

Ri-toys are responsible for the copies which are a lot more common and due to the nature of the copying, slightly smaller which made them easier to hide among 25/28mm war games figures. The green ones ran for years in various bagged and carded sets, sometimes over-printed with an importers/jobbers brand or trade mark; Woolbro, Success &etc...

I prefer the later multi-coloured ones as they sum up Hong Kong for me! I also preferred them at the time, as in an 'unpainted armies' carpet-war, they were clearly civilians attacking all those Airfix dark-grey 'Bosche' in a fetching 'spring collection' of psychedelic tracksuits!

Forty years of collecting gives a straw-poll of degree of rarity...the hard polystyrene factory painted originals being close to hens teeth in commonality, the green ones being pretty common (and not worth some of the sums they've realised on FeeBay recently!) and the rainbow-warriors needing a little more searching for.

The enemy (then - we're all friends now!); the Germans, who also came in six poses, and I've explained the connection with Marx elsewhere so won't dwell on it now, but I will rewrite the old One Inch Warrior article one day as the theory posited there/then - while solid - needs a bit of fine tuning and passing to a wider audience.

Again Ri-toys copied them slightly smaller, where they got included in sets with copies of the Blue Box US troops and - sometimes - the Marx German Infantry poses that were so similar to these in style and paint, but not plastic colour.

Also German in nationality - or at least in their original guise as HO-gauge accessories by Walter Merten, the Navy figures by Blue Box were issued in their sets occasionally and are about as common as the French Resistance figures, that is; not very!

They were actually issued in threes, joined at the base, but the join is so slight they broke apart very easily and so you only ever see the 'triples' in mint sets, although as such - I think they may have already appeared on the blog? Woolbro article?

Merten originally produced both poses in the diminutive size, but used paint to produce a wider 'range', with summer, winter, working dress and parade dress paint jobs - if memory serves!

[04th December 2015 - It wasn't the Woolbro post, it was one of the early Blue Box posts with a few of the boxed sets! B is for Blue Box]

These are not 100% Blue Box, but I'm pretty sure that's who's responsible! The chalky paper on the thick brown spirit-glued bases for one, the ancestry of the US medic for another and the paint style, not least the plastic type all point to these being from the civilian sets by the same company.

And even if I had the mint sets to hand it wouldn't help as - with a couple of Bedford RL / MK exceptions - I only ever collected the military sets of BB production.

If you go to the big annual Train Show (it's more than a swap-meet or dealers event) down at Alresford in Hampshire (well worth a visit) there is a chap there who has dedicated himself to collecting Blue Box civilian sets and he has all sorts of lovely airport, city, town and railway boxed sets and often puts on a display in one of the smaller buildings there. I last went quite a while ago and can't remember what all the civilians looked like but I'm pretty sure figures like these featured among the copies of Dinky road-workers (which might also be Corgi - see Blog passim!) and Britains farmers!

Indeed - and this has only just struck me - the US stretcher-bearer might be the end-product of a linage going back to the Dinky road-worker with wheel-barrow? Note how the civi' above is slightly larger and has more 'closed' hands, the road-worker having a flat-cap and fully-closed hands?

A quick scaler...the Airfix Combat Group figure is almost exactly 23mm, so you can see the Ri-toys copies are about 27/28mil and the BB originals around 30, with the firemen a little taller at around 31/32mm.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

E is for Errant Emergency Erks

I thought I had the other one, and I had. But I'd taken replacement photo's, collaged them in Picasa and then 'lost' them in another file! Anyway - here they are, to be looked at in conjunction with this post; C is for Corgi Civil Response.

They came with a play set of the 'chuck half a dozen Corgi Juniors in a box' type which was called; set E3026 Emergency Gift Set, itself replacing the the older set 3021 Emergency 999 gift set. The earlier set having a half handful of the Husky vinyl figures. The police and ambulance crew stands in the later set came in either blue but only one or the other shade.