About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Friday, May 23, 2014

News, Views Etc...Khaki Infantry Update and some show thing...

I've added some images kindly supplied by Barney Brown and David Scrivener to the Khaki Infantry page, specifically Benbros and Kentoy, with a caveat on the hollow-cast mould prone pose which I will get too soon hopefully; real life tends to get in the way of Blogging plans!

Thanks to both of them for the contibutions, they do add to the fuller picture.

UK Khaki Infantry

In other news...there's some show or something, somewhere tomorrow!

Details, details, details...still.

I will get some more Blogging done here on the homepage soon as well, hopefully!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

S is for Search Engine

To Bing or not to Bing, that is the question! Thank f**k for Google!

And!....Yahoo doesn't even seem to have an image search feature, or not one I could find...don't use these fly-by-night half-arses...same goes for the Firefox/Chrome debate....internet explorer? What's that?!

On a far more serious note...Plastic Warrior show, this coming Saturday...if you're not there...you'll be somewhere else...and we won't miss you 'cos we'll get all the bargains!

Details, details, details...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

O is for Optical Illusion


Toy Soldiers Optical Illusion

Toy Soldiers and Plastic Flowers - Joe Black again!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

M is for Memorabilia, Militaria and Medals

I was lucky enough to be shown this the other day, and took the opportunity to take a photograph of it to share with a wider audience. Thanks to Peter for letting me shoot it. It originated in a factory in Germany at the end of the last war (counting down to the next one - thanks for that Putin...you're so gay!), and was 'liberated' or shall we say 'confiscated' as illegal Nazi regalia in - the then newly de-Nazified - Germany!

The card is original and I understand that each member of the unit in question took one as a memento, these cards were used in shop-windows as propaganda as much as anything else, and although it's been renumbered by a British hand, you can see the original German 1's with their long heads or serifs.

From the top left to the bottom right moving down then across they are;

1 - RAD [Reichsarbeitsdienst] Medal, awarded for four years service in the Labour Organisation, the reverse reads "Fur Treue Dienste in Reichs Arbeits Dienst"...for loyal service in the German labour service.

2 - NSKK [Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps] Motor Vehicle Drivers Badge, this would have been worn by servicemen as well as NSKK personnel as lots of military personnel had been taught to drive by the NSKK.

3 - Mother's Cross - Miniature, this was awarded each August 12th (the birthday of Hitler’s mother), with gold crosses (illustrated) being awarded for those women who had given birth to 8 [good Aryan] children, silver for 6 and bronze for 4. As a miniature it would have been worn as a broach.

4 - War Merit Cross, 1st class with swords, this was a military award for action deserving of award, but not for bravery (which would deserve an Iron Cross).

5 - Austrian Medal, awarded on entry into Austria (from Wikipedia; The medal, known as the "Anschluss medal", was awarded to all those Austrians who contributed to or participated in the annexation as well as the members of the Austrian NSDAP [Nazi Party]. It was also awarded to German State officials and members of the German Wehrmacht and SS who marched into Austria).

6 - War Merit Cross, 2nd Class with swords (see 4 for note).

7 - German Red Cross 'Social Welfare' Medal.

8 - Clasp or 'Bar' to the Iron Cross 2nd Class, this is the 'Prizen' size which is both smaller and rarer than the usual clasp and would have been worn with a WWI Iron Cross medal ribbon, below and coming from a tunic button.

9 - Iron Cross 2nd Class.

10 - Wound Badge 3rd class.

11 - War Merit Cross 1st class without swords, awarded sans-swords for civilian or rear-echelon acts.

12 - Narvik Shield [Narvikschild], awarded for service in the Norway campaign in 1940.

13 - West Wall Medal, the obverse reads "Für Arbeit zum Schutze Deutschlands" (For work for the protection (or defence) of Germany) and it was awarded for work on the Siegfried Line in 1939/40.

14 - Crimean Shield [Krimschild], awarded to troops under the command of Erich von Manstein who captured the Crimea region, very common medal, with over 250,000 issued.

15 - War Merit Medal, the lowest award in the series that includes 11, 6 and 4 above. The medal replaced the second class - without swords - awards as so many were being issued and would go to someone like a factory worker who exceeded production targets or something like that.

The cut down the middle of the card presumably has more to do with the dimensions of  a British large-pack circa 1945, than anything in the factory which made these, the location/identity of which is unknown. I told Peter the Mothers Cross was probably for losing a child in the war...how wrong could I have been!

News, Views etc...Khaki Infantry Page - Speedwell Added

I've added Speedwell to the Khaki Infantry page, the question-marks are starting to outnumber the known facts, and we still have UNA, VP and Trojan to look at!

UK Khaki Infantry

Thursday, May 8, 2014

News, Views Etc...Khaki Infantry Page - Update

Tonight I've added sections on Reisler and Rocco (Royce) as we move toward the endgame of a mess that is UNA, VP, Trojan and...Speedwell still to come..

UK Khaki Infantry

News, Views Etc...Khaki Infantry Page - Update

I've added what little I've got by way of a Kentoy section and an overview of the various mortar versions to the Khaki Infantry page and will try to do more in the next few days...

UK Khaki Infantry

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

E is for Ethylene

Back to Marx...I had the box open to do the Mystery Space Ship the other day! The Miniature Masterpieces are relatively well known, we've looked at them before here and will come back to them in the future. As hard plastic they are relatively easy to track-down with mint examples of the larger play-sets often appearing on evilBay, and a few loose figures often in the 'mixed lots' of small scale at shows.

However, there was a lesser species, the polyethylene or soft plastic versions, which I assume to have been either a late thing, or another factory thing? And it's these we're going to look at briefly now...

Three different boxing's, all the same size with a cellophane window. The ' Operation "Attack" ' sets don't have the little disc overlapping the window, while the 'By Marx' rectangle becomes a national flag.

These are probably the hardest to locate as soft plastics, I used to think it was the space sets but they do appear on FeeBay quite often. Item count is the same in both sets, but the people stitching/gluing them in clearly had some leeway, as there are differences, The animals are from the old Noah's Ark sets, but in some wacky colours and - in some cases - even wackier paint!

Note also that the scenic pieces are mostly provided by items from the Wild West series (again all in soft ethylene), including the cooking pot, spear-stand and stretched-skin in both sets. And yes...the tree has been bent by 40 years of carton pressing down on it!

The British get a camouflaged box, there were German and Japanese and Vietnamese versions along with rarer Russian and Canadian sets (probably harder to get than the Africans actually?). So many US G.I.'s turn up in soft plastic they must have been included in other sets, probably late issues of the larger MM play-sets. The price label shows these were going head-to-head with boxes of 48-odd unpainted Airfix figures! 'Kress' was SS Kresge, the ancestor of Sears/Kmart today.

My favourite and one of the less common ones, all in soft plastic, silver versus gold, having a scrap in the courtyard! I didn't notice that the mounted gold knight had taken a tumble until I'd put them all back in the attic! Probably hit by one of those catapult stones...it's just not jousting!

We looked at a tatty version of the Wild West one Here Just over a year ago.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A is for Armoured Car

This is one of my favourite pieces, along with a composition tank I have in storage somewhere which will be blogged here one day! I'm not sure of the material of this, but it would seem to be some form of ceramic, rather than a true composition, but it's a low-temperature fired earthenware such as a clay or terracotta, and in the worlds of marbles and doll collecting (both more populated hobbies than toy soldier collecting) would be considered a composition anyway.

A study of the image (click once and it'll open, or right-click 'open in new tab') will reveal it's very crudely moulded with a poorly-mixed material (that alone pointing to low-temp firing, with all the air trapped in those un-squeezed-out folds it would likely explode at the temperatures necessary to create 'china' or porcelain), which has lead to some shrinkage and deformation.

It's been loosely 'shoved' into a mould, the pressing of the hollow cavity in the underside forcing the material into the corners of the mould and - after firing - airbrushed with gloss enamels, brown over a yellow base.

The crudeness points to a craft piece or penny-toy, even a home-made, and while date is hard, and subject matter (vis-a-vis actual vehicle depicted) impossible; I'm guessing it's early, pre-WWII, but not as early as WWI, the design - such as it is - is later. Anybody got an idea as to the make depicted...or maker?

It's roughly 'small scale'; big'ish for 1:72 but a bit small for 28mm role-play. Also I wonder if it might actually be French in origin. If war gaming I'd say a 2lbr, it's bigger than an MG!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

News, Views Etc...Plastic Warrior 154

Well, as always it seems, I'm well behind with the PW review, and the next one is probably due! What's worse is I saw Paul about three weeks ago and mentioned that I meant to do it and would post something  in a day or two!

Still, by doing it now it will raise brand-awareness as we race toward the next PW show!

For you delight and information this issue;

* Britains 'Eyes Right' sets - US Band, Marine Corps Band and Colour Party and the Bahamians by John Begg.
* A glance at Colin Penn's collection.
* Editorial interview with new manufacturer Austin Miniatures.
* Arthur Belshaw produces Zouaves at Converter's Corner.
* Alwyn Brice continues with the Elastolin he hoovered-up while interviewing people in their own homes for Collector's Whatzit
* A boxed set filled with VP Khaki Infantry is inspected.
* P L Cunha looks at various depictions of Napoleon in plastic.
* Book Review this issue looks at the work on Spot-On by a team of authors, critiqued by Colin Penn.
* What the !&*$? has question marks on Elephants, Cowboys, Circus and Civilians including skiers.
* Media Models looks at the work of artist Joe Black.
* Updates on...
- Publius and Engineer Bassevitch (Mathias Berthoux) and Own (Paul Stadinger, both; letters)
* In addition to the Russians and Chinese mentioned above - new products covered this month include figures from...
- A Call to Arms
- Armies in Plastic
- Pegasus
- Expeditionary Force
- and more on Publius
* Plus all the usual small-ads, news and views, including Vestry House Museum, Modelzone, British Model Soldier Society and the Pacific Northwest Toy Soldier Association.
* Readers letters this issue cover Johnnie Walker, Eyes Right standards, news on the Birmingham show (more to come on that!), Marx website, Bonux premiums and Horrible Histories.
* While  cover images this quarter are a shot of the VP set on the front and a Timpo Zoo Animals tradesman's sample on the back.

All in glorious technicolourfulness!

Which leaves me to remind you the PW show will be on the 24th, three weeks from this Saturday!

L is for 'Like Britains'

An interesting little thing this, Spear's Games take on the old BBC TV program; One Man and his Dog, imaginatively retitled One Shepherd and....!

The contents look - at first glance - to be Britains, but are in fact not, probably Hong Kong in origin, they are not marked as such, so there is the possibility that they were sourced from a UK maker with easy morals?

The fences are marked, J&L R, which is - of course - Merit...who were not above a bit of piracy! That's it, box ticked, pictures filed...

S is for Spidy, Spiderman, Super Heros and Slow-mo (Mr. Banner getting angry!)

A real box-ticking exercise this one (and an ongoing clear-out of Picasa!), contemporary (2011) chocolate-egg toys by someone who's not Ferrero/Kinder! Actually; 'Mon Desir'.

Made of polystyrene they are probably what are known as 'deforms' but not 'super-deforms'. Also; they appear to have been designed to hold things as 'ring-hands' but the swallow-ability factor seems to have prevented that idea being carried forward.

Probably a set of 12, I know there are at least two more to track-down still; The Thing and a lady spider-person! I think the most useful figure is the white one (ghost-man?) as he can be painted to any super-hero that takes you fancy!

V is for Vitacup

Those animals I was asking for help with the other week...Vitacup! Someone else asked the same question on an animal forum the other day, and they already knew something about them and had a name for them, so after a quick Google enough of the bare-bones fell into place to stick them up here and drop them in a 'finished' file!

Vitacup was the second attempt by Rowntree's of York (later Rowntree-Macintosh to grab a slice of the fortified cocoa-drinks (beverage) market between the wars. The previous attempt - called Fortak - had failed against Bornville's Bornvita and Fry's Malted Milk around 1933 and was withdrawn. Rowntree came back with Vita-Cup (quickly losing the hyphen) to fight a new battle with Ovaltine and Horlicks in the mid-to-late 30's.

This must have had some success as it seems to have hung around until fairly recently as the Australian arm; Robinson's (of the Barley Water), applied for a new trademark in 1985 (application no. 423440 R & C Products - Ricket & Coleman?) although it was never taken-up and has now lapsed.

In the UK it was marketed under the Coleman's (mustard)/Wincarnis label as Rowntree were advised they should retain their affiliation to gums and jellies, and not hot beverages by their advertising/marketing advisor; J. Walter Thompson. There is one more name involved...Bryden & Evelyn were the agents, who organised the day to day adverts in newspapers and magazines and handled distribution.

Thomson are now JWT, one of the biggest branding firms in the business, Bryden & Evelyn have disappeared (along with the Wincarnis works) and Unilever seem to own everything else!

They seem to have been issued in two sets, woodland and domestic animals, in blue and white matchbox type boxes titled 'Vitacup Ivorene Animals' - presumably found in the jar or tin of Vitacup - of which the above are all samples.

They are not Ivorene, they are a polystyrene in an ivory shade of white which can look pink, cream or grey depending on the light as can be seen above. Ivorene was actually trademarked to someone else and was a thermo-set plastic along the lines of Bakelite, although like Hoover, it became a generic noun which is still in use by the costume jewellery trade to this day for various polymers.

A second series was issued; the new 'Wildlife' series, again examples are above, the pelican below was from this series as well as an Impala with vicious looking horns which I have yet to track down.

Several of these animals bear a striking resemblance to Siku animal premiums, but others are completely different, I used to think they were Siku supplied but know I'm wondering if they weren't a UK produced product?

The rest of my sample, there is a 3rd much larger horse still to find, a prone sheep and another lamb. Whether the dogs were part of a third series I don't know, and I think I've seen a hen/chicken type. And while I've photographed all the birds together the Pelican was from the Wildlife series and I suspect the stork is too.

Google also seemed to suggest that a second issue of both series came at some point with airbrushed brown as a sort of 'antiqued' effect/staining. The bulldog always seems to have a collar painted in that pale cream yellow, being the only one to get paint otherwise.

When you Google vitacup animals as an image search , something funny happens; as you scroll down the page you keep seeing...

...the three wise monkeys, now I couldn't find out any more than I've covered above, which was - admittedly - less than an hours work! But I wonder if the myriad algorithms of Google know something I don't. namely; that the monkeys were some sort of brand logo at some point, and maybe after these 'Ivorene' sets, they issued more 3-monkey items as premiums? The three moneys above were definitely part of the blue and white boxed series, yet don't really fir in with the domestic and woodland animals that made-up that series, so...? It may - of course - just be that Google's algorithms are confusing threewise for vitacup?

Finally a scaler, some of them must have rattled around in the box a bit! There are two distinct sculpting styles; a realistic look, which is most of them, and a stylised 'carved' effect, most noticeable on the two fawns/deer, the two elephants and the missing lamb, also - to a lesser extent - on the lioness, cat and rhino. It's also showing on the flanks of the bison which was described as a wisent or European bison.

Then there is the flat in legs as oposed to fully-round legs, it would seem that at least two or possibly three sculptors were employed on this small range (33 known items, one too big for the boxes; missing horse). Does anyone know who they were?

We also need to know when Vitacup was available, or at least when these promotions ran? What other animals were there in these series'? What other premiums were there? Were they available in Europe? Did they ever get to Australia? Are they Siku's? How have we lost so much in the 'information' age?!...Doh!