About Me

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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

D is for Die-Cast Machine Men

A bit of a box ticker here too, but equally a bit special, much sought-after, a bit pricey when they do turn-up, yet hard to find, so I only have three different torsos and four legs, I think it should be six and six in a complete set, not sure if they did mounted versions?

Lone Star's take on swoppet knights, and clearly influenced by Britains own, being better animated than either the Crescent or Timpo efforts and far superior to Cherilea's offerings (either type). I'm pretty sure I have a spare shield somewhere, so the other chap should get protection in the fullness of time!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

S is for Sword & No Muskets

A bit of a box-ticker, but with more of an overview, we're looking at Cherilea medieval figures today, here at Smallscaleworld Towers. This is also a real Picasa-clearer as the images have been building-up in there for some time, I think the first photo-shoot was 2012, the final images were taken last week!

Taken at a show-and-tell a few years ago, these are the first version Cherilea possibly Lafredo (see coments!) 54mm solids, a bit on the small side maybe . . . 52/53mm? They are also very bitty, lots of fine detail, rivets, straps, hinges. The guy with a black plume is missing a lance.

The next version seem to come in 54-mil and 60mm, although I wonder if the smaller ones aren't - in fact - Phoenix? Also, some seem to be very clean and shiny, so I'm guessing one of the 1980's/90's re-issuers like Dorset or Marlborough had a go. There seems to be eight poses which is typical for these sets.

Moving toward the Tudor/Elizabethan era, we have these, another set in the 60mm range and covering the English Civil Wars, [some] Scots Rebellions (of many!), Conquistadors and the Drake/Armada periods quite effectively. Although as you can see from the single painted one, they can pass for musketeers of much later!

Again I think it's all eight of a set; these are mostly re-issues, with a duplicate - and we looked at the Scots here

The same period was covered in 54-mil and these are another sought-after set. Everyone had a stab at them Cherilea, Phoenix, and Dorset/Marborough, or is rumoured to have; Hilco. Also, I think this picture may have been on the Blog already? There was a nice group of these on evilBay the other day, but I didn't follow the outcome.

The sculpting of these six is equally rooted in the popular image of the Civil Wars or, new World explorations but without the floppy hats of the comic-book stereotypical Royalists, however I was listening to something on the radio the other day which made clear the actualité was a little different, with lobster-pots and floppy hats on all sides and coloured ribbons or feathers and sticking close to the flag being the only real ways of knowing who's side was who on.

C is for Champion

Remember . . . I buy them so you don't have to! 99p in the 99p Stores, been in edit for so long the company has disappeared! So you wouldn't be buying them anyway; Doh!

Shite . . .even the sweets were gacky-kak!

Friday, July 29, 2016

R is for ROCK & ROLL!

We've looked at most of the Hong Kong Beatles and a few other Rock Star types here in the past, here's one that escaped closer attention . . .

. . . The Swingers Music Set - Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!, boxed in all its slightly jazzy loveliness, it's not that rare, but like all the 'Beat Combo' sets does command a premium, especially when in this sort of condition, with the fine mouldings of the mic-stands, the cymbals &etc, all present.

Ladies and gentlemen; May I present for your pleasure, fresh from the top nightclubs of Tokyo, Kowloon Bay and 'Kay-Ell', the world famous, Sino-Japanese Beatles tribute act - The Beatelles!
Like most of these HK sets, they don't claim to be the fab four (the left-handed guitarist is the giveaway), and while none of them really resemble the boys; unlike the other sets these don't even look like Western musicians at all!

Seemingly based on 'The Swingers' we've already seen here (large blue ones) before I knew their title, they are poorer sculpts, but a fuller set, and about the same 66/70mm size, both sets would seem to be following the 'Go-Go Swingers' we have yet to see here, who are smaller and the best sculpts of these HK chaps.

With the three - above mentiond - and another 54mm HK set (in four colours), the named Spanish (Emirobar) and British (Subbuteo) Beatle sets, the board game guitarists (also four colours) and Gem for Culpitt's band (several colours), you can mount quite a festival on your display shelves, add the two types of Beatle 'Bobble-Head' (blow-moulded and styrene) I've tracked down over the years and all you need is love . . . and Nirvana's front man! Or is he from Guns and Roses?

Practicing air-guitar on a beach-inflatable; he's a resin cake decoration, in shops now, probably available from Wilton over the pond, or one of the bigger online cake-decoration suppliers, that only leaves me needing the Mattel Pop 'Cuties'!

Thanks to Adrian at Mercator for letting me shoot the photographs.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

M is for Men of '76 . . . 1776!

So with great thanks - again - to Brian Berke, we are going to look at the Men of '76 swoppets from Toy Innovations, a minor favourite of mine, but which I told Brian I'd 'hold' for a while until I got my loose figures out of storage - as he's sent me pictures of the official sets, on the card - and I wanted to show some loose ones I've got and pose a question or two.

However I had a small lot here (god knows where they came from, but it must have been one of the last four Plastic Warrior shows, I can't think where else I would have got them?), which are just enough to make a couple of points, so we're off, and thanks to Brian!

I've seen them described as being ' copies of Timpo American Revolution figures', but if anything they are copies of the Britains Swoppet figures, however; given they were first issued in 1972, by which time most people had had a go at 'swoppets' of some kind or another and the crates coming out of Hong Kong were stuffed-full of knock-off swoppets, and given also certain differences in construction, and the wider range of poses; it's fairer to say they are 'after' Britains, or 'influenced by', while being a relatively original application of the whole swoppet concept.

The downside is that while they are described as being with 'moveable and changeable parts', they are mostly pose-specific parts, so actually giving a kneeling Frenchman some Indian arms hardly enhances play-value! But the officers can be given 'foot' legs, or the lady/Indian can take to the saddle, so long as they want to wear britches! Also several of the standing poses are unarmed and have no way of arming themselves?

My local sample, also the two poses
closest to Britains Swoppets

September 2020 - Image since stolen by a Ramsés Méndez Peraza

for use on a Faceplant group/page without permission - but still mine!

And I'll be having ten of his!

They had previously been issued as 'Shell Liberty Toy Soldiers' by the Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Company as premium giveaways with fuel and/or motor oil. I used to think this was only in the 'States, but evidence would suggest that both issues (and possibly a third) were wider ranged than just America.

The 1971 petrol premium's sets contents (with full acknowledgement to Kent Sprecher and his Toy Soldier HQ website for this list) were as follows.

Unit 1 - Kneeling Bluecoat, Standing Redcoat
Unit 2 - Kneeling Redcoat, Standing Bluecoat
Unit 3 - Marching Bluecoat, Marching Redcoat
Unit 4 - American Officer on Horseback
Unit 5 - British Officer on Horseback
Unit 6 - Standing Frenchman, Kneeling Hessian
Unit 7 - Indian Scout, Standing Minuteman
Unit 8 - Kneeling Minuteman, Molly Pitcher
Unit 9 - George Washington on horseback
Unit 10 - Cornwallis on Horseback
Unit 11 - Paul Revere on Horseback
Unit 12 - Cannon

To which was added a cut-price fort called Fort Liberty which you had to ask the petrol/gas station for, although I dare say there was a display of some kind, as with the current run of Lego promotions in Shell stations which have been going for 15 years or more now. Whether it came with the same tray of figures as the Men of '76 issue I don't know, but from the original pricing given on Kent's site I suspect not.

Note: no kneeling Frenchman or Standing Hessian? Both of whom are quite common - loose?

When the set was 're-issued' (more on that below) some - but not all - the carded sets included a flyer/catalogue/collector's check-list with a potted history and the other sets in the range. Now . . . first question arising: When Barry Blood sent a copy in for Plastic Warrior magazine's article (published in Issue 149 - back issues available from above link) by the above mentioned Kent, the flyer showed only eight of "Collect All 8 Sets" plus the fort, however: there are ten sets?

Brian Berke has sensibly left his mint so I can't know what the US flyer says. Is it the same flyer Barry has with the two additional sets being added to the range after the flyer was printed, or is the 8-set flyer (and the 8-set printed cards it illustrates a UK/Rest of World only thing? The sets we are looking at here are all clearly printed-up as "Collect All 10 Sets" cards.

I ask - in part - because it's a query in itself, but also because after a fortnight of following these online (there's a fair-few on evilBay - but watch the silly BIN prices!) I haven't seen a single card printed with the 8-set graphic? Also, while the cards are all ten set graphics, it would seem that 9 and 10 are harder to come by, but I'll be the first to admit that a couple of weeks scratching the 'bay is no scientifically-binding, empirical research sample!

Some sources give 1975 for the MO76 issue, others ’76, but the cards are copyrighted to ’72, ’73 and ’75 (which gives some indication as to the variety discussed below), they must have been pretty popular in all guises: Petrol premiums, 8-cards and 10-cards?

Anyway, there ARE 10 sets from the US, whatever the reasons for the discrepancy, and let's look at them in order with the images from Brian:

Set No 1
Muster List

1 George Washington
1 White Horse
1 Standing Minuteman
1 Standing Bluecoat
3 Stands

Set No 2
Muster List

1 Cornwallis
1 Black Horse
1 Field Cannon
1 Marching Redcoat/Cannoneer
2 Stands

You can see that card 1 gives you a nice starter for the insurgent forces, with card two the legal government's troops (you love it when I'm contentious!). Buying both cards gives you a balanced fight with two cavalry/commanders, foot figures and a gun. I don't know if the George Washington biographic is only on the card containing him, or on all of them or on the ones without a flyer?
Note that the Set 2 card had been quite distorted by the shrink-wrapping for the flyer/catalogue.

Set No 3
Muster List

1 Paul Revere
1 Brown Horse
1 Indian Scout
1 Kneeling Redcoat
3 Stands

Set No 4
Muster List

1 Field Cannon
1 Molly Pitcher
1 Kneeling Minuteman
2 Stands

The next two cards gives you more historical characters and a native or two (do the Minutemen count as natives?!! Turncoat B-Star'eds). You can also see why I'm reticent to ascribe these as Britains plagiarisms; the Indian and the Molly figure are quite unusual, well executed and owe more to Italian swoppets (of the type later to find their way into Kinder Eggs) or Elastolin's foray into the genre.

You are also starting to see why that cannon is so common in collections, in stock with dealer's, on tables at shows and in mixed-lots on feeBay - almost every other set has a cannon!

I have a couple of loose Mollies in storage and her barnet is to be seen to be believed, I'm never sure if it's supposed to be a hairstyle, a 16th century hat or a passing swarm of bees? Whatever the truth, she looks like one of the younger Gibb Brothers!

Set No 5
Muster List

1 American Lieutenant
1 Brown Horse
1 Kneeling Bluecoat
1 Kneeling Redcoat
3 Stands
Set No 6
Muster List

1 American Trooper (Afro-American)
1 Field Cannon
1 Standing Redcoat
2 Stands

Sets five and six are a couple of what today would be called 'Army Builder' sets with more troops for the two main protagonists and, yep; another cannon! Although I prefer to think of these as 'influenced by' rather than plagiarising, it has to be said: The horse IS a straight steal from Britains!

Set No 7
Muster List

1 British Lieutenant
1 Brown Horse
1 Kneeling Hessian
1 Standing Frenchman
3 Stands

Set No 8
Muster List

1 Standing Redcoat
1 Kneeling Redcoat
1 Indian Scout
1 Standing Bluecoat
1 Kneeling Bluecoat
5 Bases

I have no picture of set 8, but the details were readable from the Plastic Warrior article, so I know what the contents are. Set 7 is the more interesting as we start to get the 'allies', really both were exploitative or profiteering mercenaries, sent by rival governments, both of whom had two eyes on the spoils.

The following two sets were either released after the flyer had been printed, or they weren't issued in the UK vis-à-vis the musing above?

Set No 9
Muster List
[Full contents unknown but must include '1 Kneeling Frenchman' as I know he exists, he's in this post! the equally missing '1 Standing Hessian' may not exist?]

(Added 1st Aug. 2016)
Set 9 (courtasy of 'Gisby')
Muster List (not necessarily in correct order)
1 Standing Minutemen
1 Indian Scout
1 Kneeling Hessian
1 Standing Frenchman
4 Bases

Still no standing Hessian? I now know he doesn't exist - except when found with other people's trousers on! The whole point of swoppets!

Set No 10
Muster List

1 Aaron Burr
1 Field Cannon
1 Standing Bluecoat (Afro-American)
2 Stands

The inclusion of the Aaron Burr 'character figure' in the final set, suggests A) that all ten sets were there from the start, and that B) one of the missing items on Set 9's 'Muster List' may be another character? Also there's a shortage of white horses in the others sets, so could the missing figure/s be/include a mounted figure/character?

Other Items
Men of '76 Revolutionary Fort
(copyrighted to 1973, with moving gates, jail, British and American flags and flag-pole)
Muster List (bases fitted to figures)
1 George Washington
1 Standing Bluecoat [seems to be a typo printed on all boxes, actually: x2 are present]
2 Kneeling Bluecoats
1 Marching Bluecoat (Afro-American)
1 Standing Minuteman
1 Kneeling Minuteman
2 Cannons
1 Cornwallis
2 Standing Redcoats
2 Kneeling Redcoats
1 Marching Redcoat
2 Indians
1 Molly Pitcher
1 Fort (with British and American flags, jail, gates, etc.)

A comparison with the remains of a Britains American Regualr with a brittle-torso, which is now away to recycle-heaven: The most obvious links are the legs, the hat/hair/head arrangement and the musket. The musket plugs into the right arm while the legs are slimmer mouldings on the Innovative figures, with thinner ankles and boots.

The torso is a different design altogether, although roughly the same pose, it has a plug-in unit 'facing' piece in different colours, gold for officers and other colors for the various units. There is a slight problem with it though . . . it sometimes pushes the head back up the neck hole again, so a bit of trimming is necessary to get everything ship-shape and Bristol Fashion!

In storage I'm sure I have other colours of facing, yellow (instead of gold?) and pink (for the mauve?), which suggests a third issue, or a third source, as while both 'known' sets may have been handled by Innovative Promotions, they are not quite the same.

The base at the bottom/on the left of each shot is the Shell issue, it has a full Innovative Promotions Inc. stamp and a clear 'snowflake' logo with a little 'Hong Kong' stamp, set alongside it, the others are of poorer finish, unmarked and have a shallower, blurred logo. I've been looking at these for a week or two, and there is no real difference in the contents of the various cards I've seen, while my little sample here reinforces the questions raised by the sample I have in storage.

Shell have the pale green bases with fine texture to the groundwork, the figures are all of the same design/colour pallet, likewise the Men of '76 are all on dark green bases, with a cracked groundwork, but similarly consistent in their 'look', but I've been unable to ID the base mark as they are usually face-up under the blister - perhaps a US reader could help? Neither explains the brown base above, nor the obvious mould-damage to the base undersides of the two non-Shell bases.

Neither is this variation of green for the Hessians explained easily, by the available evidence of the two sets. It would seem there are three or more sources for these figures.

What I suspect happened is something like this (I emphasise 'something like', not actually!), Innovative approached their HK source in 1970 or '71 and did the deal for or on behalf of Shell for the set of premiums, they were fully branded to the US importer/jobber and probably did quite well, running for six months, maybe a year, one pack per 10 gallons, or can of oil or whatever? Also, I think they must have been available elsewhere (as Shell premiums) such as this side of the pond, as they turned-up quite commonly before the advent of evilBay and the Internet.

Then, a few years later, Innovative think "Hold-on, the Bicentenary is coming-up? We should re-issue those figures we sorted out for Shell!", they go back to their supplier in HK, who informs them that the moulds were scrapped, or are damaged or whatever? Innovative have the 1970's equivalent of a WTF moment (imagine De Niro using real swear-words down the 'phone!) and explain that the moulds had better be replaced, renovated, copied or whatever? As they were, are or remain the property of the client or whatever?

Ergo, when the Men of '76 appear in ten sets or eight (?!) wherever they so appear, there are a bunch of subtle differences which are - within the line - as consistent QA-wise, as were the Shell figures consistent, within their line.

Which would explain two 'types', particularly the bases, but other differences are obvious, one lot (Shell?) has gripping ring-hands, the other lot (MO76?) have blob-hands the musket rests on, although it's not hard and fast, some of the kneeling legs are soft PVC Vinyl others are harder ethylene, bodies and separate arms likewise, flesh - both paint and plastic varies, hair colour etc . . .

But three of this lot of mine (an unscientifically small sample, but I'm musing here) seems to have been sent out with a clearance batch of French arms! The colour variations of Hessian particularly, but also Minutemen, not only between Shell and MO76, but third shades suggests that someone else got the moulds, put the moulds back into production sans Innovative's knowledge/input, or just copied them - explaining the poor quality fit of later figures and the facing/head fit thing?

If a US reader can confirm that the bases of the MO76 are (or are not) clearly marked as the Shell figures were, then we would be looking at four possible issues, but with the two dodgy issues maybe being unofficial back-door production for European and/or UK rack-toys, whether bagged or blistered we won't know until some turn-up!. We definitely had them here, as the cannon are as common as muck - loose, as are the sub-quality figures in both my samples.

It's food for thought, and more work needs to be done, but that there are different issues of these I'm sure, and yet they've always been talked about as two issues of the same figures. I'll return to them when I get my larger loose sample out of storage, as I used to look at them and be sure they were from different sources/batches.

The real reason this post came about was because Brian asked me if I knew of any African or Afro-American swoppets and sent me these pictures with one of the others above. I answered as you might expect, with a note about a few Kinder, the Kinder Zulus, possibly the odd Italian (CGGC-Grisoni) pocket money swoppet, the slightly swoppet elements of the Dulcop African's and the possibility of one or two more? I then asked him if he could photograph any others!

Now: one's always worried about the charge of racism entering such a subject, but I write this with one eye on the few historical facts I imagine I know and the other on my 'liberal leftie' credentials . . . knowing also that I haven't Googled the subject!

That there were some Free Men or Freedmen in the colony there is no doubt and including a couple of African American figures in the line is an inclusive act, especially in a multi-racial society, particularly one as riven with racial problems as the US had been a few years earlier with the civil rights/students/anti-Vietnam War movement stuff going-on (how looped is history's tape!), AND when it's about to celebrate 200 years of independent 'inclusive' ("Send me your . . ." etc.) sovereignty.

So while I wonder how many black troops actually did fight for or against the British, I like the fact that they are present in the set! Along with the native Indian figures and the woman, but I would have liked a Tarleton-helmeted cavalryman!

While sorting out the shots for this post, I noticed one of my tricorn hats had a brown inclusion, or contaminant, which had been well melted into the front brim, but created a little dink in the back edge, probably flicked there by another machine in the factory.

The German with American legs!

The other question to ponder, is why the hell didn't Britains re-issue their AWI Swoppets in 1976, I know we (Brits) probably didn't have the same desire to celebrate the loss err . . . 'occasion' as the Americans, but A) they would surely have been worth a shipment to the US, and B) my memories of the year (it was also the great heat-wave year of killing wood-ants with magnifying glasses while slowly melting, myself, at interminable cricket matches) are that actually our popular media got quite 'into' the whole bicentennial thing, and they probably would have sold well here? I think Timpo's were still in the shops? Probably alongside some of these!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

H is for Heroes in Half-shells

Back in the late 1980's when these guys first picked-up momentum (and kick-started the modern graphic-novel moment (in the English language that is; the Europeans were - of course - way ahead of the Anglo Saxons on that one . . . bigoted Brexit idiots!), I'd just got out of the army and was living in Aldershot where one of those combined head-shop/t-shirt/punk-badge/comic kiosks had both the US TMNT editions and the self-censored TMHT version . . . our kids weren't to be influenced by Ninjas apparently, they had to have 'Heroes' . . . go figure!

Carded Leonardo and Michelangelo, the figures are about56/60mm, but as they represent cartoon anthropomorphic turtle Ninja warrior monks who live in a sewer and allow themselves to be trained by a giant rat, I'm not sure that their being a few millimeters taller or shorter than your favorite figure-size is much to worry about!

I picked them up in a non-chain clearance/pound shop in Aldershot the other week, three of five, the missing figures being Raphael and a 'Foot Soldier'. And this gets Finland in the tag-list again!

Donatello in his blister and a line-up of the three, I've been back to see if I could get the others, but it's clear I got the last three of an end-of-line thing! Still - three-quid for the trio? I bet Forbidden Planet had them at  +/- a fiver-each whenever they were 'high street' retail stock!

The cards that came with them made no sense; nor did the all-languages/no language graphical instruction sheet! There seems to be an element of having to give your figure away if you lose at a round of 'Top Trumps': madness! There's a video on-line that might make it clearer. . . no, I haven't and I won't be, I'm a collector, not a thrower-away of good figures on the turn of a card!

These are nice sculpts, well painted, in a tactile material, if you see some, get them, put them on the shelf next to your JIM Napoleonic's, Timpo swoppet 'Great Helms', Marx beach babes and Cherilea Mexican bandit, they all represent the same thing - Childhood.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

C is for 'The Crazy Clown Circus'

This set was issued in the late 1940's/early 1950's and sold through Woolworth's stores.

The basic unit - a clown figure - seems to be based on a Morestone novelty die-cast toy of a clown on a penny-farthing. The original has a pom-pom on top of the coned hat, three large red buttons on a smooth top, the same patterned trousers as the plastic ones, and is holding a ball in each hand, the similarities are greater than the differences between the two figures, even to the pointy two-digit hands.

Marx weighted-cord 'walker' rider, a damaged Crescent I had to hand
and the recent resin BTS  find, finally - a Crazy Clown

However, this 'design' of clown seems to follow one of the recognised patterns of clown in the real world, I'm no expert, but I know some clowns registered/protected their look and/or face make-up, while others are anchored in the old (and now 'traditional') costumes of the Italian Commedia dell'Arte, and it would seem to be that this clown is a regular/specific clown 'type', is it a peirrot?

Basic Unit
1 - Clown - to which can be added . . .
2 - Small base
3 - Large Base
4 - Clown with balls in hands - to which can be added . . .
5 - Small base
6 - Large base

Both can have their hands bent forward for a possible 12 main variations of the standard clown, not all of which were used, but by the time people have glued their bits together for onward sale on feebay they mostly are!

Further variations are created by placing [gluing] clowns on horses, tall platform-poles, beach-balls or each other in various configurations. A 'Ring Master' is created by the addition of a top hat (basically a little flanged beaker) and whip (a piece of hollow or thread-cored PVC cable). And other variations are added with the addition of three different drums, an umbrella. A 'hoop' ring, or a unicycle described as 'a wheel'. Variously these accessories can be found with a clown and large, small or no base, and basically it's almost as if any variation you can think of will turn-up in a mixed lot on evilBay!

The large red spot most of them have painted on their tummy is actually hiding/camouflaging the mould release-pin mark. It could also be a reference back to the sculpted buttons on the Morestone metal figure, each of which is also painted red.

 The large set: The Crazy Clown Circus which was sold through Woolworth's stores, listed its contents as three coded subsets, each subset lettered to its 'act' title, but apparently numbered consecutively across the range. There are gaps in that numbering, and among them must lye the drummers.

As listed on the back of the larger sets:

Acrobatic Act
A1 - Clown (see 1-6 above)
A2 - Two Clowns Balancing (one on top of the other)
A3 - Two Clowns Tumbling (see Variants below)
A4 - Three Clowns in Line (see Variants below)
A5 - Three Clowns Balancing (in a Y shape)
A6 - Four Clowns Balancing (in a diamond shape)

A3 - Two Clowns Tumbling, this vignette is two clowns glued together, some are glued parallel to each other along the forearms, which makes for an unstable partnership, others are glued in an 'A' shape, with one clowns head between the shins of the other, which allows them to be set up as an A, V, or sharp C, and they can be rolled more easily, both types seem equally common and there's no clue as to whether one was earlier or later. It may be that some worker/s or outworker/s did them differently, but at the same time.

A4 - Three Clowns in Line, I have seen this set with the third figure (on the far left as they look forward) being a bent-arm figure set back from the other two as if he is either joining them or out of step. Commonly its three straight-arm clowns in a line or two supporting a third - middle one - who is upside-down.

Juggling Act
J11 - Clown on Wheel (large base)
J12 - Clown on Wheel with Ball on each Hand (large base)
J13 - Clown on Pole with Hoop*
J14 - Clown on Pole with Ball on each Hand*
J15 - Clown on Pole with Ball* (bent hands)
J16 - Clown with Ball (bent hands)
J17 - Clown on Ball with Umbrella (one bent arm, the only such figure)

*Each has a small based clown, the base pierced for receiving the pole, and a large base at the other end for the pole to stand on.

Clean balls can be found (with no signs of a figure having been glued to them), on a large base.

Cropped from larger internet images

Equestrian Act
E21 - Ringmaster with Whip and Hoop (see Variants below)
E22 - White Prancing Horse**
E23 - Black Prancing Horse**
E24 - Clown on White Horse***
E25 - Two Clowns on White Horse (one on top of the other)***
E26 - Two Clowns on Two White Horses (one on top of the other)***

** These horses are rearing on 'ski' bases and have a plume
*** This is a copy of the Bergan Toys (Beton) horse, a heavier moulding than the Airfix or Tudor Rose versions

E21 - Ringmaster, this figure is stated as having a whip and hoop, in fact he usually has a whip or a hoop, the hoop versions often having a standard black-cone hat/head, the whip version usually having a top-hat, made of the same coloured plastics as the balls, drums or poles and glued over a cone-head. Lack of glue marks suggests most of these variants are correct, but some may be down to hats, hoops or whips becoming lost or removed? Both versions tend to have their trousers painted red, occasionally a purplish-maroon colour. Sometimes the whole figure's outfit has a red wash.

Missing numbers are:
7, 8, 9, 10 and 18, 19, 20

Not listed on the main play set's circus-ring card-back and given my own 'act' title:

Musical Act (arms always bent forwards)
Playing Large Floor Drum (large or no base)
Playing Large Floor Drum - Balls on Hands (large or no base)
Playing Side Drum (small or no base)
Playing Side Drum - Balls on Hands (small or no base)
Playing Tom-Tom or Bongo-Drum (small or no base)

Other Variants
Some variations are almost certainly caused by damage (one ball-hand), or repairs (hoop or umbrella on wrong figure), while others are more deliberate looking. I suspect the Ringmaster variations may well be connected to the musicians and missing numbers, maybe as a band-master/band-leader?

Likewise the clowns tumbling would take the missing numbers to zero (if that makes sense?) with floor and side drums being 7-10 and the tom-tom, Ringmaster and tumblers being the other three? This is pure conjecture ion my part and takes no account of the lone balls.

It also takes no account of the fact that most of the drummers in my most recent purchase have '6' written on their bases in pencil. Prior to decimalization, the many-sided (seven, nine?) sixpence was a pretty standard rate of pocket-money (we went down 'up' to 5 'new' p after 1971!), and it looks as if they were sold/'also sold' from a 'shop stock' box, as extras.

Early examples are made of a volatile plastic subject to shrinkage and distortion, especially the poles and the two-part balls, it has a lot of the properties of the phenolic plastics popular in France at the same time, but I think it's an early, unstable styrene plastic. Later versions were standard - perfectly stable - polystyrene.

Everything major except the black horse is in white plastic, but it sometimes verges on grey, partly due to dirt and age, partly due to poor material, there are also translucent washy-white examples.

 Cropped from larger Internet images

Accessories (poles, balls, drums, umbrellas and top hats) come in various colours, with earlier sets having pastel colours, or chalky darker colours, often with bi-coloured balls, while later sets have more primary coloured accessories and some sets have all-yellow as a pallet.

The tom-tom/bongo-drum is a clear piece of ribbed-tube with blue or - more commonly - red-painted rims, and painting is also used to colour the balls on the hands of those clowns who have them. There are at least two versions of the hand-balls; egg-shaped and more-fully round, and they seem to be used as maracas on the drummers, or is it the comedy element of trying to play drums with balloons? The single clown with balls may be supposed to be a juggler (as can all the similarly equipped figures), while two of them facing each-other would make a juggling act?

Cropped from larger Internet images

It is usually assumed that these are Airfix, I have always remained more open-minded and suggested the 'usual suspects' as also in the frame: Kleeware, Tudor Rose et al.

I think I have to accept that the plastic/s used is not really to the specification or style of Kleeware, nor the whole Thomas/Taffy/Tudor Rose 'family', while the lesser makes such as Cheerio or Bell were using or copying US moulds and this is a very British 'thing', which rather lets the usual suspects of the hook!

So back to Airfix . . . their early stuff was a right old mix of polymers, with stable and unstable styrene and various ethylene's used for the animal flats, aircraft and 8-figure set, as well as for the Beton copies, however, the horse supplied with the Beton copies is a different beast from this one; a lighter, cleaner sculpt.

Cropped from larger Internet images

Also: Airfix were terrible pirates in those early days, so they could well have copied the Morestone clown, especially as they have changed the sculpt by carrying the trouser pattern to the top half of the figure.

However, the link with Morestone is a strong one, and they did experiment with plastics for their Hawkeye and Chingachgook figures (in chalky ethylene with a nylon/rayon or different PE musket), among other items, so there's a strong case for them too - having used their own clown.

Who could have fulfilled such a large order to Woolworth's (these figures are not rare; whole, but damaged sets appear on feeBay all the time)? If it had been Airfix you would expect more of their other early production in these plastics and that doesn't seem to be the case, their 'cigarette box' ships being closest. Morestone's die-casts are not that common, but they are not rare, so maybe they could have managed this?

I think the Jury's still out on this one! Which is why I'm not putting them on the Airfix page . . . yet, although the horse is there - as a mount - on the Beton copies entry. Toymart.com credit Charbens as set 9999? having been linked to Toymart in the past, I can't possibly comment!


Did I say they're not rare! Some of many Internet/eBay images (reduced resolution) I've found from the last few years, there's a decent lot of these on sale, somewhere, most weeks.

04-04-2019 - These are now known to have been Fraser & Glass (F&G).

Monday, July 25, 2016

K is for Kingly Kings King'ing-it!

I know we keep returning to this chap but he needs returning to...we'll it's 'chaps' from now on . . . these two came together the other day in a 'new to market' lot (with a Cherilea saloon-barman!), they have clearly been painted at the same time, by the same person, with the same paint. I think all previous mentions of the one being converted from the other (here on the Blog and elsewhere) can - in future - be discounted.

I guess what happened was (clicks-into fantasy, alternate history mode . . .) the sculptor wasn't happy with one attempt, so re-did the sculpt, someone from the factory came to look at them and said "They'll both do" and ergo - they both went into production?

Or it was simply a deliberate act to obtain a Richard II and Prince John (they're brothers - they should look similar)? Or a Richard and a Sherriff; remember the opposite (even: 'opposing') set for the Lone Star knights was the Robin Hood figures? Whatever the reason, I think it's clear now that these two were contiguous production.

Ultimate Explorers were a series of interactive book/craft sets, published as One Inch Warrior magazine was at its height, two of which containing mostly small scale, they were covered at the time, in that organ, although we will return to look at them here one day. Paul at PW Towers may have back issues of the mag.

The Castle set (published by Design Eye) contained about 20 18mm'ish figures in three poses, a nice clip-together catapult and this figure for painting. I believe it is based on an actual statue, but don't believe me, I originally thought it was the Alfred one in Winchester, and it wasn't! Does anyone know if it is a copy of a real statue, and if so: which one, where?

[A quick Google while posting finds a similar statue of Riched II somewhere - Bradford?]

There was a second set called Ancient Egypt also with small figures, it was however - while still an 'Ultimate Explorer' - published by Portico Publishing and so - in case both sets were re-published - I'll add both to the tag list.

There were four, then there were five and then there were six, now there's eight!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

P is for Pencil Punishing Panzer

I got another pencil eraser from WHSmith . . . how cool is this? Too cool for school, no . . . I mean it this time: far too cool to take to school and use to rub-out pencil errors!

Four rubbers and a plastic tube, in a bag, it's a tank . . . and a rubber! Four rubbers and an AFV . . .

. . . it's a bit of a page-filler, that's what it is; but after a week or so of pre-loaded articles, I've not got much ready to go, lots in preparation, but this is just to get through the weekend! I'm gonna' bore you with my appalling Farnborough Air Show photography before the week's out as well . . . although, 'photography' it 'aint.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

M is for Many Modes of Medieval Men

This really is a box-ticker; Timpo's 'solid' knights and men at arms . . .

. . . on the left are original shop-stock and boxed-set painted figures, with the green bases being earlier, the unpainted bases a later simplified or austerity paint job.

On the right are a few of many later unpainted issues, including a home-paint. Timpo sold them as bagged and boxed figures, then Toyway had I go as well I think, there are other colours out there, these are just a sample.

Friday, July 22, 2016

T is for Tresco's 'Triffic, Tube-operated Tepid-Tub Toys, or . . .

. . . S is for Suck-it-up You Suckers and Blow-off!

Brian Berke's name keeps cropping-up at the moment, but that's because he keeps sending me brilliant images and examples to work from. Today's is a case in point . . . he sent three images of his divers, and I wrote back saying I'd dig out what I have here to 'fill-out' the post (knowing I had a submarine), well, turned out one of my Hong Kong divers was different, and I had two slightly different 'subs', in addition I found a couple of old feeBay images in the archive, I wouldn't usually use, but as the story is told by the stuff already in the folder, I've added them for research purposes and completeness.

If you didn't get one of these from your parents - and I'm talking to anyone between the ages of nought and about seventy here, as they are still available - you probably have a case against 'mum and dad' for mental-cruelty, deprivation and abuse of position as parents in order to prevent you obtaining your full human right to an unencumbered childhood!

Brian's two divers; on the left a Hong Kong copy (both British - see comments), and on the right a Tresco original from the 1960's with its box to the left of them both. My memories of these were that you had to really blow to get him to rise, and really suck to get him to dive, the result being that you got itchy ears . . . and the odd mouthful of soapy-water!

Brian's Crescent 'berserker' giving us a sense of scale, they are about 75/80mm depending on the origin. Below is an evilBay image of the box I remember from the 1970's, we definitely had these as 'consolation' prizes at someone else's Birthday party.

Birthday parties were a win-win when I was a kid, you took an Airfix kit - he probably already had and was only going to ruin with too-much tube-glue and gloss bottle green paint - which your parents had paid for and you left with a bath toy, a Marx six-inch Indian, a balloon and a bag of sweets or a giant-lollypop . . . Bargain!

I have a Tresco (on the right) and a Hong Kong figure that has been upgraded from the traditional deep-sea diver, with a modern pressurised helmet and scuba tanks . . . if you have scuba tanks you don't need a line to the surface do you? Clearly that didn't occur to the sculptor!

There was also a Submarine, again originally made by Tresco, and much copied by HK makers, I have definitely seen this recently somewhere, I tried The Works but it wasn't there, I'm sure Google/eBay/Amazon will provide, if you have youngsters of your own and don't want to be sued!

If you got too much water in them, they would eventually split, as the weight was a ferrous lump of cast-iron and flaked to twice its size once the rust had got a hold. The other feeBay image shows the Tresco box. The original has finer-etched details, but is otherwise no different to the clones, as the clones were kept (and priced) with the pocket money novelties, it's easy to see where all our toy companies went . . . to the knackers' yard . . . or should that be Kowloon Knockers' yard!

Everybody had one of these . . . didn't they?

Thanks to Brian for all his help and contributions.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

H is for Hidden Hideaway Harassed by Horrible Harpy

Brain Berke sent me another of his dioramas, this one is not as sombre as the subject matter of his returning 'little ships', and I love it . . .

It's an old volcanic caldera, with sea access, a beach, a railway, a shelter made out of a pirate-ships living quarters and a signalman's hut - for the railway; of course! It has a small jungle, a jerry-built jetty, a set of steps (from an Airfix signal-box?), a float-plane and err . . . a bloody great octo'squid killer-monster on the attack!

Airfix provides the adventurers using the base from its Australian Infantry set, and they are responding to the threat. I think this is charming . . . it needs rolling stock though, perhaps Hornby-Triang's small crane, to lift treasure to safety, or to drop blocks of pumice, or palm-tree trunks on the octo'squid, or just hook it like a giant cat-fish!