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.

HK Romans

Giant and other Hong Kong Romans

Except...most of them aren't giant at all, they're only 25mm...Bah-boom-Tishhh!

I mean - of course - most of them aren't figures associated with the issues (or packaging) of the Giant Plastics Corporation, of New York, who were actually importers of contract-manufactured toys produced in Hong Kong, what the Americans call jobbers, selling 'jobbed' product. See also: notes on dates and 'corporate entity' status at the end of the article.*

However, they did clearly establish for themselves a good relationship with a maker who's quality control was a bit better than most of the other companies making this stuff, but not always, their astronauts are pretty disappointing. Anyway, we'll start with the Giant-imported product, and move away from them as we go down the page

There are two main base-marks for these figures in the Giant stables, and I think these are the first type (explanation follows lower down...) but; here we see the unmarked riders that accompanied them. There's really nothing to tell these apart from later issues, except that when they come with a good 'clean' sample of first type foot-figures, they go in this bag, when they come-in mixed, or as lone samples, they get matched by eye.

The foot figures; clearly marked with a larger GIANT and a smaller HONG KONG the other side of the little hole in their base - that they are given for chariot duties. I've also shot a couple of chariots that have come-in in the last couple of years (my main collection of these is still in storage!). There is a slight variation in the marks of the Chariots, and they are quite different mouldings (compare the axle-studs), a redesign (showing two generations) or two cavities in a mould-tool? Hard to tell but one probably belongs with the next lot?

The horses, this is the horse I called 'Smoothie' in the original [unfinished] series of articles in One Inch Warrior magazine a decade or so ago. I've seen him described as a Crescent copy, he's not a Crescent copy, as a Crescent copy exists, I called him 'Wavymane' as he has a wave in his mane (like the original Crescent 54mm horse) and he is far more common that this chap, being issued in bags of a hundred by second-tier jobbers (assuming Giant is - for the purposes of small scale HK figures 'first-tier'!) such as Larami.

Again a smaller HONG KONG mark, this time to the left of a larger GIANT, reading from the tail to the head. The horse is really a conglomeration of three horses, the aforementioned Crescent horse, and the near identical charging horses by Timpo and Britains

The above three sets all contain figures as described above, these are early, probably first-tranche sets issued by Giant in the 1960's (these three were bought by James Opie in 1963, exactly one year - to the day - before I was born - 29th March!).

Of note is the set with foot figures, if you click on it to blow it up, you will see about half the green figures, several of the red figures, a yellow figure and the silver figure are actually type one knights from the medieval range! Hey...if you haven't got the figures on-hand and the filled contract has to be on the last 'plane to New York tonight....or the last train to Californ-eye-ay!

Later in the 1960's Giant got a bit silly (considering that they were - by that point - pirating Aurora, Britians/Herald, Crescent [not the horse!], Elastolin, Marx, Matchbox and SAE) and decided to 'protect' their 'designs' with the addition of the 'Giant P'...for 'protected'...geddit! Leading to the interim design (on the left of these shots), where some over-zealous tool engineer has removed both marks, and then replaced them, outside the damage to the tool adding a Giant-P.

Hard to photograph, I've included a couple of shots above and turned the figure (bottom right) with a duplicate of the  shot (bottom left) super-imposing the original markings. This interim figure was - as you can see a mess, and after a batch or two had gone-out to fill orders, the base was cleaned and the full 'second type' base mark was produced with the Giant-P and the original marks properly centred.

These second (and interim) types saw some plastic colour variation and the addition of gold and silver figures, all marked the same way with the Giant-P. There's no real difference in sculpting between these and the earlier ones, with reasonable face detail lacking from most of the later clones, although there are subtle changes to spear length and such-like, but the base marking is the identifier.

Foot figures are taken from Britains-Herald Trojans and two Marx poses, the swordsman standing with 'republican' shield and the standing spear-man.

A small sample of the three riders, these are the Britains-Herald mounted Trojan with standard (the first figure on the far left), a Crescent figure in the middle (pretty much on his original foot-pose legs) and a Marx foot-soldier pose cut-and-shut onto Romanesque legs; from...Timpo?

While one or two foot poses would be dropped by the odd cloner, all three of these mounted figures were issued by everyone who had a stab at this set/range's riders.

The horses, there are some crazy coloured ones associated with these issues (see link to previous article below) and there are plenty of marking variations, but - for now - suffice it to show that the standard Giant-P was applied to the horses as well.

I say "for now", as there is a horse page in preparation, and with Giant probably the first to issue these small-scale Airfix rivals, and then continuing for some time, there are a lot of variations of horse marking, but they can wait for another day!

Above is the bog-standard, typical, second-type, Giant Roman horse, with a Giant-P.

At some point these little sets of six figures appeared; 'Knights of Old', with artwork more redolent of Byzantine officers in their parade-finery, practising sword-play! One of each pose, neatly tied to a card, with an outer bag and header card...colours are Giant, detail is Giant, but...

..that tool-engineer has been at the bases again with his steel-scribing chisel! These look to be the first type marking with the GIANT removed and no sign of the Giant-P, but they have the silver figures of later issues.

I think it's fair to say that Giant's contractor produced this set, probably as a favour to another contract-manufacturer in the colony, or for a bit of work 'on the side' (unknown to their New York paymasters?) after the GIANT had been removed and before the mess was produced we saw on the left-hand yellow figure in the image above, so this bit of the page could be slotted-in up there, but makes more sense sitting here!

Depending on the number of figure-cavities in the mould-tool and the conditions on the day re. stoppages, it would only require running the mould for a few hours to produce vast quantities of these, which could then be shifted as a lump, or filtered out over time?

This is - to all intents and purposes - not Giant, but the horses are either ex-Giant or supplied by Giant after a half-hearted attempt to hide the horse mark...but it is (or was) a Cowboy & Indian horse, not a Roman horse, being just a larger Giant along the top of the body cavity, the figure is similar to Baravelli's and probably from the same non-Giant source, while the chariot has no mark at all and is a non-articulated two-horse version.

While these are fully articulated with the bucket of the chariot a separate moulding from the plug-in horse furniture/harness and draw-bars. These also have a horse I call 'Mexican' which used to be described as being based on an old Rel sculpt but it's not the same as their (Rel's) horse and seems to be a more HK thing, appearing in larger scale from there as well.

Markings with this set; The figures are post-giant or 'second generation' copies, thinner and less detailed than the Giant medievals they are cloned from, the chariot likewise has no 'GIANT' mark, the horses - however - have been supplied by the same manufacturer supplying Giant in New York, again this is a common mark from the Giant Wild West range with the GIANT upside-down over the HONG KONG which has the leg locating hole in the hoses flank sitting between the two words.

These fonts are not an absolute match but are as good as I could get and the differences between them are representative of the differences on the samples. The three markings suggest that the originator of the cards was a finisher, using product from various sources.

This chap closes the Giant section of the page, I guess he is one of the cavities in the horse mould, but for some reason he got through quality-control with his G the wrong way up...he's the only one I've found, so he must have been corrected at some point!

Also featuring genuine Giant stuff, before we move-on (some of it from the stuff now in storage) are these older posts from the home Blog

Brief Overview
Lazy Post

Previously looked at and here only for completeness-sake (correct figures still to be identified) is the horse and chariot combo I call 'Big Ears'.

These guys are interesting, they weren't borrowing product from Giant, they weren't working with Giant, they weren't getting favours from Giant, they were - in fact - doing everything they could to pretend to be Giant, with a slightly lesser quality product.

Their packaging is trying particularly hard to be giant with the double-skin laminate holding the blister in place and the figures/chariots displayed in the same fashion as Giant's own New York assembled sets. I have seen several of these sets over the years, in addition to the two I've ended-up with, so they were presumably quite common once?

Their quality control is not up to Giant's, so the range of colour shades is wider than Giant's, but the colour palette is as tight...for the mounted figures at least!

The horse is one I call 'Dog Face', being one of many cruder copies of the Giant smoothie. The head and mane is not a patch on the original, having probably had detail (lost in the copying process) carved into the mould directly. The result is a slightly squashed Staffordshire Bull Terrier look, hence dog-face!

While the mounted figures seem to stick to the three colours, the foot figures turn-up in a wider range of colours and many shades, and remain some of my favourites of these types, some having a lovely boiled-sweet appearance this shot doesn't get across well. Ignore the yellow foot-figure bottom left in the right-hand image.

Close-up of the horses, as I mentioned higher-up the page; I will be doing a horse page to get these properly sorted in the minds-eye. Marking is a simple HONG KONG reading tail-to-head on a flat table at the top of the body cavity.

I took lots of shots of these so here are a few more! While the reds, yellows, oranges and pinks are rich, sometimes translucent colours, the grey and blue figures here are a flat pastel, from a different production batch.

The Yellow one bottom right is an infiltrator and belongs elsewhere, although he makes for a useful comparison, being one of the interim type 1/2 Giant originals with the mess on the base, you can see he's larger and better detailed.

The base mark on these is a very small, neat, but faint HONG KONG which if you're of a certain age may require reading glasses to identify...let-alone read!

The chariots, through their windows, this is a direct copy of the Giant one and like the original is non-articulated.

Previously looked at here, I seem to have re-used some of the images...sorry, but now we're over 1,200 posts and pages that will happen from time to time, I loaded these from a friends server, while off-line myself and didn't have time to check the Home Blog!

Interesting to see the effect of the oil crisis on pricing in the early 1970's, the 12p bag (then about 25 cents US?) contains over fifty figure/horse pairs, the 18p bag (35¢?) has no more than twenty-five, that's about 120-something% inflation, in what was probably only a few months or a year or two at most?

These chaps are mounted on the horse I call Rim Saddle, again; the naming based on what you see, deep carving around the edge of the saddle to define it after detail has been lost in the sub-piracy process.

These are rim-saddle type four, which is identical to type three apart from the fact that type three always comes with Cowboys and Indians (when they are all marked), while type four comes with Romans and about half a typical sample have no marking on the horses at all. With both types you will find the occasional double-printed mark, but that will all be looked at in depth on the forthcoming horse page.

Figures are very poor in detail and mounted only, this manufacturer - in both competing with the bigger boys and fighting to keep costs down in the face of rising prices for raw-material - seems to have found that the best way to purge the injector-head between colours was to wash it through with the new colour, leading to some nice marbled figures!

Marbled figures aside they have a wider palette that the previous samples with a shiny, glossy look and feel and the horses are all reasonable colours. No foot figures have been tied to these mounted examples yet, but there are plenty that await more attribution, so there may be a connection established at some point.

Some extra shots.

Mentioning mounted figures without foot compatriots, we might as well slip these in here, foot figures for which there don't seem to be mounted forces, although - again - there might be at some point in the future, these are crude copies of copies and seem to be pretending to be the Lucky Clover figures...

...not shown here (because they are among the main collection in storage). The earlier (?) better versions of these gold figures, which have the HONG KONG mark arranged in a circular fashion, around the chariot-hole, but we did look at them in the early days of the blog . . . Lucky Clover.

Indeed, the figures above are so crude compared to the figures in the link, they will be rivals by a lesser maker, seeking a slice of the jobber market, by pretending to be the better product and can be taken to be contemporaneous with the Lucky Clover sets, but not of them!

If the Lucky Clover are the better of the all-gold figures, and the above the worst, there is an interim type, seen here. We have looked at them before on the blog, with the Giant figures Here, and in a show report. Mine are all in storage now, but I picked this up the other day from a nice chap called Ash, who seemed very pleased I'd bought his lot, and had nice things to say about the Blog!

These are probably copies of the Lucky Clover output, or from the tired mould-tool, post LC. They are smooth and blobby, with unmarked thinner bases. Memory suggests they only managed 5 poses, but I can't remember which of the poses is missing and this example contains all archers and javelin-men!

These can be found with Woolbro over-stamps on the header-card (there's one at the other end of the above link), and the header bears strong similarities with one of the Fort Cheyenne sets we'll look at on the Cowboy/Horse page, which also comes in either a generic or a Woolbro branded version. Typically you get six figures with each fort, but this example has only five.

Incidentally one of my favourite header-cards the apple-green and purples trying (probably in the early 1970's) to hark back to the 'groovy' graphics of the late-sixties' psychedelic pop-culture. The Woolbro Mobile Task Force with copies of Crescent and Britains combat infantry had similar graphics.

Is it possible to get any shinier or glossier than the previous mounted example? Apparently, yes, it is, as this lot show. The card and packing is very similar to the Knights of Old above, but the quality is so far removed I think that's just coincidence, there were a lot of these little bags of a few figures, slotted or tied into cards a few inches square (there are a few on the Airfix Blog - Arabs and Sheriff of Nottingham spring to mind) around at the time.

The horse is named 'Remold' by me and is type 1 of several we'll look at elsewhere. Bearing elements of both the Giant smoothie and the commoner wavymane, it's been heavily re-cut and mucked about with in the cloning process and is probably a third or later generation copy. After wavymanes, remoulds are probably the second-most common HK horses you'll find.

A mix of Cowboys, Indians and Romans together in this Interesting Toy packaging from the mid 1970's, coupled with a blister of Airfix copy guards musicians, mark is a very faint MADE IN HONG KONG, chariot holes are half filled-in and match the one or two base-depressions of the Western figures which are second-generation copies of figures issued under WH Cornelius' 'Success' label.

I think of Interesting Toy as a separate marque as they keep turning-up on evilBay with different contents and different artwork but the same moniker, who the actual maker was (or the main jobber) remains a mystery!

Sorting for this page, some of 'King Authurs' men rub shoulders with minor samples, most of which I haven't posted here yet. This is because they are such small samples they can't be taken as meaning or telling anything significant...yet.

Mostly it's a case of waiting for a larger ('clean') sample to establish 'rules' such as whether certain foot figures go with certain mounted figures, or which horses go with which riders, or to obtain a bagged or carded set which presents the rule/s on a plate!

Some of these did join the correct bag in the master box and will be recognisable from the article above, others didn't and we will come back to this page when I get the main collection out of storage.

Foot figures particularly; are under represented here, as I have about 10 sub-types in storage to be looked at, along with the glossy Baravelli sets, and even in the box I have here there are three exapmples I haven't added to this page. And the chariots are squadroned in store, so we'll definitely come back to them here eventually.

One of the figures I've got on hand but not shown is a larger size of figure of the mounted Roman with large square shield, he came with two similar horses in an otherwise non-HK mixed lot. He's probably from a Christmas cracker, but such a small sample can't be taken as read for anything.

Best figure in the box and he's on a Crescent derived, poor quality, late issue Wavymane, which doesn't belong to him - a mixed childhood toy-box cross-fertilisation. But what effort has gone into his decoration, someone had to use tin-snips to shorten the arms of a paper-stud until they could be bent back inside the horses curved breast-bone. A hole then had to be made in the plastic to take the two sharp ends, after they'd been fed through the ribbon which was then knotted under the tail. No Glue, No paint...there were pliers and sharp blades involved here!

And for what purpose? Was he the General-Commanding in-charge of some unpainted war-games army of old Hong Kong Trojans, facing-up to Airfix Ancient Britons perhaps? Or a rainy-day time-waster on holiday in a grey-sky'ed Welsh sea-side caravan park? He remains in his own bag - who am I to undo the effort that went into him, just to put him and his (now damaged) horse in the correct bags!

Not covered here yet, but seen on the main blog are one of the later sets of foot figures with the chariot hole filled-in, there are half-a-dozen of these, and they will be added in a block when I get them out of storage.

Baravelli Italy; Baravelli Like Giant; Baravelli Plastic Romans; Baravelli Romans; Baravelli Toy Soldiers; Britains Trojans; Giant Like; Hong Kong Romans; Horse Mexican Large; Italian Toys; Made in Hong Kong; Marx Romans; Mexican Large Horse; Plastic Roman Soldiers; Plastic Toy Figures; Plastic Toy Soldiers; Roman Cavalry; Romani a Cavallo; Romani A Piedo; Romans On Foot; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com;

A good source for 2nd (or even 3rd?) generation copies of the Giant Romans was Baravelli who took a swipe at the Airfix/Atlantic 'HO' market while remaining a slightly-posh Italian peddler of the Spanish Sobre quality toys, which they sourced in Hong Kong.

These are the later 'generic' boxes where the contents are indicated by stickers in the relevant from of the twelve spread over both sides of the box. I've yet to track down a chariot set, but I will, it's a case of waiting for a sensibly-priced one, as like Giant, they tend to high start prices, but unlike Giant aren't that rare; there's always a few on feebleBay.

Baravelli Italy; Baravelli Like Giant; Baravelli Plastic Romans; Baravelli Romans; Baravelli Toy Soldiers; Britains Trojans; Giant Like; Hong Kong Romans; Horse Mexican Large; Italian Toys; Made in Hong Kong; Marx Romans; Mexican Large Horse; Plastic Roman Soldiers; Plastic Toy Figures; Plastic Toy Soldiers; Roman Cavalry; Romani a Cavallo; Romani A Piedo; Romans On Foot; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com;

The contents of my two, the Infantry commensurate with the contemporary Airfix boxes, the cavalry slightly higher than the 12's Airifx were issuing, but of poorer quality and lacking the separate bases, or alternate horse poses.

One feels there ought to be five of each rider, but I think it's just coincidence that the 'split' was that close and that they are probably picked randomly form a large bin or skillage? Certainly; there's not obvious attempt at an equal split with the horses, or with the foot figures.

Baravelli Italy; Baravelli Like Giant; Baravelli Plastic Romans; Baravelli Romans; Baravelli Toy Soldiers; Britains Trojans; Giant Like; Hong Kong Romans; Horse Mexican Large; Italian Toys; Made in Hong Kong; Marx Romans; Mexican Large Horse; Plastic Roman Soldiers; Plastic Toy Figures; Plastic Toy Soldiers; Roman Cavalry; Romani a Cavallo; Romani A Piedo; Romans On Foot; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com;

Markings; all pretty self-explanatory, so I can tell a quick anecdote!

Years ago a chap at school assured us there were red Romans that weren't Airfix, which he had got on holiday (probably in Italy, but I can't remember if he stated such), most of the lads wouldn't believe him, but I did a deal/swoppsies and the next day he brought a half-dozen or so in to school, and they were these, I still have them somewhere and that must have been '74/75'ish?

I have another lot which I think are Baravelli, but they are a lilac/mauve-colour, and are still lost in the garage, so I can't test the base-markings. Note also that with these some of the base's chariot holes are filled-in and it's not clear if it's a deliberate move on some cavities, or sticking pins not extending fully in the tool?

Baravelli Italy; Baravelli Like Giant; Baravelli Plastic Romans; Baravelli Romans; Baravelli Toy Soldiers; Britains Trojans; Giant Like; Hong Kong Romans; Horse Mexican Large; Italian Toys; Made in Hong Kong; Marx Romans; Mexican Large Horse; Plastic Roman Soldiers; Plastic Toy Figures; Plastic Toy Soldiers; Roman Cavalry; Romani a Cavallo; Romani A Piedo; Romans On Foot; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com;

Horse is a 'Mexican', but distinctly different from that handled by Giant or the Rosenberg's, with a new main and tooling on the saddle, the bedding roll and tail have also been re-cut, while to the right, is what was turning-up in mixed bags of this type of thing by the 1980's!

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Above three images are of the British breakfast cereal premiums/giveaways issued by Quaker Oats in their 'Sugar Puffs' cereal, claimed as Roman Gladiators, several of the foot figures are useful as more regular troops in various ancient armies, while two of the cavalry make reasonable auxiliary cavalry, despite the over-sized 'inafntry' shield of one.

Generic Hong Kong copies of Airfix Romans, these are similar too but worse than the Spanish 'Sobre' copies from Montaplex and are notable only for copying the shield studs but not the shields and the chariot body, crew and center-pole/drawbar but not the wheels or horses! And being accompanied by an overscale American Civil War artillery piece! Colours found are sades of red, yellow-orange and pink.

Two shots above - 30mm Hong Kong copies of Elastolin 40 or 70mm sculpts.
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The two cut-n-shut mounted poses were taken from Marx (left) and Crescent (middle), while the other two foot figures were Marx, the rest were taken from Britains Herald Trojans, and I will get them up here at some point.

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* There is some debate about the history of Giant, and I'm not sure all of the information in the public domain is as accurate as it appears, indeed sometimes it contradicts itself. I will do a full entry in the A-Z now it's up and running, but for the time being I think it's fair to assume that prior to the setting up of Arco in 1970 (and the 1971 PMC debacle), they were only jobbers, although it's clear they had a management office in Hong Kong to oversee the contract-manufacturer/s (as other US companies did), I don't think they can be stated to be makers in their own right.

What I would say is that the version written by Arlin Tawser, first for the now defunct Plastic Figure & Playset Collector (PFPF), and then republished by HäT years ago remains the most accurate account, with none of the urban myths upheld, no extraneous additions, caveats aplenty and lots of empirical research through packaging and sets.

As there seems to have been little or nothing of the Giant '25mm' line left in circulation - as up-to-date or 'current' retail units - by 1970, it's fair to say they (Giant) weren't the manufactures, and a factory or factories 'unknown' were the originator/maker/s of these sets... either in the West of the island with the main toy-production hub, or on the Eastern end with the Chiu Chow refugee community's toy makers?

Where the Rosenberg's seem to have stolen a march on the other jobbers was in the packing, they had the product shipped over in bulk and did all the packing in their New York finishing unit. The money they saved - on shipping header-bagged or blister-carded air - could then be spend on US-level wages, and the superior packaging.


Cybex said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing

Hugh Walter said...

Thanks for visiting Cybex and I'm glad you enjoyed the read, it so long ago since I posted it I've just had a read myself and there's a shocking number of typo's - most of the 'forms' should be read 'from' for starters!


Anonymous said...

Thanks very detailed and informative I have a plan to mix these with Atlantic figures to make a Roman and a Greek army.
All the best from down under
Lewis Sydney 🇦🇺

Hugh Walter said...

Glad you enjoyed it Lewis, I was flicking through a book on the Etruscans about an hour ago, and these would make excellent Etruscans as well as Greeks or Trojans! Hopefully it will all be repeated on the But Is It Giant/Giant or What blog in the fullness of time!