Sunday 29 April 2012

Plastic Warrior Show - 5th May 2012.

The 27th Annual Plastic Warrior show will be held on 5th May 2012 at:

The Queen Charlotte Hall, Richmond Adult and Community College, Parkshot, Richmond, TW9 2RE (the usual venue)
Doors open 11.00

The Plastic Warrior anniversary souvenir figures.

Can we really have been doing this for 27 years?  I have attended every one and remember the first one like it was only yesterday, it was so bad that there very nearly wasn't a second one.  The Show was the brainchild of Peter Evans who booked the hall, arranged tables, did the advertising and roped in the dealers, his Mum made sandwiches and tea for the refreshment stall. 

There were only four dealers but they were big names on the London collectors scene at the time: Seamus Wade, Peter Flataus, Bill Kingsman and Roy Lemon, they all normally dealt in old lead but acquired some plastics when they bought up collections, it was good of them to take the time out to support us.  They sold the plastics very cheap and by the end Seamus was begging people to take them for nothing so he didn't have to carry anything home.

Several of us put on displays of our collections, a big feature of the early PW shows were wargames and "the fight".  Ross Perry (whose Dad had written two books on 54mm wargaming) put on a massive medieval castle siege game, it looked magnificent but took so long to set up there was no time to play it.  "The fight" was a reenactment, usually some sort of duel or personal combat. in this first one Peter and a chap called Bob Chitson dressed up in chainmail and helmets then went at each other with broadswords.  Their ferocity was actually quite frightening to watch, when Peter bludgeoned Bob around the head we all just stared on in a terrified mesmeric awe.......... an ambulance was called and Bob was taken to hospital with concussion.

My contribution was to man the door and take the entry fees, not too onerous a task as only four people turned up, I had taken my new rather enthusiastic young girlfriend along with me for the day, she dumped me shortly after this.  One of the exhibitors had brought along models which had featured in Don Featherstone's book "Skirmish Wargames" there was an amazing two storey western saloon, a pirate ship and a Peninsular War Spanish town, at the end of the show he didn't want to take them home, Ross took the first two but couldn't squeeze the town into his car and convinced me to take it rather than see it go on a skip. 

When the curtain came down we divied up Peter's Mum's unsold sandwiches and headed out into the dank North London dusk only to find that half the cars had been vandalised.

It had not been a success, we all agreed that, but Peter assured us this always happened with a first show and next year would be better and, of course, he was right.  With a highly sceptical team in tow Peter went ahead and arranged the second show, he managed to get some prime time coverage on Danny Baker's TV show and PW has never looked back.

The Figures

By the tenth show we had already imported remoulds of Marx figures from Mexico and Dulcop's from Italy so had some feel for the collectors retail market.  Peter Cole had been making figures in resin for some time but the process was slow and the materials made them too costly, he thought he had found a way to make short runs of plastic figures that would be reasonably affordable and we agreed to back him.  As an experiment we commisioned him to make a figure to celbrate the 10th PW show.  Herald had made a set of four infantrymen standing at attenetion, a highlander in glengary, sikh, guardsman and modern infantry in beret, we felt there should also have been a boer war infantryman in khaki and putees so that's what we went for.  The experiment worked, in fact it was a great success and from the techniques learned the firm of Replicants was born, we were so excited about it none of us noticed that we'd made the figure with his rifle in the wrong hand.

By the time the 20th show came around Peter Cole's firm Replicants was firmly established and didn't need us to sponsor a figure but he made one anyway, a war correspondent from the American Civil War, quite fitting really.  Last year Ron Barzo came over from the US and brought with him a supply of his own souvenier figure, a lady pirate brandishing a cutlass and quite fetching she looks too!  Will there be more such figures to follow?  Who knows, my next post will be after the show so we'll see what turns up.

Friday 27 April 2012

Latest Plastic Warrior and Figuren Magazines out now

The postman recently brought me the latest issues of Plastic Warrior and figuren magazines.

Plastic Warror issue number 147 has articles on: Marx Guardsmen, Cherilea Diddy Men, Expeditionary Force - a new manufacturer of 40mm dark ages plastic figures for wargaming, Cherilea Commandos, Canadian Timpo boxes, Elastolin copies, Herald ballet dancers, Readers letters and adverts, New product review, Horses and horsepower, Test shots, Stad's Stuff and poplar Plastics update.

There's a lot in there and it's all in colour now, also you can now subscribe thrugh Paypal.  The Plastic Warrior show will be on 5th May, more details in my next post.

Figuren Magazin issue number 1/2012 has articles on: Military inflatable boats, Elastolin tinplate machine gun, Marklin artilery and limber, Kampfpanzerwagen V111 Maus, Lisanto - King Michael of Rumania, Franz Seitz and Helmut Ruckert - sculptors for Froha and Leyla, Roskopf Historic Miniature Models, Exploding tinplate panzerauto (armoured car), Zinc cast vehicles, Searching for early native American toys, Emil Pfeiffer's succesor: Tipple Topple, Unknown papiermache zoo animals, True and false Lineol rabbits, Medieval dioramas with Elastolin figures, Review of DSG Romans and Vikings, Barzo pirate figure, Book reviews: Durso book 1 and 2, Marklin Military Toys 1895 - 1939.

The text is in German but nothing that Google translate can't handle and it's worth subscribing just for the pictures.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Converting Monarch Conquistadors

Back around about 1960 toy manufacturer Cherilea acquired parts of it's competitor Hilco (Johillco) which was more or less imploding.  Among these assets were a small range of toy soldiers being marketed under the brand name Monarch, there were some modern marching Highland bandsmen, a set of three "Rob Roy" type Highland clansmen and this set of six Conquistadors which were designed by sculptor George Erik, a prolific talent probably best known for his work at the Spanish firm of REAMSA (Resinas Artificiales Moldeadas S.A. )

The pikeman (back left) in cream plastic is an earlier figure which carries the distinctive Hilco lozenge shaped indentation under the base, in this case it simply says ENGLAND, probably because it was made after the moulds were acquired by Cherilea.  I don't know if Hilco ever produced these figures and I don't think I have ever seen one actually marked Hilco.  The remaining five in black plastic are the more common Cherilea products sold in vast quantities through Woolworth's stores, they all have the simple blank circular indentation under the base common to Cherilea figures.

Above: the distinctive Hilco style indentation under the base.

In the summer of 1990 the brass moulds for all the Cherilea figures were owned by Triang and were due to be sold for scrap.  Giles Brown of Dorset Toy Soldiers got wind of this and in company with toy soldier enthusiast and author Andrew Rose set off with a truck for the Triang factory at Droylsden near Manchester to rescue as many as possible.  They loaded up as many bolsters as the truck's suspension could take, including the one for these Conquistadors and took them safely back to Dorset (a bolster is the steel plate that the individual brass moulds are mounted on for fitting to a plastic injection moulding machine, each bolster would typically hold six individual moulds and weigh as much as a large truck battery).  Giles phoned me to say he'd had to leave a lot of the moulds behind if I wanted to try and save them from the scrap merchants, I had just been made redundant so with time on my hands and money in my pocket I set off for the North, but that's another story for another day.

The three poses above were all made from the same standing swordsman with just a change of head or arms.

Back in Dorset Giles discovered that the bolsters would need a lot of work and investment before they could be brought back into production, fortunately he found a "white knight" in the form of Jamie Delson of The Toy Soldier Company who ordered sufficient of each range to justify the cost of the renovation work.  So that is how these fine toy soldiers came to be available to us once more as remoulds, and the great thing about remoulds is that you can convert them to your hearts content without feeling any guilt that you are destroying something old and original. 

More simple conversions, the bases have been extended with Miliput to make them more stable, a laborious process which is not recommended. 

Which brings me to the point of this post, I collect toy soldiers to play wargames with and for this purpose it's fine to have lots all in the same position but sometimes you want a little bit of variety and that's where converting comes in.  The examples in the two pics above are my own humble efforts and in each case are little more than an adjustment of head and arms.  The two pics below show the work of others more skillful than myself, some were made by the late George Weygand (who founded Maros Models) and others by Mike Ellis (who produced a range of figures under the Marksman Models name).

Sadly I can no longer remember who made what but I picked these up many years ago at a Plastic Warrior show and they have been languishing in a drawer until now awaiting completion.  You can never have too many pikemen for this period and it's amazing how much variety you can create when you start cutting figures at the waist and swapping the bits about as has happened here, note the use of a sash to hide the joins.  When it comes to conversions I have never had any qualms about copying other peoples ideas and am always flattered when others improve on my own.

My only contribution to the process has been to mount them on Tu'penny bits for stability, the original slim bases being annoyingly unfit for purpose.  Now gentle reader before you reach for the comment button to tell me that defacing the coin of the realm is a criminal offence let me assure that it is not, or at least not any more.  Some years ago I wrote to H.M. Treasury seeking clarification of this very point but in the time honoured practise of the Civil Service and perhaps a spirit of Non Culpa they chose to simply ignore me.  Undaunted I researched further (you can see this matter was causing me some vexation) and discovered that new legislation was passed in 1982 overturning the old rules and I am much relieved to know that I am not committing a felony.

Monday 16 April 2012

A Guardsman is a a Guardsman

If you happen to be British then perhaps the most iconic toy soldier is the guardsman, standing to attention in his red tunic and busby.  Everyone who has ever owned a toy soldier will at some time probably have had one but what do you do with them?  The only time the British army ever fought in a uniform vaguely resembling this was during the Crimean War, which the toy soldier industry has chosen to totally ignore! 

The other sin of the industry, looking back from the lofty pinnacle of political correctness, is one of ethnicity.  There are five Regiments of Guards: Grenadier, Coldstream. Scots, Irish and Welsh but the toymakers will invariably only offer you the Grenadiers or Scots.  Does it matter?  Not really (unless you happen to be of Irish extractions, as I am, or perhaps Welsh).  And the point of this post is do you tell them apart anyway?   On this occasion Her Majesty, no less, comes to our assistance with a poster outside Buckingham Palace explaining the uniform variations - it's all about plumes and buttons (note also the buttons on the cuffs).  The photographer captured in the reflection is non other than your humble reporter before being hauled off to the Tower.

Saturday 14 April 2012

The Three Musketeers

My final post from the London Show, three French plastic musketeers, the first made by JIM (Jouets Incassables en Matiere Plastique) the second and third are unknown - hopefully someone from the French forum soldat plastique 1/32 will be able to shed some light.  What I found interesting was that No.2 is the same figure as No. 3  but has his hat moulded as part of the original figure whereas the other has had it moulded separately and glued on afterwards, also their bases are very different.

All three have lost their swords, which is a common enough problem with French figures which were mostly made in hard plastics or acetate rather than the more supple poly plastics used in the UK and USA.  The JIM figure originally had a sword moulded in plastic but the other two originally had a piece of metal wire to represent a sword.  I will probably repair all three with a length of wire and I'm tempted to repaint them but I quite like their "shabby chic" look and besides my painting pie is large enough already without adding to it.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Funny Little Wars armies but who made them?

Okay they aren't made specifically for playing Little Wars........but they should be!  I was told they were made by Hiriart who are a current manufacturer of white metal figures in the old toy soldier style, based in Uruguay,  I don't know very much about this firm but they have been manufacturing since 1972 which must make them one of the oldest makers of modern collectors figures and  I'm not aware of Uruguay having much of a toy soldier tradition but I could be very wrong there.  These are are not Hiriart but are sculpted very much in the style of old Britains hollow casts, are exceedingly well painted and tick all the boxes for me so I must make more enquires at the next London Show at the end of June.

Japanese artillery crew

Japanese infantry, I think the officer with the standard is rather nice.

Turkish infantry standing at the ready, very much in the Wm Britains style.

In the foreground an Austrian artillery limber, behind them a Turkish one.

I have now more or less completed my Turkish wargames army, made entirely from conversions (as seen in the post on the Battle of Astrakhan), and I'm about half way through doing the Japanese, I'm very tempted to add some of these to the establishment but in the meantime they provide plenty of inspiration.  Austrians are on the "to do" list!

Monday 9 April 2012

King & Country Charge of the Australian Light Horse.

King & Country are a current manufacturer of white metal model soldiers, I'm not sure if they would prefer me to describe them as toy soldiers but they're not in the toy style so I won't.  Since last December K&C no longer sponsor the London Show but they still have a large presence at it, taking up the best part of one hall where they display their wares in mini dioramas like the one below

I don't really go in for K&C figures personally as they are a tad too large and too expensive for me but they do enjoy a large folowing among todays collectors and produce some unusual ranges so I feel they should regularly get a mention in any show report.  Also I find they often give me inspiration for some of my own conversions.

Sunday 8 April 2012

New book on Greek Plastic Toy Soldiers from the 50's and 60's

Another book about toy soldiers is always welcome in my house, this one written by collector Markos Plytos covers the stories and products of the two main Greek toy soldier manufacturers, PAL and their better known rival Athena (AOHNA) who eventually took them (PAL) over.  ISBN 978-960-7661-91-3.  It has 235 pages, illustrated throughout in full colour, the author has done a lot of original research and shows that these two companies did a lot more than just the Hoplites and Evzones for which they are best known.

Saturday 7 April 2012

40mm semi-flats by Holger Eriksson for Authenticast - confirmed

Hidden in the bottom of the junk box I bought at the London Show last weekend were more of the 40mm semi-flat Authenticast figures that I recently blogged about, and here they are:
There are three of each pose shown above but sadly no box, I'm not usually bothered about boxes and frankly the whole concept of something being better or more valuable because it's mint and boxed just grinds my gears but in this case the absence of a box leaves me with more questions than answers.  With the previous sets of 7YW infantry and Arabs all the places in the boxes are filled so I know that they are the full set complete with individual portrait figures of standard bearers etc.  In the case of these new figures I'm left wondering if they are both from the same set or separate sets of WW2 British infantry and Sikhs, also were there any other poses?  However what I do know this time is that they were definitely sculpted by Holger Eriksson, apart from the unmistakable poses and chiseled finish they are marked HE under the base.  Semi flat figures are not every bodies cup of tea (not mine either really) but discovering these unexpectedly in a box of junk gave me a moment of pure serendipity.

Friday 6 April 2012

Homecast Toy Soldiers at the London Show March 2012

An assortment of 56mm Prussian infantry castings

Various old homecasting moulds

This two part mould for a Prussian Hussar on prancing horse is marked JDEAL, a German company actually called IDEAL, which made copies of Gebr. Schneider moulds.

New to the London Show was a chap called Mark Shilam who had a table full of old homecasting moulds and various castings for sale.  Mostly they were old Schneider Brothers hand clamp moulds but there were also quite a few rubber Prince August moulds for 54mm figures.  What interested me was that Mark told me his father used to make toy soldiers from the moulds and sell them commercially, I had heard that people used to do this but this was the first time I'd met someone who actually diid it.  Usually in the run up to Christmas his father would go into the garden shed for days at a time pouring the moulds and cleaning the castings, Mark was then a schoolboy and would spend all of his spare time in the evenings and weekends painting them, they would sell them in markets and anywhere else that people would take them.  Mark was selling everything up on behalf of his father who is now too old and unwell to continue the business.

On another stall I found a junk box with a variety of homecast figures going cheap:

Two Turks but I don't know what the paint scheme is meant to represent, I think they will be taking a bath in paint stripper farily soon.

A French? bugler and British infantryman

Finally an Uhlan and a Cossack.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Fontanini figures seen at the London Toy Soldier show March 2012

I spotted these figures made in Italy by Fontanini on one of the tables at the London Show and couldn't resist taking a few pics. The foot figures turn up quite often but you rarely ever see the mounted ones, they are a bit on the smallish side being about 50mm but I particularly like the rather animated poses.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

London Toy Soldier Show March 2012 - Skirmish Wargames Group

The Skirmish Wargames Group continue with their run of 54mm wargames at the London Toy Soldier Show, this time with a scenario set on the Nile in Ancient Egypt (these games are always based on an historical battle and I forgot to take a note of which one this was, for which I am most remiss).  I've said it before (many times) and no doubt I'll keep repeating that these games are one of the highlights of the Show for me, the figures and landscapes they display are always imaginative and built to the highest quality.

The figures were supplied by Ted Herbert who found the Nile boat above in a junk shop in Cairo, you dn't get more authentic than that!

The figures include various makes such as Atlantic, Cherilea and Del Prado, by painting and mounting them in the same style they fit togehter well despite being slightly differing sizes.

The chariots are Del Prado, you have to buy six partworks to get all the bits to make just one chariot. 

The Group were celebrating the 100th edition of their newsletter "Reports from the skirmish line".  Well done you chaps!

Sunday 1 April 2012

Seen at the London Toy Soldier Show March 2012

Yesterday I went to the London Toy Soldier Show, it didn't seem as busy as in previous years but then the first show of the year is often like that, many of the dealers were commenting that sales had been weak in recent months both at shows and mail order, and I guess this reflects the depressed state of the world economy (toy soldiers being a very international trade).  The show itself has had something of a chequered history, it started out as the Norman Joplin show then was taken over by Vectis Auctions who passed it on to King & Country and now it is being organised by Guideline Publications who publish Toy Soldier Collector magazine.

Above: three views of the Britains Nile Gunboat from the Sudan Campaign, a nice model but I have to admit I would prefer if it looked a bit more homemade and toy like than a professionaly made product but then of course it wouldn't have fitted with the rest of their range.

In recent years I seem to be buying less and less figures at shows but they are always good to go to because you never know what is going to turn up and it's always good to meet old friends and put faces to new people that you've come into contact with, among them this time around were Hugh Walter of the Small Scale World blog and Tim Gow of the Megablitz and More blog.

Above: two more views of Nile Steamers from the Sudan Campaign, this time from the British Toy Soldier Co. I think they work quite well.