Sunday 22 October 2017

Toy Soldier Auction at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Time for a post on proper toy soldiers!  Last week a large collection of toy soldiers went up for sale at the Sheffield Auction Gallery, I didn't get along to it myself but I hear from those who did that the bidding was brisk.  Surprise of the show must be the prices achieved for boxes of Airfix figures: 17 assorted boxes of 1/32 made £220 against Estimate (E) £30/50 while 17 assorted boxes of HO/OO made £320 (E) £60/100, That's about £13 a box for 54mm, which seems reasonable and about £19 a box for 20mm, which doesn't, or am I out of touch?

Anyway here are pics of some of the more interesting lots, or at least the ones that I thought were.  As always, click the picture to enlarge, click again it's even bigger, all photos courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery:

One of the earlier lots typical of those being offered this one went for £35 (E) £30/50, many similar lots were (E) £20/30 and sold in the range of £30/40.  I'm showcasing this particular lot because it has some interesting Continental figures and I noticed several Malleable Mouldings in there. Most of the other mixed lots of this size were less interesting and generally sold above estimate.

This Marx Big Top Circus made in Swansea reached £28 (E) £20/30, the box is tatty but the tinplate tent was there without any figures.  How much would this have sold for in the USA? No doubt someone will tell us, there isn't the same interest in Marx tinplate in the UK and several other lots went for prices that our American colleagues haven't seen in decades.

This shot has a good view of the Marx Movable Indian with all his accessories, issued about 1967, I remember seeing them in the shops and they have remained a firm favourite ever since. Sold £22 (E) £20/30.

The Barzo Davy Crockett Playset, of recent manufacture in the style of the old Marx playsets it is now out of production and eagerly sought after in the USA. Sold £40 (E) £20/40

An original Marx Cape Canaveral playset, I'm not really interested in anything non military but included this because we didn't get these playsets over here in Europe during the 1950s and 60s so a lot of people won't be familiar with them and this is quite a good example. Sold £70 (E) £50/80

A selection of 17 Carmen figures, solid lead, made in the 1930s/50s by W Y Carman (President of the British Model Soldier Society) for adult collectors, these are a bit knocked about but I love 'em.  Sold £180 (E) £30/50.

A good selection of rareish plastics: an original box of Cavendish "British Regiments 1751" made for the tourist trade along with Henry VIII and his numerous wives, an unpainted SEGOM figure from France, Monarch Highlanders, several pieces from the Charbens Francis Drake set, 2 from the Gemodels Humpty Dumpty set and various Cherilea/Crescent oddments. Overall a great lot. Sold £120 (E) £60/80

A complete set of the Benbros hollowcast Robin Hood set, nothing special about it but it's a good pic of a very nice set.  I have them in plastic....what's that you say...but Benbros never made them in plastic! True they didn't but Giles Brown of Dorset Soldiers acquired the original moulds and cast a few sets when he was experimenting with plastics. Sold £110 (E) £25/40 (I did say it was a nice set!)

A nice pic of the box art for the Cherilea Medieval Castle, notice the strange squared off triangle shape of the Keep, I could never figure out why they did that? Also the Cherilea Toys logo, the late version after the company had been taken over by Sharna Ware and the gawky Hong Kong knockoffs of Timpo swoppet knights. The castle was made to go with their 65mm knights so why didn't they use them in the picture? Sold £28 (E) £20/40

There's nothing special about the Kleeware castle, it turns up all the time and was reissued by Timpo at one point but again it's a nice pic of the original box art. Sold £25 (E) £25/40

Britains hollowcast Territorial Army, these five unremarkable figures sold for £440 (E) £20/40 so they must have something going for them!

Two figures of Charles II by Courtney, again they aren't really toy soldiers, having been made for the adult collectors market, but they do have a certain vintage and you don't see them very often so it's nice to be able to showcase such a good shot. Sold £80 (E) £20/40

More Courtney's, this time 2 x Elizabeth I together with Henry VIII and three of those unfortunate spouses, Sir Francis Drake resplendent in white, someone bowing that I can't make out and one other by Vertunni. Sold £160 (E) £80/100

Finally a group of 5 figures based on the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Graham Farish, the sixth figure on the extreme right (which has been misdescribed in the catalogue) is Marie de la Queillerie made by SAE (Swedish African Engineers) and was given given away free with petrol in South Africa

There was lots of other good stuff, not least of which was a Lone Star Dick Turpin which sold for a respectable £75 (E) £20/40 and you can view more of them here Sheffield Auction Gallery I don't know how long they keep these results up for so take a look soon if you're interested.  Having worked in the auction industry I can tell you that on average a general art sale will expect to get a sell through rate of about 50%, specialist sales like this tend to get a much better hit rate, looking through the results I could only find three lots that didn't sell out of 320 in the toy soldier section, that's over 99%.  A stonking good result and food for thought for all those Jonah's out there who delight in telling us that the hobby is dying.


  1. Replies
    1. It just shows how big the field of toy soldier collecting is, there's something new to see every day.

  2. Miscellaneous thoughts.

    Kleeware? That's my brothers old castle which I used to umh borrow, when he wasn't home. Recently gave to his grandson.

    Something particularly irrisistably joyful​ about most old, painted, Robin Hood sets.
    (And Henry VIII)

    If that's what an old OOP Barzso fort is worth, I'm glad I chopped mine up to make it useable for 40mm games on a smallish table.

    1. Nice to see the Kleeware stuff is still going strong "unbreakable plastic" just like they said it would be! I think the Marx and Barzso lots would have gone for a lot more in the US.

  3. The marbling of color in the Kleeware castle is beautiful! Thank you for another excellent post Brian!

  4. Re - the Airfix prices . . . they go up and down, I'm guessing they were 'Blue Box' ends, they tend to hold a £20 value any-day, but it's 'all the money' at 19-odd! Far more interesting is the stuff you've posted, that Cavendish looks lovely! And the Ananbas looks interesting - Britians re-pack, or HK clone?


    1. I had a go at lot 64 - 34 boxes HO/OO that went for £190 - mixture of early boxes but nice themes , robin hood, cowboys and indians , romans, ancient brits and lots of Napoleonics which always sell very well. My max bid off 170 didn't make it ....If I recall the lot that sold for £320 had 2 boxes of High Chaparral , farm stock, 4 boxes zoo , Tarzan etc ..... the price may have been driven by the information they were all on sprues still ....even so I think £320 + Comm was expensive

  5. My Airfix figures all come from the 10p junk tubs so I don't know anything about the boxes! I think the Ananbas figure is just a Britains re-pack.

  6. Hi Brian
    I was a key buyer at this sale and looking forward to the goodies heading my way soon ( yet to be packed and shipped ). Includes the Farish figures , the Courtenays in your blog , Richard I with his crown , the medical lot , both bullfight trays , Mignot, the SAE lots , some of the space figures , blenheim figures ..... I've been in aquisition mode while working on a project but its very rare a sale with so much variety on offer comes up. This article below give some more background on where they came from. I wonder if anyone knows who the collector was . Over 30000 figures.

    1. Hi David, thanks for the link and congratulations on your wins. It certainly was something of a one-off, nice to see the variety rather than endless lots of holowcast Britains. We've all been wondering who the original collector was, we think someone in their late 50's early 60's given the preponderance of plastics but a name has yet to emerge.