Wednesday 22 July 2020

Early Toy Soldier Newsreels

Continuing my romp through the YouTube archives, here are a few more finds that I think are worth more than just one look.  It always surprises me that however much you trawl through YouTube every now and again something new surfaces, which has probably been buried away there for years.

Model Soldier Club 1939
Now this is a bit of archive footage I haven't seen before, it's an early meeting of the British Model Soldier Society.  Among the luminaries I spotted Otto Gottstein (in the opening shot, sitting at the far end of the table smoking a cigarette, next to a chap with a pipe) he was President of the Society at the time and a great patron of the hobby.  Also I think I see a young Deryck Guyler (at about 22 seconds in) who was a keen member of the BMSS before going on to be one of the founding members of the Society of Ancients.  The clip includes a rather nice selection of model knights produced by Richard Courtenay.

Model Soldiers 1953
I have Detlef Heerbrand to thank for finding this clip and posting it on facebook (which I finally got around to joining this month - a sure sign that it's days are numbered).  It features Bill Carman who was Vice Chaiman of the BMSS at the time and was one of the first to manufacture model soldiers for the collector.  His figures are a bit basic by modern standards but I've always been a big fan of them so I was particularly pleased when this surfaced.

Toy Soldiers 1949
Archive footage shot inside the Britains factory showing the hand casting of hollowcast figures, through to cleaning the castings, painting and packing them.

Toy Soldiers 1965
This piece of footage has been doing the rounds for a while but given that it's dated 1965 it's interesting that the commentary points out the hollow cast figures shown are made strictly for adults as collectors items. Britains ceased hollow casting in 1966, the story that this was because of lead paint and child safety fears is an urban myth, the truth is they just weren't selling enough.  The second half of the film shows an injection moulding machine being loaded up with plastic pellets and states that production of plastics was in full swing for the juvenile toy market.

Model Soldier sale 1968
This newsreel covered the very first specialist auction of Toy Soldiers (in fact the first specialist auction of any toys), held by Knight, Frank and Rutley who were founded in 1896 as Valuers, Surveyors and Auctioneers, they are a well known Estate Agents (Realtors).  I didn't recognise any of the faces amongst the crowd here but the toy soldiers needed no introduction.

Friday 10 July 2020

Toy Soldiers of the Great War

An early birthday present to myself (because I'm worth it), "Les Petits Soldats de la Grande Guerre" has been out for while but I've only just come across it, the cover announces that it includes 800 toys of WW1 so I had to have it.

Published in 2013 by Editions Glenat, A4 format, it has 256 pages illustrated in full colour throughout, ISBN 978-2-7234-0700-2.  Written in French only but light on text so not too challenging for anyone with with a smattering of the language and a grounding in the Great War.  The pic below gives an example of the layout and quality of the illustrations.  The cover price is 39 Euro, which I would say offers very good value for a book of this size and quality, I got my copy on ebay France, new and still in the cellophane wrapping for 19 Euro plus 9 Euro P&P from seller "Book77".  Bargain!

There are 12 chapters looking at different aspects of the war, into which the toys are conveniently slotted.  The cover gives little away and I half expected the book to include every type of toy from diecast vehicles to dolls and teddy bears, but fear not, apart from a chapter containing tinplate tanks and ships the rest is all toy soldiers.  

You can expect to see the perennial favourites from Britains, CGB Mignot, and Elastolin  but they don't dominate, it's packed with figures of every genre: paper, flats and semi flats, conjoint tin, wood, hollowcast and solid lead, composition and even a little plastic and modern white metal (but not much).  The more I flick through it the more I enjoy it, I reckon you will too.

Friday 3 July 2020

Britains, Airfix and Old School Wargaming - Pure Nostalgia!

Another lazy post here, these old British Pathe newsreels have been on YouTube for years and I'm sure everybody knows them well but I never tire of watching them, so I've put them up mostly for my own benefit.  

Toy Fair 1958
Nice footage of animated Trade Fair displays for Britains Swoppets and other Herald sets, "unbreakable" plastic toy soldiers were in the ascendancy in the British Toy Market in the late 1950's

Toy Fair 1968
Ten years later they are already old news and, in terms of the juvenile toy trade, heading into a long slow decline.  Interesting to see archive footage shot inside the Airfix factory here though.

Men Will Be Boys 1970.
Some great toys on show here, does anyone recognise the two chaps playing the wargame?  Come on, someone must know them, it was only 50 years ago!

For those who haven't heard, I am currently somewhat incapacitated, without access  to my toy soldiers or books, consequently my activity is reduced to writing posts like this and my ebay bill is going through the roof!