Blog Numero 1 “It’s a rare variant” – Collecting Plastic Toy Soldiers and Figures


This is my first post on my new figure collecting blog.  Collectable Figures

Monty & Rommel Variants

To be honest this blog will deal with a core subject that’s pretty dull for a lot of people and back in the day when I collected rare and cool Japanese robots, toy soldiers and other figures would not have been high on my own agenda. But do read on because I’ve got some great stories and social history to tell about a wonderful period in manufacturing, its eventual demise and how the internet and dedicated collectors have forged both a new commercial industry and very big worldwide collecting community.

A few years ago I started working freelance and wanted to find a hobby that I could also make a few bob out of on Ebay (when I had some time between contracts). I tried a few areas but without much success but one day when out at my weekly Car Boot I picked up a large box of old toy soldiers and Britain’s animals. Little did I know that amongst the old tat and broken pieces were a very Rare Cherilea knight and an even more valuable Timpo Knight? To be honest they all looked the same to me but the collectors on eBay had no problem in sorting out the chaff from the good stuff.  After that I was hooked. I’ll deal with that cherilea figure a bit later.

So now over 2 years have passed and I’m a part time trader and sometime collector in these figures. More than that I do love every aspect of them, particularly the social history associated with how they came to be, went out of fashion and then returned.

Over time I’m going to deal with other aspects of the figure collecting market including, Lead, composition and other niche areas covering 1:32 the smaller 1:72 and some of the non standard sizes.  For now the focus will be on my own particular favourite, Plastic.

I plan to have articles which will cover history, makers, design, collections, collectors, box art, brand, good websites and of course the great figures.

Robin Hood- Herald 1950’s 

And yes I’ll be talking money. Rarity and value do go hand in hand. Value is sometimes frowned upon in this community where they prefer to talk about the scarcity and condition of figures. Yet these collectors are prepared to part with hundreds of pounds for a single figure so I’ll be discussing why they do that and what drives the relationship between scarcity, rarity, value and condition and why some makers are not particularly sought after while others are very much in demand.

I’m going to start with British Plastic which is big subject.

These figures were children’s playthings, Childs toys – to an outsider perhaps strange that the very people who played with them as children now proudly collect and display them as a tribute to youth and bygone days. Collectors know that it’s far more than that. These figures celebrate a wonderful period of British industrial manufacturing, a small industry by most standards but one with some wonderful characters, great company stories, real innovation, and still unknown history. Great memories of a pre toysRus and internet age where the local high street  toyshop ruled and pocket money trips on a Saturday morning were an essential part of a child growing up in post war 1950’s Britain, the swinging 60’s and my own period the TV driven early 1970’s (I was born in 1962).

Ye olde Toy Shoppe

Tastes did change though and by the Late 70’s and early 80’s the arrival of Star Wars and expansion of Lego led to the demise of many of the original companies that make up this story. So they fell by the wayside (but not the moulds, as we will see later) but then as the Children who originally played with them grew up, figures were found in lofts and suddenly channels opened up providing access to figures at swapmeets, bootsales, auctions and eventually the internet. This led to a new breed of collector with money to spend and an eventual rebirth in plastic figure production that has continued to grow to this day.

My own recollection growing up in the early to mid 70’s is primarily of 1:32 Airfix. Huge wargaming events (well they felt like it to a small boy and his friend) in the garden before wargaming even existed. German stormtroopers against UK and US paratroops, if I recall. Alas my figures since taken to landfill sometime when they became less important to me and music and going out arrived on the horizon. My parents had no recollection of what actually went to “the Tip” but this would have included loads of now very sought after figures, vintage action men, 1960’s thunderbirds, the six million dollar man, mego planet of the apes , wonder woman and many other toys now seen as cool and valuable. Very sad.

And fondly remembered, but now a distant memory Timpo Mounted Swoppet Knights and a castle. Christmas early 70’s? ….. Extra Helm knights as well. Then, just a few pounds for the set, now possibly hundreds of pounds for that single variant with the unusual chest crest or running legs.

Starlux – French Plastic WW1

So for now I’ll focus on the vintage stuff but In due course I hope to cover the rebirth of plastic production including the companies who reissued many of the earlier maker’s figures and the raft of new companies that sprung up to serve an increasingly diverse and international buyer community.

I must at this point provide an acknowledgement to Plastic Warrior an organisation and publisher that since the eighties have been at the very forefront of the plastic figure hobby and still today via its bi monthly magazine, specials and annual gathering provides a superb insight into this area of collecting (and retailing). My interest in this field was significantly enhanced by the availability of PW specials and back issues which I have consumed with vigor in the last few years and a lot of the detail I will cover will have come from original PW publications although I’ll try not to do it word for word!

Finally I should caveat that I am no expert in any aspect of this field and don’t pretend to be. I am firstly a trader, secondly a very keen observer and thirdly a small collector (Oddly perhaps with a small Robin Hood Collection and some unusual Polish and Brazilian American Indians! and boxes of loose figures in my garage).

Certainly I have gained considerable knowledge in the last few years starting  from a point of very little  (some passed on by truly knowledgeable collectors – you know who you are) and much from the many books and publications I have acquired in the challenge of finding figures that people really want. You can ask me stuff on this blog and I’ll endeavour to reply. Subscribe to plastic warrior and you will have access to much better analysis that I could offer.

So the first lot of blogs will focus on providing some brief guides to the main UK makers that often make up that search and continue to turn up many fascinating figures. In many cases they offer an affordable entry point into collecting plastic figures.

So where to start. Largest is of course “Britain’s” (how long have you got?) Or should we go straight into the collecting phenomenon that is Timpo Swoppets …..

Well I think not, we are going to start with a medium sized maker and a personal favourite of mine , a company who produced some really wonderful figures (not all its own it has to be said) and possibly some of the worst figures of all time as well! … …………Cherilea 


About collectablefigures

Collector and dealer in vintage figures
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One Response to Blog Numero 1 “It’s a rare variant” – Collecting Plastic Toy Soldiers and Figures

  1. kevin william swaisland says:

    reading this blog for the first time got big collection of airfix 1,32 scale soldierds . witch I must say I still play with today . and rekindled a few years ago when a firm called forces of valure came out with 1,32 scale tanks jeeps ect , it some times takes me mouths to layout the battle ground .. one more thing ……. this is a great site ,, im hooked

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