Plastic Warrior – Cherilea Special
Cherilea began its life in Burnley, England the mid 40’s. Formed by Wilf Cherington a former designer with John Hill & Co , who had also designed for Crescent and a Mr Leaver ( Jim ? ) of which less is known. They combined their names to form Cherilea.
Like many of the key people in the history of plastic figures they began producing products in Lead, the material of the day in pre and early post WW2. As they moved into Plastic production in the 50’s they moved to Blackpool making them one of the few companies not based in London.
Its worth mentioning that Cherilea made many other toys during its life, not just toy soldiers and they are well-known for the large-scale Action Man vehicles and colourful toy Daleks from the every popular British SC-FI programme , Dr Who.
This first look at Cherilea will focus on plastic toy soldiers, space and some Bullfight figures. We will leave some of the other novelty stuff such as the 70mm Batman and Robin Figures, Ken Dodds diddy men, Dinosaurs and other 60’s and 70’s TV related output for another day.
Cherilea figures are fairly easy to find and can be inexpensive to acquire. It’s fair to say the range in quality from exceptional to really bad. Earlier stuff particularly from original lead mould can be very good but some of the later production is not so finely sculptured and cheaply constructed. Like many of the companies who produced figures from the late 50’s onwards they tend to suffer from paint loss. Cherilea are one of the worst companies for loss of paint so good examples with original paint are sought after by collectors and will command a significantly better price.
They made figures in many different scales originally starting with undersized 54mm figures derived from lead moulds then moving to the classic vintage toy soldier scale of 1:32 (54mm). These figures are the best that they made in most people’s opinion but it wasn’t long before they settled on a larger 60mm as the standard size and it’s this size they are best known for and form the mainstay of the catalogue with a very big selection figures from many periods. They also made figures in smaller scales such as 40mm and 30mm and some very big figures.
Plastic Warrior has a Cherilea special that I very much recommend. It covers the whole range of plastic production and is very informative. As Plastic Warrior is now producing it bi monthly magazine in Colour it would be really good if the specials were updated to a colour version. Who knows when this might happen?
I’m not going to try to repeat everything in that excellent publication in detail here but cover a few of the figures and include some pics of Cherilea figures I’ve sold.
One of my very early Cherilea finds was the very rare and much sought after mounted Baronial Knight whom I sold to a well-known plastic figure collector in 2009. Some time ago only a few of these were known to exist but over time more have begun to turn up as the Internet, in particular, has helped provide a link between people clearing out old boxes of figures and collectors looking to acquire key figures for their collections.
The figures can be further broken down into solid plastic from original lead moulds (many of which are originally John Hill & Co moulds that Cherilea acquired when Hill went out of business), original solid plastic Cherilea designs and later on 60mm Swoppet figures with individual plastic parts that could be swapped around to create unique figures. Cherilea swoppets have far less appeal to collectors than the mighty Timpo catalogue and both the design and production aspects of the figures leave much to be desired but they do have a certain charm that is appealing especially the Mexicans with the ridiculous ponchos and exaggerated sombrero.
One other area that is worth mentioning here is the number of Horses that Cherilea issued many of which had battle armour or unusual saddles incorporated into a single moulded piece of plastic.
These are very likeable and detailed but again Cherilea also issued some ungainly designs with the swoppets.
This in my opinion once again illustrates the variety of quality you get with Cherilea output. Swoppet collectors might disagree with me on this point and to be fair some of the colourful swoppet knights and certainly the space men are sought after. This is the type of hobby where people often have very different views on what’s good and bad so if this generates some interest in these figures you can make you own mind up. Ebay usually has a good number of Cherilea auctions running at any time.
So that’s it for this first post and an introduction to this maker. More to follow on cherilea in due course ( 2 more parts ) . Here’s a few of the figures that I’ve come across ………
The Baronial Knight
So here he is. Purchased for 50 p and sold for over £100. Possibly the rarest plastic Cherilea figure and if not a very scarce one. Sold at a time when I really didn’t know much about him. With hindsight he would now be sitting in my case on display if I’d known what I had. Once considered the holy grail of Cherilea figures he has turned up a few times over the last few years and perhaps is now less rare but certainly is a very cool figure and a good example.
The Medieval Prince
My own personal favourite Cherilea figure which came as part of the medieval boxed set. I love the pose of this figure and proportions of the sword. Here are some examples. I sold the guy on the right to a buyer in Italy.
These seem to crop up a fair bit and have a variety of design from different issue periods. Here are some of the figures I’ve come across. The guy to the far right is missing his clear helmet and was a 50/54mm figure from a Johillco mould. the others are Swoppet figures from the mid 60’s to early 70’s.
The Bullfight Set
I recently acquired some of these figures from a seller in Denmark. The Bull itself is particularly nice figure with red paint illustrating the wounds on the beast caused by the bullfighter. Here are some of the figures. A few are damaged and the horse is not the right one for the mounted figure.
The Saloon Set
These figures are fairly scarce. I managed to put together a partial set from an old box of figures I acquired last year. Here’s some of the figures. Worth noting that the guy with the twins is the bearded cowboy from the standard set but also featured in the “Dodge City Saloon Set “. The bar keeper has lost an arm … Gunfight ? and a few other look worse for wear….. drink ? ……. These are hard to find apart from beardy.
The Swoppet Mexicans
A particular favourite swoppet figures with these jagged ponchos and oversize holiday hats!
Well that’s it for part 1 . Part 2 coming soon !
Plastic Warrior – www.plasticwarrior.co.uk
Knights of Avalon – Cherilea plastic page – www.knightsofavalon.com/plastic_Cherilea.htm
Cherilea pages @ www.diecast-toys.com/plastic-soldiers/cherileamenu.html
Note: If an image is used which I do not own the rights too then an acknowledgement will be given below the image.
Images: My own images are copyright Black Dragon or Black Dragon Collectables and belong to Black Dragon Collectables Ltd and David Brown.