It was only a matter of time before I finally got to talk about Timpo Swoppets. I’ve covered Timpos solid plastic figures in an earlier post and I’ll get to the lead stuff later but its time to talk swoppets. This is the first general post of a series.
What is it about these 54mm toy soldiers, made up of brightly coloured individual plastic parts that make them so highly collectable and in some cases so valuable. Such is the demand for Timpo that even the knock off HK versions of the figures are beginning to sell well!
Well I have a view on this having sold a fair few in my time. Until recently I had a smallish collection of some of the rarer figures but decided to have clear out and made some very decent money. If you have read some of my posts you will realise that I don’t mind talking money, value, rarity. If you are selling things these are factors you need to know and again if you are just starting a collection
or looking for that final figure you need to know what you might expect to pay. So why are Timpo Swoppets so collectable?
Well a number of factors come into play. Firstly they look great and the attention to detail on the figures and accessories is excellent playing very much into mentally how you think a character should be represented from historical references in books and probably more likely the key influences from the movies we grew up with in the 50’s, 60s and 70’s . The over moulding process was revolutionary when invented and coupled with the quality of the sculpting led to a very unique product and high quality product. When other makers began to move into swoppet lines they did it with minimal success finding it difficult to match the quality that Timpo achieved. Britain’s is probably an exception to this as they had the sculpting and production capability to match and in some cases exceed the quality that Timpo had set the benchmark for.
The color of the figures is very good and although the earlier figures are liable to be brittle they are sturdy and look good in display. I’ve seen comment elsewhere that suggest the fact that the could be swopped was the key factor that made them collectable but I feel the main reason is that throughout production Timpo would change things and mix things around producing parts and accessories in a variety of colours and poses. This mix of series versions, updated poses and colour variation is the key.
So we had millions of one pose in a certain pose/colour and then varying the colour/pose for a smaller production run. So you might get a common colour in an uncommon pose or a common pose in an uncommon colour. Many years later this has resulted in lots of common figures and much fewer uncommon figures.
Later production would see even more detail implemented in the over moulding process such as different hair colours, and other details and this led to a significant level of variation. As an owner of the figures either having played with as a child or collected in later life you could then choose to simply make up you own variations.
Add to this that they changed the figures by issuing an updated series on a number of occasions over the years you begin to see how this has affected supply and demand. You also end up with a situation where some of the earlier figures are not so rare because more were produced during a longer shelf life. Consequently some of the best prices can be found with the figures issued in the 1970’s just before Timpo originally went bust. These were issued for a very short time, reflect the over moulding process at its best and make up some of the rarest and most sought after figures.
Series 4 Confederate soldiers are an example of this. Holy Grail figures such as the 7th cavalry trooper in a prone pose don’t appear to actually exist other than in brochures but I have read that some were issued. Would be great to see one!
Recently while attending my usual seaside car boot sale I purchased on old 1970’s toy kit fort in wood unmade and sealed – with figures. When opened it contained a bag of never played with Timpo 7th Cavalry figures including a general with the fancy braces but unfortunately not the Holy Grail figures!
Knights, Romans and Vikings and variant cowboys and bandits are very sought after. A recent knight with very rare white helmet made £515.00 on ebay. Yes that’s one figure, but a very rare example. Heres a few more
A mug ( me ) purchased this from an auction house as part of a large lot and of course as I purchased via the web I didnt see it was repainted, very well it has to be said . Despite this and advertising them as repainted they still sold to one of our good friends in Germany for a surprisingly high figure. Much of Timpo’s production went to Germany for a number of reasons and Timpo figures are highly sought after by German collectors.
One other thing to mention is Timpo’s attention to detail with its accessories . This needs its own post but heres a pic of a set of very rare black crusader shields……well actually another fake or copy but very well made. I was never able to find out who made them but they now reside with some thankful crusader or knight figures in Italy. If anyone knows who made them please post a response.
So that’s it for this first post . I have over 900 pictures of Timpo Toys and will get some more posts done as time permits.
If you collect Timpo then I’m sure you will already have your favorites but if this is new to you and this post has generated some further interest you may want to find out more. May I suggest Michael Maughan’s excellent full color book (2nd edition) on Timpo which you can get on ebid. www.ebid.co.uk and on ebay sometimes.
Plastic Warrior also produced an excellent Timpo special covering the company from 1937 to 1995 which is now out of print. While this covers a wider production it does have some excellent articles on the development of over moulding and the swoppet figures. Now out of circulation you can pick it up on ebay from time to time but be prepared to pay a fair bit as it’s a sought after publication. It would be great to see an updated version in colour at some time something that the folks at plastic warrior have started recently with the bi monthly magazine ( highly recommended and great value ) and one or two of the specials have been reissued in colour.