The toy soldier has been mass-produced for the juvenile market for over 150 years and collecting them has become a very accessible and affordable pastime for many thousands of people worldwide. Okay some individual toy soldiers are expensive but nonetheless you can still amass a sizeable collection for a reasonable outlay.
One of the greatest pleasures I get as a collector of toy soldiers is seeing other peoples collections and exchanging information or ideas with them. It's a great way to learn more about the toy soldier world, broaden your interest and gain inspiration.
The purpose of this site is to show something of the wide diversity of toy soldiers that have been manufactured worldwide in a variety of different materials, included are book reviews and images of the toy soldier as made by the following manufacturers:
Here are the links to my other pages:
|Ancient||Medieval I||Medieval II||Medieval III||Displays||Composition|
|16/17th Cent||18th Cent||19th Cent||Napoleonic||Wild West||Composition II|
|Just when you thought you had seen it all!|
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Toy Soldiers are normally categorised by the material they are manufactured from and here are the terms most commonly used.
|ENGLISH||FRENCH||GERMAN||What does that mean?|
|Flat Toy Soldier||Soldat d'etain||Zinnfiguren||A two dimensional wafer thin toy soldier cast from tin in moulds engraved in slate, produced in Germany and Austria from the early 19th Century to date.|
|Semi-Flat ToySoldier||Soldat de demi Ronde Bosse||Halbplastisch Figuren||Cast in solid lead they are not fully three dimensional. First made in Germany in the 1830s where they were superceeded by the Solid toy soldier. They remained popular in Austria well into the 20th Century.|
|Solid Lead Toy Soldier||Soldat de Plomb Plein/Ronde Bosse||Bleisoldaten or Rundplastische||Cast in solid metal usually lead and most common in Germany during the 19th and early 20th Century. The earliest commercial production was by LUCOTTE in France 1785.|
|Hollow Cast Toy Soldier||Soldat en Plomb Creux||Hohlguss figuren||Cast in metal, usually an alloy, which cools and sets first where it touches the mould, the excess molten metal is then poured out leaving a hollow figure. Pioneered by BRITAINS in the UK in 1893 they were much cheaper than the solid figures imported from Germany.|
|Dimestore Toy Soldier||Jouets d'un sou||Pfennigartikel figuren||Peculiar to the US where they were sold through "five and dime" stores from the 1920s to 1940s. Usually hollow cast toy soldiers, some were also made in slush cast iron.|
|Aluminium Toy Soldier||Soldat d'Aluminium||Aluminium Figuren||Slush cast aluminium was used extensively in France during the early/mid 20th Century and in England by just one company WENDAL|
|Paper Toy Soldier||Soldat de Carte||Papier Figuren||Toy Soldiers printed on sheets of paper or card to be cut out and mounted on blocks of wood have been produced all over Europe and the US since the 1770s.|
|Composition Toy Soldier||Soldat en Matiere Composee||Masse Figuren||Made from a mixture of sawdust and glue formed around a wire armature. First manufactured in Austria at the end of the 19th Century, they grew to prominence in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. Also manufactured in France, Belgium and extensively in Italy where they are known as Pasta figures.|
|Toy Soldier Premium||Figurine Publicitaire||Werbefiguren||Produced in all types of materials, mostly post-war they are toy soldiers used to promote a product such as coffee or breakfast cerial. They often carry the product brand name rather than the toy manufacturer's and have become collectible in their own right.|
|Plastic Toy Soldier||Soldat de Matiere Plastique||Plastik Figuren||Produced from 1920s but mostly post WW2 to date. Early figures were made of hard plastics such as acetate and polystyrene, giving way to softer plastics such as polythene and lately PVC.|
|Army Men||No Equivalent||No Equivalent||A recent distinction refering to unpainted plastic toy soldiers, often copies of proprietory makes, sold cheaply in poly bags which makes them popular with wargamers who require sizeable instant armies.|
Directory of Manufacturers
Creating such a directory is a massive undertaking so please bear with us, much of the source material is drawn from books reviewed on this site (particularly the works of Opie, Joplin, O'Brien, Dittmann, Garrett and Blondieu) but also from catalogues and materials provided by numerous collectors, additional information is always welcome.
|Airfix||England||Plastic||Founder Nicholas Kove wanted the company to have a name begining with an A so that it would be near the top of trade directories. Best known for plastic construction kits they produced some of the earliest soft plastic toy soldiers in 1946 and more extensive ranges in 20mm scale from the 1960's and 54mm scale during the 1970's|
|Acedo||France||Plastic||Domage et Cie, originally made aluminium toy soldiers under the name Aludo but changed it to Acedo when they began producing the same figures in acetate plastic. Hence ACEtate DOmage|
|Aludo||France||Aluminium||Domage et Cie. see above. It was common for French companies producing aluminium figures to incorporate ALU in their name (Mingalu, Cofalu, Quiralu, etc.) Here it is ALUminium DOmage|
|Armee||Germany||Composition||From late 1930's to early 1950's made poor quality Wehrmacht and Wild West figures based on Lineol designs, didn't make the transition to plastic when the market turned away from composition|
|Athena||Greece||Plastic||Often referred to as AEHONE, based in Athens and takes it's name from the Greek godess Athena which is it's trademark. Most common figures are Hoplites and Evzones sold as tourist souveniers|
|Authenticast||Eire||Solid Lead||Authenticast Comet Gaeltacht Industries. Was set up in the Republic of Ireland by US toy soldier manufacturer Comet, to take advantage of post war development grants and tax concessions. Designed by Swedish artist Holger Eriksson who carved the masters in wax giving the finished product a distinctive "hammered" look which has a strong appeal to collectors.|
|Beffoid||France||Plastic||Named after the founder Charles Debeffe made a range of post-war French army, colonials and Wild West, some issued as premiums for Nescafe|
|Bon-Dufour||France||Composition||Made very distinctive doll like toy soldiers of the French army around the turn of the 20th Century, also made very artistic wooden forts and buildings to go with them.|
|Britains||England||Hollow Cast/Plastic||Named after the founder William Britains in 1893 who revolutionised the marketing of toy soldiers by introducing Hollow Casting to reduce cost and setting the standard size of toy soldiers at 54mm high to compliment the popular guage of toy trains. When plastic began to replace metal toy soldiers in the 1950's, due to cost and child safety laws, Britains produced some of their hollow-cast farm animals in plastic but were unable to match the quality of some of their competitors so they bought Herald to acquire the skills they needed.|
|Cellose||France||Composition||Made 80mm toy soldiers of the Napoleonic period and the contemporary French army during the 1930's|
|Charbens||England||Hollow Cast/Plastic||Named after Charlie and Ben Reid, founders of the company|
|Cherilea||England||Hollow Cast/Plastic||Named after Wilf Cherington and Jim Leaver, founders of the company.|
|Cafe Storme||Belgium||Plastic||In 1960 Francis Storme commisioned a range of figures to depict characters from Belgian history to be issued as premiums with Cafe Storme.|
|Deetail||England||Plastic||Brand name for a range of toy soldiers launched by Britains in 1971 to replace the Swappet and Eyes Right ranges which were in decline. Deetail was the brainchild of Charles Biggs who incorporated a plastic figure with a metal base to improve stability, a feature which was copied many years later by Elastolin for their 70mm swappet range.|
|Gemodels||England||Plastic||Founded by George E. Musgrave who had been a sculptor for Britains and Crescent. When the company was originally set up the name was pronounced as GemModels but there was already another toy firm making model rockets with this name so Musgrave had to change the pronunciation to GeeModels.|
|Herald||England||Plastic||Name and Trade Mark of Zang, inspired by a poster for the Harrogate Toy Fair. The company was later sold to Britains and operated independantly producing plastic toy soldiers alongside the parent company which continued to make hollow cast figures until the two were finally integrated and the metal line was discontinued.|
|Heyde||Germany||Solid Lead||Named after the founder George Heyde|
|JIM||France||Plastic||Name derived from Jouets Incassables en Matiere Plastique. Made a large range of plastic figures including Disney characters which are particularly sought after.|
|Jean||Germany||Plastic||Named after Jean Hofler, founder of the company.|
|Johillco||England||Hollow Cast/Plastic||John Hill and Co. named after the founder John Hill.|
|Leyla||Germany||Composition||Named after Christian Ley, founder of the company|
|Lone Star||England||Hollow Cast/Plastic||Trading name of the Die Cast Machine Tools cmpany (DCMT)|
|Malleable Mouldings||England||Plastic/Solid Lead||Malleable: "that which can be hammered or pressed into shape" An early (post war) attempt to make plastic figures from acetate utilising moulds designed by Holger Eriksson (see Authenticast). When this failed they produced soild metal figures for adult collectors.|
|Manurba||Germany||Plastic||Named after the founder Manfred Urban.|
|Marx||USA||Plastic||Louis Marx produced tin lithographed toy soldiers in the 1930s but is best known for developing the concept of the playset which incorporated tin lithograph buildings with plastic toy soldiers and accessories|
|Miller||USA||Plaster||Made 12" figures of WW2 G.I.s in plaster of paris.|
|Mokarex||France||Plastic||Issued as premiums with Mokarex coffee was a collection of figures depicting characters from French history|
|Pfeiffer||Austria||Composition||Named after proprietor Emil Pfeiffer, originally made dolls and began making toy soldiers around the turn of the 20th Century. Their sodiers were quite distinctive being over 10cm high they stand without any base and have child like faces, a legacy of the doll making. They went on to make the first toy soldiers for Elastolin.|
|Quiralu(x)||France||Aluminium/Plastic||Derived from Quirine et Cie. (pronounced key-ra-loo) When production changed to plastic an x appears to have been added to the name.|
|Reamsa||Spain||Plastic||Name derived from Resinas Artificiales Moldeadas S.A.|
|Reisler||Denmark||Plastic||Named after the founder Kai Reisler.|
|SAE||South Africa||Plastic/Solid Lead||Swedish African Engineers. Best known for 25mm solid lead wargame figures, they later made a range of 54mm mounted figures in plastic.|
|Schweizer||Austria||Flat tin/Semi Flat lead|
|SEGOM||France||Plastic||Name derived from Societie d' Edition General d' Objets Moules. Produced 54mm kit figures in cream acetate (mostly Napoleonic) as well as 25mm wargaming pieces|
|Spenkuch||Germany||Semi flat lead|
|Tipple Topple||Austria||Composition||Latter trade name of Pfeiffer, they made Wild West, Polar, Zoo and Crib figures.|
|Timpo||England||Composition/Aluminium Hollow Cast/Plastic||Name derived form Toy Importers Co. Founded by Sally Gawrylovitz better known as Ally Gee. Initially bought in composition figures made by Zang and aluminium made by Wendal which were packaged into playsets and sold under the Timpo name. Timpo produced their own hollow cast range and later adapted the moulds to create their early plastic figures. Contemporaneously with Britains they developed the Swappet style of figure in order to cut out the cost of hand painting, this in turn led to the development of overmoulding to provide a multicoloured product.|
|Wendal||England||Aluminium/Plastic||Name derived from Wendan Manufacturing, mostly made copies of Quiralu under licence also some original designs such as a tiger hunt produced for Timpo. The zoo and farm ranges were later produced in plastic with a flock coating to simulate fur.|
|Zang||England||Composition/Plastic||Named after the founder Meyer Zang. Initially made compositon figures for Timpo whcih carry no trademark. Early plastic figures carry the Zang trademark M overprinted with Z (which looks like a Y in a square box) this was later replaced with the Herald trademark.|
The boring bit........ About Me!
Most people start collecting toy soldiers out of a sense of nostalgia for what they had as a child, sound familiar? In my case, when I was four years old I spent some time in hospital and whenever my parents or other relatives came to visit they always brought me some new figures. That was over forty years ago and although I left hospital fully recovered from my illness, I was hopelessly addicted to collecting toy soldiers.
In all other matters I am relatively sane, happily married, overweight, employed, grey haired, shortsighted, love living in London and wish that I could be as clever as either of my two cats.
Hopefully by now you will have looked at some of the other pages and realized that primarily I am a collector of the plastic toy soldier made from the 1940's to date and the composition toy soldier made from around the turn of the century to the mid 1940's. I don't follow any particular manufacturer or theme but look for the three things that I believe make a good toy soldier:
An imaginative subject
Well crafted sculpting
The quest for such toy soldiers has led me to collecting conversions, both my own and other peoples. A conversion is a figure which started life as an ordinary commercially made toy soldier and has been changed to represent something different, the time and effort expended being more than compensated by owning a unique piece which you made yourself.
Finally, all of the opinions expressed on this site are my own and are open to criticism.
The contents of this site, including all images are Copyright 2002 of the author, Brian Carrick, and may not be used elsewhere without permission.