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The toy soldier hobby is flourishing... despite the recent terrorist attacks and the resulting downturn in air travel and our lack luster economy, our fall 2001 show held on November 4, 2001 was one of the best attended shows in years. We donít know what to attribute this to, but stats donít lie. A rash of last minute vendor table requests a week before the show had us place a frantic call to our table and chair vendor for an additional 20 tables which brought the total vendor table count up to just under 300. Over 1,500 collectors and vendors visited the show, making it the largest and best attended show on the East Coast. So, please donít pre-judge our show on the basis of a disappointing visit to a small local show. While there is no such thing as a bad show, some are better than others and we feel that ourís is the best, but you really have to visit the show to believe it!

The show, as usual, was a smorgasbord of toy and model soldiers and just about everything military. Jim Hillestad, of the Toy Soldier www.the-toy-soldier.com, commented that it was one of his best shows in six years. Vendors brought along a tremendous range of offerings of every description, including old toy soldiers, action figures and G.I. Joes, books, uniforms and new toy and model soldiers. Please donít pre-judge our show on the basis of your visit to a small local show. While there is no such thing as a bad show, some are better than others and we feel that ourís is the best, but you really have to visit the show to believe it!

One of the fascinating finds at the show was a group of eight all original Barclay American Legionnaires, brought to the show by collector Paul Dean. Paul followed up on a lead about a group of Dimestores in storage in an old barn in NJ. His persistence paid off when he bought these Barclay American Legionnaires. Also in the barn was a couple of Barclay Cadets in the super rare "Wooden Soldier" paint version.




Another great piece of toy soldier history turned up in the form of Britains Set No. 73.

You can read more about this set in our feature "A New Birth For Old Set 73."

The following is a very brief mention of vendors who have a web presence and participated in our last show. It is not an all inclusive list of our show vendors. Look for most of them to be at our Spring show on Sunday April 21, 2002. Please let us know of any broken and/or no longer in existence links.

Vendors from as far away as Canada, such as Jim Holland of www.soldiersofortune.com and John Drown participated in the show. Bob OíConnell of Northcoast Miniatures www.54mmtoysoldier.com made the trek from Northern California. The Sunshine State was well represented by Gerry Williams of Windows of the World Displays www.toysoldierbuildings.com. Michigan was represented by Rick Berry of Michigan Toy Soldier Co., www.michtoy.com. Collectors of Knights and Medieval figures were treated to tables full of figures by Bob Hornung, www.hornungart.com.  The "Buckeye" state was also represented by Joe Saine (email: joesaine@att.net) who brought along an incredible amount of German Composition figures. Knight and Medieval enthusiasts stood three deep in front of Aeroartís tables, www.aeroart.com.  Rodden Heraldic Sculptures was represented at the show by Russ Sherman who displayed Roddenís figures: www.roddenheraldic.com. Vendors from the "Keystone" state were in abundance:

Vendors such as Mike & Norene Rosso of Stockade Miniatures www.stockade-miniatures.com; Ron Ruddell of London Bridge Toys, www.londonbridgetoys.com;  Paul Stadinger of Stads, www.stadstoys.com, Ray Haradin of www.oldtoysoldier.com, and RLJ Castings represented by Bob and Lori Lewis (email: rljcasting@aol.com).

New England is always greatly represented by a host of vendors who come down to Hackensack, NJ for our show. Collector dealers Bill Coakley, Ron Blaise, Bill Watts, John Rollins and Arley Pett, email: apett92117@aol.com. Of course, New Jersey and New York were well represented by a host of local vendors, most notable of those with websites are: Dutkins Collectibles who reserved six tables at the show, www.dutkins.com; Tony Cicarrello of the Toy Soldier Gallery, in West Point NY, www.armiesinplastic.com; Bob Wintermeierís Spillway Soldiers, www.spillwaytoysoldiers.homestead.com; Tony Grecco, www.tonygrecco.com; Bertel Bruun reserved five tables which were overflowing with Composition Figures, www.marchoftime.com, and Al Green of Greenís Collectibles www.walshes.net/green/htm. Vendors selling military books were in force with On Military Matters, www.onmilitarymatters.com in their usual spot.

Plastic soldiers, perhaps the segment of our hobby showing the greatest growth, were in abundance from leading vendors such as John Stengle, the "Marx Man", Bob Bentivegna, Gene Bagnoli, George Guerriero of Minutemen Toy Soldiers, www.mmtoysoldiers.com and

Matt Murphy of Hobby Bunker, www.hobbybunker.com, and Richard Medeiros www.crystal-mtn.net/china.htm. Collectors of G.I. Joes and action figures were treated to many tables full of Joes and related items from Ed Gries, and three tables of figures by Sandy Feuerís Alsand Merchandise Co., www.alsandmdseco.com. You have to visit to believe it.



By Art and Addie Ward

At an auction of Britains and other toy soldiers some years back we saw something we had never seen before: a gigantic empty red wooden box with a beautiful black and gold Wm. Britains' label proclaiming the toys within to be Set 73! We had read about and seen pictures of such monster toy boxes from bygone days in various catalogs over our more than sixty-two years of collecting Britains soldiers, but never in real life. What a Christmas or birthday morning it must have been for any boy who received such a wondrous array of toy soldiers! I just had to relive such childhood ecstasy. We all know, if you are a serious toy soldier collector there are some things you have to try for. I bid extravagantly against a phantom collector whose phone bids emphatically topped ours, bid after bid -- until they stopped and we had won!

"Nearly $200 for an old empty box?" My wonderful wife, Addie, wanted to know. What could I say. A Britains collector has to do what a Britains collector has to do!

We began to research Britains' set 73 and found it to have had a fluid history with an ever changing range of sets, each contents make-up dependent upon the time it was produced. Postwar sets dropped the beautiful big, red wooden boxes and housed the contents in heavy paperboard boxes. Even the total number of pieces changed from time to time. The type of content, however, seemed to remain constant, always including three cavalry regiments, two infantry regiments, one band, a royal horse artillery unit and a commanding general. We set our sights on a medium content of 70 figures but ended up with 77, which Joe Wallis (a well-known author and authority on Britains) says was the original quantity. Our contents became as follows:

Set 32 Second Dragoons "Royal Scots Greys" (prewar & expanded to 7 pieces)

Set 81 17th Lancers -- foreign service dress of the Zulu war period with "Ulundi" smooth white helmets (prewar & expanded to 7 pcs.)

Set 43 2nd Life Guards black galloping horses for the four troopers w/short carbines (prewar & expanded to 7 pieces.)

Set 27 Band of the line (postwar, figures expanded to 14 pieces.)

Set 74 Royal Welsh Fusiliers (postwar, 9 marching + officer, 2 pioneers, flag carrier and the ubiquitous goat mascot)

Set 77 Gordon Highlanders (postwar, expanded to 12 marching at slope plus 2 pipers)

Set 144 Royal Field Artillery in review order (6 walking horses, 3 with drivers, 2 men seated on limber, 2 riding the gun and an officer on a cantering horse, all prewar and a very old matched set from a Scottish collector.)

Set 73 The General on the swayback horse (prewar and only available in the large sets)

We do not know what the present value of this one box collection should be. By adding up the various sets and individual pieces included, checking the last O'Brien's catalog, making adjustments for condition and other variables such as minor expert repairs, plus the worth of the box, we have estimated the current value to be between $3,000 and $4,000. We do not know what the father of a little boy in the 1920's or 1930's paid for the original box and its contents -- but our guess would be less than $20.

It took over two years for us to assemble this complete set of contents for old 73, but it was worth every hour and every dollar. It is the centerpiece of our Britains' collection. In the course of our research we discovered that Britains produced even larger wooden boxes with many more soldiers in them (275 in the largest recorded!). Who knows when we might find one of those really, really big red boxes and then, would we live long enough to find all those great pieces to make it live again as our old 73 does now?



Mainz Germany-- A special event is planned for September in Mainz Germany. This special event is for collectors and will include visiting some collectors in the Mainz area, as well as special dealer offers and small swap meets. Collectors interested in attending this two day event are encouraged to contact Gisbert at: gisbert.freber@t-online.de.

Our old friend Giles Brown of Dorset Soldiers in the U.K. Has just added new figures to his range, they can be seen by visiting: www.dorsetsoldiers.com.  Forts and Castles have always been synonymous with toy soldiers, and now thanks to Allen Hinckling, who has produced a web site devoted to Forts and Castles, collectors can treat themselves to eye popping pictures and in-depth information pertaining to Forts and Castles on his web site www.toyforts.com.  Former contributing editor and expert on toy soldier bands, Bill Kilborn, aka Bill The Bandman has updated his web site to include many new bands. Check him out at: www.cyg.net/~bandman/.

Argentina has a long history of toy soldier makers', and is home to an extensive group of toy soldier aficionados. An Argentinean web site worth visiting is www.beau-geste.com.  Not to worry if you don't read Spanish, the web site is bilingual and Ana, their web hostess will cheerfully answer your questions in English.

Spain is another country with a proud tradition of toy soldier manufacturers, with that in mind, we suggest that you visit www.guineahobbies.com.  They have an extensive web site with just about everything relating to military miniatures. The site is also available in English, but I found the English version a bit awkward, but for some great figures go to their "Soldados De Plomo" section.

On to Germany with a visit to Norbert. J Schrepf's www.toy-soldier-gallery.com His site is a haven for collectors with an interest in Composition Figures. One of the best sites on the Internet today, and well worth the visit.

In our opinion the best U.S. managed toy soldier web site is put together by Bill Hocker and can be reached by clicking on www.wmhocker.com.  With an extensive offering of his own handcrafted models, Bill unselfish and visually stunning web site contains an extensive "Toy Soldier Resources" page.

And finally, one of the top, yet little known, U.S. toy soldier maker is located at: www.nickolson-toy-soldiers.com.  Best noted for his range of Indian Army figures, Nick's range of WWII Pathfinders and Iron Cross models are among the best highly animated soldiers produced today. Nick's soldiers are uniquely American Made. Not "knock-off's" and "pirates" each and everyone is entirely his own sculpting and design and fashioned in his Cleveland Ohio studio.

There is no shortage of Toy Soldiers being offered in on-line auctions, but buyers should acquire some wisdom before wading into on-line auctions' murky waters. Wrong and inaccurate descriptions (I've seen broken and repainted Grey Iron figures being offered on eBay as Barclay American Legionnaires), over-use of the words "rare" and "scarce", and repainted figures being offered as original factory production in mint condition tend to confuse all but the most knowledgeable collector. Some over-used deceptive phrases by certain well-known dealers such as, "I really don't know much about this piece" or "what you see is what you get" are always suspect!

Back Issues

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