I know - probably a GQ. But I’m not going to be able to post images or check back this week. If I go beyond mild curiosity I may consider making it more GQ in form and substance.
I seem to have inherited a large group of lead soldiers vintage 1920-30. The majority are from one series or set and look somewhat like the Manoil/Barclay images I found on the web. However the helmets are a separate piece of metal (tin or steel) and glued onto the figure. Size of a soldier standing with a rifle is roughly 3 inches. Everything I see from the above mentioned companies look like the helmets are just part of the casting and painted; these the helmets are clearly different from the figure.
On a different theme - Indians. Or I guess I should say Native Americans. These are larger (say 5 inches) and look to be some sort of wood-like substance. One is unpainted and a chalky white but the feel if you scratch the base with a fingernail is more like wood than a plaster casting. Any ideas there?
The variety in the soldiers is terrific. From every shooting form to nurses with bloody pans to carrier birds to Lord knows what else. They are as described above. In addition let me add that they are hollow.
The Natives knock me over in terms of the details and the feel. As you can see by the unpainted one they look chalk-like but the feel is very much like wood. Could it be some sort of Bakealite? They are bigger with the standing ones about 6 inches.
I am curious to know anything I can; who made them and when? Did they come unpainted or could you get them both painted and not? Were they expensive for the time? I got a lot of these among my late FiLs stuff and I plan on keeping them. He didn’t keep any of his other “boyhood treasures” much so these were clearly special to him and hence to me as well. But I’m also into details; I would like to know more.
Wow, that site really took me back to 1996! “Marquee” and a blink tag! And it’s all in everyone’s favorite font, Comic Sans. I had to look at the source, and was surprised to see that it was made in Front Page. For all it’s flaws, it has a bunch of acceptable templates to make sites.
OK, I realize that was very snarky, but aren’t there people who collect lead soldiers and have made a web site in the last decade?
I just did a copy/paste/edit to his guestbook so maybe we’ll see what happens there. I’ve tried a few toy sites with little response at all but what the heck - its worth the cost of an e-mail.
That is one of the really frustrating things. I am used to coin collectors who, on average, image every little detail and can go on for paragraphs describing a Mercury Dime. The lead soldier crowd don’t really show or explain very much. If you look at
Well, actually, I think that’s because no one ever “really” collected toy soldiers. In the US, kids accumulated them as part of their childhoods, sure, but it’s only been in the last few years that people have gotten really serious about them.
The situation is different in Europe, where there have been more than a few recognized manufacturers, and where there was probably a “head start” in the hobby. Don’t forget that the interest would have been higher, militarism being much more in evidence there, especially in Britain and Germany.
On the other hand, your Indians (and yes, as an Ojibway person, I am not offended by the use of “Indians”) would have had much more interest in North America (where the tradition of collecting is young). although there is definitely a Wild West cult in Germany that would have some interest in them.
I may explain this poorly but I’m going to slightly disagree in small respects. Enough collections (and if you saw the whole you would agree to my calling it a collection) were formed in the US between say 1925 and 1940 maybe that some really nice lots are hitting the market now as that generation dies away. We have found one photo as well showing Popsi with a big part of his collection posing with another young man and his collection. I’m not saying these weren’t also played with now and then but the play had a certain care to it as the condition of surviving pieces shows. I would also add as evidence of “collecting” that no two are alike. Sort of like when I was young and clipped baseball cards to my spokes when other kids were keeping them as clean as possible and saving full sets; some folks always are collectors and some aren’t.
Add to that the fact that we are talking the Depression years. One other thing we have from my FiL is his Ives train which is just pristine. He was lucky; his Dad usually had some sort of work and he was an only child but most of his friends weren’t so lucky. He didn’t break the train out “for play” much because it made him feel bad that he had things his friends only dreamed of. In other words I think its all a little more complicated than the differences between US militarism and the European version.
What does seem different now, these last few years, is how everything seems centered on value. I posted a rough note to a toy message board last month and I got several cash offers sight unseen and guesses of value but no information or history. Maybe I’m an idiot but how can you (“you” being some responder to that board) be confident that something is worth $60 to $90 but not know exactly what it is? Again, my background is a different hobby but that doesn’t seem to make sense.
(Sorry about the NA/I thing. Most of my friends among the Abenaki and Twigtwee feel as you do but there are enough exceptions that I try to be sensitive to it in blind posts)
I got some great info back from that guy and I’m pasting it here for anyone interested. FYI on the unpainted Indian; based on other evidence with the figures I am betting Japan. There was a teepee marked “Made in Japan” with some other Popsi things.
Thanks for leaving me a message and links to pictures of your figures.
The GIs with the seperate cast helmets are by Barclay who were the largest manufacturer of toy soldies in the US during the 1930’s and 40’s. They were based in Union City NJ. The seperate helmets date them to before 1938 as they changed to one iece castings from 1939/40. They came fully painted and cost a neckel each, they were sold through Woolworths, Kresges and five and dime store, hence they and most other figures of this period in the US are known as “dimestore figures”.
The nurse is by Manoil who started production in 1935 in Manhatten so she was probably made in that same pre war period as the Barclays. Again it is another five and dime figure. You wil note that the sculpting of the nurse is a bit more angular or cubist than the rounder planes of the Barclay figures.
The Indian kneeling was made in Austria by Emil Pfeifer and sold under the brand name “Tipple Topple”, I have a Pfeifer catalogue dated 1915 which shows this figure but they are known to have been in production from about 1905. The material is known as compositon, it is a mixture of sawdust and glue pressed around a wire armature to strengthen it. The pose is kneeling firing and he has lost his hands, the rifle is also missing - this is quite common as it was cast seperately in tin and was very delicate. This and the other figures above are all in their original paint, this is how they were sold but this Indian would have been a very much more expensive figure than the other dimestores being imported. Pfeifer figures were exported in great numbers to the US and curiously they are easier to find over there than back here in Europe.
The unpainted standing Indian is a bit more of a mystery, plaster is not a material suitable for making figures as it is too brittle and chips too easily, a US company called Miller made some very large figures in plaster between 1951 and 58 but never made Western ranges only WW2/Korean GIs and nativity, these figures were about 12 inches high and made of solid plaster but your Indian is not one of their products. The fact that it is hollow gives us more of a clue, you can’t make a hollow figure from just plaster but you can if you mix it with something else, a French company called Domage made figures in a material called Plat de Farine which is a mix of plaster and baking flour, they were making these from the mid 30’s to about 1950 and would normally sell them fully painted but if they were exporting them say to the US they might have shipped them unpainted to reduce import taxes (this was a common practice at teh time). Domage did make a western series but their figures were rather crude and not as well detailed as the one you have pictured so I’m not convinced it was made by them. Another possibility is that it could have been made in occupied Japan just after the war, as part of the reconstruction of that country the US set up lots of manufacturing their and with a shortage of raw materials they made a lot of products in “plat de farine” type material.