Toy soldiers were the first type of toys to deserve their own series of specialist auctions, starting in 1968. Since then, many millions of Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Equipments have changed hands at auction.
British made toy soldiers started to be made by William Britains in 1893. They swiftly became the most popular soldiers for children to play with not only here in Britain but in the many other countries that they were exported to.
My toy soldier auctions are organized around the early, between the world wars and post war periods of Britains hollowcast toy soldier, farm, zoo and garden production. Also included are the subsequent series of Herald, Swoppet and Deetail plastic toy soldiers as well as the diecast toy soldiers and models for collectors still being produced today.
In addition to Britains, other British makers feature prominently in the auctions, not only for toy soldiers, but also for farm and civilian figures. Other than Britains, the brands of Johillco, Charbens, Cherilea, Taylor and Barrett, Crescent and Timpo are the leaders.
Before 1893, Germany and France provided most of the toy soldiers sold world wide. Early figures are much in demand from the famous German firms of Heyde, Haffner, Heinrich, Noris, Krause, Hausser-Elastolin and Lineol, as well as their later products. In France, CBG Mignot and Lucotte are the leading makers of solidcast figures, but not forgetting the many makers of hollowcast, aluminium and plastic models that also thrived there, notably Quiralu and Starlux.
From 1973, after the production of hollowcast lead soldiers had finished, enterprising makers around the world started to make models in the toy soldier style specifically for collectors. These New Toy Soldiers, as they are called, are now as collectible as the original ones for children, particularly Trophy, Fusilier, Tradition, Blenheim, Nostalgia and Marlborough, and subjects such as the 1903 Delhi Durbar and the Zulu Wars.
Finally the products of the military modellers have a section of their own, featuring all of history and even science fiction and fantasy. Today, the studio products of Courtenay, Stadden or Greenwood and Ball are well regarded, and more recently King and Country, Little Legion and Del Prado often appear for sale, with many other manufacturers.
To learn more about toy soldiers, why not read my books:
Opie, James The Encyclopedia of British Toy Soldiers
This was started in 1978, and was issued as an occasional distribution of information to subscribers. Lasted for five years and included 88 pages.
Opie, James Toy Soldiers Shire Album Shire Publications 1983 ISBN 0852636326
This was the first book that I wrote. It has 32 black and white pages, and explains simply what the toy soldier collecting hobby is. Great for introducing your friends for the first time.
Opie, James Britains Toy Soldiers 1893-1932 Victor Gollancz 1985 ISBN 0575037415
Known as the Big Blue Book, this is a comprehensive study of the output of the Britains figures of the period, concentrating on contrasting the various changes of version which the figures in each set underwent. Can be read in conjunction with the publications of Joe Wallis, Armies of the World and Regiments of all Nations, to form a complete catalogue of Britains hollowcast toy output 1893 to 1966.
Opie, James On Guard New Cavendish 1985 ISBN 0904568563
The catalogue to my exhibition at the London Toy and Model Museum 1985-86. Illustrated with appropriate photos from Britains Toy Soldiers 1893-1932 and The Art of the Toy Soldier
Opie, James British Toy Soldiers 1893 to the Present Arms and Armour Press 1985 ISBN 0853689598
A black and white photo picture guide to Toy Soldiers by subject depicted, with price guide issued 1985 and 1987. A replacement for the classic book by Len Richards, which only covered early British toy soldiers. Known as the pink book.
Opie, James Collecting Toy Soldiers Collins 1987 (Hardback edition) New Cavendish 1991 (Paperback edition) ISBN 0004122763
A colourful book of advice to collectors, with some personal reminiscence. How to acquire, arrange and enjoy Toy Soldiers. Predecessor to Collecting Toy soldiers in the 21st Century, see below, but with different pictures, examples and anecdotes.
Opie, James Toy Soldiers Phillips Collectors Guide Boxtree 1989 ISBN 1852832495
A brief survey of the collecting field in 1989, with additional colour photographs
Opie, James The Great Book of Britains New Cavendish 1993 ISBN 1872727328
The book to end all books on Britains. 100 years of Britains production with 950 colour photos and a quarter of a million words, arranged in a year by year production sequence. 640 large format pages. Also, issued by Britains themselves, a specially bound edition with an exclusive set of toy soldiers.
Opie, James Opie’s Pocket Price Guide to Britains Hollowcast Toy Soldiers New Cavendish 1994 ISBN 1872727824
The only checklist available for Britains set collectors, cross referenced to the Great Book of Britains. Although the prices in it are valid for 1994, in fact they have not changed relatively, and the valuable part of the book is the rarity rating which enables set rarity to be compared.
Opie, James Collecting Toy Soldiers in the Twenty-first Century Pen and Sword ISBN 978-1848843738
All new sequel and update to Collecting Toy Soldiers, re-visited twenty-four years later.
Opie, James Britains Toy Soldiers, the History and Handbook. Pen and Sword ISBN 978-1848844445
A final round-up of all the core information needed by collectors of Britains, with a twenty year update of the history of the brand since 1993