About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 49-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model soldier collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, therefore I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed. And I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Introduction / Explanation

This will always be a 'work in progress' as photographs are added or upgraded and missing bits are slotted in. Aiming to be no more than a guide to the figural production of Airfix Products.

Wherever possible it will quash urban myths or commonly held beliefs which are incorrect, most of which have grown-up during the 'Internet Years'.

As many search terms as possible will be used in order that anyone visiting whether familiar with Airfix or a new collector/casual browser will be able to find what they want, either singly or in groups of similar size, period or subject matter using the 'Click-on Index' to the right. Likewise the title-blocks will be as comprehensive as possible so they can be discerned in the 'Blog Archive' feature on the left of the page.

As this is designed to be a sort of second page for the Small Scale World blog, there was going to be no 'comments' feature, but I've enabled it, still, anyone with an issue concerning the factual accuracy of any entry can eMail me with supporting evidence and will be fully acknowledged for any resulting change or update.

I will also not use the Pink/Khaki thing here as I have on the general Blog, I want it to be cleaner and more streamlined, so people can find what they're looking for with ease.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zoo Animals - Error in the 1975 Catalogue

I spent ages editing the catalogue illustrations from the 1975 catalogue the other day, kindly scanned and sent in by Kostas from Greece, they contained a page of my favourite feature from the early catalogues, the painted sets, set-up on a card. However, what I didn't notice - tired, late at night - was that Airfix had miss-attributed the two illustrations, so although I collaged the correct margin entry for each picture, the animals were from the other set!

The errant catalogue entry above; to be fair no one told me they were wrong, and with only 20-odd hits on either thread since they went live a couple of years ago, I'm guessing it's of no consequence to most of you, and I probably could have got away with it if it hadn't been for this pesky Aspergic kid!

Still, I seem to recall other errors in the catalogues and there's the famous Guards box-art screw-up which will appear on the correct post eventually, but as this concerns two sets and one image they can have their own post for now. Both images have now been corrected on the two Zoo Animal's posts below somewhere.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

1970-71; [Wild West/Media Related] High Chaparral (Cowboys+), S38 / 01738 / 01738-1 - HO/OO

We'll start this one with a useful link...The High Chaparral Fan Site which should help those who may have missed the original TV series. Or even those who didn't; I was a young fan, but at that age I was only really interested in that day's plot-line, not the back story, with the result I've learnt today that Manolito was Victoria's brother and Buck was John's brother...I'd always thought Buck was the eldest, Blue-boy the middle and Manolito the youngest half-brother of three siblings!!!!

The twin-figure vignette of John Cannon and Victoria Montoya, showing all three colours this set was issued in - the same colours as the cowboys, with the dark 'plain chocolate' brown arriving while they were still useing it for the Cowboy set this TV tie-in is based on. Then we get the mid-brown that represented Airfix's first attempt at reducing the number of plastic colours they were useing; a move shared by the later issues of ACW Artillery, the Indians, Wagon Train, Ancient Britons and RHA already being in the same red-oxide colour along with  the Naploleonic Accessory Set later issued in the large Waterloo 'Assault Set'.

Always a great disappointment when you realised this was just the cowboy set with a few new figures, especially as the new figures - while much better sculpts - didn't really 'go' with the Nibblet designs of the older set.

Three mint boxes of black-ended blue boxes, showing that the latter colour made it to these boxes and the latter plain-ended boxes probably only had cream figures in, the cream being the least common colour encountered with this set, and cowboys falling out of favour as the mid-70's gave way to Star Wars, Pong and Micronaughts!

On the left is a complete set of the High Chaparral, with the difference found in the cowboy set to the right, Airfix clearly considered the vignette of John and his wife to be 'two' figures for the purpose of like for like replacement, vis-a-vis mould cavities!

Paul Morehead in issue 7 of One Inch Warrior magazine pointed out that the figure of Manolito seemed to have been designed to ride a horse before ending up on a base, not something I'd ever noticed, however I had a damaged figure so took the base away and tried him.

He's far too big...but does seem to have been designed with that (being mounted) in mind, I guess once they'd decided to use the existing set and keep the horses while going with a new sculptor (Ron Cameron?) there was a miss-match in style or scale (which could equally be a pantograph error?) so a base was added and all six of the old riders survived the sprue/frame re-suffle!

A bunch of OBE's (Other Bugger's Efforts), I had in the past cleaned all the scrappy Cowboys and High Chaparral (I keep them all in one box with the High Chaparral characters in a separate self-seal bag) for set making, so these are mostly from one sample, although it is an old one and you can recognise the Airfix vermilion (was it M1 or M12?) straight-off!

The 1975 catalogue image with the 'blurb' inset, scans courtesy of Kostas, a follower from Greece, this was sharing a page with the original Cowboys set, one of Airfix's bigger rip-offs was running two almost identical sets side-by-side...their 'biggest' is probably continuing to sell the German Armoured Car with the idiot mudguards!

Buck is on foot to the left, Manolito on the rearing horse in the background and John Cannon shouting some gruff stuff in the foreground., to out-of-frame cow-hands or 'Injuns'!

Copies - Baravelli (Italy) above and Montaplex/Hobbyplast (Spain) below. In the style of Hong Kong, these are both pretty crude, with the Spanish figures particularly poor and 'underfed'! The envelope on the left having one 'set' of figures and a wagon, the one on the right, two sets of figures and no accessories, all in an insipid semi-transparent flesh colour.

Close-up of the character figures, less John and Victoria who are at the top of the post. It's a pity they didn't re-do the whole set again, as these are really nicely sculpted figures. Across the top I think they are; Buck to the left, Manolito and Blue Boy on the right...or is it young Blue on the left with a rifle and Uncle Buck with a firm grip on his whiskey?

1971; [Civil/Space] Astronauts, 01741 / 01741-7 - HO/OO

One of the only Airfix sets which had no counterpart sets or 'enemy'. By going down the NASA route and using non-warlike designs based on actual or planned equipment from the real-world Airfix lost the possibility of adding vicious space-alien sets and expanding the range exponentially, had they done so, we might never have heard of Games Workshop and White Dwarf might have remained the interesting and eclectic magazine it was for its first few issues!!

Instead, GW became the 'Evil Empire' even as Airfix folded.

However, it was still a great favourite at the time, men had walked on the moon the year before this set was issued, and with all the little plug-together accessories there was play-value, the cameraman clearly had a ray-gun, the bloke carrying stuff was obviously carrying charges - nuclear charges!!

The chap with the probe was undoubtedly doing something horrible to the dustbin-lid entries on the Clanger's underground complex while the hover-platform men carried two para-munitions either side of the platform...what? You actually played 'NASA' exploration?...There's some'in wrong wi'yer!

The moon-buggy, a lovely piece, not that accurate but there were so many pre-production prototypes it would have been hard for the Airfix pattern-makers to get it right, without the limitations of production methods and budget to boot.

Word of warning to collectors - Like the Waterloo French Artillery wheels, these are now very hard to remove without pulling the mounting spigot/axle off and ruining the thing for all time, so its best to either keep them on or use a tooth-pick or other soft'ish, blunt'ish thin-thing to push the spigot/rod through the wheel, rather than pulling on the wheel itself.

The 'hover platform', not something that actually saw service, but like assault infantry backpacks; something that was experimented with from the 1950's through to the 70's!

The 'Lander'...no...I haven't the faintest idea...I'm hoping one of the boys from Moonbase Central will visit here and put me right on this one!! [Thanks to JFBen (see comments) we now know it's a Bell Aeronautics LFV or Lunar Flying Device, there was a one-man version that looked similar]

But...clearly a powerful weapon system for engaging the Giant space aliens or the evil - scaling-out to - 7-foot-something LP/Triang humanoids!!

The rear view also shows the (power cable?) difference in back-packs for the moon-buggy crew, these push into the floor-pan of the buggy to aid stability, all the other figures get a normal pack.

Artwork from late catalogues, these seem to be the illustrations from the Long Boxes and look to be very nice watercolours when enlarged. The 1982 image is from the German language version of the catalogue.

For those interested - the font I've used for the dates is a free download called TR2N (ie; TRON) and can be found here Dafont - TR2N.

OBE's - Once more; I don't have many of these, but they give an idea of the two camps...NASA realists against militarised warmongers (Me sir! Me!). I think a couple of them have the Space 1999 schemes? And...more Airfix matt vermilion! (see; High Chaparral).

Re-issued a few years ago in a silver plastic, that's the only real variant for these, there were two hard styrene plastic ones in the Eagle-Lander Module kit which I will add here when time allows.

We've found a monolith on the dark side sir!

Is it a big oblong box-like structure made of something too hard to penetrate and unknown to man, emanating the cry of the universal God-child?

No sir, it's hollow and has Bon-bon Buddies on the underside!

2013 - A Space Oddity!! A complete set congregate round a capsule-egg, to see if there is anything sugery left...

The breakdown of a complete set, the little balls (gyroscopic levellers? They should have had Segways!) for the hover platform are 'the bugger' with this set, being often overlooked at the de-sprueing phase, or easily lost.

Thanks to Greek follower of the blog Kostas, we have this collage of the box-art and blurb from the 1975 catalogue, the rover here has much larger rubber-tyred wheels than the contents of the box, and seems to have a raised battery on the front deck, the actual one had sort of tension/compression-stressed wire-basket wheels.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Small but perfectly formed!

One of each - 20/25mm, HO/OO, 1:76/1:72 range, boxed sets...I think!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1947-1955 (approximately); [Civil] The Zoo Animals & Zoo Brix - No Scale

First advertised (as far as we know) at the same time as the Life Guard/Horse Guard set in 1947, this set and it's subsequent offspring present a few questions once you look at it in detail.

A whole card, when I bought this, the vendor had about 6 similar cards, the animals - which the original advertisement tells us numbered 12 different - were randomly assorted so that while there were never two animals the same on any card, they were not divided into two sets of 6, which would have made far more sense.

My set is of polystyrene plastic, the same as the later Zoo Brix, however it seems almost certain that like the contemporary figures, earlier production would have been cellulose-acetate, indeed...

The three brown animals above and the yellow lion in-line with them ARE cellulose-acetate and their bases are the same as the carded ones, so it's fair to assume they are slightly earlier (actual 1947) production.

The 6 animals in the row above them are polystyrene again, however there are subtle differences in the duplicate animals, and the elephant is markedly unalike the carded example. Having only got the 'Brown Bear' in the Zoo Brix Series 'A' (below) this yellow one could be the plain 'Bear' (from the Zoo Brix Series 'C') but without seeing the Airfix animal in the flesh can't know if it's as close to the Airfix moulding as the lion or camel, but given the moulding variations in the Bergen/Beton figures and the early set of 8 soldier poses, it's likely these are all Airfix production or copies of/from Airfix mouldings. Likewise the slightly less defined elephant in pink.

The dogs have the same base style, and could originate with Airfix, but even if they did - I'd put money on their having been sold as playing pieces in a 'Totopoly' style dog-race game. Going to 'The Dogs' was far more popular in the fifties than now, and a fair few dog track board-games exist. The nice thing about these is that they are all slightly different and therefore each - unique. These days you would sculpt one, pantograph it in multiples and produce the same piece/pose in a half-dozen colours!

A close up of the lions and the 'wood-wasp' in the timber-pile; A donkey or ass/mule thing...stripe-less zebra? The dodgy-origin set has slightly thinner bases, however, as the Airfix ones barely stand up, they may be a first effort, but - if that's the case - why didn't the equine subject survive? Also, donkeys and dogs are not really 'Zoo' animals, but rather 'Domestic' animals.

The Logo hiding away in the Jungle foliage, if it's not a jungle, it's a very spacious zoo for the 1950's!! I'm guessing this 'Ape' is meant to be a Gorilla, although it looks more like a Sasquatch I encountered on the Brecon Beacons once!

A Year later the animals were used for Pattern No. 430 Zoo Brix; a boxed set of 6 infant's rattles/bath toys/building-blocks I first covered back in January last here; Bargain! which might be worth a read, however the pictures here are better, I was trying too hard to be clever with the Collage feature last time!

The bases were made wider and glued onto the base of the brick, they were also used in a similar capacity in the end of a baby's rattle/soother. As they would have stood-up better with this wider base, one wonders if they weren't also sold separately, or perhaps supplied as a premium somewhere?

I took these purely to show the size in relation to something more familiar to Airfix fans, one of the dancing para's with his space rifle and pockets stuffed with tissues! What WAS going on with that set, and why did people keep buying it - they must have or they wouldn't have kept churning it out?!

The little granules used to provide the rattle are small pieces of cellulose-acetate raw-material, which was being phased out at Airfix, and what better way to get rid of it than to flog it to the general public a thimble-full at a time! In the words of someone in the industry at the time (I can't find the reference, one of the TIMPO guys?) "Like the little stones in the bottom of a fish tank".

Here's a 'to be updated' chart showing the known poses and their position within the Airfix oeuvre. Which were the other four poses on the original cards? Where does the donkey fit in? Why two Elephant moulds? When - exactly - was the change to all-styrene polymers? Are the Dogs from the same source?

Further reading;

Plastic Warrior's 'Airfix - The Early Years' again.
Tony over at the Airfix Collectors Forum has the same set (from the same seller!), but has tracked down a few of the other animals; Zoo Brix.

1947 - 1955 (approximately); The Bergen/Beton Mounted Figures

Disclaimer

All or none of the figures in this post could (or could not) be by Airfix, or any of the other manufacturers mentioned in the text. Most of the horses probably are Airfix, those over-which a question mark remains are pointed out in the text.

First advertised in 1947 these are probably the first 'plastic' Toy Figures produced commercially in the UK as playthings...

Group Shot

These figures (where they ARE Airfix) were probably pirated from the Bergen Toy (Beton) company rather than licensed, after Nikolai Kovespachi (Nicholas Kove) came back from his reconnaissance to America sometime in the mid-to-late 1940's. The horse is deliberately different with it's tail slightly to one side and there are subtle differences in those figures which are duplicated, while the Life Guard seems to have been an Airfix original?

Doughboy in 'Brodie' helmet

This figure may be (and the horse definitely is...) a Beton product, but he comes within the scope of this article/post and ended up first in line because I wasn't too bothered about the order in which I uploaded the photographs! The horse is a dense cellulose-acetate polymer called Tenite, and while the figure is similar, he seems more clearly a polystyrene, so late US or European production?.

Staff Officer

Beton called this chap either M416; U.S. Cavalry Officer, or with a paint change; M418 Traffic Officer. Airfix called this the Horse Guard. Beton Horse on the left with a polyethylene Airfix horse on the right, The Airfix horse is marked 'MADE IN ENGLAND' withing the hollow underside/belly.

The red figure has probably only had his paint removed, you can see the figure on the left is suffering a crystalline reaction between the paint and the plastic, sometimes this reaction results in a sticky mess which is better removed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 'Mountie'

The Mountie, again not sure if Airfix produced this one, Reisler did, and as they produced the Life Guard, it's possible they got their figures (or a license?) from Airfix which would suggest Airfix produced a Mountie as well. Airfix horse again on the right.

The Mountie was also produced by Tudor*Rose, but as part of their wild West range and will be covered when I look at them.

Later - Yes they did, these are both Airfix, a later polystyrene one on the left and an earlier cellular acetate one on the right, see below..

Lifeguard in ceremonial uniform

The Life Guard, clearly aiming at the Tourist market, all these figures - when originating with Airfix - were supposed to stand up when removed from the horse, they rarely do! These are probably both Airfix with the horse in polyethylene and the rider in a styrene polymer.

Hunting party with both poses

The Hunters, Beton produced a female rider and a Jockey in racing silk, both in a larger size, neither of which - as far as I know - were part of the Airfix issues and don't seem to have featured in the Reisler inventory either.

Beagles


By Airfix - the hunters were sold in a boxed set with the two dogs above, these dogs were also sold in a kennel shaped box with other breeds. Early ones are cellulose-acetate, these are the later polyethylene run.

The dogs are marked internally in the same manor as the Airfix horses. The lower two are also ethylene, but in black. It would seem they come in the same colours as the ethylene horses, with some in the reddish/oxide browns.

Somehow I forgot the Alsation? Well here it is and there's now a setter on the STS forum thread, along with a red-brown Beagle.

Academy Cadet/Circus Performer/Ceremonial figure

This horse is from a different source altogether (the Woolworths Crazy Clown Circus) but might be an Airfix original and this figure looks good rearing up on it! These are technically only 'Cadets' but they do look like simplified ceremonials or those generic Napoleonics that feature so much in early toy production, while he also works well as a circus performer!

The following will help identify these figures in greater detail;

Kent Sprecher's Beton page.
The Reamsa figure on JC's blog.
Reisler page click-on; SGI / Riesler then either 'I Soldater og Politi' or; 'III Sportsryttere' below the thumbnails.

Further reading

Plastic Warrior magazine have produced a guide: Airfix - The Early Years, which covers all this early production in some depth.

Any of Richard O'Brien's volumes on firstly 'Collecting Toy Soldiers' and latterly 'Collecting American Made Toy Soldiers will fill you in on the Bergen/Beton production.

Indeed, one of the main questions remaining comes from his work if an American reader can help...did Beton use both sets of codes or is one O'Brien's own system?

Added 20th November 2012

And then this turns up! Raising that whorey old question of who copied who? An original Timpo boxed-set, the horse is quite a lump of lead, and seems to be early enough to be pre-war, except that Timpo aren't supposed to have made lead until after the war...was it intended for the composition range?

And/So; did Timpo copy Bergan-Beton, or did the Americans have a stab at a British piece of hollow-cast but in plastic (albeit: cellulose-acetate)

Clues point both ways - The edges of the horse are a bit rough, so it could have been the copy, taken badly and not cleaned up, while the solid belly and hollow-cast nature of the piece would make copying almost has hard - thechnically - as making a new horse pose from scratch, suggesting it IS a new pose and not the copy.

While the figure stares at us inanely, giving no clue as to his parentage, being easier to copy either way, and being as clean a moulding here as he is in plastic?

Also, there were other poses than the Mountie produced by Reamsa, and other stuff has come to light on this much copied/licenced set, so I will update this post properly one day!

------------------------------------------------------------

November 2014

It seems that the Cowboy was an Airfix pose, so I will have to update the table above, and it means we'll probably end-up with the Tudor*Rose and other figures here as well...

So, a quick correction of the blurb for the Mountie post above and we can look at this little group, late - polystyrene - production with a quick splash of blue on the chaps/boots and brown hats. No Indian? But a cowboy, cowgirl and the Mountie (Royal Canadian mounted Policeman - RCMP). These is also a Hong Kong copy of the cowboy for comparison.

These are the standard Tudor*Rose horse, not always marked, but their saddles give them away with the arrangement of stars round the edge. All the producers of this horse varied the saddles, and when I get the rest out of storage we'll look at them all in more detail, but for now these are Tudor*Rose and have two open stars forward of the girth (?) strap and five squashed stars behind.

The Tudor*Rose mounted cowboys, next to an Airfix 'original'. At some point these was a re-design on the figure with a more complicated lasso/lariat (can any American reader explain any difference between the two, or is it just preference/local dialect?), possibly designed to damage less easily than the earlier one which was happy to brake if you as much as looked at it wrong and is often missing, especially from the earlier hard plastic figures - from all the makers of the pose.

Below them is a close-up of the full Tudor*Rose marking in the under-belly of the horses, you can see why I always write the asterisk in Tudor*Rose, they always put the little graphic Tudor rose symbol between the Tudor and the Rose!

Mounted on the Tudor*Rose horses they make a nice group, but is there an Indian or two? We will look at other peoples Indians in due course.

1949 - 1960 (approximately); Early Toy Soldiers

Definitely in production by 1949 (when they were advertised in Toy Trader & Exporter), I'm guessing the unpainted polystyrene figures arrived first with the painted Polyethylene versions following at a later date, but that is a guess.

I only have two of the hard plastic ones at the moment; 'Airborne' and 'Knight in Armour', more will be added as I find them.

In soft plastic we see from left to right; '18th Century Fusilier', 'Paratrooper', 'Airborne' again (as opposed to paratrooper!!?) and finally 'German Soldier'.

These figures were also issued in Australia by a company called Pierwood Plastics under the Fethalite label in the unpainted hard plastic version. Some of the names/titles were however changed.

Smaller (copies/pirates?) have turned up and various mould variants of the Paratrooper seem to exist - both versions shown in the Plastic Warrior publication 'Airfix - The Early Days' have different arm-gaps from mine - and each other.

1949 - 1960 (approximately); Early Toys with Figures or Animals

This post will be for the odds and sods not included in the above posts and will be for any other Airfix toys from the early years as they turn-up.

I'm starting with a set which may not even be Airfix, but there are more clues to them being so than not, so for the time being, here are the 'provisional' mini-planes.

So far I have found four aircraft types, the Mosquito, Spitfire and Lancaster from Britain and the American Lightning with its twin-boom fuselage. There are also two distinct issues, an unmarked, early phenolic plastic (probably cellulose acetate) and a later tranche in polystyrene marked 'MADE IN ENGLAND' on the wing undersides.

The Mosquito - the damaged phenolic plastic one is the same colour as the granules left in the later animal rattles and building-blocks seen above, and the carded dog, while the later pale blue one is the same colour as those later animal flats.

We looked at this chap in comparison with some of his contemporaries over on the main blog here; M is for Miniature Mosquitoes

Lightning, again the colours are similar matches for the other early Airfix toys, here the phenolic blue (damaged, top left) matches some of the early carded animal flats.

Avro Lancaster, this is in a much smaller scale, not that the other two were the same scale, but this is such a large real-life aircraft the difference is a tad more obvious!

The fact that they are all 'same size' suggests they may have been made as novelties for budget Christmas Crackers, which would put Tom Smith in the frame, and the UK's leading maker of crackers in all price ranges when I was a lad! Not that I'm adding them to the tag-list, that's an assumption too far!

Finally the Spitfire; here a washed-out candy-pink one clinches the Airfix moniker for me, this colour is used by the later animal flats and other toys, while other (Thomas - Tudor Rose/Kleeware, Lipkin - Pipin/Triang and Bell/Merit being the obvious) makes pinks are of different shades.

The model is in the largest 'size', scale being the wrong word for such an inaccurate representation; the wings are close, but what's the cockpit doing so far back? It looks more like a racer!

Open to evidence of actual provenance on these, but for now - Airfix?