The History And Handbook 1983-2013
Pen And Sword Press
By James Opie
This large and extensively illustrated book is a must for collectors of toy soldiers. Casual readers new to this kind of collecting will almost be overwhelmed with all the photos and descriptions of Britains’ various lines, but sticking with it will be rewarding. This is a comprehensive history of their offerings from 1893 to 2013 and is very complete. This author has written other books about Britains’ soldiers, so he knows his stuff.
The chapters are arranged chronologically from the company’s first offerings all the way through the modern lines. They produced not only the traditional British toy soldier over the years, but also figures of British royalty, notable people, farm equipment and animals, U.S. Civil War figures, cowboys and Indians, soldiers of other nations and World War 1 and 2 soldiers and weapons, along with others. The book details how the figures were made in different years, mentioning how Britains conceived and marketed them. Surprisingly, some sets did not sell well, so they were shelved.
The photographs included are well done and masterful, and even though it is not like inspecting a figure up-close, they are very enjoyable even for the casual reader. For the collector who wants to know where their collection stands, there is information about how many sets were produced, any variations and their likely value on the market today. The back of the book includes factors that affect the figure’s value, such as repainting, repairs, wear and tear and other issues.
The business world of toy soldiers is included also, which I find adds to the interest in the subject. The book mentions counterfeit products, rival companies, defecting employees and their struggle to remain relevant in the market. Businesses exist to make money and how Britains tackled their competitors could be a book in itself.
Overall, I think this is a necessary addition to collector’s libraries and a deep reference work. It may not make you an expert in toy soldiers, but the information is most useful.