Toy Soldiers

Toy soldiers have been collected since the time of the Pharaohs. First made from wood, stone and clay, it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that toy figures – or military miniatures – were first mass-produced. 

Before the turn of the 20th century the English firm, William Britains, introduced a less-expensive line of hollow cast leads. These ‘little men’ depicted armies of England, America, France, Germany and their opponents. 

For the first half of the twentieth century, soldiers were made of lead, wood, or a sawdust and glue mixture called ‘composition.’ But after WWII, some manufacturers looked to plastic as a cheaper and more child-friendly medium. International concerns about lead poisoning in 1966 brought about new laws which banned the manufacture of toys containing lead. 

In the late 1960s and ‘70s, anti-war sentiment turned the tastes of the public away from military toys like toy soldiers. The rise of the action figures and toys that were based on science fiction and fantasy movies, and the new craze of video games, changed the collecting interests of younger children. 

By the late ‘80s, the world of plastic toy soldiers had come back to life. The baby boomer collectors of the 1960s had grown up and were now looking to rebuild the collections they remembered so fondly. Old molds were dusted off and run again in limited numbers as ‘recasts.’ 

Metal figures were primarily marketed to adult collectors who had been involved in the hobby for years. Most of the soldiers being produced replicated the ‘old toy soldier’ style, with poses devoted to parade and ceremonial stances. New collectors and children preferred battlefield action stances.


plastic soldiers
Plastic Soldiers

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