Collecting Toy Soldiers
Recently a customer walked into the store and was surprised by the large display of Toy Soldiers and the variety of Military Miniatures on display. After a brief view of the display he remarked “I had no idea that toy soldiers were so popular?”. Before I could respond he asked, “who collects toy soldier’s historians, teachers…?”. This led to a lengthy conversation which set me thinking. Over the years I myself have frequently asked customers and collectors how and why they began collecting toy soldiers, so I thought I would share, within this article, some of the responses I’ve received.
There are as many reasons for collecting Toy Soldiers and Military Miniatures as there are grains of salt in a salt shaker. Before I get into why, there is one common fiber amongst all collectors…” they enjoy it”. Unlike Toy Trains , that are sophisticated motorized trains traveling through cities, villages and farms (country sides), lighted smoking locomotives, animated boxcars with lights and activated dioramas featuring burning buildings with smoke pouring out of the windows, automatic gateman that emerge from their shed to warn motorists of passing trains; toy soldiers are displayed as innate objects either in display cabinets or within a diorama set to a specific period, whether it be a battlefield scene with rolling hills or a burned out building, rarely, if ever, are the Toy soldiers and Military vehicles animated. I digress, back to why collect Toy Soldiers.
Collecting Toy Soldiers and Military Miniatures certainly serves as a channel for collectors towards the learning of historic battles, world famous leaders (Napoleon, Custer, Winston Churchill, George Washington, and the list goes on), identification of aircraft and the pilots who flew them, along with the knowledge to identify military tanks, artillery, weapons, uniforms and yes even horses. To quote Ray Haraden, a lifelong collector and auctioneer of antique toys, banks and toy soldiers …” collecting is a quest that will never be completed”, he compared it to “searching for the Holy Grail”. As J. Recker told me” …you can never have enough soldiers firing.”
To paraphrase one collector who said he collects all types of military soldiers and military miniatures that are interesting and look good, I guess you can call him an eclectic collector. Another collector focuses his attention on a specific period, in his case the American Civil War; whereas another collector who is also interested in the American Civil War collects specific battles, the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Bull Run. Another avid collector, who started collecting toy soldiers when he was 9 years old, and is now 76 years young, has spent a great many years assembling tied in boxed sets of William Britains Toy Soldiers. F. Fastener collects all types of Military Miniatures but only from one manufacturer, John Jenkins Designs. Numerous collectors only compile Toy Soldiers of specific makers. Such as WBritain, King & Country, John Jenkins Designs, First Legion, Thomas Gunn, Frontline, Conte Collectibles but to mention a few who produce metal figures. There is also a fondness for collecting plastic toy soldiers by specific makers. Such as Marx, Toy Soldiers of San Diego, Conte Collectibles, LOD Enterprise, Collectors Showcase to mention a few.
Collecting Toy Soldiers is a serious hobby, paying close attention to detail and accuracy, types of battles, times of war or size of toy soldier figures. A common thread that runs through collectors of both Trains and Toy Soldiers is that their collecting is not monetary but emotional. They are on a quest!