Category Archives: Toy Soldier Collecting

Christmas Gift Ideas: Our 2016 Top Five Playsets

Every year, we field calls and emails from customers eager to know the best value gift for toy soldiers. Our answer is: playsets! Purchase a plastic toy soldier playset and you provide a chance for a kid or adult enthusiast to set up and/or play a battle. Both sides in an engagement are represented, often with accessories like buildings or artillery to anchor the fun. The playsets are discounted heavily, and we ship them for free! View all our 131 playset on our website.

Back in the 1950-70s, the Sears Wish Book sears-wish-book-vintage-ad-with-fort-apache-and-the-alamocontained a range of playsets from Marx Toys. Many remember those pages fondly – and remember the excitement of finding a playset under the Christmas tree. Marx is no longer in business, but we carry recasts of their figures as well as models from many other manufacturers. Inspired by Marx, we’ve produced a huge variety of our own playsets for over thirty years. We offer painted versions of playsets in addition to unpainted ones. They don’t cost $7.95 as they did in the 1950’s, but our playsets offer great value.

Here’s a selection of our most popular playsets for 2016:

Deluxe Painted American Revolution Playset (45 pieces)...$279

Deluxe Painted American Revolution Playset (45 pieces)…$279 view/purchase

Battle Ready WW II D-Day Playset (109 pieces)...$119

Battle Ready WW II D-Day Playset (109 pieces)…$119 view/purchase

Deluxe Marx Recast Alamo Playset (222 pieces)...$169

Deluxe Marx Recast Alamo Playset (222 pieces)…$169  view/purchase

Deluxe Pickett's Charge Playset (392 pieces)...$299

Deluxe Pickett’s Charge Playset (392 pieces)…$299  view/purchase

Deluxe Vietnam War Jungle Battle

Deluxe Vietnam War Jungle Battle (191 pieces)…$279 view/purchase

View all our 131 playset on our website.

Christmas Gift Ideas: Ceremonial Metal Toy Soldiers

To many people, the phrase ‘toy soldiers’ conjures up an image of the Changing of the Guard at London’s Buckingham Palace. Clad in dress uniforms, these soldiers are viewed by millions of tourists every year. Our ceremonial toy soldiers are cast in metal and painted in authentic uniforms. In scale they are 54mm, or about 2 1/4 inches tall. W. Britains has produced these figures since their earliest days, and we offer a huge variety of their ceremonial figures.

In the spirit of the current Netflix series The Crown, we’ve created several new sets this year including the W. Britains Queen Elizabeth II figure. They are priced at $60 each:

H.M. Queen Elizabeth with Beefeaters of the Tower

H.M. Queen Elizabeth with Beefeaters of the Tower – view/order on website

H.M. Queen Elizabeth with Her Life Guards

H.M. Queen Elizabeth with Her Life Guards – view/order on website

Queen Elizabeth and Her Scots Guards

Queen Elizabeth and Her Scots Guards – view/order on website

View all these sets as well as our entire range of W. Britains toy soldiers on our website here.

French TV News Piece on Incredible Starlux Collection

Following through on New Year’s Resolution # 1 (expand our website listings for our extensive collection of Starlux Napoleonic figures), we bumped into this 2010 French news piece about a passionate Starlux collector. Warning: it’s in French, and you have to view one minute of French commericals to get to the video. Enjoy!

TF1 Starlux Toy Soldier Collector Extraordinaire

Expeditionary Force’s Amazing new 54mm plastic Greeks: Review and Tips for Assembly

Expeditionary Force Hoplites (EXP103)

Expeditionary Force Hoplites (EXP103)

A year ago a new manufacturer, Expeditionary Force of Singapore, entered the 54mm plastic market with a range of American Civil War figures, and announced that their next release would be Ancient Greeks. Since the ancient world is under-represented in 54mm plastic production, this was exciting news. Now Expeditionary Force’s new range of 54mm Greek Hoplites, light troops and cavalry has arrived, and the news is good.

In my opinion, these astonishing models are the most detailed unpainted plastic figures ever encountered, surpassing Conte’s Spartans, Barzso’s British Grenadiers and all other new or vintage plastics. (Feel free to dispute in the comments section following this post!)

Expeditionary Force Hoplite, Conte Spartan, Barzso British Grenadier

Expeditionary Force Hoplite, Conte Spartan, Barzso British Grenadier

I’d say the only figures in this scale which stand up for comparison are the painted models from Forces of Valor’s Historical Legends and Play Along’s Lord of the Rings figures.

Expeditionary Force Hoplite, Forces of Valor Historical Legends Roman, Play Along Lord of the Rings Urukhai and Rohan Soldier

Expeditionary Force Hoplite, Forces of Valor Historical Legends Roman, Play Along Lord of the Rings Urukhai and Rohan Soldier

After assembling the range for the photos shown here and on our website, I’ve put together this post to share my assembly tips. Don’t open these boxes expecting a single-cast figure: each Greek comes unassembled, and includes a selection of pieces which can be snapped together in a variety of pose options. Some of the snap-together joins are not secure, however, so I suggest permanent bonding with glue. The manufacturer recommends using a cyanoacrylic, such as Gorilla Glue. Check the label carefully, as there are several types of Gorilla products.

My suggestion is to use an assembly line method:

  1. Lay out all the parts on a tray in front of you. Choose which elements are to make up each model and set the extra pieces aside.
  2. Prepare the weapons, if they are not straight, swirl them in very hot water – this will help the plastic straighten out.
  3. Begin by gluing all left arms onto shields and set aside to dry (10 minutes is suggested by the manufacturer).
  4. Glue all left arms into left shoulders. If a weapon is to be held by the left hand, you can put it in before gluing. This will be a snug fit and no gluing will be necessary.
  5. Glue all right arms into right shoulders. Follow advice on weaponry. The peltasts, for example, might hold extra spears.
  6. Glue sword scabbards in place. There may be some question of doing this after the left arm with shield goes in, so examine your options before following these directions to the letter. The cape must go on after the scabbard, however.
  7. If the figure has a cape, apply a little glue below the neck of the figure and then slip the cape over the figure’s head so it rests in place, touching the glue. I would not suggest using glue on the head to hold the cape in place.
  8. The head of the figure goes on last. There are several types of heads available. If purchasing multiple sets you may want to trade heads between sets to give a uniform look to specific units. Unlike arms, which are meant for unique body trunk types, all heads go with all figures, so you can switch at will. Heads do not have to be glued in place, as the fit onto the neck is snug. I suggest it only because they will not ever come off, so you won’t lose any when playing.
  9. Assembling horses is very easy. Insert foot plugs into bases. Turn horses upside-down and put a tiny bit of glue into the slot to affix the plugs in place.
  10. I have not glued my mounted figures onto their horses, but this is an easy step if you wish to do it. Put a dab of glue on the rider’s bottom and place on the horse’s back.

The range includes six different sets, each available in red or in linen/cream color. There are two light infantry sets, two heavy infantry sets, and two cavalry sets. You can view the entire Expeditionary Force catalog on our website.

We are including these assembly instructions with each order purchased through our website.

Playset Spotlight: Super Deluxe Painted D-Day Playset

Jamie shot a video after photographing the 2013 Super-Deluxe D-Day Playset. You can view the full gallery of images from the playset shoot on our website here.

More media coverage of The Toy Soldier Company: Article in Jersey City Independent

Jamie Delson for article in JCI

Our warehouse is located in Jersey City, NJ, prompting a nice article about local businesses by Ron Callari in The Jersey City Independent:

Read the Jersey City Independent Article about The Toy Soldier Company here

Web video about Jamie Delson and The Toy Soldier Company

Director Ani Simon-Kennedy and cinematographer Cailin Yatsko at produced this nice piece about Jamie and The Toy Soldier Company in their web series ‘W?RK,’ focused on New Yorkers who turn their hobby into their profession.

W?RK Episode 2: Jamie Delson, Owner of The Toy Soldier Company

Video of new Battle of Shiloh Playset

Here’s  a video introducing a playset I’ve put together for 2012: Super Deluxe Battle of Shiloh Playset:

Collecting Britains Deetail Plastic Figures – Part II

Collecting Britains Deetail Figures and Accessories – Part II

Tips for purchasing, wargaming, and display

In Part I of this post, which is adapted from an article which appeared in a 2011 issue of Toy Soldier and Model Figure magazine (copyright James Delson), I gave an overview of William Britain’s Deetail plastic toy soldiers and accessories. In Part II, I offer advice on how to acquire retired Britains Deetail figures, wargaming ideas, and display tips.

Britain’s Deetail First Version 7th Cavalry

If you choose to begin collecting older sets, all of which are long out of production, you’re unlikely to find them in toy stores. For retired sets there are, basically, four routes to follow. First, there’s eBay, the on-line international market place for all things to all people. Second, you can buy from dealers of vintage plastics, on line or from catalogs (yes, I run The Toy Soldier Company, and am a dealer of vintage plastic toy soldiers). Third is to buy at toy soldier shows. Fourth, you can buy from auction houses.

Let the Buyer Beware: Educate, Watch and Wait

In order to buy using eBay, from an on-line dealer or from a traditional auction house (Vectis Auctions Ltd, in England, offers regular sales of toy soldiers), you need access to a computer, common sense and careful attention. The trick is to know what you’re looking for and to decide in advance what you are willing to pay. This may require months of research to see how much figures actually sell for, depending on condition, rarity and the completeness of the set(s) you are seeking.

As an example, Britains originally made two sets of World War II Germans. The version in the photo above was produced in 1976 and remained in production through the mid-90s. The second set, shown below, was released in 1977 and also remained in production through the mid-90s.

The difficulty for a collector is that the models in both sets wear the same uniforms, are painted in the same style, and have the same helmet decals. One can only differentiate between the sets by knowing the poses, as most dealers and auction sites sell them in mixed lots, rather than in their proper groupings.

My best advice is to visit eBay and auction sites often, keeping a written record of the items you are watching. For the first few months, write down the sets you are following, their condition and the final prices achieved. You will begin to see a pattern of which sets are most popular (and which may thus achieve higher prices), which sets are listed less frequently and which sets are shown mint-in-box if that’s your choice.

One thing you will find when buying old Deetail figures through any of the routes listed here is that very few sets, except the boxed ones, are ever offered in complete form. Few dealers or auction house employees can accurately identify  what Britains Deetail figures they are selling in terms of production year, set number and whether the figures they have grouped together were actually made in the same year, much less in the same set. In the photo above I have assembled a mismatched set. This shot contains (reading from left) 1 fully painted figure from the 1st version dismounted Mexicans (1977), 2 more traditional “Deetail-style” painted Mexicans from the 2nd version (1978), and then 1 mounted Cowboy and 1 dismounted Cowboy from the 1st version of their respective series’ (1972). When buying from dealers and auction houses do your research unless you don’t mind buying mixed lots.

With few exceptions, Deetail figures made in any given year share the same style of paint job. Thus one can tell an early cowboy, WWII Japanese or WWII British infantryman made in 1971, from a later version because it is fully painted, while later versions were not. But some paint jobs of the same figures in a set of six also changed dramatically from year to year.   Further, ALL Deetail rectangular bases are dated 1971. This is NOT the year the sets you are looking at were probably made (as many dealers and auction houses incorrectly attest), but just the copyright on the base. If you are serious about collecting, it’s up to you to determine the authenticity of a set before buying it.

 Buying at shows

Although the selection is decidedly hit and miss at shows, there are often dealers who bring a selection of Deetail figures and boxed sets to set out on their tables. The danger here is more for the uninitiated than the experienced collector, as many dealers have no idea what determines a complete set, which versions they are offering, whether the weapons are correct, if the figures have been repainted and, most of all, what they are worth. But the virtue of being able to actually examine the goods before making the purchase, and for some, the joy of haggling, are worth the price of admission. The key, as always, is to know what you are looking for, and have some idea of what the merchandise is worth, before going to the show.

Display Strategies

There are definite advantages to displaying plastics that you don’t get with metals. Because they’re far less breakable, they can be displayed in areas that would be considered unsafe with metal figures. Because they’re generally painted with more durable paints, if they get dusty they can be washed in hot soapy water. And, because the accessories which go with them are so easily obtainable, you can generally find a selection of items to add to a setup such as buildings, vehicles, entrenchments and artillery. In the Napoleonic diorama shown above, one could arrange the modular Classic Toy Soldier’s Hougoumont farmhouse building as shown, or in a more elongated manner on a bookshelf.

While many plastic collectors seem content to keep their figures piled in a shoebox, only to take them out after dinner and set them up on the dining table for a couple of hours, others are more interested getting down on the floor and playing – either by themselves, with friends or with their children or grandkids.

Some of the most popular ranges Britains produced were their farm, wildlife and equine lines. Most of the figures and accessories in these lines strictly qualify as Herald models, having made their debuts before the advent of Deetail. But they remained in production through 2003. Shown above are setups featuring these charming ranges.

Gaming with Deetail Figures

When Britains released their Medieval Deetail range in 1973, I was excited to find they had created opponents for their knights. As the years sped by they added more sets to this era until it became the broadest of all Deetail ranges, offering figures, castles, siege equipment, jousting lists, tents and other period-specific toys. In my war games I have always used large numbers of Deetail Medieval models for Saracen regiments, European knightly entourages and other Medieval levies. In addition, by repainting and/or converting Deetail figures I have produced hundreds of additional poses for added realism and excitement on the battlefield.

In the photo above, showing the climax of the battle of Agincourt, I have combined several different versions of Deetail knights. At left is the king from the 1st version Knights (#7740, 1973) and 3rd version archers (also #7740, but made in 1993). On the right are foot Knights from 3 different ranges (7740, 3rd version Knights 1993; 7770g current fully painted Super Deetail 5th version; and #7805  Champion Knights, 1993). Mounted knights on the right are, likewise, from 3 ranges (7744, 3rd version Knights, 1993; 7772g current fully painted Super Deetail 5th version Mounted Knights; #7806 Mounted Champion Knights, 1993). Also included in the game setup are foot and mounted knights, plus accessories, from Forces of Valor’s “Historical Legends” range.

Where to Start?

My final photo, shown above, features a carefully-selected group of figures and accessories combined to create a massive Civil War setup. It includes 3rd version Deetail Civil War Union and Confederate infantry and cavalry, 1993, Deetail Union and Confederate Gatling guns (#7570 and #7470, 1977), Britains farm fence, stone walls, small hay bales, round hay bales and small accessories, plus buildings by BMC, trees, dead trees, rocks and hills by Marx and cannon by Dulcop.

The reason I was able to create such a massive, yet cohesive, image, is that I assembled the setup from carefully chosen elements of my collection. And this, I believe, is because I approached the building of this collection with an organized and well-thought-out plan. I knew I would be playing games with my figures, so I always sought a balance between what I just WANTED and what I felt I really needed to play large-scale games. Instead of purchasing figures on a whim, and ending up with a bunch of guys who are mis-matched and don’t really look like they belong together on the shelf, ask yourself what sets you really want.

Collecting Britains Deetail Plastic Figures – Part I

Collecting Britains Deetail Figures and Accessories – Part I

This post is adapted from an article that appeared in a 2011 issue of Toy Soldier & Model Figure magazine. Copyright James Delson

Set 7589 Britains Deetail 1st version Mounted 7th Cavalry

Set 7950 Britains Deetail Napoleonic French Infantry


When it comes to acquiring toy soldiers, many devoted hobbyists choose plastic figures, or a combination of plastic and metal models, to build their collections. I am one of the latter, having purchased painted and unpainted plastics, as well as painted metals, since a tender age. In the plastic field, hundreds of international makers produced figures and accessories in the past seven decades. But only four manufacturers have continued to command the lion’s share of collectors’ attention. Marx has always been the most popular among American hobbyists, while the British companies, Airfix and Timpo, also have their devotees here and abroad, but Britains, and most specifically their Deetail range, holds the dominant place in the hearts of serious plastics collectors worldwide. Their superb sculpting, evidenced by such popular sets as their 7th Cavalry and Napoleonic ranges (shown above) outshines all but the very best metal figures.

Britains’ Plastic Soldier Development

Set 401 Britains Deetail 1st Version Confederate Infantry

Set 7440 Britains Deetail 2nd version Confederate Infantry

Britains has produced plastic figures since 1952. Their original range, Herald, was followed by the Eyes Right and Swoppet lines. In 1971 the Deetail range was introduced, and over the past 4 decades it has covered such widely divergent historical subjects as the Middle Ages, The American Civil War, The Foreign Legion’s conflict against the Arabs, the Wild West, World War II and Modern Armies, as well as a huge farm and civilian series. As you can see in these photos, the style and quality of their paint jobs have changed in succeeding versions over the past 4 decades, and some of the sculpting has been altered or redone entirely. For instance, in the photo shown above of the first version of their Civil War Confederate infantry, 3 of the poses (advancing, standing and kneeling firing) are unique to this version. The rifles are longer and have detailed straps, while the advancing figure’s rifle sports a bayonet. Released in 1971 these 3 unique poses were made with plug arms. In 1981, these 3 poses were replaced with newly-sculpted fixed-arm versions, each a one-piece casting (seen in the other photo above). In the 1st and 2nd and all subsequent versions, the sculpts of the flag bearer, officer and loading poses remained the same.

Collecting Britains’ Figures

Set 6300 ‘The Holy Grail’ Britain Super Deetail Modern British Paratroops 4 rare poses

Because the Deetail range contains hundreds of sets and accessories which span the past 40 years of the Britains catalog, it would be best to narrow down one’s choices when beginning a collection. If money is no object, you can make it your focus to acquire only the rarest sets, or purchase only mint-in-box sets. Above you can see the set commonly referred to as “The Holy Grail.” This is a group of 4 Super Deetail Modern British Paratroopers. Super Deetail figures were produced by fusing together pieces cast in different colors of unpainted plastic to make highly detailed models which appeared to be painted. These 4 figures were produced in extremely limited numbers in 1978, but were never generally released to the market. It is estimated that fewer than 1000 of them were ever made.

Set 7852 Britains Super Deetail Nurse and Patient mint in box

Some entire ranges were released for only very brief periods. One of the most sought-after such series is represented by this next photo, a mint-boxed set from the short-lived Britains hospital range. This Super Deetail series was released in 1983, enlarged in 1984, reduced in size in 1985 and discontinued by 1986. Accessories were of painted metal and unpainted plastic.

Set 7489 Britains Deetail 1st Version 7th Cavalry counter pack box and contents

Another collecting option is the purchase of Britains’ ‘counterpacks.’  While  window-box sets were meant for display on the shelf, Britains issued counter packs for point-of-sale placement on the checkout counter. Figures in these bulk-packed sets would be sold by the piece, then the empty box would be discarded. This 1st version set of 7th Cavalry was released in 1978, so finding it in its original box is a difficult proposition. They rarely come up on Ebay or at auction houses.

Set 7940 Britains Deetail Napoleonic British Infantry

Set 7959 Britains Deetail Napoleonic French Cavalry

Set 7949 Britains Deetail Napoleonic British Cavalry

Other routes to collecting include picking an historical era and purchasing only sets produced within its parameters. Such would be the case with the 3 sets shown above, which are the only other sets in the Deetail range devoted to the Napoleonic Wars.

Some go the route of becoming Deetail “completists,” whose goal it is to purchase one of every figure or boxed set in the range. Then there are war gamers, who prefer to buy the same sets over and over again to build their armies.  Another hobby approach is taken by diorama builders, who try to stockpile multiples of specific poses from one or more ranges to create their miniature scenes.

Britains Deetail today

For 40 years Deetail figures have proven themselves to be consistently popular among hobbyists of all ages. A beginner can still cut his teeth on one range or other of the current Super Deetail models. The “Super Deetail” moniker may cause a little confusion, as the original models under this name were the fused-together style of unpainted plastic, while the current use is entirely different. As of 2006, the term Super Deetail describes the paint style which the current owner,  First Gear, applies to their models. These figures are painted in their entirety, rather than in the tradition Deetail style, in which just the details were painted on.

Set 7352g Current Britains Superdeetail WWII Japanese Infantry 4th Version

Set 7352 Britains Deetail 1st version WWII Japanese Infantry

Shown above is one of this current range, the 3rd version Deetail WWII Japanese Infantry. This set is better, and more authentically, painted then the 1st version original, which is shown just below it. In the 1st version, the figures were fully painted, which showed off one of Britains’ most well-sculpted efforts. Produced in 1973 for one year, then replaced with 2nd version in the more traditional Deetail paint job in 1974, the set was retired in 1976. But First Gear reissued them in 2006 and they are readily available in many toy and hobby shops, as well as on line.

In Part II of this post, I’ll offer advice on how to acquire retired Britains Deetail figures, as well as  display advice, wargaming suggestions and an explanation of terms regarding condition of figures.