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Britains Toy Soldiers - The History & Handbook 1893-2013

Britains Toy Soldiers - The History & Handbook 1893-2013

ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Britains Toy Soldiers - The History & Handbook 1893-2013 by James Opie
ISBN: 978 1 84884 444 5. Published by Pen &Sword Books 2016 (reprinted 2021)

James Opie is currently valued and catalogued of toy soldiers and figures for C&T Auctioneers, after spending b thirty-odd years writing totalled catalogues for such esteemed names as Phillips, Christmas and Bonhams. He is arguably, the world's leading expert on the subject of toy soldiers. Opie has his own collection of favourite figures amassed and shaped since childhood and there are very few aspects of the toy soldier world that he has not devoted time to. Formerly editor of the Military and Aviation Book Society for over 25 years, his love of military history and commercial enterprise has given him considerable insight into the manufacture, distribution and collection of toy soldiers, particularly William Britains. He has written eight other books on similar subjects, but as he says, "not enough to reveal all of my secrets".

This book was for me, one of the definitive volumes of it's subject. One knows as soon as one starts to read it that James Opie is a man who really knows his stuff. Published in hardback form and beautifully detailed with colourful photographs, the book is a true work of art in the sphere of toy soldiers. Retailing at £35.00, it is a book for the serious collector, but we'll worth saving up for. It is an excellent investment, giving catalogue details and approximate valuations.

Opie starts his book with a foreword entitled Auctioneering, briefly describing his role as a principal auctioneer and his reason for doing so "I get to play with literally millions of toy soldiers" has got to be one of the best reasons I've heard of for doing a job! In the introduction, Opie examines the significance of Britain's as a toy soldier manufacturer. How the company went from a struggling "also-ran", fighting the stiff competition from German counterparts, to become a world renown manufacture and market leader.

The book contains eight major chapters, the first seven of which highlight the "seven ages" of Britains, where in Opie's opinion, most collectors will build their collection from one of those "ages" while ignoring the others. The reader see the effects of colonial and world wars, coronation and jubilee throughout the book I interspersed with other snippets of history along the way. Many will remember the sets containing the leading characters from Lord of the Rings; while some may even remember the Peter Rabbit series. In recent years, other dioramatic figures have been released, including Rorke's Drift, Titanic Lifeboat, The Nile Steamer to the Elite Forces series.

Chapter eight is the one for the collectors. Opie highlights the lore and language of the serious collector and adds notes on terminology, nicknames, care and condition and values. He also has a section where mistakes have been made by Britains; Irish Guards with Green Plumes, Skinner's Horse with Buff jackets, Life Guards with Red Collars and RHG with Blue collars and finally The rifle brigade marching with rifles "at the slope". Britain's took ownership of each mistake and corrected them, but with the exception of the rifle brigade set. Britain's produced a photograph and copies of the Drill Book of 1897 and this evidence proved they were correct! This chapter contains almost one hundred pages and could easily be a book on its own!

The bibliography is quite exact and contains some surprising additions. Finally, we get to the appendix; a veritable plethora of information regarding the significant hollow fast sets and recent finds.

I see this book as a coffee table/reference manual for the avid toy soldier collector. I found it excellent in its description and details but got lost occasionally with the auctioneers spiel. The price certainly makes this a considered purchase, but well recommended all the same.

Rated four out of five

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Informative and for some of us pretty nostalgic.
Most definitely.