Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reviewing the Troops: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Stopped by my favorite soldier store in Gettysburg last week, Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers, and picked up a few ziploc bags o' soldiers from their bargain bin.

Seven bucks will get you between 16 and 20 soldiers, recasts of Marx, Imex, Timpo, and others. If you want a variety of poses, well then, it's a good thing that these bags are transparent, especially when it comes to the Timpos, which have only four poses available.

This post will explore the vast range of quality between currently available toy soldiers and miniatures as well as provide a peek at some really georgous toy soldiers from long ago.

First, the good:

Hey look everybody, big surprise, it's Conte Collectibles! Though not up to the quality standards of the newest generation of Wm. Britians figures (don't bothering arguing on this one), Conte Collectibles has some of the best and priciest "miniatures" on the market. Why even the name says they're collectible! So I guess it's "hands off kids! these are daddy's 'special soldiers', just for daddy to look at". Even the box warns: "Adult collectibles. Not for children under the age of 12". Sort of makes one wonder what other types of "adult collectibles" daddy has tucked away in his den.


This is a club to which I do not care to belong. First - I don't have the money, Second - I prefer soldiers that wash off easily after a battle in the herb garden, and Third - they don't drop well.

But they sure are gorgeous figures.

Lookit these two dukeing it out with South Mountain in the background. The Yankee is definately giving that Reb a rearranged set of teeth...

as this close-up confirms:Ooh, detail you can almost smell.

I find it of particular note that the victorious Yankee is none other than former president Richard M. Nixon:Ooh, detail you can almost impeach

This is really quality work, no doubt about it.

So, I think these very well made, very well painted, very well packaged (and how),and very well marketed pewter Conte figures are very nice. 

 This set entitled "Hand to Hand Vignette #4"  (ooh "vignette" no less)  that a friend gave me as a gift I'll soon be unloading on ebay for some bucks, so that's all very fine and wonderful.

and now...
The Bad

But isn't it ironic how totally vulnerable the high-end guy is when confronted with the unwashed masses of the Timpo recast bargain brigade?These hillbillys got that blue-belly dead to rights!

It was especially fun to put this highly detailed, highly priced, and highly collectible Confederate out of his misery (Indiana Jones style) with this crudely cast (and probably ill-mannered) Timpo Yankee officer with a six-shooter.
How the mighty do fall.

These Timpo guys have nothing in common with the high-end Conte guys save for the time period.

Even the bulk is off between the two:

Just compare the bases.  Conte is definitely targeting a niche crowd with all of this wonderful information:

While the Timpo repop is simply preparing the way for another "unknown" soldier ("Known but to a plastic God" shall read the monument).

The Timpo recast anatomy can be pretty goofy (this is musket totin' hoe-down man).  Foot-stompin' fun:
Is that a pony-tail or simply flash flappin' in the breeze back there?

And the range of poses is limited only by the very limited imagination of the Timpo designers: ("My goodness Madge, it's a mirror image, one sans rifle. Get the camera quick!")

But,  how 'bout them hats! Here Doug McClure shows off his oversized Stetson to fine effect:

Heck, even "rifle shootin' guy" and "rifle holdin' guy" turn out to be Doug, this is like that sunglasses guy in "The Matrix":

The Yankee side of the recast Timpo figures is equally limited to four figures:

Pistol Pete officer guy:

Sort of advancing guy,

A third guy I couldn't find ( I think he's on detatched duty with the big "Sunken Road" scenario I've got going on in my front yard which will be the grist of a future post),


Trying to remember how to make a "hollow square" guy.
Casting is crude, anatomy is poor, poses are limited, and quality varies (some of these guys are heavy on the "flash"

But, that being said, if you're just looking to fill out your ranks with new recruits these cheepie baggies are the way to go.

Heck, isn't that what keeps BMC in business?

If your armies are large enough (and mine's getting there) sometimes you just need, in bulk, little not-so-warm-bodies to fill the ranks as cannon fodder, and that's the destiny of these little Timpo recasts.

And now...

The Beautiful

This beautiful cossack figure is a two dimensional cut-out. A form of toy soldier popular from the turn of the last century right through the Second World War. McLoughlin Bros. was a major litho company that put out scads of paper toy sets, including soldiers.

Shortly before I left the snow-swept steppes of Michigan to relocate in Maryland, I purchased (for a song) about a hundred of these McLoughlin Bros. paper Franco-Prussian War soldiers, each on its own little wooden base. I've since auctioned about half of them (doing very nicely, thank you), but I scanned each before letting them go so as to be able to recreate this little 2-D army during the winter months here.

The detail and rendering of these soldiers are fantastic (be sure to click on the image for an enlargement).

Here's one of my favorites:
A Prussian Krupp gun detatchment.

As I continue the slow process of restoring these paper figures (using archival materials) I'll eventually have enough of them to post as a profile on this blog.

Until then...

Huzzah for the volunteers!

See you on the fifteenth of the month (or perhaps sooner) with more Toy Soldiers - Forever!



Mike Bunkermeister Creek said...

Great stuff Mannie. I love it. Your sense of humor and the photography are both great. Outdoor photos of 54mm figures are wonderful. They remind me of when I was a kid, but you do it so much better.

Mannie Gentile said...


Thanks for the kind words. It reminds me of when I was a kid too...about twenty minutes ago while painting a tiny Irish Brigade flag.

Grow old, not up!


John said...

Okay I want to know when the tours begin and how do I get a seasonal ranger position at your battlefield? Or do you already have toy rangers also?

John C. Nicholas

Mannie Gentile said...


"Toy Rangers" now THERE's an idea!



The Colts are perfect on the Timpos though. Better a Timpo plastic Colt than a real one Mannie

Christopher Walkerloo said...

Hi Mannie,

I found your blog whilst doing a round up on paper soldiers... and entered through here... the 'beautiful' paper soldiers mentioned here abouts were neither ACW nor garden dirt passable so I didn't think I was pushing your remit as much as I perhaps was the other day when I posted in your September section... or well... I'm currently doing my research for some ACW figures... I'm problies going to start off with units active in Gettysburg... ahhh they'll be OK in the yard as long as you glue coins to their bases... and you pack them up when it rains. the Future. Christopher Walkerloo.