Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Navarone: tear-down

 After exactly two years on the table, Navarone Island came down today.  

On June 15 the final Navarone installment posted to this blog, which will be the climatic Battle of Navarone Island.

Here's one last video documentation of the island scenario.

Following that, I'll be installing track lighting and setting up for a Civil War scenario...it'll be good to see Greenbrier Maryland again.

Stop by June 15 for the full Battle of Navarone scenario.  Until then, get your after-action report filed, and...

Soldier on!


Saturday, May 11, 2024

Wolverines: the Seventh Michigan Volunteer Cavalry

I've just completed my next-to-last toy soldier regiment (famous last words) *

and I now have a 21-man regiment of cavalry, and they're all men from my home state of Michigan.

As with all of my pewter regiments, the size of the unit is based solely on the size of the shelf in the case.  In this instance one shelf acommodated three rows of seven mounted men...perfect!

The troopers are of seven different manufactures: W. Britain, Frontline, Collector's Showcase, King and Country, and a few more old-timey brands like Stadden, Imrie Risley, and even a Mignot.

Over the next several posts, I will be showcasing the various figures.  I'm looking forward to it, and maybe you are  too.

Go out and smell the flowers, and...

Soldier on!


* I'm currently working on the last of my regiments, the 6th Alabama; John B. Gordon's "Raccoon Roughs."

Monday, May 6, 2024

An interview with Rusty Kern, publisher of Playset Magazine.

Playset magazine is a wonderful publication for those who collect, play with, and covet toy soldiers.  Special editions are also occassionally published which focus on particular genres of Marx playsets.

The books are lush in text and have incredible photo scenarios.  The information is quite comprehensive, with all variations of each set as well as rarities.

Former Marx designers are quoted in the books and many original documents are presented to back-up the narrative.

It is genuinely a pleasurable experience to pore through these fascinating books.  I highly recommend each of them..

Rusty and Kathy Kern are the force behind These publications, and here is an interview that I did with Rusty a couple of years ago. (www.playsetmagazine.com)

Rusty, what spurred your interest in toy soldiers?

My father was collecting toy soldiers and had gotten a couple magazines and was actually casting them which kind of made it OK for me to start collecting them again. In one issue of a magazine he got there was an ad selling Alamo marks Alamo Mexicans attackers and that really got me going in that was about 1988.   And I thought, I'm just gonna try this one and see how it goes. Then my company, which makes documentary and promotional films, was in New York City working with Dick Clark's organisation. You remember Dick with his wonderful American Bandstand TV program. We were doing an interview with an executive high up in a skyscraper who hadn't shown up yet and on his desk was toy shop magazine if you remember that had no informational articles, it was straight out a 100 pages or so of classified ads for toys.  So while the guy was gun I'm reading these ads and I see something for playsets.  And I never turned back after that.

Although there are a few fine manufacturers of toy soldiers, why do you think that none have surpassed the popularity or mystique of those made by Marx?

Marx did try very hard to put out the best quality at a low price and succeeded well beyond the wildest imagination of any of the employees that I've interviewed. To a man they are all amazed that today's prices have soared so high for some sets orveven parts but they also recall it being fun to work there and they demonstrate loyalty to Louis Marx to this day. What I am saying is they really put their heart into making those toys: it showed then, and it shows today.

But make no mistake, kids of today will look back and remember the things they had too,  just give it a few decades it all start over again.

Did you have a Marx playset as a child? Which one? and how was it meaningful to you?

Oh yes! It wasn't Christmas without  Marx.  I was really very loyal to that brand myself even at 8 9 10 years old and Marx playsets were all I really wanted. I did have several fort Apaches; I got Battlegrounds, and I got The Alamo over and over again. Soon as I became aware that you could make money cutting lawns I was a little shrimp out there cutting all the neighbours yards and took the money to go by a miniature set for myself in the middle of summer 1964.

 In a perfect world, what would the ideal playset look like to you?

I like so many of these.  But if I had to pick a favourite,  I'd say the Strategic Air Command base with its fleet of B-52 bombers is one, Johnny Tremaine with its opposing forces of British vs colonial soldiers is another, and soon as I say that I'm also thinking of the Robin Hood set with its gleaming  castle!  Or Cape Canaveral and Battleground. And I could not leave out The Alamo.or the Blue and Gray epic Civil War sets.

Your recent special edition - BattleGround II was another hit with the toy soldier crowd be a hit.  What's the next big project going to cover?

Those are very kind words, thank you. Probably everyone who is buying it helped write it! There are so many experts and authorities on that one to thank.,  A lot of young collectors too are getting it because of the areas covered --  Desert Fox, American Patrol, Iwo Jima and Navarone, every set marx made from 1964 up to 1968 is in that one, in color and in depth.  Quite exhaustive, got a letter from a buyer who said he wasn't expecting it to be so big but that's why we did two volumes, one for the 1958 - 1963 sets.

 What do you see as the future of toy soldiers?  Do you think the hobby will eventually disappear with the baby-boomers, or do you see a future with a new generation of kids continuing the interest?

Well I tell you, I was hitchhiking one year in college and got picked up by a great man driving a station wagon... and in the back was packed full of cartons of light bulbs. So I said, "oh you sell light bulbs." He says, no kid, I sell light. (I'm trying to italicized that. Light) And I think that's the way toy soldiering is for me and for the people who enjoy them...

It's not just plastic or just little figures,  Any more than light bulbs or just milky glass and thin wires for that man.  He gave people light in their living rooms when they were trying to read he overcame generations of dark cabins were children couldn't study at night He gave people light in their living rooms when they were trying to read he overcame generations of dark cabins were children couldn't study at night...

These things are a light in many of our lives for their fun, for their collectability, for the variety.... it's a place to go when you are stressed, they are adventure in a box, the Wild West, the darkness of war and strategy... a whole lot more than toys soldiers would seem.. And it's something we can love all our lives...  

Heck every time I see a new or vintage set, or something I hadn't seen before, even new metal toys, I can go crazy for it. Little kids see this stuff go crazy for it too. Do I see that dying out or fading, no I don't.  But like a light, you don't want to hide it "under a basket", to speak Biblically, you want to put it on a Hill to shine so people can see it and they too will catch that fire.

It would be great if you could provide a brief bio of the magazine and Kathy's role in the operation, as well as a photograph of the both of you.

Playset Magazine is 20 years old and also produces a line of toy soldier related books and dvd's. The dvd's are in a fast moving magazine show format and sometimes feature a mint Box set opening, many different playsets and dioramas, and usually cover a pretty wide range of themes.  We treat them like a fun gathering of collector friends so we get as many collectors to participate as we can... its a fraternity really and it shows.

Kathy Kern and myself host these programs she also is in charge of editorial and does the subscribers interface.  She actually invented the database for the subscribers And it works very well for our publication.

Grab a copy of these fine books and...

Soldier on!


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Toy soldier walk-around: Tradition Connoisseur/Stadden Studios 54mm ACW Union Cavalry Bugler

I'm building a troop of the 7th Michigan Cavalry.  The unit will be 21 troopers-strong, the size being determined by the shelf that they will occupy.  I have a variety of brands mostly manufactured within the last twenty-five years, and others are very recent productions.

Tradition Connoisseur/St
adden Studios is the maker of this wonderful and very dramatic soldier.

This figure, to my eye, is superior in sculpting and animation to the latest generation of W. Britains, and compares well with current Conte, Blackhawk, and Collector's Showcase soldiers of recent years.  Notable is that this figure is from way back in 1989, incredible!  

Young Satchmo looks very content as he signals the troops...

wry, even.

His Spencer, Colt, and greatcoat...this is just fantastic sculpting and detail.

Fine metal makes for cords and straps galore.

The bridle is sensational.

The depth of detail is rich.

I don't know about you, but I'm inspired to charge.

Paired up with colonel Morrow of the 24th Michigan these figures are my two very favorite toy soldiers.

Spring is here, so get out there and...

Soldier on!



Monday, April 22, 2024

2024 Gettysburg Toy Soldier Show

For me, the new toy soldier year begins with the Gettysburg show.  I drove the 45 minutes to G'burg on Sunday with a very focused shopping list, and I came home with every item on it.  The prices were great and often came with discounts for multiple purchases.

As usual, it was held at the Eisenhower conference center on the outskirts of Gettysburg.  It was very well attended and the room was packed with vendor's tables.

[The show is a very nice mix of old and new.]

[very beautiful, and very expensive, field artillery.]

I was looking for the last two Union cavalrymen (Britains) to finish off my 21-man 7th Michigan Cavalry, and three sets of Marx Battleground dragons-teeth to complete my Navarone setup.  Mission accomplished.

It was good catching up with friends and seeing if there was anything new from previous shows.

My two cavalry guys were from a vendor just opposite the front door, so that was taken care of right away.  His prices were great with Britains cavalrymen - new in the box - for $30.00 a piece.  Because I bought two, he knocked-off another ten dollars...fantastic; similarly for the dragons teeth, multiples brought a nice discount.

[inexpensive plastics were plelntiful at the show]

[the motor pool]

[The holy grail for nerds such as I]

[Some of the set-ups were marvelous.]

So, the big milestones for the early spring have be met - finishing off my third Confederate infantry regiment, and building to completion my cavalry troop.  The size of my cavalry unit was determined by the size of the shelf in the display case...in this manner the collection doesn't grow beyond available space.  As with my helmet collection (combathelmets.blogspot.com) I don't like to have things in storage, rather, I like having everything out where I can enjoy it.

[As always, original, boxed, playsets were in an abundance.]

[A beautiful high-density WWI trench system]

As with previous shows, I saw no children; this is a commentary, I think, on the future of the hobby.  Play today involves screen-time "run and gun" games rather than the tactile manipulation of toy soldiers.  It's almost as if I can see the end of the hobby on the horizon as the older guys die off and take the hobby with them.  I don't find that sad, rather just a reflection of changing tastes.  One wonders though, what will happen to all of our collections when we, and general interest in toy soldiers, have passsed away.

It was ever thus.

The Gettysburg show is a good regional show, and I highly recommend it.  They also hold one in August which is slightly smaller, but equally well-attended.

With that, toy soldier season has begun; and with school ending in two weeks, I'm ready to get back out into the studio to push little men across a tabletop.

Stay tuned and...

Soldier on!


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Feeling miffed

 They obviously don't follow this blog:

Well, I guess they won't be invited over to play anytime soon.

See you very soon with the beginning of the new toy soldier season.

Soldier on!


p.s. Maybe I'll see you at the Gettysburg toy soldier show this weekend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


With the return of the robins, it's toy soldier season again.  Time to open the studio.

This is a photo from last August...it was pretty hot: