Lead & Plastic Toy Soldiers

A wonderful collection of hundreds of toy soldiers arrived at Bahoukas this fall. Most of them are “Britains” lead and plastic, some are “Barclay.” Lead ones are from the 50s and 60s; plastic from the 70s.

Britains

William Britain, W. Britain or simply Britain’s, no matter what we are called our name is synonymous with toy soldiers. Since 1893 W. Britain has been producing toy soldiers and military miniatures with attention to detail, quality and authenticity. 

from WBritain.com

According to many websites, including toysoldiersco.com, toy soldier collections have been found as far back as the time of the Pharaohs – 2500BC, when they might be made by wood, clay, stone, or metal.

Toy Soldiers of lead and plastic
Toy Soldiers from the hundreds available at Bahoukas

Because lead and plastic soldiers were so widely available, many baby-boomers grew up collecting both. Their closets and shelves were filled with shoeboxes full of painted and unpainted plastic Civil War heroes, spacemen, Nazis, Cowboys, Indians and knights, plus the proudly collected (and-too-often dented) metal figures of exotic “Arabs of the Desert,” Foreign Legionnaires and Zouaves. One day, the Cowboys and Indians might attack a Moon base made of wooden blocks and oatmeal boxes which was defended by Robert E. Lee’s Virginians and Spacemen. The next, D-Day landing craft would be stuffed with American Colonials and GI’s, storming the beach defenses manned by Nazis and Knights! Favorite figures, whether lead or plastic would always be the last to fall or remain standing to triumph.

from The Toy Soldier Company

But They Weren’t Always TOYS!

Early figurines were made from wood, porcelain and silver. Initially, these were crafted for generals and monarchs to be used during war-strategy meetings.

from Warwick&Warwick

You’ve most likely seen them used in this manner in many movies!

A Wee Bit of History

The W. Britain brand name of toy and collectable soldiers is derived from a company founded by William Britain Jr., a British toy manufacturer, who in 1893 invented the process of hollow casting in lead, and revolutionized the production of toy soldiers. The company quickly became the industry leader, and was imitated by many other companies, such as Hanks Bros. and John Hill and Co. The style and scale of Britain’s figures became the industry standard for toy soldiers for many years.

The Barclay Manufacturing Company was an American metal toy company based in New Jersey that specialised in diecast toy cars and hollowcast toy soldiers. Due to their common availability at five and dime stores, collectors often refer to Barclay’s toy soldiers as “Dimestore soldiers”.

from Wikipedia
A collection of PRESIDENTS in our toy soldiers collections

Besides soldiers, these very collectible miniatures might also include cowboys and Indians, presidents, and more.

The Times Can Change Our Toys

1966 marked a turning point in the history of toy soldiers. International concerns about lead poisoning brought about new laws which banned the manufacture of toys containing lead. William Britains, the best-known producer of 54mm metal figures, ceased production of metals and focused exclusively on plastic figures. Many other companies, like Timpo, Crescent and Cherilea, were forced to do the same.

At this point, collectors began to see new modeling techniques emerging, and plastic toy soldiers were all the rage until the world began to change. In the late 1960s and ‘70s, anti-war sentiment turned the tastes of the public away from military toys like toy soldiers. The rise of the action figure, based on science fiction and fantasy movies, and the rising appeal of video games, changed the collecting interests of younger children.

from Toy Soldier Company

So, if you remember playing with toy soldiers, eagerly creating the game as your imagination allowed, maybe you want to share that joy with a youngster in your life, or still love to collect them, stop in soon at Bahoukas. They are perfectly sized to make great stocking stuffers this season. And yes, we’re here and we’re watchin’ for ya!