Today's Army Men

Some funny things about our favorite toys


When plastic Army Men first landed in the late `40s, they were either clones of lead figures or new miniatures of the then-current military. US  troops were molded in various shades of green.  Armed with M1 rifles, .45 cal. pistols, Thompson and M3 submachine guns, bazookas, grenades and flamethrowers, our early Army Men fit the battlefields of Europe, the South Pacific and Korea.

New makers brought fresh batches of Army Men to store shelves.  Some of the new brands had better detail and more realism, some did not.  Nonetheless, the newer soldiers kept their 1944 - 1955 style uniforms and equipment.  They were produced right up until the 1970s.

The mid-1960s saw the introduction of a new type of toy GI - the modern soldier armed with the M-16 rifle.  Still produced to this day, these modern troops eclipsed many of the older types.  Some makers were fading out of the industry at that time.  Marx, Giant and others were ceasing production.  Army Men had lost popularity due to anti-war sentiments and the advent of Action Figures.

Several hobby manufacturers produced their own versions of Army Men.  These were soft plastic soldiers marketed to hobbyists as cheap scale figures.  Sold in boxes at hobby shop prices, the new figures had something of an elitist stature.  This alone distinguished them from genuine Army Men, the common footsoldiers of our time.

During the 1980s, the hobby makers either ceased or cut back production of their premier toy soldiers.  Small non-brand companies made copies of the better figures and sold them in plastic bags.  These new figures are the most common type of Army Man today.  They are slightly smaller and less defined than the figures from which they were cloned.


More Reasons why Army Men are better than Action Figures

There's a fine line between Action Figures and Dolls.  Nobody ever referred to Army Men as dolls.

Army Men won 't give you nightmares.

With Army Men, it's either a rifle, pistol, machine gun, bazooka, flamethrower or grenade.  You don't have to read comic books to learn a whole new array of bizarre weapons in order to play.

When an Action Figure comes with an "accessory included," it's either a single firearm or other simple piece of equipment.  When Army men come with "accessories included," you get a tank AND a jeep AND field artillery.

Army Men are straightforward: each has a weapon and he uses it.  You have to study the comic books to figure out what each action figure does regardless of his weapons.

If an adult comes down the street dressed like an Army Man, you can pretty much guess that he is in the Army, Marines or National Guard.  If an adult comes down the street dressed like an Action Figure, you can pretty much guess that his girlfriend's name is either Bruce, Rodney or Tyrone.

The design of Army Men does not involve the use of LSD, Angel Dust or other hallucinogenics and psychotropics.

Your big sister won't pilfer your Army Men if she needs a date for her new Barbie Doll.

You can excuse collecting Army Men as an interest in history.  But how do you excuse collecting Action Figures?  As an interest in dolls?  Or an obsession with comic books?

You can play with Army Men without having to sweat their "collectible value."

With Army men, you don't have to worry about preserving the packaging.  It's what's inside the bag that counts!

If you put Action Figures on electric trains, they look like freaks on a kiddie ride.  Army Men can ride your Lionels and K-Lines and still look like cool.

Army Men and their vehicles and accessories won't get ruined if you leave them out in the rain.

If your mother steps on an Army Man and crushes it, you still have 50 more to play with.


State of the Hobby

February 2011

Army Men 2011

 

 

There are more and more hobby shop plastic figures but fewer bag soldiers out there. What we have is ironic.  This website started as the result of a joke between former soldiers.  A friend's nephew looked at a set of Tim Mee M-16 soldiers and said, "Those are old fashioned soldiers!"  Old fashioned?  Perhaps...because that is how we looked when we served in the Army. That incident happened in 1998.  I see the people going to Iraq and Afghanistan and am amazed at how different they look compared to us.  We had more in common with the troops of World War II than we do with today's Army.

 

I recently got a bag of newer army men from a brand called "caipo."  It had six Modern poses and six World War II paratrooper poses. The new M4 carbines and SAWs and M24 machine guns look so different from our M16a1 rifles and M60 machine guns. The modern disposable "bazooka" is nothing like our old M72 LAWs. The helmets and uniforms are very different from ours.

 

We are old fashioned. The soldier of the early 1970s looks so very different from the people taking the field today.

 

I feel for these young people going to war today.  They are so much better equipped and trained than any other army in history.  They are expected to do so much more than the soldiers and marines of my day. The media rarely report on them, but folks like me know what is going on.  These young soldiers and marines would make you proud of your country if you knew even a tenth of what they do and what they endure.

 

We do not glorify war.  We honor those who serve, and those who have served, and those who will serve. 

 

I live within a mile of the place where they fought the Battle of Monmouth.  It makes me proud to know that I am part of the long line of service to country that stretches back to Lexington and Concord and Monmouth.  Just as proud is knowing that the tradition continues in every new class completing basic combat training.

 

Those little caipo brand army men are a reminder that we have troops in the field doing an admirable and honorable job.

 

 

*******

 

When this website started, the only US military actions since my time was the operation in Grenada, the operation in Panama, first Gulf War and Bosnian peacekeeping mission. These had pretty much ended before this website emerged.  There were no conspicuous threats on the horizon at the time.

 

Since then, the United States has been involved in a war on terrorism and another Gulf War. We have major military involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  Not sicne Vietnam have so many Americans served in combat.  Whereas a Vietnam tour was one year, some of our current military people have done four or more tours.

 

Because so many National Guardsmen and reservists have been called up to serve in combat, it gets more personal. These are neighbors and co-workers and friends. As a veteran, I am more aware of it. The folks going over are not just young men any more.  They are councilmen and firemen and nurses and police officers, some of whom are on the bad end of 40.  They serve without complaint.  Many of them feel honored at the opportunity to serve.

 


 

January 2007

Another year - let's see what this year has for us!

 

(February, 2004)

Though toy soldiers have a lesser place in today's toy stores, the hobby of toy soldiering is growing.  More individuals are taking interest in toy soldiers, especially in classic plastic army men.  There are more shows and events, more magazines and websites.  Shows?  Indeed, in the "bad old days," the only army men feted at shows were antiques, highly-detailed miniatures, and wargame figures.  It was a realm rules by Imrie-Risley, Stadden and Heritage.  Today the classics have had to step aside to make room for Lido, Tim-Mee, Ajax, Beton and Marx. older plastic figures have made their stand. So,too, have newer plastic figures by a host of new makers.  though sold in hobby shops as hobby figures, soft plastic soldierdom is augmented by offerings from Italieri, Imex, Armies In Plastic, Conte, CTS and Accurate.  Never before in history has there been such variety!

Quality?  Some of the new figures are stellar in their detail, lifelike poses and overall appeal.  Take the Civil War figures by Imex.  I have rarely seen such robust, lively poses and wonderful detail as in their renditions of Yankees and Goobers.  The figures are inspiring, to say the least.

But what of TOY soldiers, as sold in stores?  Clones of Airfix still dominate, interspersed with recast Lido , Tim Mee "Vietnam-era" troops and the occasional newbie.  Recently, a few makers added some modern American soldiers in the "Fritz" Helmet.  The first we saw in toy stores were Imperial's "Desert Storm" figures.  Recently, a rubber set of 60mm figures in six poses has show up, all painted, too.  There are also some oddball figures by Fishel, with modern troop types handling rifles that are a blend of M16 and AKM.  BMC figures are appearing in toy stores among the bagged troops.  Things are better, but how much better is a matter of speculation.

The hobby thrives in the hands of collectors, wargamers and buffs.  We are finding more specializing among collectors, and more support.  

One thing has not changed:

In 1998, the Army Men Homepage recognized this hobby as something to be pursued for the love of it, not for some "collectible investment" that would eventually net a profit.  Indeed, though prices of some older figures have climbed, toy soldiering remains a hobby pursued for itself.  This is the home of the "low-priced collectible," where a $10.00 expenditure is considered big ,and $100 is almost "over the top." Toy soldiering is for fun.

Contrast this hobby with collecting trains.  In trains, folks who do it for fun are overshadowed by those who collect to invest.  Prices are ridiculously high because there is a need for greed among a sizable number of collector-investors.  Toy soldiering has been spared this kind of mania.  Toy soldiering is a hobby for those who are too busy having fun to look for profit or snob appeal.


The Archives

Past articles and updates from 1998 - 2001


August 2002

When plastic Army Men first landed in the late `40s, they were either clones of lead figures or new miniatures of the then-current military. US  troops were molded in various shades of green.  Armed with M1 rifles, .45 cal. pistols, Thompson and M3 submachine guns, bazookas, grenades and flamethrowers, our early Army Men fit the battlefields of Europe, the South Pacific and Korea.

New makers brought fresh batches of Army Men to store shelves.  Some of the new brands had better detail and more realism, some did not.  Nonetheless, the newer soldiers kept their 1944 - 1955 style uniforms and equipment.  They were produced right up until the 1970s.

The mid-1960s saw the introduction of a new type of toy GI - the modern soldier armed with the M-16 rifle.  Still produced to this day, these modern troops eclipsed many of the older types.  Some makers were fading out of the industry at that time.  Marx, Giant and others were ceasing production.  Army Men had lost popularity due to anti-war sentiments and the advent of Action Figures.

Several hobby manufacturers produced their own versions of Army Men.  These were soft plastic soldiers marketed to hobbyists as cheap scale figures.  Sold in boxes at hobby shop prices, the new figures had something of an elitist stature.  This alone distinguished them from genuine Army Men, the common footsoldiers of our time.

During the 1980s, the hobby makers either ceased or cut back production of their premier toy soldiers.  Small non-brand companies made copies of the better figures and sold them in plastic bags.  These new figures are the most common type of Army Man today.  They are slightly smaller and less defined than the figures from which they were cloned.

Having not updated this page in a while, it's time to start fresh!

The hobby today is heading in various directions.  Recasts of Marx and others remain popular.  Because of the exquisite quality of those figures, they will remain popular with plastic soldier collectors and battle gamers.  Likewise, hobbyists are looking to the specialty makers for their goods.  Companies like CTS, Imex and Conte provide fine figures to the small, specialized hobby. They are pricey, but with such a limited market there are no volume sales to offset the costs of production.

BMC and Marx are the big names which purvey both to the hobby and the toy market.  To date, both have been a mixed bag.  Marx substitutes MPC figures and equipment in several of its reissued playsets.  BMC produces excellent accessories, but their figures are less than stellar.  To date, they have yet to produce a figure which can equal Tim Mee's Vietnam-era infantry or the old Herald and Johillco troops.  Serious hobbyists prefer to use BMC and Marx equipment with recasts gotten from other sources, or new figures from the specialty makers.

Out there in the toy shops and discount stores, it is business as usual.  Airfix clones predominate, with the crude Desert Storm infantry figures showing up in more abundance.  Western sets are almost entirely Airfix clones.  One could safely say that 75% to 90% of figures sold in toy stores are descendants of Airfix.  We get clones, or clones of clones.

There is little out there in the toy stores which is original and thrilling. Exceptions are products by New Ray and 21st Century.  These are not classic plastic soldiers by any stretch of the imagination.  They are more like pre-built models, some of which are battery-operated.  Both companies offer realistic, accurate models.  I have bought several pieces from both companies and am satisfied.

Bag soldiers have been clones, with a very few unusual pieces. Most recently I came across bags of knights that look to be copies of Starlux 40mm figures.  Last year, it was a spaceman set - actually two sets.  One was composed of brightly-color aliens ranging from goo men to lizard-people.  The other was spacemen wearing a ninja-type head covering.  

The only truly historical figures I have seen are bags of BMC troops.  They Alamo, Civil War and Iwo Jima troops have been seen in several stores.  Folks in central NJ can find loads of them in the little hardware store on 3rd in Spring Lake, or at Hobbymaster's in Red Bank.  The toy store attached to Hobbymaster's has many figures, and prices are somewhat lower there.

Good finds:

If you can still find them, the Black Knight medieval figures are nice. They are excellent clones of Britains knights and turks, and come molded in silver and black.

The small 40mm knights in silver and bronze are also a good find.  They are small, making them excellent for battle games, yet large enough for detailed painting.  

A while back, copies of the Hing Fat ninja were sold.  They came in three colors and had different accessories: raft, barrel cart, etc.  The sets also had some small cannon.  For Samurai games, these would be excellent.  

One recent find were bags of tank soldiers, sold as US troops but distinctly cloned Airfix Afrika Korps with helmets rather than caps.  They are good enough figures, easy to paint, and are good for WWII era games.  It's either these, or the copious clones Airfix German infantry, or the occasional Matchbox clones which Fishler packed in their sets.

Farm and zoo animal sets are abundant, mostly seen packed in clear plastic tubes and selling for around $1.00.  They usually have a handful of animals and some farm gear or terrain pieces.

A Recent Search

Our recent search for current Army Men took us to three larger chains and some small discount shops.  Here are a few of the things we found awaiting us:

Infantry - boxed playset by Fishler of Hong Kong - packed in a 12" by 8" by 6" plastic box with lid-locking handles, the Infantry set was a winner.  It includes US and German forces, the popular M48 tank, a jeep, two armored trucks, two light cannons (clones of Marx), a landing craft (copied from Marx), barbed wire fences, sandbag walls and plenty of soldiers i8n dark Green and Grey.  US troops were clones of Airfix US Paratroopers, Germans were a unique type and some clones of Airfix German infantry.  Not bad for ten bucks!  Fishler also makes Wild West, Space exploration and Undersea Exploration playsets.  Found at Toys R Us

Timmee Tank Division and Recon sets were in bags at Toys R US.  These are the 1960s troops with M16, molded in green and light tan.  Each had the American Flagpole thing.  Tank division had the classic toy M48, Recon had a nice four-wheeled armored car with rotating turret.  Lots of troops, very good detail - worth $3.00 a bag

Imperial's Army Men were at K-Mart in long bags.  Each set had two tanks - one mustard yellow, plus loads of goodies and troops.  Jeeps and two guns filled out the set.  Half the troops were green, half were mustard yellow.

Soldier Bucket by Red was a large plastic can of American and German soldiers, all clones of Airfix.  Unfortunately, the plastic was very brittle and several machine-gunners had already had their weapons broken off.  Be careful of sets like this.  Brittle soldiers soon become broken soldiers.  Found at Toys R Us

Cowboys & Indians by Timmee, found at Toys R US, were in a bag.  They included a covered wagon, crude plastic teepee and some foot cowboys and Indians.  All were clones of Marx, with a little less detail.  This time, plastic was harder and thus more brittle, meaning several would lose gun barrels after serious play.  

Cowboys and Indians by Imperial, at K Mart, had a covered wagon, horses with riders, and an unusual mix.  Some Indians and Cavalry figures were cloned off old Timpo "Swap and Swivel" figures, known by their stiff poses.  Other Indians were very good clones of Marx.  Definitely the better deal, having more figures and softer plastic.

More Finds

We recently sent away to the new Marx company for the new version of Battleground!  The set is very different from the old.  It includes 16 Marx GIs, 18 Russians, 18 French, and 28 MPC Germans, plus 3 MPC Tanks (actually early 50s tank destroyer), armored personnel carrier, tracked gun carrier, jeep, truck, 2 Marx howtizers and MPC big bunker.  There are no pillboxes, barbed or concertina wire, small accessories.  The MPC vehicles were the same sold in sets with those annoying ring-hand figures in the 1960s.  Still and all, for $34 and change with postage, not a bad deal.  You've got enough Enemy here to fill in the ranks of the opposition.  (Obviously, many kids would have included the French as Enemy due to odd helmets and tan color.)  The MPC vehicles are closer to toy soldier scale than Timmee or some of the Marx (especially the jeep and tank).

Dinosaurs in a clear, thin-walled bucket were found at K-Mart - 56 pieces include Timmee dinosaurs, cavemen and a small stone hill.  Three cavemen look rather like the old Marx figures.  One is swinging a club like a left-handed shortstop, another raises his axe to chop over and down, and the third holds a huge stone over his head reminiscent of the cyclopean giant on "Lost in Space."  A fourth caveman has origins other than Marx.  He looks more like a cross between Conan the Barbarian and The Hulk  He holds a thick club over his head.  Dinosaurs are the same as included in the bag we found at Toys R Us.  Not bad, but the bucket cost $5.99 as opposed to the $2.99 we paid for the bag at Toys R Us - you pay more to get cavemen and a hill, I guess.

Apparently, Timmee's toys are sold in bags at Toys R Us and buckets at K-Mart.  We saw the K-Mart bucket of 1960s GIs with M-16 rifles - they included the same hill as the cavemen plus a small jet..  Tanks are always preferred!

Fishler's Space Exploration set in their nice plastic box is excellent.  It includes the usual Fishler ground piece, a spacey "play mat", 30 astronauts plus driver, the lunar cart, an excellent satellite, and a fine model of the Space Shuttle with launch rockets and boosters.  All of the astronauts carry exploration tools - no ray gun here, and tools are eerily reminiscent of the bag spacemen in Mercury suits of the early 60s.  These are full-blown Lunar explorers, however.  Highly recommended!  $9.99 at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us yielded up another surprise- a LARGE translucent bucket full of the old six-inch GI figures.  I know that at least a few, if not all, are recasts of Marx.  Includes twenty of the big fellows, plus a small OD green sand shovel, and the lid is a sieve for "panning gold."  A great bargain, and better for the beach because these GIs are hard to lose!  $7.99

Bravo Squad Playset - A cute, if somewhat cheap assortment of troops and vehicles, the Bravo Squad playset typifies generic Hong Kong toys.  Typical Hong Kong art: images on front of the box are of WW2 German troops, and on back are 1917 British troops fending off a WW1 German attack on their trench while WW2 aircraft dogfight above, a Christie tank attacks from the left, and in the foreground a WW2 GI radios for help.  Inside are about 20 mediocre knockoffs of Marx US GIs and Marines, a cloned Marx M46 tank, cloned Marx towed antitank cannon, smallish truck, small foreign jeep-type vehicle, flag, small plane (about 1/72 scale Zero in green with US decals), and a funny rocket shooter thingie. Truck and "jeep" have RED star decals - wonder where else they're being sold?  Things like this were common in the old Bargain Stores and 5&10s.  It's something you'd find in John's Bargain Store, not the local toy store.  Ordered from Toy Soldier Recruitment.

And More Finds

Latest finds: at Toys R Us, the new D-Day playset by BMC.  The long-awaited World War II playset is a mixed bag for the serious army man.  The two Higgins landing boats are superb and to-scale for the 1/32 scale plastic troops.  Three gray concrete bunkers sport 37mm antiaircraft guns on top.  These guns traverse and the barrel raises and lowers.  There's a large, bombed-out farmhouse, plus both steel and concrete anti-tank obstacles, sandbag walls, long antipersonnel fences and 81mm mortars.  All of these are pretty good.  The set also includes US, German and British soldiers.  While the British soldiers are acceptable, the US and German troops have oversize heads and pencil-necks, plus a few sport other distorted proportions.  The best were a few "personality types," including Teddy Roosevelt jr. and Rommel, plus 2 others.  BMC's main problem is making heads, limbs and necks which are proportionate - a problem I had noticed last year in their Alamo and Civil War figures.

Weapons and Warriors Pirate Battle Game by Pressman is a cute little game of shooting projectile's at the other side's fleet.  However, it contains almost everything one might need for a pirate game: a handful of small cannons, two ships, two sailboats, a tower fort, wood palisades and 20 pirates in 25mm scale.  For the price, it's the most complete source of equipment for a two-man game of our Pirate adventure game, Treasure of Sandheap.  You might want to order extra pirates from Pressman - at $2.00 for 20 pirates, get about a hundred of them.  With two of these games and a hundred or more extra pirates, you could have one heck of a large campaign!  By the way, ships, cannon, palisades and the fort can be rigged to "explode" - real cool!  Found at Toys R Us - $16.95

Undersea Exploration by Fishler was fun.  It includes scuba-dubas in several colors, armed with everything from diving knives to spearguns.  There are even 1-man and 2-man mini-subs, a power boat, a large raft and a landing craft.  Fishler includes the same terrain piece in every set - and it's become something of a joke here.  We like these little boxed sets because they are everything a good playset should be: a variety of figures, good accessories / vehicles and a sturdy plastic box with cover to store them in.  Found at Toys R Us.  $9.99

Another Run

First, a bit of news: bought some Marx Germans from Nick at Toy Soldiers of San Diego.  He threw in a few extras, including the German on a motorcycle.  It's good to have them again after many years.  And yes, they're all there: the bazooka guy, the goose-step guy, the dead guy.....wow!  Talk about a classic!

Now for the run:

Fishler does it again - Toys R Us yielded up an Ocean Life set that's excellent!  Included were seven scuba-dubas, and one has an underwater camera.  There are nice sea plants - definitely better than usual.  As for the fishies - they're all PAINTED and look great.  The set includes the necessary starfish and seahorse - one expects them - plus some of the finest sharks and porpoises I've seen.  Four different kind of menacing sharks, a dolphin, an Orca and two little jolly whales, plus a great octopus and the coolest manta ray.  Last but not least, a huge sea turtle.  Even the base is painted, and it looks like a real coral reef!  Ocean Life is a masterpiece by itself - combine it with Fishler's Undersea Exploration and you can have a blast!  $9.95

We've been so impressed with Pressman's Weapons and Warrior Pirate Adventure that I decided to look to them when I needed some medieval siege artillery for Castle Cracker.  Their Lashout Launcher and Power Catapult sets are great little packages that give you a lot of firepower.  Lashout Launcher included a catapult, a trebuchet, a small wood fort that is really great, and a small stone fort plus a handful of 25mm knights.  These are excellent, affordable toys that  look great.  The Power Catapult set included one catapult and a large, firing grand culverin plus two demiculverins with palisade walls.  The stone mini-fort was there, too, along with more knights. Cost me less than $15 for both at Toys R Us.

The catapults and guns are the right size for 1/32 figures.  (They're much to big for anything smaller than 45mm).  Even at that, you can buy more knights directly from Pressman for about $2.00 a pack.  The wood fort will handle anything from 25mm to 54mm figures and still look right.  The stone mini-forts are just cute exploding fortifications.  Not a bad deal!  Remember what we used to pay for good miniature catapults, like Elastolin?  Wow - two sets yielded up a pair of good catapults, a great trebuchet, three medieval cannons and all sorts of other goodies.

The Toy Box brand diecast PZ 6 Tiger 2 tank is great - a truly nice model at a nice low price.  I bought the last one they had at KayBee.  (Staten Islanders - there were a few Shermans left)

Kaybee isn't too hot for regular toy soldiers.  I find I get a better deal at Toys R Us or K-Mart.  

One other thing: this is a bit off topic, but we did well recently getting 12 inch figures for our display case at home.  A company called Soldiers of the World produces and inexpensive GI - they have them from WW2 to Vietnam Era.  The uniforms are okay, but the boots and field gear leave something to be desired on the post WW2 figures.  Fortunately, a company called 21st Century makes excellent Vietnam-era field gear (TA-50) and weapons.  Their Light Infantry set includes the standard stuff used by every GI from 1959 until 1975.  Pistol belt, "H" suspenders, canteens, ammo pouches, "protective" mask carrier (hey, it's a gas mask!), etc.  Also has the old M-16.  We bought their weapons set and loved the realistic M79, .50 cal machine gun and M-60 machine gun.  Definitely one of the best products around.

The other two are GI Joes - the General Patton figure is super, and really looks like the old man!  Everything is included, right down to the ivory handled revolvers and that silly-looking mutt.  The D-Day GI comes with pack, field gear, M-1 and tent.  He and the Patton are about the most realistic GI Joes I've seen.

For a good figure, the Soldiers of the World GIs are okay - just outfit them with the gear from 21st Century and you have one good-looking model GI.

One more item Fishler's Western Set turned out to be an unexpected surprise.  There are plenty of good Cowboy and Indian figures (Airfix clones), split rail "corral" fence, folding paper western houses, terrain base, playmat, trees (two regular, and get this, two Palm trees!), plus two covered wagons with horses and four mounted figures.  The only down side is that the horses are the old Giant type - these horses are a bit small, and could be better replaced with other horses such as Marx.  Otherwise it's a nice starter for folks itching to play Sandpit Showdown.  Nice - definitely nice!

Mail Order: 3 big ones this week, and it was great to see some old classics.  First, from Kent at Toy Soldier HQ came a nice load of things I haven't seen in year.  Six of the Ajax spacemen in all their glory.  He gave us an extra one to fill out our set. Like Archer's (the ones reissued by Glencoe) they're big, hard plastic astronauts from the 50s.  Kent sent us an extra spaceman, too.  We also got ourselves the old Auburn Half Track and M-46 tank - things I hadn't seen since the 60s.

From Stad's came an assortment of knights, pirates and natives.  The Pirates were the Ideal brand, and it's still amazing at how realistic they are.  The natives from MPC also showed amazing detail - something one kinda forgets after 30 years. Stad found us some Airfix men-at arms, and it';s fun to have them after all these years.  of course, there werre some of the old Marx 54mm knights, too.  Well, we needed someone to man the fortress!

From Toy Soldier Recruitment came an interesting assortment of pirates and other goodies.  Richard sent along a free pack of Revolutionary-era troops - Hessians about 60mm tall.  The prize here were some old Johillco infantry in plastic.  Johillco was Britains Ltd's #1 competitor for years.  These troops are similar to the old Herald 'khaki infantry'.  Nice!

*************** 

Of course, all of these orders included some other things - but the items we mentioned were what really tickled our fancy.  Equally appealing is the speed with which our orders got to us.  It's good to know that stuff comes quickly.

October's First Big Run

While picking up the photos, I made a brief hop into Toys R Us - here's what's new on the shelves for us Army Men folks:

Ja-ru  Big Bag Cowboys & Indians - $5.00 - packed with 4 horses, 18 - 20 foot figures, 4 mounted figures, (horses and figures are Airfix clones) covered wagon, 4 fence pieces, canoe, Tepee and the nest Totem pole we've seen!  The foot figures were about the best Airfix clones Cowboy and Indian we've seen.  Unfortunately, no horses for the buckboard - itself a very good model - and the mounted figures look tepid.  Horses are okay, but sans saddles.  Not a bad little package, but nowhere near as good as Fishler's boxed set.

Agglo's First Strike Battle Force - $5.00 - Fishler now has competition worthy ofthe name.  The Battle Force in a big bag comes with 35 troops - mainly the new Desert Strom types plus a few clones of Airfix US Paratroopers.  Ours were in Green.  Also includes two trucks, similar to Fishler's, one jeep, two tower light field guns, an M48A2, a bridge (cloned form the old Airfix pontoon bridge), medic tent (Good for almost any era), six pieces of barbed wire fence, five steel antitank obstacles, AND three sandbag emplacements.  The air power is woefully undersized: two HO jets, one HO hovercraft w/ cruise missiles, three N scale jets.  All around, a nice set with all you need to start a mini war - except enemy troops.  No Germans or tan infantry here .  However, if you want a jump on the battle, Battle Force can outfit o0ne side for Operation Sandpit.

Black Knight Battle Figures by Manly  - $1.00 - include two horses and about 15 figures.  These are all copies of the Britains "Deetail" knights, right down to separate stands and weapons.  They have to be assembled onto bases, etc.  Nice molding, in silver plastic.  We got more mounted figures than we had horses, but all in all, a good deal for a cheap, nice-looking medieval battle.  (You might want to check with our vendors for extra horses - last I saw, Stads, Toy Soldier Recruitment, Toy Soldiers of San Diego, Toy Soldier HQ and ATS had plenty of good medieval horses at nice prices!)

Manly's Official Police Action Set includes 6 figures in blue with some paint on faces and weapons, plus a cute little sports car (something between an old Camaro and a Porsche, slightly truncated).  The car has a little something inside that sounds like a motor.  Figures are about 75mm - 3 inches tall.  They could be police Swat, or SAS or Delta Force.  Not bad, really.  Cops are armed with submachine guns, a pistol, M-203, M16 and what looks like an AK or SKS.

More stuff - December

Black Knight Figures: it just got better - they make them in TWO colors: silver and black.  This means you can make a nice set of two armies cheaply.  The drawback is that the sets don't include missile/projectile troops (archers, crossbowmen, etc), or any light or medium troops.  Nonetheless, a great force of infantry and cavalry in full plate armor is available cheaply!

Big Troops - These six soldiers, found in Winchester, KY at an Army Surplus shop called Stuff (the Winchester Road one), are a hoot!  They stand over 3 inches tall, are molded in olive drab, and carry a strange assortment of weapons.  The hairstyles are pure "Rambo", and troops include M-16 rifleman, submachine gunner, kneeling RPG man, helmeted GI with pistol, man in beret with bow-and-arrow and Bowie knife, and a man armed with some weird rifle.  They'd make a good "security force" for inside a spaceship when playing Planetary Sand.

Bag soldiers - an off-brand of cloned Airfix British paratroops, affordably priced, were pretty good and almost full-sized.  Found at Toys R Us for a mere dollar!

Odd Set - seen in a Big Lots in Kentucky, it included a kiddie version of a helicopter, some weapons and a batch of Marx GI clones in green or tan.  A bit pricey.....


To see the state of Army Men today, we went to three big-name stores and a small "99 cent" job-lot.  What we found is both heartening and disappointing.  There were only a few types of soldiers for sale, unlike the old days when variety ruled.  Quality varied.  But hey, let's look at the troops and see who's who.

Playsets: a great boxed playset by Fishel Toys of Hong Kong was found at Toys R' US.  It came in a convenient plastic box with translucent bottom, red lid and handles that served as lid-locks.  The box is about 12.5" long by 8/5" wide by  5.75" deep.  It was pretty fully, too.  Inside were green 1940 to 1955 type US troops, most of which were copied off Airfix 54mm US paratroopers.  Two kinds of Germans were evident.  One was a unique non-brand of good quality, the other were copies of Airfix 54mm German infantry.  Also included were the old M48 Patton tank, a jeep, two Marx-type towed light cannons, two armored trucks, two sandbag walls, barbed wire fences, the Marx-type landing craft, two tiny jets and a tiny helicopter.  Good figures all around and plenty of them.  US troops and vehicles were dark grass green, Germans were darker gray.  One truck was grey-green, landing craft was dark forest green, cannons and sandbags were medium brown.  Not bad for $9.99

An unknown brand cheap type of figure was found in a job-lot store. Figures were crude and small.  Gulf-War type US troops with M-16s, M-60s, and an officer with a Mac 10.  Not very good - but later you'll get the other half of this story.  Color was a medium olive, very shiny.  $1.00 a bag.  Not very good.

In Toys R US we found some of the newer (late `609s) TIMMEE Toy US GIs with M-16s.  Soldiers were molded in green and khaki/tan.  One set was Combat patrol with Scout Vehicle.  Included were tan and green GIs, , flagpole and a 1/32 size armored car with rotating turret in tan plastic.  Nice detail on the armored car, good soft plastic on all pieces.  paper flag is to be wrapped around black plastic dowell - no more wooden dowels like the old days.  Plenty of soldiers were included

The other set in TOY R US was the Tank Division.  Instead of the scour car was that M-48 tank.  The difference is that this one doesn't have spinning wheels underneath.  All the others (Fishel's and Imperial's) had wheels.

These were $2.99 a bag.

K-Mart had some of the Timmee soldiers in tubs with a small plastic jet.  What really interested us was a long bag of soldiers in mustard yellow and dark green.  Plenty of soldiers here!  And two tanks - one in yellow, one in green.  Green jeep (same as Fishels), 2 brown cannon (like Fishels but with shorter trail).  Some of the troops were obvious knockoffs of Airfix, but some were a unique Gulf War type with M-16s, M-60 mgs and an officer with a Mac 10.  Yes, the cheaper ones mentioned above were shrunken copies of these.  Good plastic - nice set!  $3.00

Soldiers Bucket by Red Box had 150 pieces - loads of US (Airfix knockoff WW2 US and UK paratroops) and Germans (knockoffs of Airfix German Infantry and Afrika Korps).  Nice figures, but too brittle - some mg's were already broken off.  Poor plastic diminished their value - $6.99

Cowboys and Indians by Timmee included a covered wagon and a handful of cowboys and Indians on foot - the same old knockoffs of Marx.  Also, a tepee in brown.  Detail was okay, plastic a bit hard which means guns eventually break,.  Cowboys in blue and red, Indians in yellow and green.  $2.99

Cowboys and Indians by Imperial had a covered wagon, several horses with riders and a tepee.  Some figures were knockoffs of old Timpo "swap and swivel" cowboys, Indians and cavalry.  Some Indians were a very good, detailed knockoff of Marx - and slightly larger than Timmees.  $3.00

Dinosaurs with Volcano by Timmee has a handful of those old dinosaurs sold in the `60s plus a small plastic terrain piece about 6" by 3".  Too small for a real game of GI's and Monsters.  $2.99

K-Mart had a similar set in a tub that came with a few ugly silly-looking cavemen

Fishel had boxed sets of Wild West cowboys and Indians, undersea creatures, undersea exploration and even space exploration.  We liked them - they are quite like smaller playsets of the old days..  

(Newer and updated info is toward the bottom of the page)

When plastic Army Men first landed in the late `40s, they were either clones of lead figures or new miniatures of the then-current military. US  troops were molded in various shades of green.  Armed with M1 rifles, .45 cal. pistols, Thompson and M3 submachine guns, bazookas, grenades and flamethrowers, our early Army Men fit the battlefields of Europe, the South Pacific and Korea.

New makers brought fresh batches of Army Men to store shelves.  Some of the new brands had better detail and more realism, some did not.  Nonetheless, the newer soldiers kept their 1944 - 1955 style uniforms and equipment.  They were produced right up until the 1970s.

The mid-1960s saw the introduction of a new type of toy GI - the modern soldier armed with the M-16 rifle.  Still produced to this day, these modern troops eclipsed many of the older types.  Some makers were fading out of the industry at that time.  Marx, Giant and others were ceasing production.  Army Men had lost popularity due to anti-war sentiments and the advent of Action Figures.

Several hobby manufacturers produced their own versions of Army Men.  These were soft plastic soldiers marketed to hobbyists as cheap scale figures.  Sold in boxes at hobby shop prices, the new figures had something of an elitist stature.  This alone distinguished them from genuine Army Men, the common footsoldiers of our time.

During the 1980s, the hobby makers either ceased or cut back production of their premier toy soldiers.  Small non-brand companies made copies of the better figures and sold them in plastic bags.  These new figures are the most common type of Army Man today.  They are slightly smaller and less defined than the figures from which they were cloned.


The King of Playsets!

Yes, it arrived in all its glory: Fort Apache - the same Fort Apache I had in '61 with snap-together plastic stockade fence.  The New Marx makes it again, and it comes with many of the old accessories: well, campfire, Indian teepees, ladders and all the rest.  Of course, the old horses and Indians are there, too - even the Mohawk fellow.  The only real difference is that this set includes the later type of cavalry in kepis.  My set had pioneers and cavalry.  But hey, pioneers or not, it's here.

The major changes to the playset are a paper flag in lieu of a metal one, an odd cabin in place of  the old tin bunkhouse, and the newer cavalry figures. (The new cabin has open windows, which are good for positioning riflemen!)   Some supplies formerly molded in hard plastic are now molded in soft.  It's the Indians that stand out - they are exactly the same, and they still look great.

To my knowledge, Marx botched one group of soldiers entirely - its later cavalry figures.  These have flat stances, eerie postures and they hold the rifle over their shoulder when firing.  (But what the heck?  One click on a link and I can order the pioneers!)

As size goes, the fort is large enough for a good round of Sandpit Showdown.  This same fort, with a few temporary changes, can also be a Roman marching fort or a Viking fort.  Anybody who has ever been to "Frontiersville" in old Fort Dix can get other ideas.  Fort Apache remains as good as it was 38 years ago.  And the price can't be beat!  It's running between $20 and $25 these days.  Why settle for the lesser when you can have the first and still #1?

A side benefit: the Marx Indians. At one time were they were the ones most cloned.  In a world where Airfix Clones dominate, Marx Indians still hold their own admirably well.  Frankly, I prefer the Marx figures partly because of the great detail and positions, and partly because they were always a favorite.

Still the King of Playsets after 30+ years - Fort Apache!


Toy Soldier Links

Vendors

These vendors have great references from collectors - they offer service, fine selection, great prices and expertise.

More great prices and selection at

Toy Soldier HQ - http://www.angelfire.com/biz/toysoldierhq/index.html

Interesting soldiers for sale here


Collectors and Magazines

These sites are excellent - see for yourself!

Great Toy Soldier site!

Toy Soldier & Model Figure Magazine - http://www.toy-soldier.com

This is the web page for a respected Toy Soldier collector's magazine. Lots of up-to-date info, useful reading, great links and all the trimmings.

Great Photos of Toy Soldiers - a Must See!

Toy Soldiers - an Online Gallery - http://www.upnaway.com/~obees/soldiers/

John and I were field artillerymen at the same time in different armies. He's got some of the best toy cannons and crews I've seen.  Definitely first class - all his figures look great!

More Great Toy Soldiers

Sagalord's Toy Soldiers - http://www.angelfire.com/ny/SagalordsToySoldiers/

Mike's got lots of good things here, from examples from his own collection to up-to-date info on the hobby.  Just found out that we both make occasional forays into the same Toys R Us.

Cool Soldier Site!

Soldiers and wargaming!

The Miniatures Page - http://miniaturespage.com/

This site has a variety of interesting information on miniatrues and miniature wargaming.  Worth a visit - they have all kinds ofrules, including some that work with Army Men

Colonial Era Wargaming

Major General Tremorden Rederring's Colonial-era Wargames Page - http://zeitcom.com/majgen/index.html

Victorian-era adventures in miniature - it's got to be seen!  Definitely cool!


Contact the REAL US Army and Marine Corps

US Army Home Page - http://www.army.mil

United States Marine Corps - http://www.usmc.mil/

Military Network: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard - http://www.military-network.com/

 

 

Visit our allies!

The British Army - http://www.army.mod.uk/

The Australian Army Internet Homepage - http://www.defence.gov.au/ARMY/index.html

New Zealand http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/

Belgian Armed Forces - http://www.mil.be/

 

 

See the Other Fellows!

Some of these nations are neutral, some are former adversaries.

Military Parade: The Official Russian Military Magazine - http://www.milparade.ru/

The Irish Defense Forces - http://www.military.ie/

The Swiss Armed Forces - http://www.admin.ch/armee/e/armee/darmee00.htm


Will You Help Us?

We would like to have pictures of the many different plastic Army Men.  As I write, we're off on buying expeditions to find other toy soldiers.  We're presently preparing two new pages for this site: Spacemen and The Wild West - and if that goes well, we might add Vikings versus Knights (we're pro-Viking here - more specifically, pro-Norwegian Viking!), The Civil War and The Alamo.  Of course, our greatest emphasis will be on Army Men - plastic GIs from around the world.

You can help.  If you have any plastic army men, spacemen, pirates, cowboys and indians, etc. that you don't want, you can send them to us.  Just email us and tell us what you have.  We'll make it as easy as possible for you to send us the troops.  If you wish, we'll also make a note of your gift on this website.

Thank you!


Click Here for The Rules for using Army Men

Click here for a History of Army Men

Click here for info on Army Men's Enemies

Click here to Return to Main Army Men Page

Click here to Join Our Army

Click here for Space Men

Click here for Cowboys and Indians {1}

{2}

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Real Trains, Electric Trains - loads of Trains!