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britains military book

collezione caballeria plomo
john hill & co - lead figure


This/these original Britain's figure(s) is/are in very good condition, and one has to question if in fact the paintwork is original. Many of the figures were from my own collection or from the residue left in the Soldier Shop when I closed it in the early 1980's. Other figures were purchased in 2006, together with several thousand others, from the estate of the Italian Count with whom I had been doing business for more than thirty years. To my knowledge the old man had never used anyone to repaint his figures and only stopped collecting Britain's figures when the company stopped the manufacture of lead soldiers. He, the Count, was a regular purchaser of my own Soldiers' Soldiers. He never played with his figures and always stored them boxed, in cupboards, in cases, in his palazzo, hence their immaculate condition.

The next niggle is that the figures don't bear the "hangman's mark" around their necks often seen under a strong lens and often considered to be a proof of originality of paintwork. These marks were caused by the impression of the black thread used by Britain's to tie down the figures in their boxes, and was made on the still fresh, and relatively soft, paint. Therefore no "hangman's mark" signifies that the figures were not tied into boxes, and not that they are necessarily repainted.

Figures "hanged" on a Monday, after drying over the weekend, would have harder paint, and the strength or enthusiasm of the packer would also determine if the figure bore such marks when boxed.

lady butler - tin soldier

No original Britain's boxes were found in the Count's collection although more than a hundred replica, reproduction or replacement boxes were found. Seemingly His Excellency was having boxes made in order to house his collection. The boxes were never filled, and the manufacturer is unknown. It must be remembered that when the old boy started collecting his figures the boxes had no value, the figures were, after all, children's toys. Perhaps in later years he decided to create boxes for his large collection.

It is well known that Britain's created special paint jobs for wealthier clients, as of course I did in my Soldier business, in Lambeth, for the similar people. It is also known that Britain's provided unpainted castings, and spare parts, arms, wheels etc., to larger toy shops, to at least Hamleys in London, and to Polks in New York. The British Model Soldier Society when Len Richards was the President was also able to obtain a variety of painted and unpainted figures at discounted prices. One in particular that I remember was a French Legionaire which was provided as a gift at a BMSS dinner held perhaps in 1958. This was another bulk purchase of painted figures which had never been tied down.

medieval lead toy figure

It is also known that smaller toy shops were able to buy painted figures in bulk, as I recall when, as a lad of 12 or 14, more than 50 years ago, I was able to purchase many dozens of figures, at a slightly cheaper wholesale price, from my local toy shop in Barnet, North London.. These are still in my collection, the West Point Cadets having been converted into Russian Napoleonic troops, and the kneeling and standing-on-guard figures in home service helmet converted to British Waterloo infantry. These figures originally arrived in bulk, normally three dozen, in corrugated cardboard boxes, were wrapped in a brown coloured tissue paper and carried a yellow packing slip.

In the early 70's a member of the BMSS, William "Billy" Pierce bought the remaining unpainted stock from the Britain's factory. These were stored in his house in tea chests in Wembley, or Ealing, where he lived, some twenty or so half full of beautiful shiny figures. These too entered the common stock, and for several years were on sale at the monthly meetings of the BMSS in Caxton Hall, London.

There were, in the 80's; and possibly even today; several collectors who specialised in repairing and repainting Britains figures, and most of these soldiers were identical to the originals.

I rest my case.

If you're still doubt, or don't believe, then don't buy these soldiers. "Caveat emptor" being the watchword of the day. I offer no guarantees, only their history as explained above. Or, come to the warehouse in Rugby and examine the figures for yourself, and then buy them. As well as the Count's collection there are several thousand other figures available for sale.

My own figures, Soldiers' Soldiers, which we painted in small quantities for the Count, were packed in stout short, square-ish boxes, at the Count's request, to enable him to pack more soldiers into smaller spaces, and also to give greater strength to the boxes whilst in transit. When resold these figures will be provided with a Certificate of Authentication.

Also found among the old chap's effects were a number of copies of the Britains' reproduction of their first catalogue, original reproductions, if such a difficult use of the English language is allowed.

minature lead Britain's footballers figure