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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Charbens - Toy Soldiers

Charbens is another English firm with lots of tradition. It was founded in the 1920s and like other manufacturers of the day, made lead/metal figures. It started making plastic figures in the 60s, and went on through the 70s. Their production focused on 54mm figures, however they are on the smaller side of the scale. They had a broad range in terms of topics and naturally, they also covered WWII. Unfortunately,the number of poses in their sets seems to be small. Some of their molds survive to this day and you can still purchase recasts of their figures such as the ones below.

Charbens British Paratroops - Part I
Definitely on the small side of 54mm and the sculpting is not the greatest. For instance the guy on the left is a grenade thrower, but he looks more like a guy who is trying to dodge a shot. The most interesting guy is the one with the flamethrower. A unique addition to the unit considering the avialable poses from other manufacturers.
Charbens British Paratroops - Part II
Here is a sixth pose. For some reason the newer recasts do not come with it, but I ran into it in a large batch of mixed figures. Perhaps the mold got lost for this one. Note that it has the same base style and also the pose resembles very much the grenade thrower in the B8A set, with the right arm extended straight up. Here is an image of a packed set with the six poses.
Charbens Chinese Infantry
I purchased these guys advertised as Chinese Infantry. Shortly after I bought them I saw them on the book 'Collecting Foreign Made Toy Soldiers' by O'Brien labeled as Japanese Infantry. I have not been able to establish what they really are, but since I already have many more Japanese figures I've chosen to accept them for now as Chinese Infantry. The figures are not the greatest but for a set made in the 60's/70s they are acceptable. The most interesting figure is probably the flamethrower guy, however painting a good looking flame is always tricky. Let's see how he turns out when I get to paint him.
Charbens US Infantry - Part I
One of the sets with the most poses. In fact, I think there is a 9th pose -a prone/crawling guy- not shown here. These are recasts, not originals, so I suppose they may not have the mold for it. The sculpting is not very detailed and some of the poses don't feel very natural. They are also on the smaller side of 54mm.

Charbens US Infantry - Part II
The bases of these figures are also a bit small which does not make them very stable. Now that we have the negative points out of the way, I am still optimistic that once they are painted the colors will give them a lift in appearance and they will fit in with the rest of the unit. And from a collector's standpoint, it is nice to have figures from a 'vintage' manufacturer.

Charbens US Infantry - Part III
Here are some original Charbens GIs. Not sure if they have been touched up by the previous owner or if these were the factory colors. Note how there seems to be an extra pose, the marching guy, which is not present among the recasts.

Charbens British 8th Army - Part I
It looks like these guys came factory-painted. According to O'brien's book on Foreign Toy Soldiers, Prindus -Prison Industries- bought the molds from Charbens and the prisoners painted the figures. I will probably have to paint them over when I paint the rest of these guys. That's when I go through dilemmas like the ones I described in this other post.
Charbens British 8th Army - Part II
I have to say that the sculpting is actually fairly decent for figures made around that timeframe. A couple of the guys in the previous pictures can be criticized, but these three guys are pretty good looking.

Charbens Afrika Korps - Part I
These are two figures out of a set of about 8 or so. Compared to other Charbens figures I fnd them quite well sculpted, with a good degree of detail and action/movement. Similar in style to the Lone Start AK figures. And they used to come factory-painted as you can see. So at the time they must have been among the best AK sets. The only thing to point out about  these guys is the machine gun. It looks more like a Vickers, or perhaps it's meant to be a captured one? :-) Anyhow, I am definitely going to have to keep an eye out for the rest of the guys in the set.

Charbens Afrika Korps - Part II
And here are the rest of the set. They seem to be clones rather than recasts. The plastic feels much lighter and the level of details seems a bit faded compared with the originals. And they also sell for a premium, considering how scarce they are. The poses are OK, and as I mentioned, they are among the nicer Charbens poses. Once they are painted, I am hoping it won't be as obvious that they are clones.

Charbens Afrika Korps - Part III
Actually, it looks like there was one more pose. He is a bit banged up by the years, but you can still get a good idea of what he looked like. If I fix his weapon and paint him, he might look just like new.

Charbens Punjabs - Part I
These guys are supposed to be from around the turn of last century (1900), but given the scarcity of manufacturers tackling Indian figures I have decided to recruit them into the WWII ranks. The main thing is that they are wearing a similar head dress -albeit Sikh- and the rifles and swords look similar to what the figures from other manufacturers are carrying.

Charbens Punjabs - Part II
Here is the original, vintage officer. Still in decent shape, with most of the original colors on him. And he is a bit larger than the clones pictured above, which is no surprise, as there's often shrinkage when the figures are cloned. 

Charbens Soviet Infantry
These guys are actually cossacks. A couple of the poses are a bit odd, like the guy standing with his legs apart or the guy throwing the grenade. My favorite ones are the machine gun and the third guy from the right.

Charbens British Naval Infantry - Part I
A British sailor, part of a landing party. He's an original, vintage figure, in excellent condition. As far as I can tell those are the original colors. Not the most exciting pose, but happy to have an original guy in this good condition. 

Charbens British Naval Infantry - Part II
Another Charbens man. I had initially misclassified him as part of the Lone Star Naval Infantry set, which is why he is pictured amongst other Lone Start guys. This one has a bit more action than the previous pose, and speaking of him being next to the Lone Star guys, the Charbens figures are a tad taller.

Click here to see more Indian Infantry
Click here to see more Soviet Infantry
Click here to see more British 8th Army soldiers
Click here to see more Afrika Korps soldiers

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