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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lone Star - Toy Soldiers

Lone Star was a British manufacturer of die cast vehicles and plastic toy soldiers. It was founded just before WWII and was in business until the early 80s when it went bankrupt. While its main focus seems to have been the vehicles and trains, it also produced a few interesting WWII sets. The sets came factory painted and the sculpting is of varying degrees of quality from one set to the next. The original figures are a bit hard to find and I have found it an interesting challenge to collect them. At least one of the sets -the ANZAC figures- has been acquired by Timpo and they have released new production figures using the original molds. 

Lone Star Afrika Korps - Part I
This is a rare set. Out of production and not easy to find. The poses are acceptable considering when they were made (50s or 60s). As far as poses they offer a good mix of fighting/non-fighting figures. The guy on the left is the only one I've ever seen waving a white flag.

Lone Star Afrika Korps - Part II
This other picture has the guys going on the offensive. It also shows the only flamethrower among all the poses across all manufacturers in this post, which is another reason why I am glad I finally got my hands on this set.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part I
These are two figures that I stumbled upon on eBay. They are standing a bit too straight for my taste, but they are also old, so we can give them a bit of a break. Anyhow, once they are painted they will be a good addition to the unit, providing their specialized services. I wonder what the guy on the right is supposed to be carrying on his back. Does not look like the usual field pack. Is it supposed to be his parachute? But if he is already operating the mortar, doesn't that mean that he already jumped?

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part II
Here are some more guys from this set. They are not in the best shape. A couple of them have broken weapons but they still give an idea of what the original poses looked like. The guy on the right is an interesting pose. I am not sure what he represents. Is he supposed to be pulling his parachute? or maybe he is supposed to be in the air, in the middle of a jump?

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part III
A couple more guys that I recently got in a mixed lot. The guy who is crawling is interesting. He seems more like he is doing some push ups. I would have made him with at least one knee on the ground. The man with the binoculars is fairly decent. Too bad it has lost all its paint.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part IV
A few more guys in much better condition. The bazooka guy seems to be based off the same figure as the standing man aiming with the rifle, or most likely the other way around, which explains why the rifleman is holding the rifle that way. The flamethrower guy is just a better version of the one in the previous picture which has the flame missing. 

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part V
Three more figures from the set. Well actually the guy on the left showed up already in one of the earlier pictures, but the weapon was broken, so I included him again since I just got the same figure in better shape. The other two are nice additions. I like the guy who is crawling quite a bit. The MG is also a good addition to the uint, giving it a bit more firepower.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part VI
And yet one more guy who I found by chance, without knowing that I was missing him, in a large batch that I bought, also without knowing what exactly was in it. I guess every unit needs a good grenade thrower, and here he is. He does not seem to be winding up much for the throw though... let's see how far he manages to throw that. 

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part VII
This is one more guy I just ran into. He is just sitting down, as if he were riding on a plane waiting to jump. To setup such a scene, you would need several of them and they are not easy to find, so I doubt I'll ever get around to that. I should clarify that I did not see any manufacturer marks on him, so I am just assuming that he is a Lone Star figure because he really resembles the other ones.

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part VIII
So I think I found the set that the sitting para belongs to, or at least one where he can be used more appropriately. This is a Willys Jeep made by Lone Star. Presumably issued to the British Paras through Lend Lease :-)

Lone Star British Paratroopers - Part IX
Here is one more British Para. This guy happens to be the machine gunner for this Bren gun carrier, although his MG does not really look like a Bren gun. If he's not the actual gunner, then it's a big coincidence that he fits so well on the seat that has the MG opening... 

Lone Star British Modern Paratrooper
This guy came with some of the WWII paras. At first I did not notice that he was from a more modern set. As you can see, the only thing that stands out is the weapon. So if you are not too selective, you can include him in your WWII unit. I probably will.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part I
These guys are post WWII figures, but if you overlook the automatic weapons, they could fit well with the rest of the guys. The flamethrower is a good complement to the other sets. I don't know exactly how many poses were produced. First I found these four and later on I found two more (see below).

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part II
I recently got these two other poses. The plastic is a bit brittle as they arrived in multiple pieces. Note how the arm holding the grenade is reattached as well as the head of the other guy. Too bad because there aren't that many of these figures left around. One thing that the figures in this set have been criticized about is the size of the beret which is certainly on the bigger side.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part III
And here is one more guy that I was missing from the set. The guy firing from a kneeling position. A classic post in most sets. Fairly well executed in this case.

Lone Star British Red Berets - Part IV
Here is one more guy who I was missing. Also, one of those that I was not aware of and who came in  a larger batch of figures, so I guess I got lucky. He is displaying a good degree of movement, which is how I like them. BTW, this is almost the same pose as the modern para a few pictures earlier. Initially I thought all they had done was change the helmet. I think I'll let you find the rest of the differences!

Lone Star ANZAC Infantry - Part I
The sculpting on these figures is a bit coarse, but it's nice that they provide a bit more variety and poses. Luckily they are also wearing a tropical uniform. I am sure that once they are painted they will blend in acceptably with the Airfix guys. This set includes an officer with a cap, which looks a bit more official than the Airfix commander.

Lone Star ANZAC Infantry - Part II
This other set contains a bazooka guy, which is a welcome heavy weapon addition, as well as a radio man, which is also not present in the Airfix set. These Lone Star guys are sold in a blister pack which is branded as both Lone Star and Timpo, so if you look for them you might find them under either brand, however my understanding is that they were originally released by Lone Star.

Lone Star ANZAC Infantry - Originals - Part I
I got lucky and found some original figures in a large batch that I bought. I only got 5 of the poses, but I think they give a good idea of how the set used to look. Several of the guys still retain their original paint. It looks like the commander got a bit of a 'touch up'. Also, note how they were issued in tan uniforms. Compared to the green, new production figures, I think I like the originals better, even with some of the paint missing.

Lone Star ANZAC Infantry - Originals - Part II
Here is one more pose in the original color scheme. Again, much better than the recasts.

Lone Star ANZAC Infantry - Originals - Part 3
Two more down. Unfortunately, with the weapon tips broken off. 

Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part I
This is a bit of a rare set. I am not sure how many figures came with it, but it is one of the larger ones. I have found 9 so far. Note that the two white figures are actually made by Charbens -I found this out after I had taken the pictures-. The poses are quite diverse and fairly well done for their time. The only thing that I don't like is how brittle the Lone Start plastic becomes over time. Out of all these figures, only 2 of them arrived in one piece. All the rest had broken limbs or weapons and had to be patched up. In fact, look at the man with the rope. He is missing a couple segments, which is quite unfortunate.

Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part II
These poses show a bit more action, which is more to my linking. Even the prone man with the Bren gun is lifting his foot to make him look more 'into it'. The man on the left however is taking what seems like a very odd step. Usually when a leg moves forward, it is the opposite arm that moves forward along with it, but what do I know. Maybe he is getting off a boat in which case I can see how he might be stepping off and reaching with his free hand at the same time.

Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part III
Here are two of the less common guys. The officer, which happens to have a movable arm that allows him to look into his binoculars and the helmsman. I actually don't have much use for the the helmsman without a ship to place him in. I would have preferred another raiding pose in the set. 

Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part IV
Here two of the poses already depicted in the first picture, however this time I found them without any pieces broken off, which is hard given how thin and brittle the rope and flag poles are. Note also that the man on the right is painted in a different color scheme.

Timpo / Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part 1
These are recast figures of the Lone Star British Naval Infantry. They are pretty much the same poses, except for the fact that they do not have any factory paint on them, and that they are made of a more resilient plastic which does not break. Now that I have found these guys, I will not paint my original/vintage Lone Star figures and paint these newer recasts instead. 

Timpo / Lone Star British Naval Infantry - Part 2
Out of the original nine Lone Star figures Timpo recast 8 of them. The guy who is missing is the helmsman, however I did not really have much use for him as part of a raiding party, so it's not like I will be missing him much, 

Lone Star Frogmen - Part I
A nice and interesting set from Lone Star. I don't know what country they represent exactly, and whether they are meant to be WWII or post war figures. As was the case with Lone Star, they were on the generous side in terms of the number of poses in the set. I don't know however if I got them all already.

Lone Star Frogmen - Part II
Unlke the Atlantic divers, these guys don't have any bases to keep them 'off the ground', so they must lie flat on their bellies on the sea floor when diving!

Lone Star Frogmen - Part III
As you might suspect from all the different colors, these actual figures are not originals. They are clones of relatively decent quality. Once they are painted it won't be that noticeable.

Lone Star Frogmen - Part IV
 I believe the original frogmen from Lone Star came with factory paint as did their other sets. Interestingly enough, the paint schem that I have seen shows them wearing only a bathing suit, instead of a full diving suit. If so, I guess these guys would have to be used in the Mediterranean only! I am planning on giving them a full body suit when I paint them...

Click here to see some more British Paratroops
Click here to see some more ANZAC Infantry
Click here to see some more Afrika Korps toy soldiers

Italeri - Toy Soldiers

Italeri is an Italian manufacturer of scale models and plastic toy soldiers. It was founded in the early 60s and its initial focus was the production of aircraft models. Over time it has branched out to cover many other types of vehicles and figures, with a slight, yet understandable bias towards Italian sets. Most of their figures are model kits, but they do have a few sets in which the figures come in one piece. The company is well regarded for its realism and originality. Many of their figure sets come in 1/72 scale but a few have also been released in 1/32. As of today, they are still going strong.

Italeri German Elite Troops - Part I
Notice how Italeri shied away from calling them Waffen-SS. I wonder if it really makes a difference in terms of sales. Notice how some of their figures are wearing extra layers to keep warm. Those are the details that add realism to a set. 

Italeri German Elite Troops - Part II
Nice inclusion of a panzerschreck figure. This was the German equivalent of a bazooka, but with a more powerful 88mm round, which earned it its nickname 'panzer terror'.

Italeri PAK 40 AT gun with servants
The Italeri gun offers what other PAKs lack: a good crew. As you can see, it comes with 6 figures. Most of them are ammo handlers. But it does have a man operating the gun and an officer directing the action.  The gun itself offers fewer moving parts and degrees of movement. But once it is setup it looks just as good. Probably a good combination will be the painted Italeri crew with the 21st Century Toys PAK. One thing that I do find very amusing about this set is that Italeri translated crew as servants.

Italeri Soviet Infantry
Released about 4 or 5 years ago. This is a subset of the figures that they produced in 1/72. Supreme Playsets actually came out a few months back with these 8 poses plus 4 more, based on the Italeri 1/72 figures. I bought the Supreme Playset figures just for those 4 extra poses.

Italeri Soviet ZiS 3 76mm Anti-Tank Gun
This set was released a couple of years back and it filled a huge gap in the WWII 1/32 plastic toy soldier world. In addition to the gun itself, the set contains a crew in a good variety of poses. The Soviets produced these guns from 1942 onwards in massive quantities (over 100,000) and with a 76mm round, they were capable of piercing any German Tank prior to the Tiger I and the Panther. Note that by mistake I included a German crew member in the picture! See if you can find him. 

Auburn - Toy Soldiers

The Auburn Rubber Company, named after the town in Indiana where it was founded, began as a tire manufacturer. It was started just before WWI and it was not until 20 years later that it began to manufacture toys, mainly rubber vehicles including some tanks and planes. Over time it also began to make animals and other plastic figures including toy soldiers. Even though at its peak it was one of the biggest manufacturers of plastic toys, the company went out of business in 1969. It is rumored that it attracted the attention of organized crime, possibly because of its success. Its last items were sold through the early 70s. Their figures are quite rare nowadays. 

Auburn US Infantry - Part I
I was not familiar with these figures until a recent Toy Soldier Show, but a fellow collector who was also digging through a bin that I was looking through identified them for me. They are about 70 mm tall, so a bit beyond my scale however I liked the sculpting work, particularly that of the two guys on the left who look very confident. I was told they were Korean War figures, but I think they can pass for WWII GIs.

Auburn US Infantry - Part II
Here are a few more guys that I recently found. The grenade man is pulling the pin with his teeth. A nice touch that I have not seen replicated by any other manufacturer. The guy crouching is a bit odd. As far as I can tell he is delivering a note. The other guys are solid guys, in a similar stance as the guys above. All solid guys, nicely sculpted.

Auburn US Infantry - Part III
And yet three more poses. A bazooka, always good to have some heavy weapons in your unit. The guy with the bayonet, might come handy in some pacific scene. And the guy standing around and having a smoke is a nice detail from a grunt's every day life. Definitely a figure manufactured in an earlier time. I doubt such a pose would be released today.

Auburn US Infantry - Part IV
Here are the last four poses as far as I know. The guy firing, the one with the sub machine gun and the crawling guy have become standard poses in most infantry sets of most nationalities, so it makes a lot of sense that they would also be part of this one. These are more on the action side, compared to some of the other guys in the series, who are simply standing around.

Click here to see a post about the US Infantry
Click here to see the US Infantry in action
Click here to see a post about the US Armor
Click here to see more GIs

Introducing the Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force, or more precisely, the Regia Aeronautica was established in the 1920s and by the time WWII began, it counted with approximately 3000 aircraft and it had already participated in campaigns in Ethiopia and Spain. During the first half of the war, the Italian Air Force fought in North Africa and the Eastern Front where it bled alongside the Germans. In 1943, after Italy's surrender the Italian Air Force was split in two as was the case with the rest of Italy's military. The northern forces sides with the Axis and were known as the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana. The southern forces became the Aviazione Cobelligerante Italiana and fought on on the side of the allies. As far as plastic toy soldiers go, I only have one set, produced by Atlantic figures. Let's take a look.

Atlantic Italian Air Force - Part I
I usually stick to collecting 'ground' troops as I do not have planes or ships to go with air force guys or seamen, but these guys were nice enough and well enough priced that I could not resist. Note that aside from a couple of figures that explicitly look like they belong in an airfield, some of the other guys could be deployed in other roles. The figures are well sculpted and nicely detailed. In some of the figures you can seven see the eyelids and eyeballs! The one thing that does not make much sense to me is to have two officers that look almost the same.

Atlantic Italian Air Force - Part II
These guys look more like ground troops so they will be easier to deploy in the scenes I tend to build. The sculpting style reminds me of the Atlantic British Commandos set, less stiff and more action poses. The guy who is firing upwards is definitely very similar to one of the Commandos. Quite a nice set overall.

Armies In Plastic - Toy Soldiers

Armies in Plastic is an American firm based out of NY that produces a wide range of figures, mainly from the 18th and 19th century. As far as the 20th century goes, they do not have any WWII figures, but they do have a couple of WWI sets that can pass for WWII figures if you are a little flexible. Their sculpting is decent, but not exceptional, however the range and uniqueness of the sets that they produce makes them a popular manufacturer. The size of their figures is also on the big end of the 1/32 scale. Given their prolific output, maybe one day they will turn their attention to WWII. I am sure they would to a nice job covering the less popular sets in that period, which seems to be their specialty. Anyhow, let's take a look at the WWI sets that could be used in a WWII setting. 

Armies in Plastic French Infantry - Part I
Given the fact that the French uniform did not change that much during the inter-war period, except for the switch from blue to brown, these guys can pass for WWII French Infantry once they are painted. They are a bit bulkier than the Marx guys -the other French guys available-, but I think they will blend in well with them once painted.  

Armies in Plastic French Infantry - Part II
Note that some of these guys are wearing long coats, but that was also the case with WWII French troops up to the summer of 1940. The Adrian helmet is also the same as the one worn by the Marx figures.

Armies in Plastic WWI German Infantry - Part I
If for some reason you find that you don't have enough German Infantry options you can always throw in some late WWI guys. These already had steel helmets. The only thing that is noticeably outdated is the use of the puttees up to the knee. Most WWII German soldiers used ankle puttees during the second half of the war when leather became scarce and jackboots were no longer manufactured. But I have seen one picture of a WWII officer wearing puttees up to the knee, so that opens the door for these guys!

Armies in Plastic WWI German Infantry - Part II
As you can see, the AIP figures are not the most detailed -for instance, the faces look a little plain. The poses in some cases do not show enough movement for my taste, or the movement does not 'flow' as is the case with the grenade man on the right. Still, they are good enough if you need to add extra manpower to your unit.

Armies in Plastic WWI Indian Army - Part I
I had been looking for Indian troops for a Monte Cassino scenario and was pleased to run into these guys which were recently released. The poses are nicer than some of the previous AIP figures. Less bulky and with some good movement in them. The level of detail is good and the turbans and beards make them inequivocably Indian. The uniforms and weaponry are close enough to make them pass for WWII figures. 

Armies in Plastic WWI Indian Army - Part II
The first picture shows some of the more active poses. This other five guys are in a more static or defensive stance. Both are needed to depict a good battle scene. All in all, a nice and useful set from AIP. Will paint up well next to the Atlantic, Cherilea, Charbens and Crescent guys. 

Britains Herald & Swoppets - Toy Soldiers

Britains Herald was a brand within the Britains product line. It was Britain's first incursion into plastic figure market. They launched it in the mid 50s and continued to produce them and sell them through the mid 70s. The Herald product line coexisted with the Britains swoppets, and 'eyes right' brands during the 60s and 70s, when they were phased out in favor of the Deetail figures. In contrast with the later Deetail figures, the Herald range did not cover WWII. Perhaps it was too soon to address that subject when the Herald guys came out. They did produce a set of 'modern infantry' which can pass for WWII figures though. The figures came factory painted with some basic colors. To give the Tommies an opponent, the same figures were released with a darker helmet. Initially this set was made in the UK and later it was made in Hong Kong. To read more about the evolution of the Herald product line, check out this excellent post . OK, so let's take a look at their poses.

Britains Herald British Infantry - Part I
You can see based on the weapons they are carrying these guys seem to be post-WWII figures, but their poses are nice enough that I couldn't resist being a purist and I drafted them into the WWII Army. I like the dynamic nature of their poses, like the guy who is charging with the bayonet. 

Britains Herald British Infantry - Part II
I don't like casualty figures that much -mainly because they are not very useful for war-gaming- but I have to say that the guy in this set is quite dramatic and well done. BTW, you can tell some of the newer figures, the ones made in Hong Kong, from the base which is not part of the figure but attached to it.

Britains Herald British Infantry - Part III
This is how they looked in their original colors. The mine sweeper guy did not get painted because I got him after I was done painting the other guys. The marching guy was eliminated because I wanted more active poses.

Britains Herald British Infantry - Part IV
This guy is more like a 50mm figure than 1/32. From waht I understand he was designed and manufactured as a test product -and just this single pose- when Britains was evalauting getting into the plastic market. In case of a failed experiment, they were going to be sold to the tourist market, hence the ceremonial stance. 

Britains Swoppets British Infantry - Part I
I only have a handful of these guys, but this sample is quite nice. The mortar team is very well put together. Unfortunately the man dropping the shell into the tube is missing the shell, but if you assume that he just dropped it, then it works just fine. The stretcher guys unfrotunately are also missing the stretcher, so I had to place the wounded man on the ground. I guess that's the downsied of the swoppet approach. Those detachable pieces go missing. Note that the wounded guy comes with a blanket, which gives it an additional nice touch.

Britains Swoppets British Infantry - Part II
A couple more guys. The marching guy is nothing out of the ordinary. The other guy is showing quite a bit more action. Definitely more into the heat of the moment. 

Britains Swoppets British Infantry - Part III
This guy came to me already in a pretty beaten up shape. Looks like the previous owner wanted some casualties in his army and even painted some blood stains on this poor fellow. I wish they had kept him in his original state... BTW, his upper body looks like the one from the man dropping the shell into the mortar. 

Britains Swoppets British Infantry - Part IV
This guy seems to have the same lower body as the previous guy. although he seems to have lost his base, but that's OK. He does not really need it. The uppor body is very much to my liking and his weapon is in great shape. I think he is one of my favorite swoppet figures across all swoppet manufacturers. 

Click here to see British Infantry in action