My First Set of "Detailed Army Men"

My First Set of "Detailed Army Men"

My First Set of Toy Soldiers


For as long as I can remember, I always loved Toy Soldiers. I can remember playing in my parents living room with buckets full of toy soldiers. These were the plastic all one color sets. They were either all blue, all white, or all green.  I would make a big mess and I can still hear my mother saying “I’m not cleaning that up Danny. When you are done playing, you need to clean up your mess!”

Back in 1983, we took our first trip to Europe as a family. I was 10 years old. I went with my maternal grandparents, my parents and three of my siblings.  We headed off to Ireland to visit relatives. I remember arriving at one of my relatives' homes in the countryside. They were farmers and lived in a thatched roof home.  It was a good experience for me to see how other people live.

 Eventually we left Ireland and headed to London, England. I remember going for a walk with my father. The others were back at the hotel. We spotted a toy store and I wanted to go in. I do not remember the name of the store. I do remember it was very large. It was in this store that I saw for the first time Britains Toy Soldiers. I referred to them as detailed army men. They were the most amazing thing I had ever seen! I had no idea that such a thing existed! My father told me that I could pick out one set. What a difficult decision this must have been for me! There were so many to choose from. Oh the pressures of being ten years old!  I decided on the set called the “British Regiments 7226”.British Regiments - Life Guards, Yeoman of the Guards, and Scots Guard

The set comprises 2 Life Guards, 2 Yeoman of the Guards, and 2 Scots Guards. I do not know how much my father paid but I am sure it was a lot more expensive than the plastic all one color toy soldiers I was accustomed to.

When we got back to our hotel room, I immediately opened the box containing my new detailed army men. I took them out of the box and set them up on top of the TV in the hotel room. I did not play with them. They were too nice to be played with. They were the most amazing thing I had ever had in my life. I was amazed by the detailed work on these soldiers. I did not want to harm them in any way. No scratches! They needed to be viewed and not played with. 

Both my parents were amazed by my behavior. This was their 10 year old son who loved playing with toy soldiers! Yet, I would not play with these. They were not toys to me. They were something to admire. They were to be displayed.  They were special. To this day, they are still special.  My father realized at this point that his ten year old son had just become a Toy Soldier Collector!

Eventually, we moved on from London and headed for Scotland. It was in Scotland where I received my 2nd set of Toy Soldiers. I must have spotted a toy store while touring one of the cities we were visiting. There I saw more Britains “British Regiments”. This time I chose set 7245 Gordan Highlanders.6 Gordan Highlanders Toy Soldiers For 40 years these two sets, along with many more, have been displayed in cabinets. Safe from getting any damage. Starting with these two sets, my father and I would go on to collect over a hundred different toy soldier sets. 

My father started investigating where to find high quality toy soldiers. He first came across Tradition of London. He was able to order some catalogs from Tradition. This was way before the internet. Back then people ordered from catalogs.  I remember clearly turning the pages of these catalogs and seeing all these amazing toy soldier sets. At that time, Tradition of London had a distributor out of Burnsville, Minnesota. Sometimes we could order sets from the distributor but other times we would have to get the sets delivered from the London store. Luckily, my father had a coworker who was based in London. He would buy the sets and fly them back to Houston Texas when he came back home for the Holidays. My Birthday and Christmas are just a few weeks apart. My father would buy me two sets for Christmas and two sets for my birthday. They were my favorite presents. 4 sets of toy soldiers a year was truly great!

Tradition of London was definitely a go to source for toy soldiers. But a good collection should have different manufacturers. In the summer of 1984, we traveled to New Orleans for the World's Fair. The World Fair is somewhat of a thing from the past. Here is a good article about the history of the World Fair.  While there we stumbled across a wonderful store called Le Petit Soldier Shop.Le Petit Soldier Store It was located in the French Quarter. Here is a blog post about Le Petit.  The store was owned and operated by Dave Dugas. I am not sure if Le Petit manufactured toy soldiers. I do know that they painted the soldiers. The paint work and details are top notch. Unfortunately, the store closed after Hurricane Katrina. If you have visited this store or own any toy soldiers from Le Petit, please join my facebook group Le Petit Soldier Shop and post your pictures there. 

My father eventually found other US based manufacturers of toy soldiers. Three that stand out are Edmund’s Traditional Toy Soldiers, Thomas’ Tin Soldiers and finally Wm Hocker. I will write in more detail about Edmund’s Traditional Toy Soldiers and Thomas’ Tin Soldiers in upcoming blog posts. 

If you have a young child who is interested in toy soldiers, I would suggest starting out with these sets. World War II US Infantry, World War II Japanese Infantry, Civil War Foot, or American Civil War Mounted. These are sets that your kid can play with and enjoy. All the suggested sets are made by W.Britain.

Collecting toy soldiers with my father was a good bonding experience. It was something we both enjoyed. I continued to add to the collection after his death in 2004. Two good rules to follow when collecting toy soldiers. Quality over quantity and having different manufacturers in your collection. Each manufacturer and the artist that paints the toy soldiers are very unique and bring diversity to the collection. 

Happy Collecting!

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