Would you like your son to become a great writer or an outstanding statesman? Than maybe you shoul buy for his next birthday a set of toy soldiers. At the same time you by yourself may join this relatively rare nowadays, but very prestigious and exciting hobby.
From Suvorov to Forbes
Adult males, of course, will never admit that they are still playing with the toy soldiers. Real men collect them, study the history of military uniform, simulate great battles of the past. Hereby the boys have nothing to be ashamed of - they are playing toy soldiers and nothing can be better! Boys grown up, but they are not in a hurry to part with their toy armies. Toy soldiers collectors are proud of those celebrities who were collecting the entire shelves of soldiers. Thus, the best collection of soldiers in Russia and one of the best in the world was owned by the Generalissimo Suvorov (in the collection of the Suvorov Museum in St. Petersburg there are gathered more than 50 000 figures, mostly from Nuremberg, otherwise the museum will be in a needed of new building).
The author of a tale "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", of course, knew what he was writing about, as he also was collecting toy soldiers. Passion for the tin figurines was shared by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Anatole France, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herbert Wells and many other famous and talented men.
From state officials there may also be called the great son of Britain - Sir Winston Churchill. In his ancestral estate in Blenheim still can be seen a huge collection of soldiers. One of the future leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition in his childhood devoted much more time and attention to his toy soldiers, than to the school studies.
Among our contemporaries, the world's largest collection of soldiers (about 70 000 items) was a property of a multibillionaire, Malcolm Forbes, the owner of the "Forbes" magazine. Unfortunately, Forbes has sold part of the collection, ready to run for the U.S. presidential campaign. However, the rest of his collection is exposed at the Forbes Gallery in New York City, which at the certain times everyone can enter free of charge (it's on the Long Island, corner of 5th Avenue and 12th Street).
From France of Louis to the Britain's England
The benefits of collecting toy soldiers is in the fact that this hobby awakens the child's interest in history - just like the philately is making lessons of geography and foreign languages much more interesting. Turning to the history, we note that in the ancient Egypt in Pharaoh's tombs, among many other things, there were found the figurines of warriors for the ruler could command an army even in the afterlife. The famous terracotta warriors of Ancient China - also a kind of toy soldiers. But seriously people started playing, studying and applying the strategy and tactics of military affairs, relatively recently - in the XVII century in France.
Soldiers at that time were not made of tin, but of silver, so it is not surprising that the largest collection of 300 marines was owned by Louis XIII himself, and no one else could afford such a hobby beyond Versailles. Under Louis XIV the royal collection was replenished with the silver riders. Napoleon had stepped farther - he gave 117 golden soldiers to his son as a gift. In the middle of the XVIII century the aristocratic pastime became available to the common people, after the Nuremberg tin master - Gottfild Johann Hilpert - started a mass production of toy soldiers made of tin.
Figures were depicting the guardsmen of Frederick the Great and the king himself. Soon a profitable business was joined by several masters of Nuremberg. Over time, manufacturers have agreed on the so-called Nuremberg standard. According to this standard, the size of the infantryman is 30 mm, and the trooper - 40 mm. Initially, these soldiers were flat, two dimensional, with the thickness of 1 mm. This way it was easier and cheaper to make them, and more figures could be placed in the box. In Andersen's famous tale he is telling exactly about the Nuremberg soldier, one of twenty-five, lying in a box.
Three-dimensional, more "natural" soldiers for the first time were manufactured in France in the late XVIII century, but their "golden era" occurred only a hundred years later. British producer William Britain invented the way to make soldiers "empty" inside, which once again lowered the production costs, and the Britain himself could set a new standards for the toy soldiers. The standing soldier had to be 54 mm in height (from cradle to the eye level). Currently, this is the most popular standard, most of the major manufacturers of metal soldiers, including a single craftsmen, are using this standard. Sometimes this is called the size of 1 / 32, which means - the image, reduced 32 times. For some time the tin soldiers, produced by the German company "Heyde" successfully competed with the British tin armies, but in the game, just like in the real life, it was over by the full capitulation of the German toy soldiers. "Heyde" factory with all the equipment and forms for the casting of the soldiers was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden, by the Allied forces, and the attempts of a Heyde family to revive the legendary family business had been successfully suppressed by the authorities of German Democratic Republic. The British Tin Army appeared to be the best in the world. By the way, the "father" of a 54 mm standard is still not gone out of this business. "William Britain" - perhaps is the most famous brand among the toy soldiers collectors. Serious blow to the tin soldiers (which are actually no longer made of tin, as most of them are made from different alloys, including tin-based) has caused the mass distribution of a plastic figurines, manufactured in one densely populated Asian country. Tin army had to retreat to the wisely prepared positions. Cheap toy soldiers now became a quite expensive adult fun.
From the Middle Ages hammer the hammer of a XXI century
Having learned the lesson of history, we can finally play. The rules will be told by Herbert Wells, who in addition to "The Invisible Man" and "The Time Machine" also wrote the "Little Wars" and the "Floor Games". It is in these books the owner of one of Europe's largest collections of toy soldiers is explaining how to play toy soldiers properly. By the way, Wells's rules with just some minor changes are still in use in the so-called military-strategic games. Today's kids must not forget that it was thanks to Mr. Wells, some of them can not play not the Chinese plastic consumer goods, but the beautiful metal figurines, not worse than those which are the subject of collecting for the boring adults.
It is true that adults still have poured a spoonful of pedagogical ointment to the big jar of honey. All figures of the most popular game franchises are sold unpainted - so that the boy needs to work with a brush for a while. But this boy can also be envied by his friend, who haven't got expensive tin figures, but the cheap plastic ones, that before coloring have to be fixed by glue. But in any case, a plastic soldier from the "Warhammer" (medieval fantasy), "Warhammer 40,000" (also fantasy, but of the distant future, not distant past), or "Lord of the Rings" (based on the eponymous book of Tolkien) - is not from the army of the consumer goods. It is very clear from the very first glance. And although the "Warhammer" game is not exactly collecting, it has enough fanciers now all over the world, and the amount of money spent on this hobby is quite comparable to those which are usually spent by more traditional collectors to supplement their home armies.
From the "flee market" to the online shop
Nowadays, the variety of collectible figures is so wide that even the famous Forbes probably would not be able to own them all. When you are reading a directories of the major companies selling tin soldiers, you are always petrified by the fantasy of producers. The collections are not limited only to the heroes of wars and revolutions of all time. In the UK, for example, there are produced pewter figurines depicting characters of the serial epic "007 James Bond" film, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, King Henry VIII with his six wives, heroes of Dickens's books, street passers of the Victorian epoch, Liverpool football team, the Beatles, and even Dr. Sigmund Freud. Orthodoxal collectors who think that tin figure still must portray a soldier, are more likely to prefer the military units of Napoleonic Wars era (perhaps the most fertile theme for the collection, given the variety of uniforms of the fighting armies). Among the most popular themes are also: World War II, the overseas military campaign of the British Army during the Victorian era, the wars of ancient Rome, U.S. Civil War. Today, perhaps, the cheapest of the high-quality products are the soldiers of the American company "Blue Box" (Though they are made of metal, but are cast in China, and some details of the weapons are made of plastic). A set of eight soldiers in the U.S. you can buy for $ 16. Classical "William Britain" toy soldiers will already cost slightly more. A standard set, that includes a tin sergeant with seven subordinates in London will cost 79 pounds 99 pence. This price is the average for the market of metal soldiers. Of course, if we are not talking about antique treasures, sold at the auction - where the prices may rise up to thousands of pounds.
Today one can find many types and kinds of toy soldiers in London, New York, Melbourne. And, of course, - on the Internet, as tin soldiers - is an ideal product to buy through the network. Just type in a search engine phrase "tin + soldiers" - and you will be immediately provided with the addresses of well known and yet not famous producers, sellers and collectors.