Interview with Andrew Stevenson of Replica Metal Soldiers & Models. Plus some hobby news.

When I was young my Parents & Grandmother would buy me and my brother plastic toy soldiers. I also had some painted metal figures too. As a kid I had some Prince August toy soldier molds. I would melt the metal and then cast & paint them. I still have some of those figures. 

 

Replica Metal Soldiers

The other day I met Andrew Stevenson on Facebook. I have seen his pro-painted figures on eBay for a few years now. He is also the owner of Replica Metal Soldiers & Models. His company sells painted and unpainted metal toy soldiers. Their figures reminded me of the the early Britain painted metal sets.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Hi Andrew. For years I have seen your pro painted figures on eBay. I always admired your painting skills. Now I see you’re the owner of “Replica Metal Soldiers & Models.” Can you gives us some history of you and your company?

Andrew Stevenson: I’ve been collecting and painting Toy Soldiers, Wargame and Model soldiers since I was a kid. I still have a crate full of Airfix 1/72 Napoleonic’s which were my favorites when I was a child. My Gran dad and Dad collected and so I’ve had Toy Soldiers of one type or another in my life since I can first remember. I have always enjoyed painting figures and love painting plastics in Matt in all scales and I’ve undertaken some big private commissions over the past 4-5 years for collectors in 1/72 and 1/32.

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My real personal passion, and my own collection is traditional glossy figures, and it was my Gran dad who really got me into these when he retired and started collecting again. To be able to commercially produce figures for fellow collectors has been a dream come true and I was very fortunate following a discussion with James Opie. I had visited him to see his collection, that the opportunity to acquire the Late Pat Campbell’s Replica Models came up. Pat was a true enthusiast who supplied some of the great names in the toy soldier world with castings and his own unique painted sets which were exquisitely painted in both Gloss and Matt.

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I’m both privileged and honored to have the chance to build upon Pats work, and continue to supply collectors with figures, both as castings and painted figures. A once in a lifetime opportunity, and I thank James Opie and Margaret Campbell for helping make my toy soldier dream a reality. I hope that Replica Metal Soldiers and Models will continue the tradition of the gloss toy soldier well into the 21st Century. Exciting times for the glossy I hope!

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Warhorse Miniatures:  I read on your website that you have plans on expanding the ranges in the future. What ranges are you going to go into?

Andrew Stevenson: I’m focusing on re-releasing the original Replica range of Indian Army figures, originally a joint venture between Bill Cranston and Pat Campbell. There are 70 sets listed in the paperwork I have, so far sorted out the first 40 or so sets. I’m also going through the other moulds and discovering more recasts of hollow figures and adding the to the recast list.

There are also other figures in the range which fill in the gaps Britains never made, and this is something I’m looking to expand. My first releases are RN landing party with field gun, all in full equipment, and RN figures at the ready and kneeling at the ready, and Indian Army figures to complement the original Britains Indian army figure but in different poses. I have also a new Chelsea Pensioner figure. In the next phase I have Anglo Egyptian War Egyptians/Turks, and plenty of others on the work bench! My Ideas book just keeps growing!

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Warhorse Miniatures: What is the average cost for your figures?

Andrew Stevenson: My figures start from £3.75p and £9 for a mounted figure as castings, with Painted figures in the toy soldier style starting from £8-9 for a foot. My spare arms and heads start from 35p. I want to provide a good quality reasonably priced product for collectors of all budgets, so will supply castings and painted items in any quantity. I always charge postage at cost, to ensure that that collectors get best value. Why waste money on over the top postage…. Buy another couple of figures!

Warhorse Miniatures: It looks like you’re a one man show. Do you have any help?

Andrew Stevenson: Yes, I’m a “One Man Show”! I design, sculpt, cast, clean, paint and dispatch. So, my figures really do get the personal touch! I do sometimes have support from friends at the show, and I have a lot of support from others in the hobby, including James Opie and Chris Bartlett and my good friend Craig Appleton at Redcoat Models who have all helped me get Replica up and running again.

Warhorse Miniatures: One other question that I have. Are you ready to take orders from the USA? Or is most of your business done locally in England?

Andrew Stevenson: I’ll take orders from wherever they want my troops! Post will all be at cost. I send tracked and signed only abroad.

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Besides all the work that Andrew is doing with his new company he also does a lot of custom work. Both with painting and some customizing of the poses. He sells some of his pro-painted plastic figures on eBay. I will have all the links listed below at the end of this article. Send him a message if you are working on a project and need some help.

You can find Andrew at some of the shows in England.

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John Tunstill and James Opie and Andrew Stevenson at the Replica Stand Birmingham Toy Soldier Fair 2018.

 

I am glad to see new companies continuing the classic style of  traditional toy soldiers. Listed below are all the links that Andrew has.

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Replica Metal Soldiers & Models on Facebook

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That concludes the interview with Andrew Stevenson. I would like to thank Andrew for taking his time to answer the questions. Now here is some hobby news below.

News

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“Please join us Sunday, November 4th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 for the 36th Annual East Coast Toy Soldier Show & Sale, where history comes alive. Sponsored by Vintage Castings, Inc., once again, the show will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Center, 100 University Plaza Drive, Hackensack, NJ 07601. Plenty of free on-site parking and a convenient bus ride from Manhattan. Admission is $7 (free for children under twelve).
Our show has grown to become the largest and best attended toy soldier show on the East Coast with tons of soldiers, militaria, military miniatures, diecasts, G.I. Joe and action figures, dioramas and antique and collectible toys from ancient toy soldiers to Star-Wars and everything in between – including our 6th Hess Toy Truck Meet & Greet.  Plan now to attend this once-a-year event and for the opportunity to connect with other collectors and share nostalgic memories. The Hess Meet & Greet is an event where you can bring your Hess Trucks for appraisals, or display your rarities, or just hang out and chat with other collectors. Participation in the Meet & Greet is free with paid admission to the show.
Now some sad news – many of you might not know that William Lango, toy soldier guru and organizer of our show, suddenly passed away this summer. He was a great man in all respects and a “regular” guy, originally from Queens, New York.  A true patriot, he loved his country, was a member of the VFW and proudly served aboard Naval destroyer USS Mullinnix during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He was a member of Operating Engineer’s Local 68. Artist, historian, writer, editor and magazine publisher (Toy Soldier
Review Magazine), he was at the forefront of the re-emerging toy soldier hobby in the 1980’s. An avid toy soldier and toy train enthusiast, he founded Vintage Castings, making and specializing in American Dimestore-style figures (acquiring many of the original molds from the defunct Barclay factory). Through his work and mentorship, he brought
many different generations of toy soldier enthusiasts together and helped grow the hobby. For all his accomplishments, he was always fair and honest – lived a simple yet exemplary life – was humble and never tried to impress. The world and the hobby community doesn’t see people like this very often.  Bill appreciated and valued all his friends in the toy soldier, toy train and Hess toy truck communities and we will all miss
him. In homage to his love and devotion to the hobby, our family is carrying on his legacy this year by running the show as a tribute to him. We hope you can join us on November 4th to salute Bill!
In friendship and appreciation for all your years of patronage,
The Lango Family”
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I wanted to share an email from the Lango family with some information about the show and the passing of Bill. 

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The Tecumseh’s Woodland Indians set is available now from Expeditionary Force. They are listed as 54mm. I will see if I can pick this set when I go to the East Coast Toy Soldier show on November 4th.

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Chintoys released two new sets. CHT012 Conquistadors Set 2 and CHT019 Aztec Warriors in 1/32 scale. They should be available now.

 

That is it for now. Thank you for reading 🙂

An Interview with Ron Barzso of Barzso Playsets.

“Remember the feeling you had as a kid when you received a playset for a present?”

“Looking at the box, opening those little bags that contained treasures never before seen, setting up for the first time… Well, now you can recapture those feelings with a brand new playset from BARZSO PLAYSETS!”

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These are the words you will see when you visit the Barzso Playset website. In 1993 Ron brought back the second Golden Age of Toy Soldier Playsets. Barzso Playsets released their first playset “Roger’s Rangers, In the Attack on St. Francis”.

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It was the first new American produced playset in about 25 years. Barzso Playsets would release a new playset almost every year after for the next 25 years. Most of his products were focused on early American history. From early colonial history to the American Civil War. The French & Indian War was a major theme of his. The Native American Indian figures are some of the best figures every produced. He also brought to life some of our childhood classic stories like John Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and the medieval tale of “Robin Hood”.

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Most of there early figures were casted in resin and so were the playset accessories. Their products were made in the USA. Later on they used plastic injected molds to make the figures and they were made in China. They still continued to use resin casted character figures and accessories that are made here in the USA.

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Besides producing some great playsets Barzso sold figure packs, different kinds of small accessories and foam buildings. But some of his best products had to be the forts and castles they made.

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Barzso brought collectors dreams come to life. Today his products are very desirable and can command a premium price.

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This year at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show Barzso Playsets in a joint venture with LOD Enterprises will release a playset together.

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The other day I got a chance to talk to Ron Barzso and ask him a few questions. He and his family were busy packaging their final playset the “Battle of Yorktown: Attack on Redoubt #10”.

 

 

We talked over the phone. This was the first time I did an interview over the phone. I had some questions written out to ask. The conversion was almost a half hour. As we talked I took notes to use later on for this article. The conversation moved into different directions as you will see as you read further. 

 

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures: Hi Ron, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I would like to say I am a big fan of your work and have followed your company for a while now. It started with the first playset, Roger’s Rangers.

My first questions is; Who is Ron Barzso and how did all of this start?

 

Ron Barzso: (Ron laughed at who is Ron Barzso) Ron told me he was a 5th grade teacher(his wife Mary is also a teacher) and a collector of toy soldiers. He would go to the shows in the 1980’s with like sixty dollars in his pocket and be amazed at the prices that some of the playsets were going for. After a while Ron got tired of seeing nothing new being produced or nothing that he was interested in. He started doing some research on making his own playsets. After seeing collectors spending a lot on old toys he realized that there would be a market for his products. So he started reaching out to different companies. He started working with some small local companies to start the business.

 

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Roger’s Rangers raiding. Here is a picture from the http://playsetaddict.com/

Warhorse Miniatures: One of the main themes of your sets is early American Colonial history. Your first set was Roger’s Rangers playset. What was the main reason that you started here.

 

Ron Barzso: Ron told me he loved history. One of his favorite movies is “Northwest Passage” He said “that would be a cool playset”. He saw an ad about Hudon Allen Studio. He contacted them and met Ken Olsen. Ken was the sculptor of the Roger’s Rangers figures. Ron used a few different companies to put together the playset. One did the figures and accessories. Another produced the buildings.

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Warhorse Miniatures: One of the things that I remember about your sets is the amount of detail given. Of all your playsets, do you have a favorite? Or which one was the most fun to produce.

Ron Barzso: After about 15 seconds of thought Ron said he had two that came to mind. “The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island”.

Treasure Island is one of Ron’s favorite books. Ron reread Treasure Island and used details from the book to design some of accessories. The late Steve Lortz sculpted the figures. Ron had a lot fun bringing this playset to life.

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The second set was “Last of the Mohicans”. While at the West Coast Show in the mid 1990’s Ron was approached by some executives from 21st Century. They wanted Ron to develop a playset for them. These executives were also collectors of toys soldiers. After some talks they agreed to use “Last of the Mohicans” for the playset. Ron like the characters and story. Plus the historical background. Wes Studi even autographed a picture of himself for each playset. Ron said about 550 playsets were made. He was able to visit the studio set of the movie. They gave Ron some movie stills and few blue print designs they used in the movie. One of the blue prints was of Fort William Henry which Ron said is about twelve feet by 3 feet. It is a everlasting reminder of the playset and movie for him.

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Both of these sets were followed up with expansion sets. A few ships where made and a Pirates cove set were made to go with the Treasure Island set. For the Last of the Mohicans set they made Fort William Henry.

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Warhorse Miniatures: In 2017 you allowed Ken Ciak of LOD Enterprises to produce your Medieval and Revolutionary War figures. Now that your going to retire soon, do you have any plans for Ken to produce some of your other sets? And if yes, which other sets?

 

Ron Barzso: Ron said that he sold the rights to the Robin Hood medieval molds, Lexington Green molds and the Yorktown figure molds to Ken. They came to an agreement to work on the Yorktown Playset together. Ken providing the figures and Ron gathering the other parts for the playset.

Ron never did answer the second part of the question. But I asked Ken about it and he said “Ron and I have discussed his molds and the opportunity to purchase them. We have not delved too deep into the details but will look to do so in Schaumburg” at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show.

(As we talked about this Ron jumped back to question about favorite playsets)

Ron Barzso: Ron said he enjoyed meeting Fess Parker while they developed the Fess Parker Daniel Boone Playset. This was another licensed playset. He spent over 3 hours talking to Fess. Fess was surprised about that there was any interest about him acting as Daniel Boone after all the years. This playset was almost produced as much as the Last of the Mohicans playset.

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(from here we jumped into the prices of Barzso)

Ron Barzso: Ron said he was a little surprised about prices of what some of his products are going for now. But he said collectors will spend whatever their willing to get what they want. He said he gets requests for some of his items that are over 17 year old sometimes. And that collectors from around the globe send such requests.

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Warhorse Miniatures: You told me that you plan to retire after the Yorktown playset. If you could design another playset what would it be?

 

Ron Barzso: After some thought, Ron says that he would have liked to do a science fiction based playset. Maybe either the movies “Forbidden Planet” or “The Time Machine”. He said that he didn’t know what he would have used as the main display for Forbidden Planet. He said the idea of the Morlocks with the Time Machine would have been fun.

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I later found some pictures of toys and images of what could have been?? The Barzso “Forbidden Planet” playset.

or The Barzso “The Time Machine” playset.

If Ron ever makes another playset I bet it will be really cool. I brought up the idea of zombies or the Walking Dead. He liked the Walking Dead zombie figures that where made at one point. He is surprised that they were not produced into a bigger production.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Any new details about the Yorktown set you would like to share with us?

 

Ron Barzso: Ron talked a little about he history of the battle. He mentioned about the Redoubt #10 being a surprise attack and the American soldiers were ordered not to load their muskets. They would use their bayonets to charge the British to take the redoubt.

He said the redoubt would have 3 sides. Six different sets of figures included. A few character figures like Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. The figures were sculpted by Jim Holloway. These were some of the things he divulged.

We then talked about how much he liked the action poses that these figures had. He also mentioned that he had planned to originally release this playset the year after the Lexington Green set. But he ran out of gas and put it to the side until now. He is excited now to finally release the Yorktown set.

Warhorse Miniatures: This is my last question. I would like to thank you for the time you took to answer the questions. It saddens me that your retiring. At the same time I am happy to see that you will be enjoying yourself in retirement. Is there anything else that you would like to say about Barzso Playsets?

Ron Barzso: One of the things that we discussed was some of Ron’s plans when he retires. He talked about traveling and his interest in preserving wild flowers. He also mentioned that it was mainly he and his wife that would handle the daily tasks of the business. From taking the orders, to packaging item to be shipped. It was overwhelming at times. He is ready to retire. He is glad to have met all the collectors over the years. He has many fond memories of the toy soldiers and toy shows.

Ron will now be retired but he still will be at some of the shows for the near future.

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Ron & Mary Barzso

This is the conclusion to the interview. As I was looking for some figures to take a few pictures of, I found some old flyers that Barzso Playsets would mail out to customers. I thought it would be interesting to take a few pictures of those. It was nice that Ron would send a personalized note at times to thank you or answer a question that you might have sent with an order.

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I also came across some old order forms. I wish these items were still in stock );

I have been collecting Barzso playset products off and on since almost the beginning. Their playsets of early American History and Native Americans are my favorite sets from Barzso. 

 

I hope that LOD Enterprises will continue the legacy of Barzso Playset. I have a feeling they will.

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An Interview with Richard Conte of Conte Collectibles.

In 1999 Conte Collectibles began operation. They raised the bar in both plastics, painted metal sets and playsets. Recently Conte announced they were planning to release new sets to the existing ranges and then expand to new ones. I got to ask Richard some questions. 

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Hi, Richard. I have been a big fan of your work for a while. You produced some amazing figures and sets over the years. It is good to see that you have returned with a new website. I know that you have been planning on releasing new sets for a while.

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Warhorse Miniatures: I would like to ask you to tell us a little about yourself and how did Conte Collectibles start? 

Richard Conte: I think I am a typical collector and history buff (with the exception that I’ve tried to produce my own sets). Like many, I had Marx play sets, Lido, MPC and Ideal figures as a kid.  Later I had a few plastic Britains, Herald and Timpo figures. My favorites were the Marx Boonsboro & Vikings figures and Timpo Romans & Vikings. I still have some of my childhood toys. 

I also love old movies , especially those with historical themes. Some of my favorites are Kirk Douglas’ The Vikings and Spartacus, Zulu, Beau Geste, The War Lord , The Longest  Day , Gunga Din, Captain Blood, El CID , 300 Spartans , etc., Plus all the Alamo and Robin Hood movies. Long time Conte Collectors know that we’ve been privileged to obtain the licenses to most of these films and have made products based upon most of them. 

I’ve got a wonderful wife who is very tolerant of my “ toy soldier hobby” and is well known as the model for our pirate woman with two pistols. ( I think she’s gotten over being angry about her toy soldier debut!!). Also am the old boy to a bunch of adult kids and an ever growing troop of grandchildren. 

My career was in the health care field. It involved designing, building and operating hospitals and other medical facilities.  For 20 years I worked part time in the United Kingdom. I visited just about every castle, museum and battlefield I could find time to see. One of the many special memories or highlights from my time in Britain was being invited to dinner with the Governor General of The Tower of London. One of the hospitals I designed and opened is Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua. My work in the USA is far more boring …

While working in England I became friends with John Jeffries, the wonderfully creative man who owned Accurate Figures and created all of their standout soldiers . John’s excitement and enthusiasm for the hobby was infectious and sparked my interest in producing a few of my own soldiers. Years later, when I was put out to pasture I decided to see what I might be able to create…

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Warhorse Miniatures: What are some of your favorite sets or themes that your have produced?

Richard Conte: This is a tough one. Certain sets are special to me for different reasons.  I love all of the periods or themes we’ve attempted over the years. I’ve put something of me into almost all of our figures, sets, buildings and playsets.

I’m proud of the Roman War Galley because of the degree of difficulties in sculpting, producing and even figuring out the packaging for a beast that large. When we started making figures, I never could have imagined making a warship like that in 1/32 scale…and with 48 rowers below decks. I have similar feelings for our Viking Ships.

Our LCVP and LCM3  landing craft are really special because the majority of the these went to the National WW2 museum where they were sold and made $$ to help support the wonderful work they do commemorating America’s role in saving the world. The same with our ACW plastic sales; some $$$ from those was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy and other Civil War sites.

The Vikings is my favorite movie and Spartacus is the film that means the most to me. Getting to produce sets based on these with the permission and enthusiasm of my number 1 childhood hero, Mr. Kirk Douglas,  has been a real honor and privilege. Our corporate logo is based upon ‘The Great Snake’ design used in The Vikings. The first piece of our stationery (with the logo) was sent to Mr. D as a thank you. I’m hoping to get some additional poses done.

Sets based upon The Vikings, Zulu, The War Lord, Beau Geste and the Alamo are special because of private memories involving my grandfather. With regard to Zulu, Sir Stanley Baker was very kind to me starting when I was about 10 years old and cemented my love for Zulu & Colonial Wars in general. In adult life I had the privilege of being able to discuss The War Lord with Mr. Charlton Heston and really enjoyed his stories about the film.

All of our character figures (both historical and film)have been attempts to pay tribute to the actual historical person and/or actor who made an impression upon me. I’m glad we had the opportunity and I think we’ve generally succeeded.

Casualty sets, sets with a lot of action or emotion , hand to hand sets are ALL amongst the favorites because they were our attempt to pay tribute to the common soldiers, the enlisted men , the patriots and the conscripts of history. Showing or depicting the horror and misery of war was important to me.  The sacrifices of Those  who’ve come before us needs to be remembered.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Why after all these years of being absent have you returned? 

Richard Conte: Hi Michael, it is nice to hear from you.  Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we are back and doing our best to ‘gear up again’. By the way, the new website you mentioned is a work in progress and is by no means complete. Lots of sets are not posted yet; we hope to add a little each day as time permits.

 I’ve ‘returned’  for a number of reasons : (a) because I love the toy soldier hobby and want to continue trying to contribute to it; (b) there are several ranges or series that I was in the ‘middle of’ when the various distractions sidetracked me..unfinished business if you like; (c) there are several projects which I am very fond of which were in their infancy or had not even been announced which I’d like to attempt. A couple of these are special to me personally (and I hope they will be to other collectors).; (d) I feel as though I let down many collectors of the Conte product who were awaiting the arrival of sets which we had shown photos of; and (e) because I enjoy bringing to life figures and sets for fellow collectors who have been so supportive of our Labor of Love all these years….

Many people don’t realize that sculpting continued , unabated, during my hiatus and that we have around 300 sculpts complete which have not yet been produced.  Even when things looked darkest, I wanted to believe that I’d one day be making soldiers again. Besides, I felt obligated to keep my best sculptor working.

 

Warhorse Miniatures: It looks like your restocking old sets and have previews of new sets to come. Any timeline on when the new products will arrive?

 

 Richard Conte: Production of new sets is my #1 priority.  I’d also like to do new production runs of some of our older, sold out sets which collectors continually ask for.  Since I’ve been sidelined from production, we have quite a backlog of new product and we have a lot of decisions to make regarding what sets we work on first.  Just a day or so ago, I posted on Facebook the names and numbers of 11 new sets which were sent to the factory for production. These were Zulu War and North West Frontier.  The second wave heading to the factory are primarily Vikings, Normans and some Civil War. And I’m at last sending the Robin Hood ‘duel’ in.

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As to timing, I’m reluctant to post dates because there are so many factors that can affect when new sets can actually be in the hands of collectors. It usually takes 4 months or longer from the moment a factory receives our paint and mold masters. Sometimes painting errors happen and delays result. Decades ago I sent a Kirk Douglas as Spartacus figure for production. It took almost 7 months to be able to sell him because the factory kept filling in his trademark chin cleft!!!!!!!!

The other factor which will affect delivery schedule is that of collector response to and interest in our offerings.  I know that the ‘market’ has declined in the past 5 years as collectors have aged and prices of figures have gone up. One needs only to look at the many companies who have either ceased to exist or have otherwise slowed release of new product.

 The initial response to our new website and to the announcement that we are back in action has been very positive with a few exceptions. I very much appreciate the response and the kind words received from many and we will try to not disappoint them.  Time will tell how collectors react to our new offerings.  The better the response, the more quickly we can make other sets…. 

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Warhorse Miniatures: The new sculpts are impressive, can you tell us more about them?

 

Richard Conte: Thank you . I actually think (immodestly) that our new & as of yet unproduced figures are probably the best we’ve attempted thus far.  I’ve been blessed to have some of the most gifted sculptors working with me. I am very proud of all sorts of the hand to hand sets. These are especially complex to sculpt and produce.

We also have quite a few multiple figure sets where the figures are part of a diorama terrain base like our upcoming Roman catapult which is something like 9 figures on 2 separate bases plus catapult, tree, accessories, etc….. As simple as it seems, getting the figure bases to exactly match the spaces for them on the terrain base is an ongoing quality control issue.

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Warhorse Miniatures: So I noticed that most of your items for sale are painted metal sets, plans for plastics sets?

 

Richard Conte: I have posted an update about plastic figures on our web page in the blog section which I think gives the most honest assessment of where my thinking is at as of today.  Summarized, we are looking into costs of new molds and new production & also researching what new production runs of already existing plastic sets might cost.  I’ve also started considering different types of materials for the actual soldiers themselves.  It’s too early to be able to give any firm  answers on whether the plastic will be like that we used on our American Airborne or more like what was used on our GI’s.. 

Prices and methods have changed dramatically since I made my Spartans and I need to reeducate myself before coming to any conclusions. I’m also evaluating what sorts of ‘dumbing down’ of our sculpts will be necessary in order to realize a mold making cost which we can afford. Said another way, I don’t see us making any 12-14 separate part figures like our poseable Spartans because the market just won’t support the costs. I hate sacrificing any of the detail or implied motion/action of our sculpts but realize that trade offs will need to be made.

I love plastic figures(as well as painted metal) like many others do. There is something visually or artistically beautiful about a single colored toy soldier where the detail can really be seen as it is.  The best I can say is that I’d like and hope to make new plastic.  I encourage all plastics guys to support the folks who are making plastic like LOD, TSSD, Paragon, Plastic Platoon, etc……Most collectors have no idea what goes into producing a completed set of plastic figures.  It’s an expensive, time consuming and sometimes worrying  & thankless project.

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Warhorse Miniatures: If you have plans for the plastic sets.  Are you going to use the same material or something new?

 

Richard Conte: The jury is out on this one.  I don’t know. Some collectors love the ‘rubbery’ plastic we used on the Zulu War, Alamo defenders, Foreign Legion, Germans, Brit Paras, Us Airborne and Medieval. Others who paint the figs, don’t like and complain of bendable bayonets and swords being a problem with paint flaking…

The harder plastic we used on the Mexican Army, Civil War, WW2 GI/s and the Spartans has it’s fans and detractors. It seems there are two schools of thought on which type of plastic we should use. Can’t please everyone…

New materials (new to our product) will be considered and only time will tell .

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Warhorse Miniatures: I see some new product themes in the pipeline. Do you have any information on these?

 

Richard Conte: Several new ranges or series are in the pipeline.  The Tombstone figures , the French Foreign Legion, medieval Scots, Woodland Indians , etc.  are all in varying stages.  As excited as I am by some of the new ranges, first efforts are being directed towards major additions to our Zulu War, NWF, ACW, Roman and Viking ranges.  I was mid stream on a number of these themes when things got interrupted.   I also have some Revolutionary War, WW2 and Spartan sets which I’d like to add to those ranges in due course.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Thanks Richard, this is going to be my last question. What are your future plans and would you like to share anything else with us? 

Richard Conte: Thank you for the interest and in spreading the word that we are back in action. Jokingly, I’d like to share the expense of the sculpting, the mold making, the product itself with you!

Future plans are to gradually gear back up and to release some toy soldiers which hopefully do us proud and more importantly, please our fellow collectors.  Most people seem to think we are some large toy soldier company with endless resources and loads of employees and they don’t understand the delays or why a phone call is not answered immediately .  We are trying to keep costs down so that we can keep prices as low as we can to collectors. People often don’t know that I started Conteco as a frustrated collector who could not find what he wanted from the big corporate soldier makers; namely, hand to hand action, casualties,  poses that showed raw emotion and tremendous implied motion/action, and character likenesses which actually looked like the characters they were supposed to portray. 

Lastly, I’d ask people to take the  vile & specious negative attacks directed against me personally or the company with a grain of salt. Sadly, there are a number of disgruntled collectors, dealers we’ve parted with, competing companies (who would rather see us out of the market and not pulling collector money away from them) and a few others who for whatever reason have an ‘axe to grind’ who perpetually criticize anything we ever announce or post. A number of the usual ‘naysayers’ and Conte bashers have gone extremely far ‘out on a limb’  and are telling people that I am a liar, a huckster and that no new product will ever be released …..

Toy soldiers should be a positive thing. A source of enjoyment.  I’m doing my best to return and to unleash some exciting new designs.   Thanks to all the collectors for their past and current support. 

Hail Einar !

RC

Viking Ship

Here is the new page here,  Conte Collectibles.

Toy Soldier Review & Interview ~ Petite Guerre Toy Soldiers & Nino Serra

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Last month I read an article about Petite Guerre Toy Soldiers on Stad’s Stuff by Erwin Sell. You can read about that here, Stad’s Stuff.

After I read the article I went to the website and ordered some of their figures. The owner of Petite Guerre is Nino Serra, he is also the sculptor. They are located in Italy. Petite Guerre means “Little Wars”, which is the style of his figures. 

“More specifically, my interest focuses on the Petite Guerre, the unconventional, small-scale warfare that played  such an important role in the conflicts of the 1740s and 1750s: the War of the Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, and of course the French and Indian Wars.” ~ Nino Serra

Petite Guerre Toy Soldiers

So far they have some Native American Woodland Indians, Canadian Militia, British Infantry and now French Hussars. 

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After I emailed Nino and ordered some of his figures, we chatted as I waited and after I received them. I told him that I would do a review and he answered a few questions that I had. So here is a little interview we did.

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Warhorse Miniatures:  Greetings Nino, I am glad you have some time to answer a few questions. The first question I have with most creators or owners of companies is how did all this start?

 

Nino Serra:  Greetings to you Mike, and thanks for the opportunity you are giving me to present my work on your blog!

I grew up playing with toy soldiers, and began attempting at making my own white-metal figures as a boy in the early 1970’s. At that time, I used the lost-wax method (non-reusable wax masters and plaster molds). The results were quite frustrating, though, and for many years I achieved nothing. 

I then started using RTV silicon rubber to make the molds, and things gradually improved. By the time I went to college, I was able to sculpt and cast a few figures of my own. However, pressed by more important things, for many years I could spare only little time for the hobby… 

About fifteen years ago, I decided to make some toy soldiers to play with my twin kids, then three years old, and in the process ended up with a small range of white-metal figures.

Having successfully experimented with resin / hard plastic, I am now perfecting and expanding my range of figures, and hope they may meet with the interest of other toy soldiers enthusiasts. 

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Warhorse Miniatures: After seeing your figures first hand, I am truly impressed. How many years did it take you to achieve the level that your at now?

 

Nino Serra: It certainly took some years until I could make decent enough figures. 

At the beginning, I subscribed to a couple of military modeling magazines, bought a few books written by well-known military miniaturists, and gradually familiarized with different materials and sculpting techniques. 

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Warhorse Miniatures: I see you are fond of the French & Indian War era, is there any other theme that you are interested in?

 

Nino Serra: I have always been interested in 18th-Century military history and warfare. I think it all started with reading “Treasure Island” and “The Last of the Mohicans” as a small boy, and with a fascination for tricorne hats and flintlock muskets…

Beside the French-and-Indian Wars, I would like to also cover other conflicts of the mid 18th-Century, in particular the War of the Austrian Succession with its colorful variety of irregular warfare specialists.

 

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Warhorse Miniatures: Are there any brands of figures that you collect, like Barzso?

 

Nino Serra: I am not a toy soldiers collector. Over the years, though, I have occasionally purchased plastic toy soldiers (Airfix,  Italeri, Hat, Barzso, Accurate, TSSD, etc…) to study and use as a reference in order to improve my own figure design.

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Warhorse Miniatures: I was reading your blog about the muskets you created. I noticed that you’re trying to stay historical accurate with your figures, right?

 

Nino Serra: Yes I try to stay historical as much as I can. 

From the blogs and forums that I occasionally visit, I can see that most toy soldiers enthusiasts, collectors or wargamers, are indeed historically conscious and are usually put off by figures that are not accurate enough. 

This said, I also like my figures to look a little naive, or “toy-like” (that is why, when I paint my figures, I keep the shading and highlighting at a minimum and finish them semi-gloss).

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Warhorse Miniatures: What are your plans for the future?

 

Nino Serra: At the moment, I am working at a few more Canadian Militiamen and British regulars, as well as Highlanders and French regulars. I would also like to add some command figures to my range, as required to play skirmish wargames…

I am also working at more mounted Hussars, and possibly other irregular figures for the War of the Austrian Succession / Seven Years War period.

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Warhorse Miniatures: And lastly I will conclude the interview by thanking  you and asking you if there is anything else you would like to talk about or say. 

Thanks again, Mike.

Nino Serra: Although I would love to do so, I do not have the facility to produce soft plastic toy soldiers, nor the the means to mass-produce figures for the wider public as industrial manufacturers can do. So, at least for the time being, I will keep operating at a hobby level and produce my figures in small batches upon demand.

Thanks again + kind regards, Nino.

Here is my review of Nino’s figures. I love them, to me they are a piece of art. I ordered the French Canadian Militia and Native Woodland Indians. One of my favorite Toy Soldier companies is Barzso Playsets. The French & Indian War and the Seven Years War are some of my favorite conflicts to study. So if you’re like me, you will have to get some of Nino’s figures. I like the appeal of a raiding or war band of mixed French & Indians. 

With that said, the are for die hard collectors. I say that because of the cost, which is around 5 Euro each. But it seems that most new figures or the older Barzso figures can cost that much these days. One of the reasons for the high cost is these figures are hand cast and the molds have a short life. They are a Hobby based production, not an establish company. You can visit his blog and see how the process is done, it is very interesting.

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The Petite Guerre figures match very well with most of the current Barzso figures. They vary from 54mm to 57mm tall, but are the same scale. The reason for this is to make them more natural or an accurate realism. Some people are 5 feet, some are 6 feet. Barzso’s  earlier figures were on the small size, so they will not match well with the Petite Guerre figures. The most recent Barzso Indian sets match very well with the Petite Guerre Indians.

The Petite Guerre figures are not brittle, the weapons are strong. This resin mixture is very good. I like the sculpting of the Natives, it captures the look of the Huron or Iroquois people. One of my friends has the same shaped head. 

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Also the French Canadians look great, there are not too many figures sculpted that depict French Canadian Militia. 

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All in all, they are a welcome addition to my collection. When I finish painting these figures, I will take some more pictures and do another post. I purchased these figures to paint them. As of right now I think the colors are gray and black. The Vallejo paints that I used adhered very well. I am looking forward to seeing more of his Canadian Militia and French Regulars.   

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Paul sent me some of his pictures to use for the review. Erwin also got his British Infantry figures. Here are Erwin’s pictures. 

Erwin Sell did a review too on Nino figures over at Stad’s Stuff check it out.

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Happy Easter Everyone.

Happy Easter

 

Interview with Ken Ciak and the Future of LOD Enterprises.

Hi guys, It is a week away from the biggest Toy Soldier show of the year. But if you are like me, you can’t make the trip to Chicago. Usually I search the internet before and right after the show to see if I can pick up some new information on the hobby. Usually for the most part, the new releases or previews are done at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show. So besides searching the internet, I am doing some of my our research.

The past week I had asked Ken Ciak a few questions and then followed up on some others to create this blog article. It was a thrill to chat with Ken and learn more about him and his company LOD ENTERPRISES. So let us begin.

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“LOD Enterprises is a manufacturer and distributor of plastic collectible toy soldiers. The firm, based in Green Bay, WI, draws on the rich history of plastic soldiers and playsets to create new figure sets for the collector’s market. The company started in 2014 with Ken Ciak as its managing member.”

This year LOD will have Set # 3 of the War with Troy, and previews and some pieces of the Ancient Warship & Trojan Horse available.

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Warhorse Miniatures:  Hi Ken, I would like to thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions. I would like to say that I like your figures and what you have done for the hobby. 

 

Ken Ciak:  Thank you for the opportunity to discuss for a few minutes about the figures and accessories from LOD Enterprises. I appreciate the compliment about the War at Troy figures. It has been very rewarding working with a lot of talented people who more than help to make my vision and ideas a reality. The response from collectors has been great and motivates me to keep working hard to create more figure sets.

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in all of this?

Ken Ciak:  My background would not directly lead anyone to think of me to enter into the toy soldier hobby. I am part of the three & three-quarters inch Star Wars generation so while toy soldiers were still readily available, my focus with toys and collecting changed mightily in 1977. That being said, I always enjoyed toy soldiers and playsets. I like the ability to have a full complement of figures and diorama pieces all in one box. I purchased a couple of American Revolution sets from Classic Toy Soldiers in 2010 and 2011 before grabbing the TSSD Romans and Barbarians set when Nick and DeAnna released it.

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  What was the hardest part about getting started?

 

Ken Ciak:  The hardest part of getting started actually turned out to be relatively easy as soon as I started reaching out to people in the hobby and toy soldier community. I had zero idea of how to go about it but found that people at the Toy Soldier Show in Chicago were always approachable and willing to help. My initial thought was to get either Nick or Ron Barzso to create a set where I would be willing to invest to have my Trojan War playset made by one of them. I certainly over simplified the process, but found both of them (along with many others including Bill McMaster) able to guide me through the process. Three years later, I am no expert and still learning with each day but the journey has been fun and introducing a new set is gratifying as the previous one.

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  I like the adventure that you have taking us with the War with Troy series. First the Walls of Troy and some figures, then you expanded with Chariots and additional figures. Lastly character figures, the Trojan horse and now a galley. Has our journey finished or has it just begun?

 

Ken Ciak:  Thank you for sharing that you are enjoying the War at Troy adventure. The Iliad is one of my favorite books and I remember reading a version of the Trojan War in the 6th grade and being hooked. The story is rich with characters, both mortal and immortal, and filled with action. The journey is not over as there are additional figures and accessories in the pipeline for development.

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  So what new line of figures would you start or what do you think you might do in the future?

 

Ken Ciak: As for future releases, there are a few ideas that the sculptor and I are working on. There will be another War at Troy figure set that will combine characters and possibly allies of the Trojans (Amazons). I would like to release a WWII figure set in the next couple of years. We have also kicked some ideas around for a Christmas set that is not a toy soldier set, but would include Santa, elves, and reindeer and aimed more towards kids.

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  I am happy to see that you are now producing some figures that were originally produced by Barzso Playsets. Any other Barzso sets that you might produce in the future?

 

Ken Ciak:  The Barzso figure sets are wonderful and I am honored/humbled to be able to continue to market them. Ron has done a tremendous job in the hobby and been a great guy to visit with and discuss opportunities. We had talked last fall about the Revolutionary War and Robin Hood figure sets and re-releasing them. Ron had them made at the same factory in Hong Kong (Eastcorp Toys) that the War at Troy sets are produced. I liked the opportunity to expand into two other eras, especially two eras that I enjoy. Also to do so with a popular and well-done brand of Barzso Playsets. It has worked out well for me and the market has been very responsive to having all four of the figure sets available again. Ron and I have spoken about some other sets and there is a possibility of producing another one or two in the future.

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  What other Barzso sets do you think you might produce in the future?

 

Ken Ciak:  Regarding Ron Barzso, I had an opportunity to visit with him yesterday and we are going to discuss some figure sets at the Chicago Show. I am excited about the opportunity and they will be new figure sets. We will announce the subject and details next weekend. As for his older sets, they will not be recast by LOD Enterprises at this time.

 

 

Warhorse Miniatures:  Great News!!! Will the figures from you and Barzso be a new subject or an existing theme from Barzso? Also do you think it will be one or two different sets?

 

Ken Ciak:  The figures with Barzso will be an existing theme and there will be multiple sets. Ron and I are going to hash out the details on Thursday when I arrive and I think he/we will announce it right away after that. Our trading rooms are close so I am hoping it creates some buzz with the weekend traffic.

 

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Warhorse Miniatures:  Thanks Ken, is there anything else you would like to talk about regarding LOD Enterprises.

 

Ken Ciak:  I appreciate the opportunity to talk about LOD Enterprises and our time in the toy soldier arena. It has been a quick three years. We are continually working to improve our product and introduce plastic soldiers to fans of all ages. We are working on a set of rules for war gamers (hoping for an early 2018 release) and will continue to expand on the successful figure sets we offer.

 

New Sets, Ancient Warship & Trojan Horse

War of Troy Set # 1

War of Troy Set # 2

War of Troy Set # 3

Walls of Troy

 

Ok guys, I am going to wrap this up. This article took me longer to prepare than I thought it would. I am still learning about the blogging and try out new features. I hope everyone enjoyed the article. Here are a few tip bits and some new things that I decided to add at the end.

I am excited to hear about the news with LOD and Barzso. Plus to see what other future items the LOD comes out with. Right now LOD is one the most interesting companies, I feel good with them continuing on making quality products for years to come. The wargaming rules for his figures sounds promising, and maybe it gets some new collectors into our market. Me and Ken talked about a few other things, he likes read about history. When we talked about the WWII figures, I mentioned on how collectors are with uniforms and weapons. They expect more when it comes to recently eras. I am glad to hear from him that he will take his time to get the details right with these future figures.

Warhorse Miniatures: I think making toy soldiers is hard. I mean that sometimes it is hard to make collectors happy. If you do make a WWII figures, collectors want to see both sides made together. I have been waiting for some new Japanese soldiers for years now.

Ken Ciak:  That is one of the most appealing aspects of the hobby is working hard to achieve a set with appropriate details even for the most discerning customer. I will be taking my time to make sure I have all of the details down for the WWII set. The Bronze Age and the Iliad have a been a passion for a long time so many of the aspects are “easy” for me to gather from a research and knowledge standpoint.

 

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So if your going to the Chicago Toy Soldier Show, don’t forget to see LOD Enterprise and say hello. For further information you can click on the links below.

LOD Enterprise Toy Soldiers

And on Facebook, LOD Enterprises Toy Soldiers FB

An Interview with Jeff Imel and the Return of BMC Toys

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I have been following the blogs on BMC Toys for most of this year, reading about the development of their toy soldier playsets. Some of the past World War II playsets are coming back this month. The boxes have been updated and so have a few other details too. BMC Toys made a lot of different toy soldier playsets, plus bagged sets of soldiers and other accessorizes for plastic toy soldiers. 

The other day I was able to ask Jeff Imel of BMC Toys & VictoryBuy Inc. a few questions. I am glad he had some time to answer them. Thanks again Jeff.

 

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Warhorse Miniatures: Hi Jeff, I just wanted to thank you for taking some time to answer some questions. I see that you are President of BMC Toys and VictoryBuy Inc., can you give us a brief history of yourself, VictoryBuy Inc and BMC Toys?

 

Jeff: Yes, I’m President (and Chief Bottle Washer) of VictoryBuy Inc., and BMC Toys® is now a brand that is part of my company. I started dabbling in online retail in the late 90’s on a variety of platforms and products. Early 2002 I went full time with the business (then Ferretbee Enterprises) and in 2015 incorporated the company as VictoryBuy Inc. BMC Toys was founded by Bill McMaster in 1991 and began producing original historically themed plastic soldier playsets shortly thereafter. He used his experience as a Toys-R-Us purchasing agent to start BMC Toys Inc. and brought the classic army men playset to a whole new generation. Bill operated BMC Toys until he unexpectedly passed away in 2014. I worked with Bill’s family and together we found all the people and parts needed to continue production of the BMC Toys product line. New production was made in the same factory that has been producing the line for over 20 years and will be in stock around September 8th.

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Warhorse Miniatures: I see that the old World War II BMC playsets are coming back in late August, can you add anything about the process and changes to any of these sets?

 

Jeff Imel: My original intention when I began the process of continuing BMC Toys production was to just send an order to Bill’s manufacturing agent (Thomas Leung in Hong Kong), and get the products back in stock as quickly as possible. I soon found that some of the products had licensing agreements that were no longer in place without Bill around. The artist of the fine art used on several of BMC products was very helpful and we reached an agreement that allowed me to sell what was already on hand, but he had a new licensing agent that I couldn’t reach an agreement with for new production. The licensing issue, along with the fact that most of the package art was so old it was on film and not in a digital format, led me to redesign the packaging from the ground up. I decided to reduce the size of the large playset boxes to help cut down on freight costs which have increased tremendously since the sets were first introduced, and also upgraded those boxes to a sturdier and more reusable tray style that was often used for vintage playsets. Once that was decided, I figured since we’re redesigning the packaging, now would be the time to make any other changes or upgrades. We (myself and Thomas) reviewed of all the contents, colors and tooling (molds). Thomas suggested sticker sheets might be a good idea for the vehicles, and I already had this in mind since it worked out well on the Tim Mee reissues I offer. I wound up designing the sticker sheets and most of the package design work myself, which turned out to be a much bigger project than I anticipated, and delayed the new production by nearly a year. I decided to have the Bombed Farm House mold improved a bit, and had a new mold of a flag and rock formation made as upgrades to the D-Day Normandy and Iwo Jima boxed playsets. The flag and rock pieces are copies of pieces from the original BMC Alamo set, although the new flagpole is thicker since the original had a tendency to sag. I made minor color changes on some of the accessories, and also increased the piece count of the Appomattox bagged set.

 

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Warhorse Miniatures: BMC made some interesting playsets, like “Battle of the Little Big Horn”, “Battle of Yorktown”, “Gettysburg”, “Alamo” and some others. Do you have any plans of re-releasing these?

Jeff Imel: The early BMC Toys molds (pre-1998) were owned by the factory in China that produced the sets. The owner of the factory passed away unexpectedly, and the molds were sold to another factory. The products were then sold under the Americana Souvenirs brand. Since I don’t have access to the original molds, there are no current plans to reissue the early sets.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Are there any plans for any new playsets? What are your plans for BMC?

Jeff Imel: No new playsets are in development yet. I have some ideas, as well as some projects that I found in Bill’s files. So far, my focus has just been on relaunching the existing BMC Toys product line ‘American Heroes Collector Series’. There are a couple of smaller projects I’d like to develop soon. One is a set of Coast Guardsmen that would plug into the D-Day Higgins Boat. There is also a tank project that Bill developed that is ready for the mold phase. In the short term, I’m adding a new product line to BMC Toys, the ‘Classic Army Men Collector Series’. This line will feature recasts of vintage figures and accessories made in the US. The first product in this line is a recast of the Lido WW2 GI’s. The next product is a 1950’s mold from DK Toys and Novelty. It’s a set of WW2 Soldiers that are copies of the early Tim Mee figures. My plan for BMC is to relaunch the products, and maintain it as a retail toy line sold in hobby shops gift shops and eCommerce. I see the product line as a bridge between the inexpensive toys sold in the mass market and the more expensive hobby shop plastic figures.

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Warhorse Miniatures: Thanks again Jeff, is there anything else you would like to add about VictoryBuy Inc., or BMC Toys?

Jeff Imel: When I work with venerable brands like Tim Mee and BMC Toys, I generally see my role as that of caretaker. This was driven home even more when I met Bill’s son James to complete the sale of BMC. As we shook hands he said “Take good care of my Dad’s company.”. I take that to heart, and it reminds me that these aren’t just pieces of plastic, but are encapsulations of people’s memories. They’re a small physical representation of the soldiers they’re based upon, the artists that designed and sculpted them, the business people that brought them to market, the mold makers, factory workers, and the now several generations of folks that play with, collect, and in turn share them along with the memories with the next batch of youngsters. A bag of plastic army men seems like such a simple thing, but it actually takes a lot of people and a lot of work to produce. I have too many people to thank for their help in relaunching BMC, so for today, I’d just like to thank and remember Bill McMaster and his family.

I was glad to learn more about Jeff and BMC & VictoryBuy. It should be interesting to see what they produce in the future. I will run out and grab a few playsets soon, they make great gifts for the young & old a like. So don’t miss out on these sets this time.

I like the “AMERICAN HERO COLLECTOR SERIES”, especially now when it seems that History is being erased. Here is a list that I grabbed from the BMC blog page, that you can go to through the link above.

Here’s a rundown on the changes to the BMC Toys product line in 2017:

  • 40028    ACW Appomattox Figures 26pc: Piece count increased to 26.
  • 40022    Alamo Figures 37pc: No changes.
  • 40023    ARW Yorktown Figures 34pc: No changes.
  • 49991    WW2 Amtrac Vehicle: Sticker sheet added.
  • 99999    WW2 Atlantic Wall Fortifications 21pc: New item.
  • 49996    WW2 Bombed Farm HouseWalls changed to tan ABS plastic,  reinforcing lines added to interior and roof pins are thicker.
  • 40024    WW2 D-Day Figures 34pc: No changes.
  • 40009    WW2 D-Day Normandy Playset: Smaller tray style box. Sticker sheets, 3 flags and rocks added. Barbed wire, sandbags, and improved Farm House.
  • 40027    WW2 D-Day Utah Beach Playset 40pc: Sticker sheets added.
  • 49997    WW2 German Bunker with Cannon: Sticker sheet added.
  • 49999    WW2 German Tiger Tank (Gray): Sticker sheet added.
  • 49998    WW2 Higgins Boat Landing Craft: Sticker sheet added.
  • 40032    WW2 Iwo Jima Figures 32pc Olive and Tan: New item.
  • 40026    WW2 Iwo Jima Figures 32pc Sage and Butternut: No changes.
  • 40013    WW2 Iwo Jima Playset: Smaller tray style box, sticker sheets, 2 flags and rocks added.
  • 49990    WW2 Sherman Tank: Sticker sheet added.

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