Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Birmingham Toy Soldier Show, 2010

Hello again toy soldier lovers

I spent my Sunday morning and early afternoon this week drinking in the delights of the Birmingham Toy Soldier Show. I'm a relative 'newbie' to the toy soldier collecting hobby and, although I'm almost ashamed to admit it, this was only the second TS show I have ever been to. It certainly whetted my appetite for more and I am determined, now, to get down to London to one of the 'biggies'!

Although a lot smaller than the London events, according to Mike Neville of King and Country, the hobby was well represented with approximately 95 trade stands selling a wide cross section of merchandise, and, as you can probably glean from the photos, it was certainly very well attended by enthusiasts, many of whom had travelled some considerable distance to be there. The show was confined to one room in the Clarendon Suites complex, and we had use of the adjoining bar to take a breather and refresh ourselves with a cuppa and/or a variety of breakfast baps or snacks, all quite reasonably priced

Those of you with eagle eyes might just be able to spot the show organiser lurking somewhere in this shot

Toy soldier dealers and makers, both large and small, from the length and breadth of the country, were in attendance including the likes of Irregular Miniatures, White Tower Miniatures, Grey Goose Collectibles, Maison Militaire, TM Terrain and not forgetting King and Country UK whose stand was by far the largest at the show

Two views from opposite sides of the K+C stand

All aspects of the hobby were represented with plenty of plastics on display, as well as metal miniatures, covering all major historical periods and from a wide range of manufacturers. There was an abundance of Britain's figures, both old and new, glossy and not so glossy. For those of us, like me, who prefer our toy soldiers to be rather less traditional and matte painted, well we were more than adequately catered for with ranges from Frontline, Conte, Figarti, K+C, John Jenkins, Heritage Miniatures, Thomas Gunn, The Collectors Showcase, and some of my personal favourites, First Legion all available and screaming, as loudly as their tiny toy soldier lungs would allow, for us to buy them. I, like many others it seemed to me, succumbed to this torment and spent what my wife would no doubt describe as an irresponsibly large amount of money. Happy days. Now for some eye candy

A shot of the Maison Militaire stand. Apologies for the uninvited guest in the foreground. In the background you can see figures from a variety of makers, including Conte Collectibles, Thomas Gunn Minitaures and First Legion
A close up of the winter infantry gun from, yep, Thomas Gunn Miniatures

More figures from TG. I quite like a lot of the sets produced by this maker. Animated poses and some interesting subject matter, with a paint job on a par with the likes of K+C, not as good though as First Legion
A dynamically posed set by Conte Collectibles
A selection of Crusaders; Templars and Hospitallers from First Legion's new range, set during the fall of Acre in 1291. If I'm honest, I love these figures, but don't really understand why the bases haven't all been rendered in the same way. I may have to look into that.....

Two views of a large group of Heritage Miniatures, Maison Militaire's in-house line of figures, which formed a delightfully mouth-watering and very eye catching centrepiece on their stand

As already stated, I am relatively new to the TSC hobby, however, I have been wargaming and collecting wargames figures for many years. My period of choice is WW2 and what drew me into the TSC hobby about four years ago was seeing some K+C Berlin '38 figures simply displayed, in a lit glass presentation cabinet, one day as I visited a local book and model shop in Birmingham. Everything about them appealed to me immediately; the size, the quality of the paintwork and the fact that it was matte and not the high gloss finish I normally associated with toy soldiers, the subject matter, and the fact that a lot of trouble had been taken to make them look 'realistic'. So I went away and found out as much as I could about this company, K+C, and not long after I bought my first figure. I have quite a few more now, and I love them all

Two dioramas depicting scenes from The Great War, with figures from K+C's World War One range together with scenic items from John Gittins
Crusaders and Saracens fighting in the Holy Land

Two scenes from Waterloo, with JG's terrain mats underfoot and his fabulously expensive, but utterly gorgeous, rendering of Hougemont in the background
SS troops scouting the streets for signs of the enemy
The SS, making the most of a photo opportunity, with their Cossack allies
British Paras fighting for the town of Arnheim
DAK forces, mustering for the next offensive

I've only been to two TS shows so far but one of the things I really enjoyed about both of them, and it sounds obvious really, was the opportunity to get up close and personal, if you'll pardon the expression, with a) the product and b) the dealers and/or makers. There's nothing better than seeing these miniature works of art 'for real', 'in the flesh,' as opposed to in a photograph on the internet or in a magazine. I had a fairly lengthy chat with Tony Neville and one of the things that cropped up in conversation was the issue of photographs failing to do justice to the figures. There is one collection of SS figures in particular which I think look far, far better in the hand then they do in any of the photos I have seen of them

I spent time, too, chatting to Clive from Grey Goose as I stood and admired his Figarti vehicles. I didn't buy one I'm sad to say - my budget was already spoken for thanks to a hefty pre-show order I had put in with another dealer - but it's only a matter of time! They are lovely, and I like all the little 'extras' they put into them, hatches that open , removable engine hoods, and the like as well as all the bits and pieces made out of copper and brass - it all goes to make them just that little bit special. If you get a chance, check out their new railway carriages and track sections for transporting armoured vehicles. Fabulous 

German infantry, armour and artillery looking out over the Normandy beaches. Terrain features, courtesy of John Gittins
The Yanks are in town, repairing and resupplying. You can just make out the railway wagons mentioned earlier in the foreground of the shot

Two shots here of a vehicle I really like and it epitomises something Figarti do with aplomb, and that is make vehicles that are a little bit more exotic, in addition to the usual suspects

Finally, for this post, I will leave you with some shots of a few Collectors Showcase and First Legion figures, courtesy of our friends at TM Terrain. Thanks, Dave and Mark, for spending such a long time chatting about the toy soldiers, and a few other things, and making it so easy to part with my hard earned cash. I eventually walked away with a handful of FL German Napoleonics, aka 'Nappies', and a couple of Stalingrad Germans to add to my shelf dioramas in the hobbies room. Different folks, different strokes, but for me FL toy soldiers represent excellent value for money. Yes, they are more expensive than any other matte painted figures on the market, with the exception of those made by the Russians, but what you get for your money are some of the most beautifully painted toy soldiers you can buy. Happy collecting, and see you soon

French Napoleonic guns and crew by Collectors Showcase. This maker's figures have a uniquely characteristic appearance which makes them immediately recognisable. Some of the animated poses make for wonderfully dynamic displays

More from CS, this time from their ACW range. I love the falling trooper

And finally, a closer look at some newly released Crusaders and Samurai from First Legion. Matt's company are becoming increasingly prolific, with new ranges and new additions to existing series coming out on a very regular basis, with no let up in qulaity - the paintwork is outstanding for the money. What's more, I don't know if this is mere wishful thinking, but I'll put money on the fact that the Crusaders are bigger and chunkier than any of his other figures. More like K+Cs 60mm figures. Nice!

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