Today, after last week I covered the early period where toy soldiers were a part of a larger hobby and collectable shop, I started Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers as a dedicated toy soldier shop. The first period:
This time span has been selected as it was when I was located at the Antique Centre in Woollahra, a suburb of Sydney.
The shop was opened with mainly new and old (1930-1960’s) Britains. I had been fortunate to buy, a few days before opening, a large collection of old Britains boxed sets of soldiers, trucks and artillery pieces. This was augmented with all the Australian makers and their ranges.
It was not long before I added Imperial Productions of New Zealand with their distinctive styling and high gloss painting. The Town and Around series, with their Victorian period children and adults playing, were almost like pieces of fine china and became favourites with my male customers at Christmas as gifts to their wives. The overall range of Imperial was extensive, covering Napoleonic, Crimean, Zulu, Sudan and other periods. David Cowie in New Zealand is still producing in small numbers specifically for collectors.
My first entry into the world of other than gloss, stylised figures, was with Frontline Figures out of Hong Kong, with their semi-gloss part-stylised and part- action figures. Gerard Prime and his sculpting partner, Howard Swales (now deceased) were of great assistance to me and over the years I visited them on occasions in Hong Kong. They, with Britain’s, became a staple part of my range.
Frontline Figures continued to increase in the share of my business, particularly as Britains, where the family had sold the business, continued to pass through different ownerships, first Britains Petite, then an American mining company and so on. Obviously, they lost some drive as they were no longer a separate company.
To broaden the ranges available, I introduced plastic toy soldiers. This was part an attempt to introduce more younger people either as collectors, or to use the figures in their school projects as a cheaper alternative. For the collectors there were Britains Deetail, old and new, Cherilea, Charbens and Lone Star were among the old and Classic Toy Soldiers, Barzso, Call to Arms, Timpo/Toyway, Armies in Plastic were among the new. This remained a small part of my business.
At the latter end of this period, I came across HM of Great Britain. Peter Kingsland, in my opinion, was one of the best sculptors of figures. His North-west Frontier sets with the mountain artillery batteries on donkeys and action sets were exceptional and my customers thought so as well. He sadly, did not last long in business as he ran out of money due to spending it all on sculpts and none on marketing. Even today, my older customers snap up these sets if they come back on the secondary market.
Business was slow in expanding in the late 1990’s and I was beginning to concern as to whether I could keep going. The next bit may seem incredulous, but I am sure a number of entrepreneurs have experienced it. My subconscious works well at night when I am asleep, and I had been trying to work out what to do, when one morning I woke up with the words “Tin Soldier”. This shop in the city of Sydney was the largest war games retailer (28mm. and smaller), most likely in Australia. I finally got in touch with the owner, Gary Wells, met him that day and one hour later on a handshake, agreed to open the shop, as a separate entity, in a relatively small space within his shop.
This leads to the continuation in next weeks musings