This was a major period in the history of Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers.
In 1999, we moved into the Sydney CBD to join the Tin Soldier, in the Mid City centre, only for one year the last period of their lease as the centre was going to be completely renovated.
The shop was directly opposite Hobbyco, the largest hobby shop in Sydney. They gave me a great welcome as, unbeknown to me, they were stocking Imperial of New Zealand, with David Cowie of Imperial having thought we were well out of Sydney and this would not be competing. Hobbyco filled their front window with stock of Imperial, all at 20% off. Big surprise, we continued to sell Imperial at regular price and they sold very little. A week later they took their stock out of the window. This has had a lasting effect as Mike Wall, the owner, and myself have become good friends. Even during the period when Hobbyco became Britains Australian distributor, for a couple of years, their staff, even today, have directed people asking about toy soldiers, to our shop.
In 2000, we moved to a new location, in a large basement shop in York Street, about a block behind the main retail district. We were there until we moved to the Queen Victoria Building, as our stand alone business, in late 2009. Commencing then, our business took a large leap forward in sales, as we were then attracting the large pool of city workers, as well as a number of Tin Soldier war gaming customers, also begin buying toy soldiers.
In January, 2000 in conjunction with Bob Hume a Brisbane barrister, collector and maker of toy soldiers, we opened a Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers shop in Brisbane. This was located inside Napoleon’s Bookshop, then owned by Tony White, now deceased. After six months, I realised that the market was not big enough, then, in Brisbane, and I pulled out, amicably with Bob who continued the shop by himself.
Late 2001 became a pivotal moment in the business’s history. I visited the Chicago Toy Soldier Show and was completely blown away. Walking from room to room with my jaw dropping. Then I walked into a room with fantastic dioramas and a gentleman sitting there, who I introduced myself to. Yes, Andy Neilson and King and Country. Over an hour later I left the room, having placed, for me, a large order as well as becoming a registered dealer for King and Country. In a matter of months, King and Country became my major seller and next year, which will be the 20th year of dealership, it still is Number 1. Andy is a most charismatic man, with a passion for his wee toys and I have visited him and Gordon many times in Hong Kong. This year, if the Corona virus allows, he will visit us for his 12th annual dinner. Over the years this visit has included Helen Mok and Gordon Neilson, both wonderful people.
In 2002 our sales increased because of the arrival of King and Country and our customer base also broadened. The market for old Britains sets was buoyant and we were buying collections, as often as possible, including 3 separate estates over 3 months of lead Farm and Zoo, including pre-war, nearly half of which were in their original boxes. I had brought back from Chicago a number of boxed Britains sets from the 1950’s. New Britains were still being imported direct, as there was no longer a distributor, and had a good following. Frontline sales were declining as King and Country took over the leading role.
I hope you are enjoying this story and I will continue next Friday.