4 Tips for Collecting Antique Toy Soldiers

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4 Tips for Collecting Antique Toy Soldiers

Toy soldiers are small figurines which represent soldiers from different historical eras, and can include figures such as knights and pirates. These can range from simple figures originally designed as toys, to much more detailed figurines which were increasingly aimed at collectors.

These soldiers can encompass a variety of scales, and are distinct from much larger toy soldier dolls and action figures which are also available. A wide range of antique toy soldiers of different designs, materials and historical eras are available on eBay.

Choose an Era to Focus On

Many collectors like to choose a specific era of military history, to give their collection a focus and to help narrow down the bewildering array of choices available to toy soldier collectors. A wide range of toy soldiers are available to cover much of military history. Models are available to represent ancient and medieval forces, up to modern day soldiers. Some of the most popular eras for collections to be based upon include the English Civil War , the Napoleonic Wars and the Second World War.

The Vikings, Boer War forces and the Wehrmacht are all particularly popular subject matter for collectors, and toy soldiers based on these eras can be valuable antique collectibles. Some of the most widely available toy soldiers are those based on the British and Prussian armies of the Napoleonic Wars. Some collectors may focus on a specific army or even regiment of soldiers, and antique figures for these can be highly prized collectors' items, with full sets becoming very valuable.

Pay Attention to Scale

Toy soldiers are available in a variety of different scales. Much smaller models are often less detailed than the larger toy soldiers available, and older antique figurines tend to be larger. Heights are measured as the height of an individual model. For a model on horseback, only the human figure itself will count, and as many figurines are not in a standing position, heights are often approximations. There are a few key scales of toy soldier available.

25mm and smaller scales are common amongst new toy soldiers, particularly figurines for use in war games, and are popular amongst miniatures enthusiasts. Many of these toy soldiers will be more modern, and can sometimes be finely detailed. Many of these figures may also be based on science fiction and fantasy settings.

50-60mm scales are commonly used for collectible toy soldiers, and are often older models. The 54mm scale, often expressed as 1:32 scale, is often considered to be the standard toy figure scale, and many older figurines math this scale. The size allows for a greater amount of detail.

Many German made figurines, as well as the sometimes difficult to find American 'dimestore' figures, can reach up to 75mm (1:24 scale) in size. These large toy soldiers are somewhat unusual, and often include a great deal of detail.

Many collectors will endeavour to ensure that the toy soldiers in their collection, as well as accessories such as scenery, fortresses and artillery pieces, are all of the same scale. This can increase the value of a collection, as well as improving the look of the models when they are assembled as a set.

Know the Different Types of Toy Soldiers

There are numerous different types of toy soldier available, some more popular amongst collectors than others. There are a few main types of toy soldier.

Army Men

Modern sets of toy soldiers, often referred to as 'army men', are widely available mass produced toys. These toy soldiers lack finer detail, are often unpainted, and are designed for use as children's toys.

Army men are almost always made out of plastic, making them both very affordable and durable. While many of these toys are not considered antiques, older toy sets have become collector's items.

Often including more detail than later versions, these army men sets often include a variety of accessories such as half-tracks, fortifications, and helicopters. The majority of army men toy soldiers are based on Twentieth Century infantry.

Tin Soldiers

Tin soldiers are among the most popular types of toy soldier among collectors, and are among the most widely collected type of antique toy soldier. These figurines are often available finished or in a raw state to be painted by the collector.

The oldest of this type of toy soldier are often called 'flats' and were virtually two dimensional models. Over time, three dimensional models became available. These figurines were the first to be mass produced, and both flat and three dimensional figurines continue to be produced. Older tin soldiers are made out of metals such as pewter, tin and lead, while newer plastic figurines are also available. These figurines are often displayed in dioramas of famous battles.

'Dimestore' Soldiers

Often hard to obtain, 'dimestore' soldiers are primarily those sold in the United States between the 1930's and 50's. These were originally sold as individual figurines, and were designed to be inexpensive so that children could afford them. These figures were generally made out of metal, and as the price of metal rose and plastic became cheaper for mass production, they were superseded by the plastic army men, which remain widely available in the present day.

Model Figures

Sometimes, model figures are considered to be distinct from toy soldiers. These figurines are often much smaller in scale then other types of toy soldier, and are frequently sold as part of ready to paint diorama sets. These figurines cover an enormous range of subject matter, from soldiers similar to those available with other types, as well as non-military personnel . Model figures are often used with military vehicle modelling, and are generally scaled to fit the size of these models.

Wargame Miniatures

Wargame miniatures are figurines which are explicitly intended for use in table top wargames. These are often of much smaller scale than other types of toy soldier, and are generally made out of plastic and metal. These are useful for collectors who wish to use their collections in games, rather than exclusively for display. Collections of these types of figures may have to conform to game rules for use, and are often widely available.

Toy Soldier Material

A wide range of different materials have been used to make toy soldiers throughout the history of these figurines. More recent toy soldiers favour the use of plastic for ease of production, while older models may use metals such as tin or lead.

* Aluminium toy soldiers are fairly unusual. Most aluminium toy soldiers are from France, and were only briefly produced.

* Plastic is a very commonly used material, and has been widely used since the latter decades of the Twentieth Century. Plastic toy soldiers can range from the soft plastic of the simple army men toys, to intricately detailed miniatures produced for collectors. Harder plastic is often used for these figures, and many are painted, or can be painted by the collector.

* Hollow cast figures are made of metals, often a lead alloy, and are left hollow after casting. Many tin soldiers are made with this method, as are some dimestore figures.

* 'Composition' toy soldiers are another unusual type. Made out of a combination of sawdust and glue, these figures were produced mainly in Australia and Germany.

* Some toy soldiers were made out of paper or card, and stood up in wooden stands. Due to the lack of durability of this type of toy soldier, paper antique toy soldiers can be very hard to find.

* Many older types of toy soldier were made out of lead. While a number of antique toy soldiers are made out of this metal, these figures should be kept away from young children, as lead is poisonous.

Buying Antique Toy Soldiers on eBay

A wide range of antique and collectable toy soldiers are available on eBay. The listing of available toy soldiers can be found in the Toys & Games section, under Toy Soldiers. Some toy soldiers can also be found in the Table Top/ Historical section of Wargames & Roleplaying. The results can be arranged by categories such as price, condition and distance to seller as well as by era, manufacturer, and painted and unpainted toy soldiers. Auction and Buy it Now buying options are also available

Key specifications such as the type, scale and era of a toy soldier are generally prominently displayed in the item listing. Further information about a product can be viewed on the item page, along with information about the seller such as item reviews and feedback ratings. This allows a purchase to be made with confidence. It is also possible on this page to ask the seller a question about the item.

If a specific toy soldier is required, it may be easier and more effect to use the search function available at the top of every page. Searches can be made within specific categories or to cover the entire site. Further information on how to use the search function is available on the Search Tips page.


Toy soldiers are a widely popular collectable amongst collector and enthusiasts, with figures available which cover a wide range of different eras and famous wars. toy soldiers are to be displayed in a diorama, or used in a tabletop wargame, antique toy soldiers are easy to find and widely available on eBay.

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