How to Buy Antique Toy Soldiers

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How to Buy Antique Toy Soldiers

Toy soldiers in their current form date back centuries. In fact the original miniature toy soldiers were created out of stone and crafted by artisans during the 18th century. Since that time other materials have become commonplace in the construction of toy soldiers and their popularity has grown worldwide.

The United Kingdom got its first taste of the toy soldier craze in the 1890s when companies began making hollow cast lead soldiers. Originally these toys were intended for use by children but were discontinued once it became known that the substance was toxic. However they are still collected by nostalgic adults but are hard to find as most have been destroyed. This guide will aid buyers who are looking to buy antique toy soldiers from eBay for collection use.

Toy Soldier Materials

The evolution of toy soldiers has largely come with the materials used to construct them. Different forms have entered production over the years with the following being the most popular amongst antique toy collectors.

  • Aluminum – Built out of cast aluminum, primarily sold in France during the early stages of the 20th century.
  • Stone – The earliest form of toy soldier, carved and chiseled out of stone. A lengthy process and a truly unique product that is hard to find.
  • Lead – Cast in a lead alloy, which is then cooled in a specially designed mold. The excess molten metal is then poured out leaving a hollow figure that eventually becomes toxic. However this would not be known until years later.
  • Wood – Much like stone these are carved and require hours of practice and dedication to create.
  • Paper – The most disposable form of toy soldier usually comes affixed to a wooden base in order to weigh it down.
  • Metal – Created using thin sheets of metal that is cast in slate molds.
  • Plastic – Variations include hard and soft, such figures are generally sold in both painted and unpainted form.

Collecting antique toy soldiers has become a hobby with a devoted and loyal following. There is even a selection of magazines that provide information on the field and can advise upstart antique toy soldier collectors. These publications include.

  • Toy Soldier Collector
  • Plastic Warrior
  • Toy Soldier and Model Figure

The above publications also have websites that contain archive information. Collectors who are prominent in the field of antique toy soldiers enjoy collecting a variety of models from history. The most popular periods of time for antique toy soldiers include.

  • Victorian
  • American Civil War
  • Napoleonic
  • World War I
  • World War II

Antique toy soldiers are a great to way educate both children and adults about important moments in world history. No matter the era in history that is of interest eBay has antique toy soldiers from all time periods available for purchase.

Antique Toy Soldier Brands      

Antique toy soldiers are a vast market with a huge variety of types available. This means that a wealth of brands have taken to producing miniature soldiers over the years. Antique toy soldier brands that are well known for quality include:

  • Airfix
  • Barclay
  • Britains
  • Herald
  • Elastolin
  • Johillco
  • Lineol
  • Marx
  • Timpo

Each brand varies in build quality and longevity with some having fared better over time than others. Research the brands in question and see which suits your needs as a consumer and collector best. eBay strives to provide toy soldiers from the top brands in history at affordable prices.

Cleaning the Toy Soldier

Sometimes buyers will purchase antique soldiers that require cleaning. In order to do this they should first dust them down and apply a metal protector such as Armor All. After doing this, inspect the model under either a bright or UV light, it will help show areas that have been missed. It will also help shows cracks in the paintwork that may have not been immediately visible.

The number one enemy to antique toy soldier collectors is “lead rot” (also known as “lead cancer”). It occurs when a white or grey residue starts showing on a model and usually means that corrosion has begun. Without taking action in its formative stages it can destroy an antique toy soldier.

The biggest offender when it comes to causing this condition is high temperatures and oak cabinets. Together the two can create acetic acid and disperse it in the air inside of a cabinet. The only way to reverse these effects is a full or part restoration of the miniature.

In order to begin the restoration process, use a mixture of turpentine and medicinal mineral oil (at a ratio of 50/50). Use cotton wool buds to apply it to the rotten areas of the toy whilst scraping away any excess residue. Repeat the process as needed. Once done, allow the figure to dry in cool conditions for seven days, this should reverse the lead rot process and preserve the toy.

How to Display a Toy Soldier

Once obtaining an adequate number of antique toy soldiers they will need to be displayed in the correct manner. Before displaying them buyers need to make sure that they are dust free. Enclosing toy figures in an airtight environment that contains dust will damage antique toy soldiers over time. There a two main sizes of display cases available.

  • 36W x 14D x 40/70H
  • 48W x 18D x 70H

The choice of case is dependent of the size of the collection and where it will be situated. Display cases come in a variety of finishes, including the following:

  • Honey Maple
  • Danish Walnut
  • Cordovan
  • Carmel Oak
  • Cherry Oak
  • Autumn Oak

Those that come with mirrored backs double the look of a display case and make a collection seem larger than it actually is. The more affordable types of display cases have a fabric back that allows users to attach their own personal backdrops. The type of cabinet purchased is dependent on the size of a collection, the size of the room and budget. Avoid cases that hermetically seal in figures, common types of cases that do this include glass domes and Lucite boxes. Make sure a case has sliding doors to ensure easy access and avoid issues when moving and removing antique toy soldiers.

Antique Toy Solider Storage

There comes a time where owners will be required to place toy soldiers into a storage environment. Due to the nature of antique toy soldiers placing them into storage correctly is a detailed process.

  • Do not wrap them in plastic.
  • Wrap them in a lightweight paper such as tissue.
  • Keep them in an area that maintains room temperature.
  • Place them in cardboard boxes.
  • Keep them dry.
  • Keep them in areas of low humidity.

In addition to the above recommendations do not put antique figures into the foam cutouts that are sometimes provided with them. They are for postage only and are not intended for long-term storage. Owning antique toy soldiers can be an expensive hobby so it’s important to invest in the correct storage in order to preserve their condition.

How to Buy Antique Toy Soldiers Using eBay

Toy soldiers are a firm favourite amongst children across the world and antique toy soldiers offer the same appeal to collectors. eBay has become a respected resource in the world of antique toys, and soldiers are no exception.

In order to start browsing the vintage models that are currently for sale select toys and games.

From there, select toy soldiers and finally vintage. Buyers will then be able to see all items available for purchase.

If shoppers have a specific model in mind they can use the search function at the top of the home page.

To narrow down results further used the advanced search options.

Delivery and eBay Shops

Antique toys of any kind are extremely delicate so expect sellers to charge higher than average delivery fees. Even though it isn’t mandatory, buyers should opt for an insured courier as a delivery option. Antique Toy dealers have taken to the eBay shops format to sell their goods. In order to see what eBay shops are open for business; select the eBay shops link at the bottom of the home page.

Completing a Purchase

When buying antique toy soldiers from eBay a prospective buyer will need to do one of the following:

  • Bid
  • Make a Best Offer
  •  Buy it Now

Once an auction has finished buyers will need to complete the checkout process. It is advised that they make payment through PayPal; paying this way will ensure that the order is covered under the buyer protection program.


Antique toy soldiers are miniature figurines that represent past members of the military. Historical toy soldiers were often constructed to represent units of the armed forces including army, navy, air force and special operations. Toy soldiers are an ever-present child’s favourite but offer value as collectables to adults. The toy industry has embraced model soldiers for centuries thus making antique models highly sought after.

eBay and it’s variety of options have allowed buyers of all budgets to locate antique toy soldiers of their favourite arms of the military. This guide provides the foundations for buyers to head out into the online auction environment and start building their collections.

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