Collecting Napoleonic toys is a pastime enjoyed by many collectors around the world. The majority of people buy these toys for use in wargames, while others are simply hobbyists looking to complete a set.
Some of the toys are quite expensive, and if not used in gaming can be considered as an investment.
eBay offers a large selection of Napoleonic toys for sale, and this guide will help any buyers to successfully search and purchase the toys on the site.
A History of War Gaming Toys
Wargaming is a type of strategic game that simulates real and fictional military engagements. The games are played both on boards designed specifically for wargaming, and on man-made model table tops. The small but accurately detailed toy soldiers are used in a similar manner as chess pieces, but the playing rules change from game to game.
- The earliest examples of toy soldiers were tin models made in Germany in the 1730’s.
- Johann Christian Ludwig Hellwig is credited with creating the first wargame in 1780.
- By the 19th century many countries were using the games for military strategic teaching and development.
- The first non-military associated wargame club was started in Britain in the 19th century.
- During World War I and II, wargames were very popular with children, although the toys were not often used in their traditional playing manner.
What are Napoleonic Toys
- A Napoleonic toy is the term used to describe any miniature toy that has been modelled on a soldier involved in a Napoleonic war. The term does not solely identify Napoleon’s French army, but instead refers to any army involved in a war with Napoleon. Other armies with toy soldiers for sale include the British Army, the Prussian Army, the Austrian Army and the Bavarian Army.
- Napoleonic toys come in different sizes, conditions, styles and with or without paint. Take all of these factors into consideration before making a purchase, as all four can directly influence the price of the toy.
- It also important to consider whom the Napoleonic toy is intended for. Although labelled as a toy, it is not advisable to give the miniature soldiers to young children due to small parts and choking hazards.
Napoleonic Toy Sizes
Napoleonic toys come in a variety of sizes. The standard toy soldier size in Britain is 54mm, but many Napoleonic versions come in much smaller dimensions. Nearly all Napoleonic toys come with a stand to keep them upright.
- 6mm – These are very small and tend to be professionally painted. Most of the 6mm Napoleonic toys found on eBay are part of cavalry sets.
- 15mm – Also quite small but can come painted or unpainted.
- 20mm – Toys found at this size usually come in sets as opposed to individual pieces.
- 25mm – Often come pre-painted.
- 28mm – One of the most popular sizes, and the most common found on eBay.
There are many other sizes available, but the above measurements are those most sought after by collectors, and used by hobbyists in wargames.
What Materials are used
Napoleonic toys can be manufactured from different materials. Always enquire about the material used, as certain materials will increase the price.
- Aluminium – Used mainly by French manufactures during the 20th century.
- Composition – A combination of sawdust and glue popular in Germany.
- Dime – Made from cast iron and sold in the United States during the earlier half of the 20th century.
- Hollow Cast – Napoleonic toys described as hollow cast have been made from a lead alloy, which is poured into a mould and left to harden. These toys are hollow.
- Plastic – Both hard and soft plastic toys are available. Hard plastic toys can break easily if not handled properly. Soft plastic toys will allow some flexibility although it is recommended that buyers do not try and bend the toys. These usually come professionally painted.
- Solid Metal – The most common metal used in solid toy manufacturing is lead. Solid metal Napoleonic toys are quite heavy and often require painting. Most common in Germany during the 19th and 20th century.
Searching for Napoleonic Toys on eBay
To begin a search for Napoleonic Toys, head to eBay.co.uk and complete the following steps.
- Click on the All Categories tab located to the left of the search bar. This will load up the Categories page.
- Scroll down to the Toys and Games heading and click More.
- From here click on Wargames and Role-Playing to be brought to the relevant page.
- Next, enter Napoleonic into the search bar and press enter.
There are over 2,000 Napoleonic toys for sale on eBay, so if looking for a specific toy make sure to enter as much detail into the search as possible. The material, size, army represented and country of origin will help make the search faster and more precise.
Napoleonic Toys Listings Page
Use the listings page to browse through the various models and sets on offer. The table on the left contains filters to help narrow the search.
- Items on eBay are listed as either as Bid Now or Buy It Now. To change which items are listed click on the Auction only or Buy it now tabs at the top of the page.
- Use the filters found in the table on the left to assist with the search. Options include the Size of the toys, the Condition, Paint and Historical significance.
- The number of listings shown can be modified at the bottom of the page. Listings are shown in groups of 25, 50, 100 or 200. It is advised that first time buyers keep the number at 25 as this will make searching easier.
- The Sort by drop down menu will change the nature of the listings. Toys can be listed by price, condition, time left in auction and their distance from the buyer.
Napoleonic Toys Item Page
Clicking on the title of a listing will upload its item page. This page contains details about the item, the seller, the price and the postage.
- A recent photograph of the toy should be shown on the top left of the page. It’s important to verify what is being sold by proof of photograph. If the seller has not uploaded one, it can be requested by using the Ask a question function, located beneath the description box. Never buy from a seller that cannot provide a photograph of the toys in their current condition.
- The information on the top right of the page deals with the current bid, time left in auction, quantity available and the items condition.
- The description box contains item specifications and any messages from the seller. Always check this box.
- The postage and payments box has costs for postage and estimated delivery times.
- eBay is not just used by individuals, and if the seller is a business then their contact information can be found at the bottom of the page. Refund policies are also found here.
Before making any purchases, consider the following,
- What are the toys made of? Napoleonic toys are mainly made from plastic or metal. If made from metal, is it hollow cast or solid? If made from plastic is it hard or soft plastic?
- What army do the toy soldiers belong to? Is their uniform correct and does it corresponds to the soldier’s rank and file?
- Are the toys painted? As the toys come both painted and unpainted, it is important for the buyer to decide which finish would suit best.
For many hobbyists, part of the enjoyment of collecting Napoleonic toys is the paintings process. Unpainted toys can be inexpensive, but painting them requires patience and attentiveness.
- Buy high quality paintbrushes that have very small heads. Precision painting is required so the smaller the brush the finer the details.
- File away any rough edges found on the figure or the stand.
- Paint the toy with a primer base. This will make detailing a lot easier.
- Take the time that’s necessary to paint. Don’t rush the job and make sure to apply very thin coats.
- Paint the figure’s skin first. Paint the entire toy with this colour as the clothing colours will cover it up.
- After painting the toy’s clothing, move onto the weaponry and additional parts e.g. a cavalry horse.
- Coat the toy in a thin layer of matte varnish.
- Make sure that the toys are kept in a dark and cool place when drying, and that enough time is given for them to dry before handling.
- eBay also hosts model paints sets and paintbrushes for sale. To find them, simply follow the above steps to reach the Wargames and Role-playing listing page, and enter Paint Sets or brushes into the search bar.
Buying With Confidence
- Always check a seller’s history and see what kind of feedback they’ve received from other eBay users. Buyers will comment negatively if an item is faulty, late or not as described. If the seller has a high percentage of negative feedback then it is advised to try another listing.
- To review a seller’s feedback simply click on their user name in the Seller information box on a listings item page.
- More information and different photographs of an item can be requested using the Ask a question function. Use this also for any queries about postage or pricing.
- Check to see if the seller is an individual or a business. If it is a business this will guarantee the toy to be as described.
- If any problems are encountered with a seller, contact eBay’s Resolution Centre. The link to their page can be found in the Customer Support drop down menu on the top right of the site.
- The Customer Support page will assist with any difficulties found navigating the site.
- All financial transactions completed on eBay are handled by PayPal, and all of eBay's users are protected under the Buyer Protection Programme.
- · Buying Napoleonic toys is a lasting and appealing hobby. While some buy the toys for use in wargames, others simply collect the toys for their artistic and historical value.
- · Searching for the toys on eBay is a great idea, as the site offers excellent value and choice. Always remember to provide as much detail as possible when searching, and study an item page to make sure that toys are as desired.