W. Britains Toy Soldiers

Collecting W. Britains Toy Soldiers (Part I)

Britains Set 437 Officers of the Gordon Highlanders

Collecting W. Britains Toy Soldiers - Recommended Reference Books and their Importance
W. Britains Limited initiated hollowcast toy soldiers in 1893, and although ceasing production in 1966, their products have fascinated “young boys”, regardless of age ever since. They are one of the principal manufacturers collected today both because of relative availability, the fact that all sets were numbered, and that the company regularly published comprehensive illustrated catalogs.  I have been collecting W. Britains toy soldiers since 1947 (age 11), and have been able to retain all the sets, accessories, and most importantly their boxes. Check the number of empty Britains boxes currently being offered on e-Bay; the reason, most sets double in value if they are complete with their original box. It has been somewhat of a bittersweet blessing in that as a young teen-ager I would embellish and/or touch-up some of the sets. I have even been guilty of that offense, on albeit very limited occasion, as an adult; SHAME. That having been said, pales in comparison to some of the offerings, and their descriptions, presented on e-Bay in recent years, with a significant lack of candor (intentional or unintentional) just in this last year alone. This is truly unfortunate, as this can be both a fascinating and rewarding hobby. Conversely with a reasonable knowledge base and extensive reference library, I have been able to make some very nice acquisitions at fair prices. Careful observation of photography provided, the offerer's feedback file, all available reference materials, and clarification questions to the seller, on all e-Bay offerings, are most strongly advised.

I visit the toy soldier sections of e-Bay on at least a twice daily basis. In recent months, with few exceptions, I have noticed an overall precipitous decline in the quality
of the W. Britains sets being offered. It seems like a lot of the “bits and pieces”, quite literally, are coming out of the bottom of long lost toy boxes. Frequently even the sellers are citing them as good only for repair or repair parts.

Classic example of a recent offering on e-Bay, unfortunately
this is becoming more and more common place

When compared with the complete boxed sets in excellent condition still being offered at other auctions, they have become less than attractive. My reason for bringing this up is to alert new collectors to the fact that these individual figures (badly chipped, dented, and often broken without even the parts being present), as well as incomplete unboxed sets (often mismatched and not even correctly identified), are not indicative of the norm. Be patient and do the research in order that when a good set is offered, you will recognize, appreciate it, and within your means, bid accordingly.

In addition, please be aware that some sellers are not accurately describing the condition of the sets they are selling. I recently purchased a set which was described by the seller as "Near Mint, but closer to Mint". To quote James Opie (internationally acknowledged as an expert in the field), "As far as paintwork is concerned, "M" (mint) indicates no damage at all, although even here the packing cord or base card may have rubbed against the figures. "E" (excellent) also indicates no damage at all, but paint damage caused by trade distribution rather than by nursery play is allowable if unnoticeable." In this specific case one of the bases had fully 40% of the green paint chipped off to bare lead alloy. All of the figures had numerous highly noticeable chips on various parts of the body, specifically hands, faces, caps and boots. Had it not been the case that even in this condition the set was still competitively priced, I would have immediately returned it. I'm not sure whether the seller priced the set based on its true condition, or was ignorant of the current value of the set based on other recent auctions. Needless to say I will be watching this specific seller's future auctions. I should more frequently review my own advise contained in this guide
.

There also have been recent occurrences which requires that the bidder either has a priori knowledge or good reference material. Individuals are composing "sets" on a mix and match basis, and selling them as a specific numbered W. Britains set. Britains did take limited liberty with the composition of certain band sets and the inclusion/exclusion of officers in some sets, but this should be verified with any given boxed or unboxed set. J. Wallis, in his two books listed below, has done an outstanding job in researching this specific area. A specific example of this was the recent sale of the Anti-Aircraft Display, Set 2052. I'm trusting that the seller was as ignorant as the buyer of the correct composition of this relatively scarce set (Unrated in James Opie's Pocket Price Guide, and available 1951 - 1962). Wallis cites the composition as five operators (excludes officer in Spotting Chair) and a three man gun crew (one standing w/shell, one kneeling w/shell and one standing without shell). The set being auctioned somehow, instead of the kneeling gunner w/shell (as correctly described by Wallis in his book), has the officer from Set 1898 (British Infantry (Steel Helmets), with Rifles and Tommy Guns, and Officer in Battledress). If somehow the set came from Britains in this configuration, it is, as the seller states, indeed a "very rare" set. If not, the buyer has paid an inordinate amount ($485.00) for an incorrectly composed set. Caveat Emptor.
  

If you are seriously intending to build a collection of  toy soldiers, be they W. Britains, Mignot, Elastolin, other vintage manufacturers, or of what have now been called “New Toy Soldiers”, a reference library is an absolute necessity. This library need not be extensive, or for that matter expensive, but it must be accurate and complete within its defined scope. There are a group of books which immediately come to mind:

• Britains Toy Soldiers - The History and Handbook 1893 - 2013, J. Opie, Pen & Sword, Barnsley South Yorkshire, 2016, ISBN 978 1 84884 444 5
• Collecting Toy Soldiers in the 21st Century, J. Opie, Pen & Sword, Barnsley South Yorkshire, 2011, ISBN 184884373-9
• Regiments of all Nations, NEW Revised All-Color Edition ( Expanded Hardback) Britains Ltd. Lead Soldiers 1946-66, J.Wallis, United Book Press, Baltimore, 2011, ISBN 978-0-983837800 
• Regiments of all Nations, Revised Edition, Britains Ltd. Lead Soldiers 1946-66, J.Wallis, Waverly Press, Baltimore, Md, 1981, ISBN 0-9605950-0-7
• Armies of the World
, Britains Ltd. Lead Soldiers 1925-1941, J.Wallis, United Book Press, 1993, ISBN 0-9605950-2-3
Britains Toy Soldiers 1893-1932, J. Opie, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1985, ISBN 0060156155
The Great Book of Britains, J. Opie, New Cavendish Books, London, 1993, ISBN 1872727328; This book is considered by most collectors to be the definitive reference on W. Britains Toy Soldiers, but as such it is fairly expensive.
• Toy Soldiers (Phillips Collectors Guides)
including price guide, J. Opie, Dunestyle Publishing Ltd and Boxtree Ltd., 1989, ISBN 1-85283-249-5
• The Collector’s Guide to New Toy Soldiers
, Metal figures from 1973 to the present, S. Asquith, Introduction by James Opie, Argus Press, 1991, ISBN 1-85486-051-8
• The collector's all-colour guide to Toy Soldiers
, A. Rose, Salamander Books Ltd., London, 1985, ISBN 0-86101-149-X (Excellent photography, near actual size, color images)
• Collectors Guide to Britains Model Soldiers
, J. Ruddle, Argus Books Ltd., 1980, ISBN 0-85242-568-6
• British Toy Soldiers 1893 to the present
, An Illustrated Reference Guide for Collectors, with 1985/86 Price Guide, J. Opie, Arms and Armour Press Ltd., 1985, ISBN 0-85368-720-X
• Collecting Toy Soldiers
(with price guide), J. Opie, Wm. Collins Sons & Co., 1987, ISBN 0-00-412276-3
• Collecting Old Toy Soldiers
, I. McKenzie, B.T. Batsford, Ltd., London, 1975, ISBN 0-7134-3036-2
This last book, available for about $15.00 from Amazon.com., is an excellent introduction and overview. There are additional significant tomes on the subject, which are much more detailed and expensive, and each of the books listed have extensive bibliographies. Joe Wallis and James Opie are considered by most to be pre-eminent authorities in the field. There is one additional book which is akin to a “Field Guide"(without photos), if you can find it; OPIE’S Pocket Price Guide to BRITAINS Hollowcast Toy Soldiers
, J. Opie, New Cavendish Books, 1994, ISBN 1-872727-82-4. The particular value of this little book is James Opie’s rarity indices, ranking sets by span of manufacture, variations, and with and without their box.  My current understanding, as of September 2016, is that James Opie is preparing an update of this book. All of this information has been developed with a professionalism akin to an archeologist, over a span of decades. A spot check of Amazon.com shows all these books, accept the pocket guide, available as of 2 October 2007. Joe Wallis’ second book, Armies of the World, has, however, become expensive at $113.00 per copy (see below for availability of this book at $40.00).

The collector's All Colour Guide
 to Toy Soldiers

Figure 1 - As an initial reference acquisition The collector's All colour guide to Toy Soldiers by Andrew Rose would be an excellent investment, and the book is currently still available on Amazon.com. To the more serious collector Joe Wallis' two books, Regiments of all Nations, and Armies of the World, are definitive texts, however, both are limited to black and white imagery. There is a recent third edition of Regiments of all Nations which is completely in color, and is included in the above list..

The prices cited in the above books are badly out of date, as the sets have continued their steady increase in value started at the end of production in 1966. However, Vectis Auctions Ltd. has had extensive auctions in very recent years which provide a reasonable estimate of current valuations. Their future, as well as, past auctions (with prices realized) can be found at their excellent web site: http://www.vectis.co.uk/index.php3. It would appear that there has been a slight, but perceptible decrease in prices in recent years, however over the long term I’m sure that steady appreciation will continue to occur. This is particularly true with both rare, as well as popular sets, especially the bands. For example a correct original Britains box and insert tie card for Set No. 1720 The Mounted Band of the Royal Scots Greys (Second Dragoon Guards) just sold (October 2007) on e-Bay for $112.00. That's just the box! For someone who has the un-boxed set, obtaining an original box increases the rarity index from 35 to 45 on James Opie's scale (which incidentally is logarithmic), making the set both twice as rare and twice as expensive. Another excellent site to check for current values is the Old Toy Soldier Auctions USA at http://oldtoysoldierauctions.com/default.htm. The site has colored catalogs and prices realized lists that can be downloaded as Adobe Reader files for retention.


Britains Set No. 1720 Mounted Band of the
 Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons)

Figure 2 - Britains Set No. 1720 Mounted Band of the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons), with Kettle Drummer, shown in correct composition with original box and tie card. This famous regiment commemorated by its charge with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders against Napoleon's Army at Waterloo (1815), is one of fewer and fewer Scottish regiments of the British Army remaining on active service. As an armoured regiment, in Challenger I and II Main Battle Tanks, it fought with distinction in the Gulf War (Operation Granby) 1991, and more recently in Iraq. On full dress parade the kettle drummer still wears the unique white bearskin, originally presented by its then Colonel-in-Chief, Czar Nicolas II of Russia (courtesy of Geoff Duin's web site). It's recommended that the viewer may want to download this and other figures on this page as jpgs, in order that details can be better observed.

There is also an excellent current web site maintained by Geoff Duin; http://www.realtoysoldiers.com, which contains an extensive variety of photographs of W. Britains sets. In addition to figures, the site includes extensive coverage of artillery, wagons and vehicles. Close-up images provide details which can be very helpful in comparing with offerings up for auction on e-Bay. The sets depicted are in excellent to near mint condition, correct composition, and in several instances are shown tied in their original boxes. A great and convenient source of information. For a permanent reference source, immediately available on your computer, consider downloading the images from this site, as well as others, in a file. (Editorial note; Geoff Duin's collection was sold at auction a few years ago, and unfortunately the web site is no longer available.


Britains Set No. 2087 Fifth Royal Inniskilling
 Dragoon Guards
    

Figure 3 - Britains Set No. 2087 Fifth Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, Dismounted at attention, drawn swords, with Officer. This is one of several sets in No. 1 Dress issued to commemorate the  Coronation of  Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 (courtesy of Geoff Duin's web site).
Britains Set No. 2153 (successor to Set No. 1291)
Band of the Royal Marines

Figure 4 - Britains Set No. 2153 (successor to Set No. 1291, replacing metal drums with plastic) Band of the Royal Marines, A small band which was available from 1946 - 1955, and a perennial favorite.  All Britains bands are eagerly sought by today's collectors (courtesy of Geoff Duin's web site).


Britains Set No. 1876 Bren Gun Carrier and Crew

Figure 5 - Britains Set No. 1876 Bren Gun Carrier and Crew, a famous British armoured vehicle of World War II, was excellently executed in this model.

Britains Set No. 2112 Full Band of the
 United States Marine Corps, Summer Dress

Figure 6 - Britains Set No. 2112 Full Band of the United States Marine Corps, Summer Dress, depicts this famous band as they appear in their popular summer concerts at U.S. Marine Headquarters, Eighth and I Streets, Washington, D.C. A now rare and much sought after set, particularly in this condition, boxed or unboxed (courtesy of Geoff Duin's web site).

Britains Set No. 1264 4.7 Inch Naval Gun

Figure 7 - Britains Set No. 1264 4.7 inch Naval Gun, a classic first introduced contemporary with the Boer War (1899 -1902) at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, and in an updated configuration introduced in 1934 was manufactured until 1966 and beyond (still available in 1970).

Britains Set No. 1266 18 Inch Heavy Howitzer,
on Tractor Wheels

Figure 8 - Britains Set No. 1266 18 inch Heavy Howitzer on tractor wheels, another classic Britains gun produced in two configurations, the other being on a fixed garrison mount. The gun is more accurately a model of an 8 inch gun, but quite powerful. The author can personally attest to this gun's ability to quickly and totally demolish a Lincoln Log fort at actual ranges up to 10 - 12 feet. It has an extremely detailed operational breech, firing and elevation mechanisms. The size of the projectiles closely approximate the size and weight of a .45cal. bullet.

Set No. 2101 US Marine Corps Color Guard (Blue)   


Set No. 2101 US Marine Corps Color Guard (Red)

Figure 9 - Two examples of Set No. 2101 US Marine Corps Color Guard. The top set shows the sometimes incorrectly painted flag (done by Britains), but also the flag staffs as detachable. The bottom set shows the Marine's standard in correct colors, and in this case the flag staffs permanently fixed to the figures.

One important aspect of collecting is the care and maintenance of your collection, particularly as it grows and represents a significant investment in time and resources. One key subject in the preservation of toy soldiers is the prevention of what is popularly defined as “lead rot”, but in fact is a form of electrolysis. First indication of this condition is the appearance of a white powder-like substance (lead carbonate) on the figure, analogous to corrosion on battery terminals, but on a very fine scale. Unfortunately lead rot seems to be “contagious”, and once started can rapidly spread, so immediate corrective action is advised. The best thing to do is to remove the affected figure from others, and carefully brush the total surface with a fine sable brush. Then, depending on whether the painted surface is a gloss or matte finish, use a corresponding high-grade quick dry hobby paint topcoat over the entire surface. This can be carefully disbursed from a spray can, or applied with a fine sable brush. Don’t forget the underside of the base. On most toy soldiers, and on all Britains this surface is bare lead/tin alloy. In advanced states a more complicated treatment is the use of ion-exchange resin, which is commercially available. After brushing off the powder from the surface, seal the unaffected areas with soluble nylon or a 10 percent PVA/IMS solution. The figure is then laid between layers of resin and submerged in distilled water. As the water is then boiled it converts the carbonate back to metal. The entire figure is coated with the previously described topcoat.  There are two environments, which are known to cause this occurrence. The first is a high ambient humidity, most likely to occur near a large body of water, i.e. ocean, lake, etc. The other potential cause is storage in oak display cabinets. Oak secretes tannic acid which will attack the lead. Obviously the combination of the two conditions can exacerbate the occurrence. A trade-off occurs between providing adequate ventilation for your collection, and the accumulation of dust. I would personally opt towards good ventilation, and rationalize the dust as the “sands of time” scaled down. A dehumidifier can well prove to be a sound investment.

The most important criteria when considering the sets being offered on e-Bay auctions are 1) clarity of the photography presented on e-Bay, 2) presence of a genuine, correct box and tie card, as applicable, 3) complete set (correct number of figures), 4) matching colors in all figures (check green in bases, flesh color in faces, color in tunics and pants, metallic brown in rifles, and browns in horses), 5) correct composition of the set (particularly important in the case of bands and large display sets), 6) condition (both of figures and the box, if applicable), and 7) rarity, all weighed against recent prices for the same set in comparable condition. As an example, recently offered on e-Bay was a relatively scarce set of W. Britains, Set No. 2101, United States Marine Corps Color Guard with the National Standard and Marine Corps Flag (4 figures). Even unboxed, which this set was, it has a rarity index of 42. The figures and the flags are in excellent condition. Britains apparently produced color parties with  the flag staffs both fixed and unfixed. I was under the mistaken impression that they were always unfixed. Though not 100% infallible (due to Britains change in paint formulae around 1960) it would still be worth while to check the fixed staff connection with a black light in order to insure originality.

 I have been diligently searching my reference library for the following discussion by James Opie of price guidelines for W. Britains toy soldiers. “Here is an example of the sort of difference made to prices by the condition of an item. Plate 15 figure 10 is a very rare Britains ‘plug shouldered’ Scots Grey. A mint boxed set of six of these in original paint might well be worth £5,000. If one were broken, the price would be about £3,500. If the box were in poor condition, £3,000. If in good condition, but without box, £2,500. If both the box and the figures were in poor condition, £1,000. The single figure in excellent condition without a box is worth about £150. If the tail is missing, £30. If the paintwork were poor, £25. If repainted (as shown in Plate 15) £20. If the plug arm were missing, £10. While there is nearly always a residual value in any toy soldier, as can be seen from the above, the mint boxed price may well be a very different affair from the poor condition or damaged piece, and ascertaining the condition is essential before any negotiation can take place.” Prophetic words particularly for the new collector. (Quoted with acknowledgement to James Opie.) It’s noted that the above prices were in the 1985-1986 time frame, and should only be considered for comparative differences. The differences for more common sets being somewhat less.

I was recently asked what would be the safest and best way to clean a long term accumulation of cigarette smoke and tar from toy soldiers. Not being a smoker I had to do a little research. My recommendation is to use a dilute solution of ammonia and glycol (using distilled water; 10 parts water to 1 part ammonia and 1 part glycol) applied with a series of small cotton swabs. You can also use a small sable brush. Depending on the number of figures involved you may want to consider carefully submerging them in the solution in a deep baking pan lined with a light dish towel, and then blow drying with a hair dryer on low or no heat setting. With the latter method my only concern would be possibly getting water inside the hollow cast figures. If anyone else has had direct experience in this area I would certainly appreciate hearing from you. Hope this advise is helpful.

An extremely valuable additional resource for W. Britains collectors is London Bridge Collector’s Toys, Ltd. This company offers an extensive inventory of replacement parts for Britains Toy Soldiers, as well as a full range of Humbrol paints (including limited guidance in recreating Britains colors). Their web site is: http://www.londonbridgetoys.com. They also have Joe Wallis’s second book, “Armies of the World”, available in soft cover for $40.00 USD, a true bargain
.

Collecting Imperatives
The Do’s and Don’ts
(Acknowledgment to James Opie)

Do:                   
1. Do buy what you like the look of, it will always give you enjoyment, and what you enjoy will be most likely to please others.
2. Do travel to collect examples. Toy soldiers can be more expensive in the country of origin, but they will also be much more plentiful. Attending auctions in person enables the lots to be inspected and the purchases to be taken home safely.
3. Do give figures room to breath. A 54mm size infantryman will have a base approximately 1 sq cm to 2 sq cm, and ten figures will be able to be lined up within 20cm (8 in.). At least a 10 cm (4 in) gap should be left between this and the next subject.
4. Do keep original boxes which will enhance the value by up to 100 per cent.
5. Do make sure that any cupboards or cabinets have sufficient ventilation. Damp conditions in sealed enclosures cause damage to lead figures.
6. Do try to purchase soldiers in the best condition that you can afford.
7. Do learn as much as possible, which are rarities. Your knowledge will be pitted against the auctioneers, dealers and other collectors.

(Additional Do's added by author):
8.   Do keep records of your aquisitions, date, cost, condition of set. Preferably on computer, with back-up.
9.   Do try and buy from reputable companies and individuals.
10. Do buy complete sets (if affordable), not individual figures, unless they are connoisseur figures, i.e. Greenwood & Ball, Stadden, or equivalent.
11. Do enjoy your collection, and try to share it, and your knowledge, with others. They, or others they may know, could prove to be a source for future acquisitions.
12. Do provide adequate lighting for the display of your collection, either internally and/or externally to the display cases/shelves.

Don’ts:
1. Don’t send toy soldiers through the post unless unavoidable. When packing, use plenty of tissue paper, and pack tightly round with bubble-pack or newspaper so that the models cannot move about in transit.
2. Don’t believe that plastic figures are unbreakable. Some of the plastic used was mixed with chalk to aid paint adhesion, and is extremely brittle. Careful handling is also necessary to prevent the paint flaking off. Altogether, plastics that are not chewed, nicked, bent, warped, split, scuffed or melted – in other words, those in pristine condition – are considerably rarer than the equivalent metal models.
3. Don’t buy semi-solid home-cast figures, thay are usually worthless.
4. Don’t store lead alloy figures in oak furniture. Oak secretes tannic acid which attacks the lead.
5. Don’t feel that condition is all important – if something fits in a collection, buy it, even if it is imperfect. The perfect example may or may not be available later, and if it is, the first can be sold again.
 
(Additional Don'ts added by author):
6.   Don't touch-up or embellish figures. It's a great temptation, I know!
7.   Don't allow e-bay sellers to arbitrarily establish rarity, correctness (authenticity), completeness or condition of a set or piece. Know or find out for yourself. Part II of this guide
(see below) provides some classic examples. This is extremely important!

8.   Don't allow e-bay buyers to intimidate you into over-bidding on a set or piece.
9.   Don't expose your collection to vinegar fumes.
10. Don't neglect monitoring, and controlling, the relative humidity and temperature ranges that your collection is exposed to. Use silica-jel packs in a damp and/or near ocean environment.

Another excellent resource I have recently discovered is the web site, http://www.the-toy-soldier.com, operated by James Hillestad, who is the owner and curator of The Toy Soldier Museum, located in Cresco, Pennsylvania. One of the many great ideas he recommends is the incorporation of other articles of militaria into the display of your collection. Campaign medals (or miniature replicas), regimental cap badges, cloth insignia are a few good examples. In my display of the famous battle at Rorke's Drift I have incorporated the South African Campaign Medal 1878-1879 (with 1879 Bar), a miniature of the Victoria Cross (a record number of 11 were awarded for this single action), a regimental cap badge of the 24th Regiment of Foot (South Wales Borderers), a small stone from the actual site of the battle in Natal Province, South Africa, and an actual round of .577/.45 cal. ammunition from the Martini-Henry rifles used. Most people will recall the epic movie Zulu, starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine (first major role), which commemorates the battle.

Here is an actual example of the benefit you can gain from having the right reference at the right time. Very recently an e-Bay seller put up for auction W. Britains Set 1859, Sentry Box with Sentry, stating a near mint condition, and that the set was rare. Unlike a lot of offerings on e-Bay the description was extremely accurate, there was a good photograph, and the seller had a valid 100% feedback rating. Checking with Opie’s Pocket Price Guide to Britains revealed that the set had only been produced from 1940-1941, and in 1946. The set’s rarity index is 80 unboxed and 90 boxed (James Opie's rarity scale is logarithmic with a range from 1 to 100, i.e. an index of 90 is twice as rare as 80, either making the set extremely rare). Unlike many of the recent auctions on e-Bay, this one went largely unnoticed (total of only 4 bidders). As a result I was able to acquire an extremely rare set at a very nominal price, in normally what is a highly competitive and overpriced environment. It doesn’t happen that frequently, but it does happen.


Collecting W. Britains Toy Soldiers (Part II)
Collecting W. Britains Toy Soldiers - Constant Vigilance and Continuing Quest of Knowledge

Because of the continued interest in the original web site, and the word and image limitations imposed on the basic guide, I thought it would be of some value and interest to augment that guide with additional information on the hobby.

If you are a serious collector of toy soldiers, either in the "out-patient" or "committable" category, or have aspirations of becoming one, and have not discovered the website of James Opie, please look it up under his name on any major search engine. It is well worth a long in-depth initial look, and you may well return several times. His section on Past Auction Features and Results is of particular interest to both beginning collector and seasoned veteran alike. James Opie is considered by most collectors of W. Britains toy soldiers to be the preeminent authority in the field, and has authored several books (actually tomes) on the subject. He cites as the "ultimate Britains collection" that of Ed Ruby. I had the unique opportunity to visit Ed and his wife, in their home near Orange (Villa Park), California, and view his collection in the early 1970's. I would totally concur and personally attest to the appraisal that his collection was the paradigm. As an example Ed had somehow acquired the original brass working prototype of Set No. 1522 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun, which in itself was even then and remains, the rarest of all Britains guns. However the gun is considered only scarce in the totality of Britains sets, and has a rarity index of only 40 unboxed (55 boxed).
Set No. 1522 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun,
with original box
Figure 10 - An exceptional example of a surviving 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun. The model was introduced in 1937, and was augmented with a full spectrum of anti-aircraft units before 1940, the start of World War II, and the famous Battle of Britain.
Set No. 1522 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun,
showing operating mechanism

Figure 11 - Another view of Set No. 1522 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun showing the intricate operating train and elevation mechanism of the gun. This gun was only available in the pre-war years up until 1941, and was not reintroduced in the post-war Britains production.

Given these circumstances you would expect a reasonable amount of interest when an example of this gun comes up for bid on e-Bay. One of the guns has very recently come up for auction, including the box. It eventually sold for about $360.00 USD. Verbatim this is how the seller listed and described the item: "BRITAINS vintage toy cannon No.  1522 New in box. NR; Up for auction is a BRITAINS "ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN" No. 1522 It apears (sic) to be new in it's original box. Everything seems to be there, there are several small parts (see pictures).. The barrel is 4 3/4 inches long, with an overall height 4 1/2 inches. The box has no rips, tears, or stains, but does have a name written on it. (notice how seller has attempted to shift your attention from the gun to the "wonderful box"!) NO RESERVE. I recently purchased a toy collection and there were many pieces of artillary (sic) and soldiers in it. I do not know a great deal about toy artillery pieces and toy soldiers, so everything will be auctioned at no reserve with very low starting bids. I will answere (sic) any questions to the best of my ability." The seller received the following question: Q: Is the gun broken. The pieces are seperated (sic) from the gun Thanks. A: Hi, I have no idea. I assumed that it was packaged that way. Nothing looks broken. Thanks for your interest, but what you see is what you get. (Signed with sellers first name).
Figures 12 and 13 - BRITAINS "ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN" No.1522; As offered "New in box"!?

I was initially going to give this seller the benefit of the doubt, until I read his response to the perfectly legitimate question from a bidder. It does not take an in-depth CSI team forensics analysis to realize that this gun is broken in piece parts. Nor does it take a semantics professor to see how the words, first in the title, then the description, and finally the response to the bidder's question, have been intentionally manipulated to totally misrepresent the condition of the gun to the un-knowledgeable. To cite briefly:
• The gun carriage should be seated in and fastened to the base ring.
• The entire firing spring housing is present, but broken from the gun barrel.
• The firing/cocking rod appears to be missing, and is certainly not attached to the firing spring.
• The traverse/train indicator is present, but broken from the gun carriage.
• The state/condition of the elevation gear quadrant cannot be determined from the photographs. It appears that the end is broken off and missing.
• The state/condition of both the train and elevation gears and gear knobs cannot be determined from the photographs.
Other than that the gun is "New in the box
"! In the past, before bidders were "protected" by using coded names, I could have at least referred them to this guide. Examples like this are truly unfortunate, discouraging, and worst of all greatly on the increase.

Now, as an exercise, compare a gun in this condition to the following alternative which sold at auction in Great Britain in July 2009. It was purchased for equivalent of $310.95 USD, given the following description and photograph from a reputable auction house; "Britains Set 1522 - Anti Aircraft Gun - [1937 version], comprising the rarest and most complex Gun made by Britains, the 4.5" AA Gun rotates on a geared base plate and elevates and depresses by a similar movement & has a spring loaded breech. Finished in Khaki Green with brass coloured Muzzle Band & Firing Lever. Some minor paint chips otherwise generally Very Good overall complete with Instruction Sheet for Lorry Mounting the Gun. Un-boxed." I personally would opt for this gun, being in fully functional condition with very good paint,  even without the box.
Set No. 1522 4.5 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun,
with instruction sheet for mounting on truck
Figure 14 - BRITAINS "ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN" No.1522, Un-boxed
Very recently there has been another classic example of a combination of mis-identification  and incorrect grading of the condition of a set of toy soldiers. Again I have to stipulate that I can't evaluate whether this is another case of ignorance on the part of the seller, or a deliberate action. However in either case the buyer loses. In his description the seller states that these are "8 BRITAINS TOY SOLDIERS BRITISH INDIAN SIKHS". They are further described as "AN ESTATE GROUP OF THES NEAT TOY SOLDIERS, THIS GROUP OF 8 BRITISH SIKH INDIANS WITH ARTICULATED ARMS, 3 1/2" TALL ORIGINAL PAINT IS ABOUT 90%. THEY ARE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION". At first glance they appear as a possible copy of Britains Set No.67 1st Madras Light Infantry, but in a khaki colored active service dress, which Britains never produced. Next looking at their bases, which are neither oval or square as they should be, I am reminded of Authenticast brand toy soldiers which had almost identical front and back "tabs" which are clearly seen. as an integral part of the base casting. The other basic issue is the seller's classification of condition as excellent. As can be readily observed this is emphatically just not the case. Unfortunately I am constrained by formatting in providing a larger image. There is even some evidence of what may well be lead rot. Per the theme song of "Monk"(the television detective program), “It’s a jungle out there.”
Figure 15 - Alleged Britains "British Indian Sikhs, which are probable early Authenticast (Eriksson) manufacture.

Another recent offering on e-Bay again provides another classic example of why knowledge of the subject is absolutely critical. The seller was offering what they "thought" was a relatively scarce set of Britains, Set No. 220 Uruguayan Cavalry, trotting with Officer (Ejercito del Uruguay: Blandengues de Artigas). In the post-World War II catalog Britains only offered this 4 piece set from 1953 to 1959. The seller had the correctly labeled box, but the contents were three British 12th Lancers, a mismatched and retouched bugler also of the 12th Lancers, and a bugler of the Royal Horse Artillery. What is disconcerting is the seller's description, which would indicate sufficient knowledge of the subject to know exactly what they were offering. Verbatim the description reads as follows: "You are bidding on a Britains Set no. 220, Regiments of All Nations Series, 'Artigas' RARE Lancers URUGUAYAN ARMY, a set of TWO LANCERS ON BROWN MOUNTS WITH MOVABLE RIGHT ARMS & TWO BUGLERS, ONE ON A BROWN MOUNT AND ONE ON A BLACK MOUNT. THESE HAVE BEEN FEATURED IN FINE AUCTION HOUSES SUCH AS BONHAMS AND CHRISTIES. THESE WERE ISSUED IN 1952. ORIGINAL ROAN BOX IN MINT STATE. The owner has fitted the box with separations and cotton backing to keep the figures from getting scratched. And there are no nicks or scratches. According to family lore, the late owner who passed away 10 years ago always handled the soldiers with white linen conservators gloves to keep oil from his hands from touching the figures. They are just like new. We are offering several different sets for auction over the next week. Keep checking back to see what's new." I have been in touch with the seller and apparently he honestly did not know what the contents of the box should be. Hopefully as a buyer you will know. Caveat Emptor
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Figures 16 - Incorrectly identified Britains Set No. 220 Uruguayan Cavalry, trotting with Officer (Ejercito del Uruguay: Blandengues de Artigas).

Here are two photographs of the correct set, absolutely no similarity whatsoever
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Figures 17 - 18 - Correct Britains Set No. 220 Uruguayan Cavalry, trotting with Officer (Ejercito del Uruguay: Blandengues de Artigas).