Culvertons Antiques

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‘Little Men’

22/03/2012 11:36 AM

Culvertons were recently invaded by hundreds of perfectly preserved toy soldiers, part of a  rare collection formed by an American doctor after WWII.

Hearing the collection was coming on to the market we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss out on, the deciding factor being their wonderful condition and all importantly they still retained their original decorative boxes. Culvertons sent a buyer and secured the purchase of seventeen boxed sets in front of its trade competitors.

C.B.G Mignot was founded in Paris in 1785 and was the first company to manufacture cast lead soldiers on a large scale to collectors. Run, assembled and painted by hand these early toys proved too expsensive to produce and purchase and as such never found a wide market.

A hundred years later Mignot and its competitors across the world (Brittains, Heyde and others)  were now able to produce inexspensive lead toy soldiers which caught on with children and adults alike, notable collectors being Winston Churchill and H G Wells.

The dominance of metal, sawdust and glue as materials of choice for companies producing little men started to wane after WWII, plastic offered an inexspensive child friendly alternative and it was not long before firms such as the  USA based Marxs Toy Company saw sales of plastic soldiers surpass its traditional rivals.

International concern over the use of lead in the manufacture of toys was growing and in 1966 there was an outright ban,  many companies including one of our most famous toy manufactures William Brittains (established in 1893 ) were forced to stop production of lead figures and focus entirely on plastic.

The next two decades saw the onset of the Vietnam War and with it came the strong anti-war sentiment that fueled major protests across the world, soon afterwards with the rise of the action figure and video games the toy soldier and military toys as a whole became unpopular and unfashionable and the until then much loved toy soldier was relagated to the bottom of the toy box or worst still the rubbish bin.

Small signs of a second golden age of toy soldier manufacture were visible by the late 1980 s and by the early part of the 21st century two hundred international companies produced metal and plastic figures both painted and unpainted for children, collectors and wargamers. With its highly skilled workforce and low wages China is now the favoured destination for many producers.

C.B.G Mignot however is still in existence, using some of the original moulds and as always decorating these charming figures by hand and in over 220 years has only  moved to Anjou  just over 3 hours drive from Paris !!