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The History of Toy Soldiers
By Luigi Toiati (Author), James Opie (Preface)

Hardcover: 640 pages
Published: September 4, 2019

A Review by Brian Williams

The History of Toy Soldiers can be considered the "Bible" of Toy Soldier history. The book is absolutely huge (just over 600 pages) and packed with detailed photography and must've taken years to compile and write.

The book is divided into the following chapters:

1. Some reasons why you too can love toy and model soldiers and figures.
2. Archeosoldiers: between play and religion (c. sixth century BC to c. sixth century AD).
3. The Profession of Arms (c. thirteenth to eighteenth century)
4. Zinnfiguren und Drang (c. eighteenth century to today)
4.1 Light and shade of the tin soldier
5. Paper Moon dreams and battles
6. Half-round toy soldier: the missing link, its rise and fall.
7. Pinochio in uniform and other merry soldiers (c. nineteenth to twentieth century)
8. The bee and the toy soldier: the epic of the solid (c. nineteenth to twentieth century)
9. The ephemeral Kingdom of Aluminum
10. "The Hollow Man's Burden" (nineteenth to twentieth centuries)
10.1 Hollow-cast beyond the Channel, and its Dimestore version
11. Toy soldiers march in goose-step (twentieth century)
12. The ‘lightness' of the war (twentieth century to today)
12.1 The ‘Middle Earth': Airfix and others
13. The Era of the Model, or the ‘associative' soldier (twentieth century)
13.1 Todels or moys?
13.2 The men for all seasons
13.3 The New Model (Soldiers) Army
13.4 Plastic models and plastic conversions
14. Composite figures
15. Lilliputians go to war
16. New old toy soldiers: filling a gap, solace for a loss (twentieth century)
17. Some Useful Reading

Toiati's writing style is light-hearted and fun. He has meticulously researched the history of toy soldiers, and it's such a great pleasure to read and look at the photographs of the various toy soldiers and they progress through history. The chapters vary in subject matter, but are organized in chronological order, starting with early history and moving to tin, paper, half-round, aluminum, hollow-cast, and eventually to plastic.

There are also "cameo" sections throughout the book interspersed between the chapters. These cameos feature collectors who tell about how they got started, share their experiences with collecting and talk about their collections. These are great additions to the book and bring an additional personal element to collecting.

I learned so much about toy soldiers from this book that it amazes it. There are so many chapters that stand out: "The Hollow Man's Burden" chapter which tells of the origin of hollowing the solid mold (William Britain – toy maker), "Half-Round Toy Soldier: The Missing Link, Its Rise and Fall" which is about the mold that didn't quite fit, to just name a couple. Most of us will remember Airfix (soft plastic sets great for modeling and dioramas) and Matchbox (I didn't realize or possibly just don't remember they also made toy soldiers).

As mentioned above, I really love this book. It's huge and has so much information that you'll probably find yourself going through it several times. The first time I went through it, I scanned the chapters while looking at the great photos of the soldiers. The second time was spent reading the chapters that caught my eye and interest. I've finished my third pass and I'm sure I'll continue to pick it up to peruse it. Toiati has such a great leisurely and fun writing style. He ends the book in his friendly style with "I am now situated in Rugby, in the East Midlands. If you are passing, please call and we can talk soldiers together. I'll put the kettle on".

About the Author:

Luigi Toiati cannot remember a time before he collected toy soldiers. He has a massive collection but doesn't keep count. He was a professional figure painter for 45 years, starting his career in London, working for his close friend Edward Suren, creator of the famous Willie brand of soldiers. In 1987 he began making his own soldiers, founding Garibaldi & Co. Toy Soldiers. A familiar figure on the toy soldier show circuit, he and his collection have been mentioned in various books on the subject, and he has himself written numerous articles on related matters. He has a degree in Sociology and a deep interest in Semiotics (the study of signs). He now lives in his native Rome with Monica, his wife and co-founder of their marketing research agency, Focus srl www.focusresearch.it).

James Opie is the toy soldier consultant to Bonham's auctioneers and recognized as one of the world's leading experts on the subject. He has a very significant collection of his own, which he has been building since childhood. For over a quarter of a century, until his recent retirement, James Opie was also editor and buyer for the Military and Aviation Book Society and various other book clubs. He has written seven previous books on various aspects of toy soldier collecting.

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© 2021 Brian Williams

Published online: 10/01/2019.

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