Plastic army toys were not always the norm – did you know that army men toys during the late 1800’s were made of tin, zinc, and lead? These tin soldiers were originally manufactured in Germany, before being followed by production in England and France. The original tin soldiers were 2 to 3 inches high, but later a British company standardized them to 54mm.
These tin toys were very popular during World War I when American manufacturers started making them. The bestsellers were Soldiers of the Civil War and Cowboys and Indians. In the 1950’s, the American manufacturers, headed by Louis Marx and Company, manufactured the toys in plastic. This change to plastic made army toys even more popular because now they are safer toys for kids and cheaper to produce as well. During the late 1950’s the most popular set of army men toys was the World War II set.
In the 1960’s, the popularity of army men toys waned. During this time, most of them were manufactured by China as imitations of figurines made by Airfix and Matchbox. Army men toys have never regained the same popularity again, however, they did experience a bit of a resurgence with the release of the Toy Story movies.
There are still a lot of army men toys on the market today. Most of them are now used for decoration more than for play. If you are interested in acquiring some you would be advised to get the highly rated ones such as:
- The LEGO Toy Story Army Men on Patrol collection is a great LEGO set taken from the hit movie series, Toy Story. The set contains four mini figures – a soldier with a gun, a doctor with a medical bag, a soldier with a metal detector, and another soldier with a handheld transceiver. Included with the 90-piece set is a buildable army jeep and a stretcher. The army jeep is very compact and durable and will not break during play. It is, however, very easy to de-construct and rebuild if you want to. There are also two radios, two pairs of binoculars, a backpack and an opening briefcase to complete the set. This army toy set is recommended for children ages 6 to 12 years old.
- If you are into collecting as well as playing, then the Civil War Soldier 102 Piece Playset is for you. This set is a bucket of 54mm plastic army men made in a 1:32 scale. Included are 25 Confederate and 25 Union army figures, 18 horses, 10 cannons, 2 covered wagons, 2 tents, 2 flags and 6 fences. All of these plastic items are packaged in a rugged, clear plastic bucket with a handle. This set is great for teaching children about the Civil War.