When considering which range should be the subject of this, my 13th (and probably final in this form) set of fighting toy stories, there was really no contest. When I was young, I was an Airfix Boy. Their kits were everywhere, and for many years I didn’t even realise that other makers existed! They dominated the market in the UK, and created hundreds, if not thousands, of kits covering a wide range of military, transport and other subjects, as well as ranges of soft plastic soldiers (see here for the very popular 1:32 range). So, Airfix it had to be.
Continue reading “Airfix Blisters – Introduction”
Successful toy ranges often need a USP – a Unique Selling Point, that makes buyers turn to their product over the competition. So, what was distinctive about the Skybirds range? Up front I’ll claim that they created a new type of aircraft kit, quite unlike most of their competitors, that had a unique appeal. Let’s look into this assertion by getting familiar with an important RAF warplane of the 1930s, the Hawker Hart.
Continue reading “Skybirds – Distinctiveness”
The word ‘playset’ is defined in online dictionaries as “A themed collection of similar toys designed to work together to enact some action or event”. In the context of military figures, this usually means a package of opposing sets of contemporary figures, plus terrain pieces to suit. Such sets are great presents: they create a convenient and immediate play environment for owners, and if produced with a care for historical accuracy, can be educational.
Continue reading “ESCI Figures – Playsets”
Aircraft generally spend less time flying than on the ground, and this was especially true in the early years when flying at night was difficult. Most of the time they were parked at airports, either in the open or within a hangar. It’s not surprising then that Skybirds were quick off the mark to produce a range of airport buildings to complement their aircraft kits. Unlike the kits, these were finished models.
Continue reading “Skybirds – Airports”
Many figure manufacturers also produce some form of small scenic accessories. These are useful as dressing for dioramas, or during play as things for the soldiers to hide behind, and they are easy to produce using the same methods as figures. Naturally, they are often included in playsets (see forthcoming story).
Continue reading “ESCI Figures – Accessories”
As you might expect, Skybirds tend to be rare nowadays, especially if you want one in good condition. Moreover, most Skybirds kits were assembled by relatively unskilled hands (sometimes by children) to varying qualities. And if the constructed models are hard to find, unmade kits are as rare as hens teeth! Most of the time, therefore, the collector has to be content with constructed models of indifferent quality.
This, in turn, prompts a question: how do you know if the models you possess are by Skybirds, and not another make? The name is often applied to wooden models of that era as a sort of catch-all description, but without cast-iron provenance or the original packaging, how can you be sure? To illustrate the problem, let’s take a look at a famous warplane of the Great War, the S.E.5.
Continue reading “Skybirds – Identification”
All of the first selection of Skybusters released in 1973 were models of real aircraft, and recognisable as such. 40 years later, under Mattel ownership, manyof the new releases were wildly fictional! The main reason for this is no doubt the changing tastes of the young audiences that the toys are aimed at, for whom fantasy and science-fiction genres have become commonplace. But when exactly did this change begin?
Continue reading “Matchbox Skybusters – Fantasy”