ESCI Figures – Accessories

Dressing the Scene

Scenic Accessories

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).

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Skybirds – Identification

Is It a Skybird?

Skybirds

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.

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Matchbox Skybusters – Fantasy

Flights of Fancy

Imagination

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?

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Wiking Ships – Relaunch

Modernising the Range

After the War

Following the dislocation and destruction of WW2, the German economy and Wiking itself slowly recovered. The moulds for most of the pre-war ships seem to have survived the war, and some were made available again. However, the real profits were made from new ventures making plastic models of aircraft and vehicles, and in fact it is the range of 1/87 vehicles for which Wiking became famous in post-war Germany.

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Skybirds – Introduction

Woodworking Made Simple?

Skybirds

With Skybirds, we jump back to the 1930s, and what many consider to be the birth of aircraft kits. Yes, we are going vintage!

‘Skybirds’ was the name given to a range of aircraft kits produced by A.J.Holladay during 1932-46, with a hiatus from 1942-45 as materials were reserved for the war effort. The range was the brainchild of J.H.Stevens, a young designer and artist who designed them, drew the plans and illustrations, and wrote extensively on the subject of flight and aircraft. He has been credited with inventing, or at least establishing, the 1:72 scale which has been the mainstay of aircraft kits ever since (there will be more on this subject in a later story).

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Matchbox Skybusters – Scale

How Big is It?

Fitting the Box

Matchbox, like other manufacturers of the time, made their models to fit the box. This was convenient for the manufacturer and retailers, because they could handle a single size of product, but as a consequence meant that models in the same range were produced to varying scales. In fact, the scale of an individual model is not usually stated.

What does this mean for Skybusters models? Let’s examine the question by taking two aircraft of widely differing size.

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ESCI Figures – Accuracy

1980s Benchmark

The Importance of Accuracy

Some makers might get away with making plastic soldiers that are only vague approximations of their historical counterparts. After all, they would perform perfectly well as toys. ESCI, however, considered themselves to be producers of military miniatures, and accuracy was of prime importance. Many of their customers wanted the figures to look correct, and would have the knowledge to spot errors. So, how well did they perform in this respect?

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