Book Review: Britains Toy Soldiers History and Handbook 1893 – 2013


Britains Toy Soldiers: The History and Handbook 1893 – 2013 by James Opie

On Amazon: Britains Toy Soldiers: The History and Handbook 1893 – 2013

Publisher’s Website: Pen and Sword

Britains Toy Soldiers is a lavishly illustrated history of the classic toy soldier line. The book is organized chronologically, with each section offering a description of significant product releases from that year. For example: In 1938, Britains released the first figures of British Troops from World War I.  There is a color photo of the figures, along with text descriptions, and product numbers such as 1611 Prone 1938 2V-1941 U.  Opie notes that Britains never did produce German figures from the period, and that the same figures were also released as American troops. The section also notes that the figures were likely released in response to Elastolin and Lineol figures that were marketed at the time.

Although I am not a Britains collector, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. It is a great history of the toy soldier beginnings of my miniature wargaming hobby. If you ARE a Britains collector, I think that this is a must-own.


From the publisher’s description:

This is the first full-color history of the world-famous toy soldiers to chart the whole story of their development from Victorian table toy to 21st Century collectable. Prior to 1893 the family toy business of the Britain family was struggling as the toy industry was dominated by German manufacturers and importers. Then came the fateful decision first to import, then to design and manufacture, toy soldiers, an area the German firms were particularly strong in. Britains Toy Soldiers were born and soon their boxes stamped with the slogan ‘Best Quality English Make’ were being eagerly opened by little boys across Britain and then around the world. The rest, as they say is history and it is all captured here by James Opie, the world’s leading expert on the subject, as he lovingly traces the varying fortunes of arguably the most famous British toy company.

Illustrated with lavish color photographs, many of them featuring items from the author’s own collection, the book includes feature sections such as collectors’ favorites and prices, high-value and famous sets, artistic highlights, quirks and mysteries. It is without doubt the most authoritative book on the subject and will be welcomed by the thousands of devoted collectors world wide as well as many more with fond memories of childhood battles with these beautiful toys.