February 12, 2015

FIGURE OF THE WEEK #74: American Metal (Jones) WWI German

Featured here is a WWI German "Dimestore" figure produced by American Metal** in the late 1930s. Millions toy soldiers in countless poses were made before World War II and were meant to represent soldiers of World War I. One surprising element was the lack of any enemy to fight the doughboys. Germans were virtually ignored by most manufactures with the exception of American Metal. This company issued many of their figures in two paint schemes with khaki representing the Americans while gray was used for the Germans.  But American Metal or Jones also produced a number of original poses the actually looked like Germans unlike the doughboys painted german gray. There were only a hand full of these poses and they are among the most valuable and sought after by collectors. The kneeling firing figure pictured here was a recent flea market find that I snatched up for less the $20.00. A great find of a rare figure makes this worthy of being a FOTW pick.  

American Metal Germans

"Dimestores" A Brief History:
The mid-20th century the Five and Ten or Nickel and Dime store was a treasure trove for children. Stores from companies such as S. S. Kresge Co., S. H. Kress & Co., J. J. Newberry's, and F. W. Woolworth, featured aisles of wooden bins filled with toys costing ten cents or less.

Three-dimensional lead, iron, and iron civilian and soldier figures were produced in the United States by the millions before and after World War II. Costing either a nickel or dime, they were a mainstay in the toy aisles of the Five and Ten stores. Although American toy soldiers date back to the early 20th century, the golden age of the dimestore figures was the 1930s through the early 1940s.

Auburn, Barclay, Grey Iron, and Manoil mass-produced three-inch figures. Barclay and Manoil figures dominated the market because of their realistic appearance. All-Nu, American Alloy, American Solider Co., Beton, Ideal, Jones, Lincoln Log, Miller Playwood Plastics, Soljertoys, TommyToy, Tootsietoy, and Warren also produced dimestore figures.

Large quantities of early dimestore figures were destroyed during the World War II scrap drives held between 1942 and 1945. The manufacturers also contributed their molds to the war effort.

While Barclay and Manoil continued to produce soldiers in the post-war era, they never regained their pre-war popularity. Inexpensive, imported plastic figures and escalating labor costs marked the end of the lead dimestore figures. Manoil ceased operations in 1959. Barclay converted to die cast in the 1950s. The fix was only temporary. Barclay ceased operations in 1971.

**American Metal Toys
Chicago, Illinois
Circa: 1937 to 1941
American Metal began producing it's hollowcast lead figures in 1937 and produced them until wartime restrictions on lead forced them to close their doors in 1941. The American Metal molds were then sold to Lincoln Logs, which curiously never used the molds. The most distinguishing characteristic of all American Metal figures is their clunkiness, which in my opinion, is their main attraction. A defining characteristic is the manner in which the eyes are painted with straight brows. Finally one of the most overlooked characteristics is the choked pourholes on the base, making them appear flat or smooth in some instances. American Metal Toys set it's figures apart by the high quality lacquer it used to paint it's figures with.

Doughboys painted to represent WWI Germans

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