January 05, 2017


Tom Stark checks in to start the New Year off with a little...
It is almost my 65th birthday and those that know of my fixation with toy soldiers always ask what I would like for a present. The answer is very simple. What I want, what I really want and want more than anything is a magic wand giving me the power to instantly and permanently convert the colors of my plastic guys. And don’t be a wise guy and send me paint. I said “Permanently”! That’s the key word. And “magical” for that matter so I can have any shade I want just by picturing it in my mind. Oh what a blessing that would be to have the colors of all the figures on a theme made by different companies over the years match.

Ex Force light blue and three versions of Marx
I think I would start with Airfix 7th cavalry. These are some amazingly good figures. The prone pose drawing his pistol having used the last cartridge for his carbine is particularly inventive. But in cream? What were they drinking? And as long as I’m starting with these, I may as well throw Marx’s last entry to the theme in. Cavalry in turquoise! There must have been some of whatever drink it was Airfix had left over, only fermented a bit.
So blue they shall become but what shade of blue. This magic is great but I still have to imagine the color I want. Should it be a dark blue? Probably not as this dark Prussian blue, while it comes the closest to the actual army issue coat color is too dark to show detail well. Just look at the Replicants’ cavalry or the BMC ACW infantry to see what I mean. Actually, thinking about ACW Union infantry, I may as well make the color decision once for both western plains cavalry and all other Union ACW figures. Boy oh boy, every maker there ever was or is has had their own take on what Union blue should be. With all the figures that have been made I could field a most impressive Union army if only they were all the same shade and looked like they belonged together. Marx’s light blue seems popular enough and you can see the detail well but it is a bit of a mamby-pamby color choice. Not warlike and manly at all. A good medium blue to split the difference I guess. Oddly, I don’t seem to have the same issue at all with Confederates. They have been made in just as many shades of grey as the Yanks have been made in blue but put them all together on a table, add in some butternut if you want, and they still all play together nicely. Is it just me?

Marx turquios (the color reproduction is not true0 Airfix cream and Gun HO medium blue
Modern production ACW 60 mm Conte, TSSD, Paragon and CTS
I don’t think so. One of the strengths of Marx playsets was their choice of generally appealing and historically informed colors and their consistent use through the years. Barszo understood the value of this and, for many reasons in addition to figure colors, he is the only real heir to the title of King of the Playsets. In fact, in my book, he is the one and only King. Louie would come in second but more on that in another BLOG.

Jecsan, Atlantic and Marx metallic blue 60 MM plains wars. 
I am not alone in my appreciation as “color-matched” is an often-used description of second hand figures for sale and their being matched commands a premium. Of course, I do have those turquois cavalry to convert and they are not the only Marx blunders. Why yellow for American Indians or sky blue for WWII Free French? Why lime green Vikings of all choices? Why metallic silver Arabs? Why metallic anything other than silver for knights? 

Timmee in Oilve, day-glo pink and Tan
I guess I can forgive the royal blue pioneers and bright orange Indians of some of the later western sets intended to attract youngsters but that won’t spare my converting them to the colors I want. After I take care of my Union and Plains forces I’ll start in on some other themes. Up next I’d put my Roman legions. What to choose. Marx used grey and tan and those were OK but there are Reamsa, Atlantic and HAT peach, metallic silver, reds,  gold,  greys, current (badly) production-painted messes and a variety of red, brown, green and silver reproductions of Elastolin hard plastic. In fact I may as well include all of the unpainted peach hard plastic Elastolin while I am feeling magical. It’s a bit of a toss-up with me between a medium grey and a muted red like that used on the Elastolin recasts. Most reds I do not like but there is something quite imperial about red if you can get the shade right. Fielding a monochromatic, 60mm  legion composed of figures by Reamsa, Jecsan, Atlantic, TSSD and otheres would be such a thrill. Sadly, even with my magic color wand there simply aren’t enough barbarians made in any color to give them proper opposition.

Romans by Reamsa, Italieri, CTS, Supreme
Romans by TSSD, NeTehnolog, Marx, Atlantic
I would go on and on. Let’s get a consistent red for AWI British and blue for American regulars. Let’s do the same for Napoleonic British and French. How about a consistent red brown for all American plains Indians and a medium tan for the eastern tribes? How about knights all in a medium metallic gun metal. Purple Timpo recast Arabs? Poof! Now they are tan and red-brown like they should be. Metallic silver Marx Arabs? Poof again. Even with magic I’m starting to get tired. Olive drab for all WWII GIs. Mustard olive for all Russians.  Field grey for Germans and a single tan for Japanese. At the end of the day I will have the largest color-matched armies of plastic figures the world has ever seen.

That was great but what can I ask for for my birthday next year that could possibly bring me as much fun? I know!  A magic wand for scale.

Russians at What scale? Charbens, Marx, TSSD

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