April 25, 2017

FARLEY'S FIGURE OF THE WEEK #151: Green Army Men Part 2 - Defending Truth, Justice, And The Plastic Way Of Life

The first American plastic toy soldiers were made by Bergen Toy & Novelty Co. (Beton for short) in 1938. The Beton figures were painted like metal figures and sold the same as their metal brethren; individually or in a boxed set of around seven figures. Following World War II, Beton modified their figures in an attempt to change the World War I type helmet into the World War II one. Other early plastic companies issuing green army men were Auburn  and Ajax.

Following World War II, plastic manufacturing was seen as an industry with growth potential with many old and new companies making plastic figures that were widely available in the United States. Army men following the war were sold unpainted, usually in a green color corresponding to United States Army uniforms in World War II. Plastic figures were sold en masse in clear plastic bags with an illustrated header card in different sizes and prices.

Beginning in the early 1950s, Louis Marx and Company sold boxed sets of figures and accessories called playsets, such as "US Army Training Center" and the later  the "Battleground" sets.

The economy of plastic sold in bulk, popularity of army men, and competition with manufacturers led to army men being sold in large bags by Marx, Tim Mee, Ideal, Lido and MPC for as little as a penny a piece in the mid-1960s. During this time, Marx gave the American army men actual enemy soldiers to fight such as German soldiers (molded in grey) in their 1962 "Army Combat" set and Japanese enemies (molded in yellow) in their "Iwo Jima" set that was released in 1963. In 1965, a "D-Day" Marx set featured Allies such as French (horizon blue), British (khaki), and Russians. One of their last and largest playsets was the multi-level "Fortress Navarone" mountain set based on The Guns of Navarone, which was available in the 1970s and pitted World War II Americans against Germans.

American Manufactures of "Little Green Men"
Ajax World War II Soldiers
Auburn Soldiers
Beton World War II Soldiers
Cossman & Co. “Comic Book” Soldiers
Ideal Infantry
Lido U.S. Infantry
Marx 60mm Infantry
Marx 54mm U.S. GIs
Marx 54mm U. S. Marines
Marx 45mm Army Training Center Soldiers
Marx 45mm Army Flats
MPC 54mm and 45mm Soldiers
MPC Ring Hand Soldiers
Premier Soldiers
Plasticraft Soldiers
Tim Mee World War II style Infantry
Tim Mee "M-16" "Vietnam-era" Infantry

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