About Me

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I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Hong Kong Hollow Horses - Mexican Large - Lucky Clover - Fort Cheyenne with Red Indians

I think we can assume there was a similar one printed 'With Cowboys', but more on that below. This is another easy one, clear distinctions between the similar 'bits' of this set and other sets, some of which we will look at here, others - in future comparison posts.

We've looked at the ancient and Royal Guards sets over on the main 'Home' Blog, and this has no real surprises, however while they had the same title (Tower Fortress with Soldiers) or shared the same packaging, this has a set-specific title block.

Four mounted figures replace the guns or chariots of the other sets and again we can assume that would be true for a cowboy version. A number of relatively unique (by size) foot figures accompany a pretty standard Hong Kong Wild West fort, although it has higher walls than the more common versions from Giant, Woolbro, Gordy, et al., and shallower step/walkway . . . too shallow to stand the figures on!

Logo, code number and a locating arrow, the purpose of which will be to ensure the packers get the tray-insert and the lid to line up, with the fort's own title-block reading in the English fashion (right-way-up, left-to-right) for neat, uniform, shop-displays.

The Stock-code number is the same for all sets, and as I've seen some of the sets as a probably later 1970's blister-carded assembly coded 6647H, it is fair to assume this too probably appeared in that guise, however, both from the numerically earlier stock number and the graphics, we can place this in the 1960's and indeed James Opie dates them to 1969.

The Indians; I have no way of knowing if these are all the poses, and the evidence would suggest probably not! There's a seventh damaged foot figure still to find, complete, for a start!

The figures are based on various sources, notably Timpo '1st version' Swoppets providing the mounted poses (spellchecker wants me to replace 'poses' with posse!), with a couple of Britains Swoppets and the Crescent 60mm sets providing the foot poses. They are also quite large, 26-28mm for the foot, so hard to mistake for other HK figure sets using any of these poses.

The foot figures have 'peanut' shaped cloud bases which are quite thick with an ogee edge and the locating studs on the mounted figures are surprisingly small, almost pointed pimples and all the Indian figures only appear in shades of purplish or oxide browns and red-browns, the darker figures are a bit translucent, and may well be from the later carded sets (if they existed), but the paler solid-colour ones are definitely from these window-box sets.

The horse is the one I call Mexican Large, and is about the best examples of the type you'll find after the Giant issued ones, unmarked and with a slightly textured surface to the interior to the body cavity and very thick body-walls.

Base mark is a blocked HONGKONG in a DIN type font and the fort will be looked at against the others in a comparison post at a later date.

Because I have only the three sets (Guards, Trojans and Indians) we will look at the cowboys as well here, in the hope that a cowboy set will turn-up one day . . . it will! I know the cowboys belong here as they have the following in common with the Indians . . .

• Size
• Base mark (foot figures)
• Peanut bases (foot figures)
• Ridden horse
• Locating stud (mounted figures)

. . . and because they came together in 'clean' loose-figure samples. Indeed; they were among the first sets to be sorted out of the main lump, such is the clarity of their signature features.

There are a couple of differences, namely that prior to obtaining this set, they had only turned up with a darker fort (although there were a few creamy-tan spare bits in the unknown box from mixed samples) and they don't take any poses from Timpo or Crescent.

It is my belief therefore; that the dark-brown (Indian figure colour) forts probably accompanied the so far missing cowboy sets, while the Indians got a fort which contrasted with their own plastic colour. Although the previous clean-sample loose sets I had taken-in often contained similar quantities of cowboys and natives, so there may have been 'belligerent' sets with both sets of figures and an oxide-brown fort.

The Cowboys; again I have no way of knowing if this is all the poses, but at eight foot and seven mounted two things are likely: A) there are probably less cowboys (if any) to find than the Indians, and B) there probably ARE one or two more Indian poses to find!

Always in the same four primary colours, but various shades and hues, the poses this time are from Britains Swoppets only, but from both the 1st and 2nd series. If anything their bases are even thicker than the Indians and with a sharper radius on the edge.


But is it Giant?

No. 1969 puts it a year or two beyond the best of Giant, although some of their original stuff lasted on as sell-through (barbed wire, wagons) or comic book game-playing pieces, they were gone before this lot hit the toy, model and sports and bicycle-shops of the West!

Wild West Figures - Wing Lung - Airfix Copies

It is unfortunate (for this Blog) that some of the stuff which would be [is!] due to appear here ended-up in storage, among which were all the Guards and their forts/sets (most already on the home Blog though), all the Giant and Giant-like ancient and medieval forts (some on the Home Blog) and loose (apart from the few on the Roman Page some of the chariots and the Viking ships) and all the loose Matchbox and Airifx piracies; I do have the mint bagged stuff here, so we can visit some of that in good time.

The Blue Box is the opposite, with the loose stuff here and all the sets, cards and boxes in storage! Also I do have all the Britains/Crescent combat figures (loose and carded/bagged) here so we will finish what we started over on the Home Blog, along with 90% of the hollow-horsed Cowboys & Indians, so - with the Airfix exceptions - they will star to start with.

So this is just a brief shot from a scan of old photo's never used in the 1-Inch Warrior magazine days, showing four of the Wing Lung copies of Airfix 1:32nd scale (54mm) figures downscaled to 30mm (and now in storage), so you can compare them with the Modern I and Modern II sets I have posted (two posts immediately below/'previous posts'). There are Cowboys as well, equally distinctive and obviously we will look at them all here in time.

Both Indians and cowboys only come as foot figures, no horses or accessories, and they are marked boldly on the base "HONG KONG" either in-line or up-and-under. This base-mark is the same for all three scales Wing Lung issued. Both this and the next image are a bit crude, but they give the post a bit of substance!

Wing Lung sold them in header-carded bags on the runner ('sprue') which was of the tree design and you may be more familiar with their larger 45/50mm copies of Matchbox British and US troops, or in about 18mm: Airfix German Infantry, German Para's and Matchbox US. The logo's are cropped-out of much larger evilBay images, so they've been a bit pixilated!


But is it Giant?


Hong Kong Hollow Horses - Modern (Type II) - Padgett Brothers (A-Z) - Indian and Cowboy Playset

These represent perfectley and in every way, everything about current 'rack-toy' production: they are bloody awful!

The mounted figures don't fit their horses, everything is in a too large size to match any previous sets, there are not enough horses, the moulding is poor and the sculpting (despite the size) is worse, real 'Chinasaur' crap!

I bought this 'Toob' or bucket in 2010 from a rural 'gift warehouse' in the middle of nowhere somewhere between Oxford and Wantage, one of those building/gardening/farm-shop/timber-merchant/upcycling/paint-stipping/scrap-metal type co-ops you find in the sticks! I say this as I suspect - despite the date of purchase, that it may date from earlier, Certainly mid-2000's, but late 1990's even?

Padgett Brothers (A-Z) are an old importer, like Herbert Kees or Holland's now defunct Hagemayer, they have been around for the longest time, importing all sorts of goods from all over the world, and toys make up a very small percentage of their inventory. They were responsible for some of those 'Dummy Men' (as my Brother and I christened them) 12" dolls with blow-moulded limbs we were given by relatives who mistook them for Action Man back in the day!

One of everything in the tub except the wagon body which I left out of the shot by accident - in my attempts to arrange them all in a photographable rectangle! I expect there is a sixth Indian, they seem to have copied the same Airfix figures as the smaller set from  'W' in the 1980's, we've looked at (post below/'previous'), adding Airfix mounted figures from the same sets. Figure moulding is poor with most weapon extremities missing. The figures have a clear CHINA on the base

The poplar trees is an ex-Rado Industries (Ri-Toys) sculpt, the ex-Britains stand of palms being copied by lots of makers, but both here re-done in a heavier style and with the rest of the contents in a stiff ethylene plastic.

The horse, he seems to have elements of the old 'Jogging' and 'Flicktail', but is a wholly new sculpt, and so much bigger that all the others he shouldn't prove a problem to ID, so I've called him 'Modern II' just to give him a place in the tag-list. As a sculpt it's not that bad, and is about the only small-scale Hong Kong horse with proper sticky-up ears.

The interface between horse and rider leaves a lot to be desired, with one of the cowboys settling back into his saddle without actually connecting with his saddle! All of them stand proud of the horse due to the miss-registering the of locating holes in the horses with the studs on the riders, even though the riders studs are quite small, the plastic is too rigid to force the rider down further.

The wagon is a bit of a curates-egg, on the one hand it could prove very useful for 28mm war-gamers and role-play enthusiasts, but you'd need to source a better team, and a much better pole/draw-bar arrangement that the one supplied. The other problem with it is that you only get four horses in a tub, with two wagons. You also have four riders...the maths is there! Very silly.

The entire contents of a tub, glossy, large, poorly executed, but for younger kids: colourful and with some play value.


But is it Giant?

I don't have to answer that, on this one, do I?

Hong Kong Hollow Horses - Modern (Type I) - W - Western Warrior

I do know (or have known in the past to be more accurate as I clearly don't know now!) what the W stood for, it's not Wing Lung (who are responsible for larger - 30mm - Airfix piracies), I don't think it's Welly (but I'll check!), it's not the Woolworth's mega-brand 'Big-W', nor is it Wentoys (although from that same late 1980's-early 1990's era of rack-toys), if anyone does know, let the rest of us off the hook, otherwise you'll have to wait until I remember/find the reference, and update the post...which will be...er...when I update it!

I'm pretty sure also that these late production figures have enjoyed more than one issuing 'Brand', so if you have them in another packaging, consider a guest-post to elucidate the rest of us! A couple of shots of the header card, and any variations in [wagon or tee-pee] colour are all that's needed.

Arlin Tawser (who believes the logo might be a double 'WW') reports on Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) that these were also sold as a set called "Cowboys, Indians, Horses and Wagons” in the 1990's, and further reports that his version of the set shown here has the foot figures marked 'CHINA', mine however have the normal smooth/unmarked bases.

Quite familiar to collectors, both because they are the more recent, and because they have a useful set of Airfix piracies as foot figures, instead of the tired-old ex-Giant/Britains Swoppet mouldings or Crescent 54mm's that everyone had been using for the previous 30-years.

You also get a wagon which is easy to sort from similar examples, a cloned (and miniaturised) Britains Herald Totem-pole and the same donor's tee-pee/tipi, so - lots of play value.

The horse hasn't got a specific title in my 'system' being a Smoothie who's also a Remould, and made (like the rest of the contents) from a tinny, rigid ethylene, that's quite distinctive enough to sort-out of mixed lots, the whole set oozes 'new production' when compared with the bulk of HK hollow-horsed Cowboys & Indians from the 1960/70's.

Basically I call him 'Modern' as I do several other, dissimilar, mounts also known as moderns, so for tagging: I've called him 'Modern I'. Crudely marked with a quite large 'HONG KONG' in the top of the body cavity reading head-to-tail in squared letters, it's also got quite think sides. Note also the reinforcing on the inside-legs of the black one, about 10% of all the horses have this, presumably one of the cavities was so treated, probably to prevent curving of the legs after release from the mould-tool?

The all important shot in this post . . . at last! Someone designed some new figures! OK, they took them from Airfix's 54mm/1:32nd scale cowboy and Indian sets, but as Airfix hadn't seen fit to update their own small scale atrocities with better figures, even with their own large-scale, pantographed down, we were just happy someone had!

Six-each of both foot cowboy and foot Indian poses were nicked, and they were issued in four basic primary colours, although (as always with these cheap figures) much variation in shade or hue between batches.

The mounted figures can be mistaken for other set's figures, a couple of them (Indian archer and full war-bonnet) are old, tired, rehashed poses, and the colour variation is wider than for the foot figures - they may well have been bought-in from a third party - but there are a few signature features that make them reasonably easy to sort-out of larger mixed lots.

The Mohican haircut of the brave with flapping jerkin sets him apart from similar versions from other sources, while two of the cowboys are all new; Britains Herald lassoer and Swoppet twin-six-gunner (I think the other guy may be the Crescent firing-back pose?). Then there's the aforementioned dense, tinny plastic for one, large, reasonably long and directly-opposite locating-studs for another, the flash on some of the figures &etc. Once you have ID'd a few you will get a feel for them and it's easy to find the rest in a big lot!

The wagon is very easy to separate from other HK wagons by dint of having a standard towing eye at one end, and - for no explicable reason I can come-up with - a crude copy of the Giant chariot drawbar-front, combined with another towing eye at the other end! As that original Giant feature was itself a ruination of the - even more original - Marx chariot's ornate tooling, it is a complete mystery why someone in the 1980's decided to sculpt it onto the other end of an otherwise OK covered-wagon!

The wagon is also much shallower than most HK Wild West wagons, having only one plank, more of a tray than a box-body! In other respects it is the same basic ex-Giant design, based on the old Tudor Rose vehicle, with the tilt-tabs punching through four locating slots in the corners of the bed.

The other accessories so far associated with these figures/this set are the very crude copies of the Britains tee-pee and Totem-pole. The pole is - I think - unique to this set (in the small scale that is, I think it was also issued with 45'ish-mm figure sets?), while the rigid plastic separates this version of the tee-pee from earlier softer ethylene ones issued by Einco and others.


But is it Giant?

No! Don't be silly! This is a tail-ender of its type from the ay'tees! All 'big hair' and shoulder-pads, T'pau, Frankie Goes to 'ollywood, Top Gun and Max Max III with that Tina Turner; "Why, you're just a little raggedy set of Cowboys and Indians"!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Hong Kong Hollow Horses - Big Ears (Type 1 and 2?)

The first post on the new Blog and the first 'Hong Kong Hollow-horse' post has been chosen as both an example of what is to come - vis-à-vis the exploration of a specific 'type' of figure/set/accessory - and as also an example of how with these small scale HK subjects it is often the exceptions that prove the rule, in that this is a 'set' with no carded or bagged examples to confirm it, yet is easy to sort from the mass of similar products . . . despite a number of remaining queries or question-marks.

My sample, after 30/40 years of serious collecting is still very small, and with the sub-division into two 'types', each example is that much smaller! The fact that the sample is so small points to these being from gum balls or Christmas cracker inserts or similar sources of cheap 'novelty' items.

Because my study of these Hong Kong smallies is empirical (as the bulk of the posts on this blog will be), the lack of evidence for these 'going together' would normally be a real problem, leaving them labeled - by me - as "provisional" or "80% sure", however, they are the exception that proves the rule; in being so different to all other hollow-horsed Cowboys & Indians, we can say with some confidence that they do go together.

You will come to know (if you visit the Blog regularly!) that my naming of these horses is a simplistic affair, basically consisting of my identifying a physical trait of the horse, its pose or its sculpting and using that as a title! This horse (these horses . . . read on!) is called 'Big Ears', as it has really big ears!

The horse is probably quite late on the HK timeline, dating from the early 1970's, or very late '60's at the earliest and while being copied from earlier examples (probably Giant 'Smoothies') has had large lugs added by the sculptor or mould-tool engraver. The above are my entire 'Type 1' sample.

My 'Type 2' horses shot gives the game away: unlike all the other horses in this section of the HK small-scale universe, the figures plug into the top of the horse through the saddle, not through the sides.

Although there ARE holes in the sides as well, and they actually provoke the difference between type 1 and type 2; so it's all a bit fuzzy - but that's HK manufacture for you! However the hole in the saddle and the protrusions on the figures tie them together in a way the other Hong Kong hollow hoses often can't be.
The figures with their clearly, err, ahem . . . 'suggestive' locating-studs . . . "Studs" being a particularly apt moniker in this case! I am sure these are all one horse type, but using the self-imposed rules on empirical evidence, I have to keep them separated as the figures that have come with the type 1's are different poses from the figures that have come with the type 2's, and until a/some cross-over figure/horse combination/s comes-in (as a 'clean' sample), they will remain nominally or provisionally two types.

But it's clear from the above that poses are [likely to prove to be] the six ex-Giant mounted poses (Spell-check offered me 'mounted posse'!), with one missing; the single six-shooter cowboy pose. I think I have a few of these elsewhere in the unknown box, the answer may lie there, but they are in storage!

It's equally clear that the figures are almost certainly from one set (or 'type'), with most having the twin 'jiggets' or barbs down the shaft and rough sculpting of the locating-stud, with smoothed-off/blobby face and body detailing along with a similar colour pallet - the metallic-blue is relatively unique for these Wild West mounted types, while unrealistically coloured horses are not that common either, for both types to have the same yellow horse is another clue.

Two of my three type 1's, you can see the large ears on the heads, however, following my naming system this horse could have just as easily ended-up being called 'Pinched Nose' as a feature of both types (which is another clue to them being really one type) is a heat-shrink type blemish which 'squeezes' the nose.

The ears on the pink one are bigger than the ears on the yellow one; different mould cavities, but they are all bigger or more obvious than the ears on all other HK horses of this pose, and laid-back more horizontal than other obvious ears - on the 'Jogging' and 'Mexican' horses and some 'Smoothies' they can be as large but more vertical to the forehead.

This also introduces one of the constants of these posts - the 'both sides of the horse' photograph, which will always be cropped to a constant 930x355 (pixels?) in Microsoft's Picasa, which will distort size-comparison (where there is a marked difference) slightly, but will show detail well as enlarged images and allow them (the images) to be stacked, blocked or collaged in any comparative file or folder Blog-followers/visitors care to store them in.

The type 2's, again one of each ear size, and the reason for the two types: These have had the redundant holes in the flanks moved back and the original hole filled in. Now the first question is why? Why - in the first place - have redundant holes at all and why then move them?

Well, go back two pictures and take another look at the figures . . . you will see there are vestigial locating-stud marks down by the ankles (lower than the shin-level studs of a lot - but not all - of these figures; as we will see in the future), however you will also notice from the two paired figure poses that the removal point is identical on each figure, they were either removed by a guillotine while still on the runner (in a jig or frame of some kind) or removed from the mould-tool; it would require a microscope to decide which is the right call but my feeling is changes to the tool rather than cutting.

The fact that some holes are so far back that the figures would be tipped-forwards at an alarmingly unrealistic angle, were they to be fitted into the holes by the missing locating-studs when added to the fact that the new crotch-based locating-studs are very crude (in finish as well as posture!) points to the answer . . .

. . . clearly something went very wrong at the final design/mould-tooling stage, and a quick solution to a complete redesign was to drill a new hole in the saddle of the horse (which could be done by the engineers who drill the release-pins in the final stages of preparing the mould tools, only using a fixed-pin) and the addition of the new locating studs on the figures - which could probably be done by the same guys, who may have been responsible for the miss-drilled flank-holes anyway?

The other constant of these Hong Kong Hollow-horse posts will be the 'Pelt' graphic. This should be familiar to readers of One Inch Warrior magazine, but has been refined over the years, although it's still not quite as right as I'd like it to be!

It represents a horse from the underside/inside but cut and flattened, with the head to the left and the tail to the right, and older versions will sometimes be scanned-in - this one was a blank scan, detailed in Picasa with keyboard strokes. A blank will be posted on a separate 'Pelt' page above for those who wish to use it to help sort their HK hollow-horsed stuff.

As a lot of the indentifying features of all these horses are the mould-tool marks or actual Hong Kong, Singapore, HK (&etc...) marks only visible on the insides of the legs, or within the hollow body, these graphics will help identify the horses in your 'unknown' pile and the annotation will always be what you would see (through an eye-glass in my case!) as you look at the original . . . if sometimes simplified.


But is it Giant?

No. Not even slightly, almost certainly from the novelty-end of the toy market, it's likely to prove to be from either (or both) gum ball machines and/or Christmas crackers, as yet I haven't seen it on a vintage vending-machine window card, but it may turn-up on one eventually!

As Christmas cracker prizes it would have been in a heat-welded or folded/stapled polythene bag of 3-5 or 6 figures, sometimes pre-attached to their horses and - in such a format - is equally likely to have been marketed to lesser/independent cereal brands (for which - with this set - there is no evidence at present), sweet or 'lucky' bags and as crane-machine prizes in sea-side amusement arcades.

The same small bag might be found in larger (higher priced) gum balls, but as single assemblies (one figure/horse combination) would have been found in the smaller gum balls in the bottom price range, which by the early 1970's was 5¢ or 2p, but earlier had been 1 or 2¢ (½ or 1d), Giant type 'H.K.'-marked astronauts were sold singly in 1¢ machines.

Of course - the contents of a 1968 1¢ machine became those of a 5¢ machine in the 1970's, a 10¢ machine in the late 1980's and are now to be found in 25-cent machines!

As I've hinted at above, I'm pretty confident these two types will prove to be simply 'Big Ears' one day.