About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

1947 - 1955 (approximately); The Bergen/Beton Mounted Figures


All or none of the figures in this post could (or could not) be by Airfix, or any of the other manufacturers mentioned in the text. Most of the horses probably are Airfix, those over-which a question mark remains are pointed out in the text.

First advertised in 1947 these are probably the first 'plastic' Toy Figures produced commercially in the UK as playthings...

Group Shot

These figures (where they ARE Airfix) were probably pirated from the Bergen Toy (Beton) company rather than licensed, after Nikolai Kovespachi (Nicholas Kove) came back from his reconnaissance to America sometime in the mid-to-late 1940's. The horse is deliberately different with it's tail slightly to one side and there are subtle differences in those figures which are duplicated, while the Life Guard seems to have been an Airfix original?

Doughboy in 'Brodie' helmet

This figure may be (and the horse definitely is...) a Beton product, but he comes within the scope of this article/post and ended up first in line because I wasn't too bothered about the order in which I uploaded the photographs! The horse is a dense cellulose-acetate polymer called Tenite, and while the figure is similar, he seems more clearly a polystyrene, so late US or European production?.

Staff Officer

Beton called this chap either M416; U.S. Cavalry Officer, or with a paint change; M418 Traffic Officer. Airfix called this the Horse Guard. Beton Horse on the left with a polyethylene Airfix horse on the right, The Airfix horse is marked 'MADE IN ENGLAND' withing the hollow underside/belly.

The red figure has probably only had his paint removed, you can see the figure on the left is suffering a crystalline reaction between the paint and the plastic, sometimes this reaction results in a sticky mess which is better removed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 'Mountie'

The Mountie, again not sure if Airfix produced this one, Reisler did, and as they produced the Life Guard, it's possible they got their figures (or a license?) from Airfix which would suggest Airfix produced a Mountie as well. Airfix horse again on the right.

The Mountie was also produced by Tudor*Rose, but as part of their wild West range and will be covered when I look at them.

Later - Yes they did, these are both Airfix, a later polystyrene one on the left and an earlier cellular acetate one on the right, see below..

Lifeguard in ceremonial uniform

The Life Guard, clearly aiming at the Tourist market, all these figures - when originating with Airfix - were supposed to stand up when removed from the horse, they rarely do! These are probably both Airfix with the horse in polyethylene and the rider in a styrene polymer.

Hunting party with both poses

The Hunters, Beton produced a female rider and a Jockey in racing silk, both in a larger size, neither of which - as far as I know - were part of the Airfix issues and don't seem to have featured in the Reisler inventory either.


By Airfix - the hunters were sold in a boxed set with the two dogs above, these dogs were also sold in a kennel shaped box with other breeds. Early ones are cellulose-acetate, these are the later polyethylene run.

The dogs are marked internally in the same manor as the Airfix horses. The lower two are also ethylene, but in black. It would seem they come in the same colours as the ethylene horses, with some in the reddish/oxide browns.

Somehow I forgot the Alsation? Well here it is and there's now a setter on the STS forum thread, along with a red-brown Beagle.

Now a setter (English? Not Irish...not shaggy enough!) joins the collection with a lurcher/greyhound racing type.

Academy Cadet/Circus Performer/Ceremonial figure

This horse is from a different source altogether (the Woolworths Crazy Clown Circus) but might be an Airfix original and this figure looks good rearing up on it! These are technically only 'Cadets' but they do look like simplified ceremonials or those generic Napoleonics that feature so much in early toy production, while he also works well as a circus performer!

The following will help identify these figures in greater detail;

Kent Sprecher's Beton page.
The Reamsa figure on JC's blog.
Reisler page click-on; SGI / Riesler then either 'I Soldater og Politi' or; 'III Sportsryttere' below the thumbnails.

Further reading

Plastic Warrior magazine have produced a guide: Airfix - The Early Years, which covers all this early production in some depth.

Any of Richard O'Brien's volumes on firstly 'Collecting Toy Soldiers' and latterly 'Collecting American Made Toy Soldiers will fill you in on the Bergen/Beton production.

Indeed, one of the main questions remaining comes from his work if an American reader can help...did Beton use both sets of codes or is one O'Brien's own system?

Added 20th November 2012

And then this turns up! Raising that whorey old question of who copied who? An original Timpo boxed-set, the horse is quite a lump of lead, and seems to be early enough to be pre-war, except that Timpo aren't supposed to have made lead until after the war...was it intended for the composition range?

And/So; did Timpo copy Bergan-Beton, or did the Americans have a stab at a British piece of hollow-cast but in plastic (albeit: cellulose-acetate)

Clues point both ways - The edges of the horse are a bit rough, so it could have been the copy, taken badly and not cleaned up, while the solid belly and hollow-cast nature of the piece would make copying almost has hard - thechnically - as making a new horse pose from scratch, suggesting it IS a new pose and not the copy.

While the figure stares at us inanely, giving no clue as to his parentage, being easier to copy either way, and being as clean a moulding here as he is in plastic?

Also, there were other poses than the Mountie produced by Reamsa, and other stuff has come to light on this much copied/licenced set, so I will update this post properly one day!


November 2014

It seems that the Cowboy was an Airfix pose, so I will have to update the table above, and it means we'll probably end-up with the Tudor*Rose and other figures here as well...

So, a quick correction of the blurb for the Mountie post above and we can look at this little group, late - polystyrene - production with a quick splash of blue on the chaps/boots and brown hats. No Indian? But a cowboy, cowgirl and the Mountie (Royal Canadian mounted Policeman - RCMP). These is also a Hong Kong copy of the cowboy for comparison.

These are the standard Tudor*Rose horse, not always marked, but their saddles give them away with the arrangement of stars round the edge. All the producers of this horse varied the saddles, and when I get the rest out of storage we'll look at them all in more detail, but for now these are Tudor*Rose and have two open stars forward of the girth (?) strap and five squashed stars behind.

The Tudor*Rose mounted cowboys, next to an Airfix 'original'. At some point these was a re-design on the figure with a more complicated lasso/lariat (can any American reader explain any difference between the two, or is it just preference/local dialect?), possibly designed to damage less easily than the earlier one which was happy to brake if you as much as looked at it wrong and is often missing, especially from the earlier hard plastic figures - from all the makers of the pose.

Below them is a close-up of the full Tudor*Rose marking in the under-belly of the horses, you can see why I always write the asterisk in Tudor*Rose, they always put the little graphic Tudor rose symbol between the Tudor and the Rose!

Mounted on the Tudor*Rose horses they make a nice group, but is there an Indian or two? We will look at other peoples Indians in due course.


Timspfd said...

Interesting, especially the lead possible antecedent. The Beton horse was copied by other US companies. I did a page comparing them at the ToyAnimal Wiki wiki link

Hugh Walter said...

Thanks Tim, yeah I know about the four main US ones, but it's more complicated than that, there's Airfix, Kleeware, Tudor*Rose, Reamsa, Reisler and a French company, soft plastic versions of the cellulose ones and more saddle variations than you can shake a big stick at...then there's Hong Kong!!!