ImagiNations OBEs and vintage Airfix scrapings from someone else’s toy box?

Window shopping through the toy soldiers section of Etsy as you do, I spotted a couple of items that reminded me of an unusual hoard find that I hadn’t shared on this or my blogs so far.

Firstly some funky Fifties or Sixties toy soldier fabric on Etsy

then a more recent late 90s Wade’s whimsy of a toy soldier ceramic figure in yellow and blue. A touch of 60s Sergeant Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band?

I’m not buying, I hope they find the right homes. A mere photo reminder is enough for me.

However these two odd Etsy items reminded me of a colourful “dragon’s hoard” of vintage plastic in a ziplock bag turned up for a couple of pounds about five to ten years ago in a local collectibles shop at the seaside.

It is the sort of shop that had (or has) odd opening hours, most often shut when I visited,  one that has been an erratic supply of lead and plastic figures for over twenty years. I hope each time I go that it is still there and that it is sometimes open. I hope it has survived Lockdown.

I have been taking stock of my old childhood Airfix figures recently and the odd small hoard or haul of others’ old Airfix that has come my way from time to time.

This mixed bag for a few pounds had a range of vintage Airfix that sold it to me straight away, maybe not for immediate use, but worth buying because  you never know with erratic Airfix (ancient or modern) when you will see the like again.

Airfix Washington’s Army

Some of my surviving childhood painted Airfix Washington’s Army S39

and the Airfix AWI British Infantry both issued in 1971 in time for the bicentenary. They were scarce enough figures during my 70s childhood and remain unissued for years from the 1980s onwards. Oddly they never had an Airfix Playset of their own but Bellona produced a preformed Bunker Hill vacformed base if you could find one.

Some of my own childhood painted surviving Airfix AWI British Grenadiers S40

Coupled with some on these tricorne figures on the sprue in a recent gift from a railway modeller work colleague of a 60s / 70s tin of unwanted Airfix, I should have enough for some future Lace Punk / Lace Wars / Gulliver’s Travels style ImagiNation skirmishes.

Unpacking these random figures, they were mostly roughly painted and simply card based in units but unflocked.

Clearly they were a cast off part of a gamer’s collection, as they had handwritten Regiment labels on them. Whether they represent real regiments or ImagiNations ones, I find it hard to tell.

January 2021: I have now flocked and individually card based each soldier in each unit but not yet properly repainted them.

I wanted to photograph them as they were, when first seen as a ragtag of units.

I intend keeping the unit colours, just reprinting missing paint and adding flesh tones to faces and hands.

1. Shocking Pink Coated Tricorne Troops

The versatile tricorne Airfix figures, cut for multiple basing by a previous owner / gamer.


A shocking pink firing line

I quite like the random brightness of unusual colour, perfect for ImagiNations. I’m not sure if they are intended to be real uniforms. Tricorne and Napoleonics are not really my area.

They obviously meant something to somebody once.

Figures painted by someone else are what Bob Cordery of Wargaming Miscellany blog calls OBEs – politely this means Other Beggars’ Efforts.

As mentioned I intend to keep the colourful unit paint schemes, just tidy the paint work up and finish individual rebasing as you see I have done here.

2. Purple Coated Tricorne Troops

A more regal, sacred or royalist purple …

These purple clad troops were a random mix of Airfix and other makers. I identified these on the ever useful Plastic Soldier Review website as Accurate / Imex / Revell American War of Independence British Redcoats


More of those group 1 Pink clad tricornes … can you ever have enough?

3. Yellow clad tricornes troops,

again the Airfix Washington’s Army figures


Led by an Airfix Officer, these yellow tricorne troops must also be the Imex / Accurate Revell American War of Independence British tricorne troops.


4. Green clad Bicorne Troops

Green coated Esci Set 226 Prussian and Austrian infantry with Bicorne – Napoleonic wars


5. Blue clad Tricorne Troops – Fusilier Grenadiers

Airfix Washington’s Army figures

6. More light blue Grenadiers
Airfix French Napoleonic Imperial Guard in light blue, painted and marked up by the previous commander (gamer / owner) as 2nd Bat(talion?) Gren(adiers?)
Close Up of the cross on the busby like head gear

7. Grey Clad Tricorne Troops – see also 9?


8. Fancy Pants King’s Guard


Airfix AWI British Grenadiers / Infantry – An Airfix ACW officer gets new colours and a fine tall new hat!

9. Light grey Bicorne Troops – should maybe join Group 7?


ImagiNation guns and horses

Some unusual figures such as Italeri French Line Guard Artillery

mixed in with some attractive flags and spirited conversions of Airfix cavalry

and that American Civil War officer with new Grenadier hat to match the Airfix British Grenadiers.


More random Airfix and Esci Cavalry


Random Esci style Artillery from the Tricorne Bicorne Busby and Shako periods –

Red Coated Italeri / Revell / Zvesda French Horse Line Guard Artillery


Hat Napoleonic Bavarian Artillery


and a few smuggler like figures of Tricorne artillery –

Seven Years War Revell Set 02579 Austrian Artillery

I have some spare Prince August home cast guns somewhere that would suit these well enough.

All these OBE figures – Perfect for ImagiNations!

No 1. A sample of Pink coated Tricorne Troops – Flocked and based on square individual mounting card bases in January 2021

Photographs of original figures set against Heroscape ruins and hexes

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 19th May 2021 / photographed August 2019 before Flocking and Basing January 2021

Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

20 thoughts on “ImagiNations OBEs and vintage Airfix scrapings from someone else’s toy box?”

  1. I really enjoyed seeing these wonderfully garish fellows this morning reminding me of some exotic flower bed. They were an excellent purchase and I am glad you are restoring them and taking the work forward of their former owner. The figures have an exuberance about them , as if they have come from a wonderfully vibrant 18th Century as depicted in that Etsy fabric. I particularly like the Acw Officer conversion. I do hope the Old Curiosity Shop will continue to give up its treasures to you.
    I do look forward to seeing these trippy troops in action.


    1. An exotic flower garden or botanical hothouse of colours indeed. Maybe some are from the Duchy of Hotthausen? Others from the Principality / Duchy / Electorate / Whatever of Flauergarten?
      We have a fantastic Britains style miniature garden set at home from the 2000s / noughties that has this range of strong Day goo contrast colours called Olive’s Garden by Portobello Games – sadly no longer produced – but we have kept this on for weird alien flowers for space games, rainy days etc. It complemented the more 18th Century Playmobil sized figures well. It will dwarf the OOHO Airfix – I shall have to feature it on the blog one day.

      Luckily I have some gloss strong revel Aquacolor acrylic ready for such figures …


  2. Yes are they not fantastic?
    Some sort of imagination I would guess, the fact the bases are trimmed would indicate a deal of thought had gone into the whole project.
    Trimmed to suit a particular set of rules?

    The colours to me seem to capture the feel of the period, and to me that is important.
    All in all a good find.


    1. They are fantastic indeed … and definitely worth not overpainting but enhancing.

      The curious radically trimmed diagonal basing allowed them to be packed in tight on their original card bases, as you say presumably for some type of rule set or system.

      Peter Laing ECW figures aside in the 80s, my soldiers have mostly always fought on individual bases, square or penny / MDF penny bases. Each one is an individual even if they are cannon fodder . I could always make or buy movement trays if they ever became more regimented (unlikely).

      Maybe one day some one will recognise these lost or abandoned things (Bagpuss style) and leave a comment?
      They are not necessarily originally local to the shop or me as the shop owner used to bid and buy stock in person and online from all over the place and this was obviously one of the random unwanted couple of quid bags with some other oddnesses mixed in.


  3. Mark – would you like some more of those Airfix AWI? I have an (unpainted) box of each of British Grenadiers and Washington’s army that I will never use if they would be of use to you?


    1. Yes please – thank you! Although I am being quite selective with what I take on at the moment (storage etc), these would both be very welcome to add a few more figures to a unit.
      Which Rainbow Imagi-Nations colour jackets do you think they should be?
      Any preferences?
      I’m sure they will enjoy the late outing and lease of life. (They might have signed up to be painted as a Redcoat but not expected this coat of many colours?!??!!)

      I believe you already have my address but I will direct mail it to you separately.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How about taking inspiration from some of the more colourful real uniforms of the period, either Russian green and red or Swedish mid-blue and yellow?


  4. Good suggestions / points – curiously I am already flicking through Funcken 18th Century to Present Day, trusty old Preben Kannik’s Military Unicorns of the World in Colour (Blandford) and several other such 18th century tomes (I don’t have Funcken Lace Wars but there is a lot of it about on Pinterest) to see the real but fantastic thing. A change from all that grey grunge khaki drab …

    Very Gulliver, very Munchausen, why be dull?

    I managed to read the original Gullivers Travels during Lockdown 1 (some kind of wish fulfilment there) and lots of great satirical ideas. One of the first ImagiNations books? Go to war on an egg or about an egg. The Big-enders and Little-enders and all that …


  5. Mark, This brings back so many memories from the early 1970s. I still remember a junior school chum bringing his toy soldiers round, he had both sets of AWI Airfix, and French Napoleonic line infantry. I looked at the figures in amazement, the detail, the over-the-top uniforms. MY WW2/ACW looked boring in comparison. I was hooked on the period, and those Blandford uniform books didn’t help any. Twenty years later and I was being paid to talk about AWI tactics and uniforms at museums, and had an opportunity to meet John Mollo, who let on a great deal about his work and real military interests. I still love those Airfix figures. Unfortunately, I had little understanding how to paint and protect them, so I moved on to metal Hinchcliffe 25mm.


    1. Airfix have so much to answer for in the lives, careers and leisure time of men of a certain age (i.e Us). Sadly not so much for today’s youngsters who have to make do with the cinematic realism of video games in the absence of regular supplies of Airfix figures (and usually the khaki grunge ones when they do appear erratically from time to time). Obviously if boxes of Washington’s Army were still around today, the 21st Century Next Gen of 80s New Romantics would be wearing brightly coloured, over the top, foppish clothes and pushing tiny plastic figure around wallpapering tables without a fantasy demogorgon figure in sight …

      I could say the same about Blandford colour books they were a visual treat from the library asthere was much less colour in books in the 60s and 70s. Funcken books from the library (a rare sight) and Preben Kannik’s marvellous Military Unicorns of the World in colour, all have much happily to answer for …
      who hasn’t mused on the “if I had to wear one uniform from Kannik which would it be? And opposite, which would be the most uncomfortable or embarrassing to wear?” Game

      John Mollo and the Mollo family name are ones to conjure with, again for men of a certain age …
      Claiming my Geek points for Geek Pride Day on May 25th (which is also a Star Wars Day) I saw a great behind the scenes documentary on designing Star Wars (it being my late 70s rival for Airfix time, why no Airfix Star Wars figures?) with an Interesting section on how John Mollo designed the Star Wars costumes, where he showed off all his design sketches of uniforms etc.
      All sold now
      I have to say, I like the ACW Airfix as much as Washington’s Army, possibly more so than the British Grenadiers with their very odd hats.
      I hope the Hinchliffe 25mm figures are still bringing you joy (and still available).

      Sadly Plastic Soldier Review and other Airfix modern commentators don’t have many kind things to say about the AWI range, French line infantry etc. (They were all that there affordably was and we were thankful for them.)


  6. That’s very nostalgic, thank you! Would you believe, I too still have some Airfix Washington’s army painted in that crimson? This was my attempt at Charles Grant inspired imagi-nations, and I think it had dawned on me that the AWI figures were the closest easily available to the Seven Years War period as portrayed in ‘The War Game’. As to the colour, I suspect that having obtained a tin of Humbrol British Crimson for some reason, it must have seemed a good use for the surplus! I think their opponents were clad in a mid-blue, and some others in something like British Rifle Green, so a colourful collection. They still lurk somewhere in my loft, I think. Seems i was not alone!


    1. British Crimson indeed! Stirring stuff! I hope that you manage to find these popinjay crimson, green and blue troops in the loft one day and give them a last skirmish huzzah.

      I remember finding Charge and The War Game only once or twice in my early teens secondary school library. It was usually out like most such hard working, hoarded branch library books. I enjoyed the pictures and the DIY houses with ruined footings inside very much. (Where did you get this balsa wood for houses?) The pictures made more impact than the rules for which the simplest Featherstone ones were (and remain) the thing.

      I’m not sure if I made the connection then of Charles Grant ImagiNations / rules and my few AWI figures, but this seems so obvious to me now.

      I probably did not have enough figures to make up the units and also the complete lack and uselessness of suitable Airfix cavalry ever attaching to bases and saddles, scarce artillery pieces etc.

      I had no idea where to obtain Spencer Smiths at the time, though I still have a tiny plastic handful of his Union ACW Troops and cavalry, obviously a mid to late 80s sample purchase. Even though I painted these, this purchase went no further. I suppose already had a scratch force of ACW (or indeed SSMs for AWI etc) already in Airfix.
      Whether I already had the Airfix figures for the period often affected what were then high finance (small pocket money or paper round) buying decisions on periods and figure ranges. Hence buying Peter Laing ECW figures, as Airfix didn’t make these except as hard to find, expensive 54mm single military modelling kits …


  7. What a wonderful find, especially the magnificent banner.

    No fear on the garish colors. Two things to consider: French and Prussian regiments often had pastel facings, and the brick-red of the classic British redcoat commonly faded to … pink!


  8. Bright colours are what got me into 18th/19th century figures and with imaginations, there’s no excuse not to be creative. As for those pink coats, pink is a shade of red anyway and only started to be differentiated from being just a shade red in recent centuries. So, go all 17th century and just call them redcoats!


    1. It does make a refreshing alternative to khaki grau-nge!

      If people scorn Pink I sometimes point out that some of the “toughest and the bravest men wore pink” on their SAS Landrovers (the Pink Panthers) and the Pink Spitfires for photo reconnaissance (therefore unarmed for lightness). It is a suitably baffling answer!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. For god knows what reason, I’ve always enjoyed “repairing” the paint jobs on figures, especially older ones like Airfix. Show me a pile of nice, new, clean figures ready to be primed and painted, vs. a pile of old, worn, not-especially-attractive figures, and I go for the latter every time–much to the befuddlement of friends and family. Maybe it’s the satisfaction from saving the “lost dogs” of the hobby, or turning what everyone else considers “junk” into something of value. Or the fact that I actually find it easier to repair worn paint jobs easier than starting a new one? Who knows. I used to try to justify why I like what I like, but now being pretty much over the hill (70–ouch), I no longer bother!

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson


    1. Even if this is a paint over rather than repair paint, you have restored them to playing life or tiny Military Pride, if for display purposes only.
      I think you are right about the curious pleasure of supporting the “lost underdogs” and “junk upcycling”. We hear so much about single use plastic and evil plastic pollution, it is a strange feeling of privilege and opportunity to be repairing, repainting and gently using 50 to 60 year old OOHO veterans (or older for 54mm plastics …)

      In the case of these OBEs ImagiNations, you don’t have to think for yourself, somebody has created the imaginary Uniform plate for you, same as having the front art and back of the Airfix box or catalogue for guidance.

      As you say, at some stage you go past caring what other people think – although you could just rephrase it as renovating or restoring antiques or vintage toys.


      1. Yes exactly that. My brother and I love repairing and using old pieces,be they toys, garden equipment cars lawnmowers and other items.
        There is the satisfaction of recycling something, we do not ever wish to be lectured on that subject by the WOKE generation.
        We were awake before they were born, and have far more expertise than they could ever wish for!

        And the other point is that most older items well….They last longer, but like us really.

        If you had a telephone in 1930 chances are it was the same one in 1950, as with vacuum cleaners cars and washing machines.

        Keep up a fantastic blog.


      2. I sometimes feel that the “younger generation” (Woke, whatever) are angrily just having to fight the same battles that my generation did in the 1980s, ditto earlier ones in the 1960s. Why? How? Maybe after pledging and promising change, governments and companies quietly and profitably went back to doing what they were doing before people noticed, until somebody else / the next generation notices that they have quietly backtracked … and so on …
        Then there is the good old 50s American corporate “planned obsolescence”

        Arguably Games companies do this with games systems and rules changes (your old painted units are no longer allowed, buy new ones) and bizarre figure scale changes. 28mm?


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