Charity Shop Find of slowly morphing shrinking copies of Airfix and Matchbox figures

This charity shop find of a couple of dozen bashed figures came to me as a gift from family.

I imagine they are the ragtag odd mixed bag of someone’s small army. Enough to make two small army squads of red-brown / tan versus everyone else?

They are obviously battle scarred and playworn veterans!

I found these figures interesting as they are mostly copies of Airfix and Matchbox figures. As they have slowly being copied (in Hong Kong / China?) over the last forty plus years, they have slowly shrunk and changed into different figures.

Not a maker’s mark among them either.

Airfix Eighth Army figures are 40mm – 50mm

In the same mixed parcel was other Matchbox copies and a couple of small but slightly larger Airfix copies, shown next to the smaller cousin. I have included the sole probably genuine Airfix figure, the 54mm German submachine-gunner figure for scale.

These bashed and limbless Matchbox copies were around in seaside pound shops c.2007 and still seem to emerge from time to time, getting thinner and more brittle (hence the missing limbs?)

These limbs and weapons might need a little repairing.

These white copies of Airfix German Infantry are slowly changing into squat Generic Infantry. The distinctive “coal scuttle” stalheim helmet is changing, becoming oddly more British or American.

The lying down figure who used to feed the Light Machine Gun is now a distinct figure in its own right, the magazine box in the right hand for the LMG has morphed into a very strange object in its own right.

The officer figure is getting shorter and squatter but still full of character!

Some nice modern American troops and Officer, one or two a bit bashed.

These look like TimMee / BMC / Toy Story sort of stuff. I like the baggy clothes and helmet covers.

The other figures are a curiously mixed bunch of figures and sizes, again with the 54mm Airfix German for size comparison.

Some Matchbox American Infantry copies in two different sizes and colours, and a few of those modern US Infantry / Rambo types.

Lining them up in height order from 54mm Airfix at the right shows how they have shrunk and thinned down over the years of copying.

Last but not least, one of those handy Khaki figures that could be a modern desert warrior, Special Forces / SWAT team or space marine.

An interesting mixed bag!

Blog post by Mark Man of TIN, 12 December 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 ...

18 thoughts on “Charity Shop Find of slowly morphing shrinking copies of Airfix and Matchbox figures”

  1. Fascinating, especially the evolution of the coal scuttle helmet into something more generic. I wouldn’t have believed that such piracy goes on. I really enjoyed your photos in this post which show scale change too. Any particular plans for these in terms of paint jobs etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Alan, I’m surprised how the same small collection and even the same figure pose varies so much in size, but this happens even in the same bag or playset. I suppose that was Airfix’s more expensive claim to be “in constant scale” (I never quite figured out as a child the finer details of OOHO / 1:72/1:76 or later 1:35/1:32 stuff)

      Painting schemes – hmm, no strong thoughts yet. That’s the challenge, curse or freedom of ImagiNations which means they could be painted anyhow!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That would be an amazing coincidence! I’m pretty sure I’m told that they came “from a charity shop” fairly recently, possibly online, but from where I can’t remember as they were passed on to me through my wider family, so not sure whether these came from the West Country or “Upcountry” via family. Hopefully they raised some cash for a good cause especially at Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mark… very interesting and great that you can identify these figures. However they look in rather good condition to my eye. I think they have survived the years quite well apart from a few weapon failures. It would be nice to see what these look like after some TLC.. Regards.


    1. Hello Tony. Identifying these figures is maybe a less useful skill than bird ID or plant recognition but it’s something I’ve accidentally and incidentally been learning for almost 50 years and it gives me great pleasure.

      Some of them are in good condition, although sadly much cheap modern cheap plastic has a certain brittleness to it unlike the older softer paint flaking flexible Airfix figures (the ones that haven’t gone brittle that is).
      I like the likelihood that they were (probably) someone’s collection, maybe even once someone’s pride and joy full of imagination and adventures, that they have simply outgrown.

      Broken figures, both old hollowcast and modern cheap plastic ones, do ‘call out’ to be repaired or restored.
      Mark Man of TIN blog


  3. For my part, I’ve enjoyed converting some of these cheap Chinese copies, raising armies my funds could not justify spending more on. Mind you, those flesh coloured, matchstick figures on the far left are very common and particularly poor quality. Have noticed some better ‘modern wars’ figures appearing in cheap bags, and have seen a few given fine paintwork, and why not?


  4. Michael
    I think there is some, if not lots of mileage in these cheaper figures, especially the ones who are slowly morphing into something new.
    I have really enjoyed your last few months posts of figures conversions and I have your bag of spare figures that you sent me to hand for future tinkering, marked up MGB on the base so I know where they came from!
    It’s surprising what surfaces as copies from time to time for 50p a box in seaside shops such as what I now know are BMC marines
    Or these US Paras

    More Seaside Pound Store Plastic Warriors


    1. What I think of, when I see the necks vanishing, on some of these figures, is non-human forces! I’d be inclined to paint them with green or blue skin! They could be aliens or 20th century version goblins, munchkins, gillikins or hobbits!


      1. James, I think these short stubby German clones may well end up as a small unit in Close Little Space Wars … that fits anyway with the whole George Lucas / Star Wars “The Imperial Empire were basically Space Nazis” aesthetic.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I dont think you have a clu. The matchbox figures are the ones with bigger bases. The German example your using in the middle is a mathbox figure. not the smaller based ones , They are airfix. I bought all my figures in the eighties and they dont look like the crap you are showing . Most must be cheap knockoffs, Not Airfix, Futher the ones with the different helmets are french and russian. It amazes me how many people have commented how great your blog is . I guess you can say anything and people believe it..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll not argue this one. It really doesn’t matter. It’s all cheap knockoff frivolity anyway.
      I stick with my figure IDs, as best I remember.
      Matchbox figures I remember generally having the thicker bases than Airfix.
      I have few Matchbox originals from the 80s to compare as I sold most of them but most of the Matchbox 1:32 poses were duplicated in their smaller figures. Matchbox referenced at
      Likewise the smaller poses of Airfix duplicated in some of their larger figures.
      Whether you like my blog or not is your own concern and a matter of taste.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Mark…We all have a choice as to what we read or enjoy. I am certainly in the majority when I say I very much like your blog. Critical constructive comments are of course welcome but I fail to see why anyone has to be so unpleasant in the process. Unfortunately it seems the arrogant rudeness so common in social media has drifted into your blog. Let’s hope this is just a one off. Regards Tony

    Liked by 2 people

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