Monday, 29 March 2010

Great Britains

One of the most enduring british toy companies has to be Britains. Its outlasted Airfix, Meccano, Triang and most of the other big names. As far as im aware, its still producing quality toys today, although in a much reduced fashion. In the sixties, there were always Britains toys at home. My sisters had the Farm and Zoo sets which came down to me and later the Floral Garden sets, which they still cleave to in their fifties!

I was always bought the army sets by my dad, who kept my battalions up to scratch with each new release. He also ensured he got each new catalogue and leaflet, to keep for reference.

One of the more unusual additions to the Britains range was the Bandetta Elastic Band gun, a ridiculously simple hand gun that shot rubber bands with surprising accuracy and power. Basically a two piece mechanism of outer case and sliding ratchet inside, it was introduced in the 1969 catalogue and still appeared all the way up to 1973. It came carded with four little targets to cut out of the card. I'd dearly love to get my hands on one of these again!

Another big favourite of mine in later years was the Stargard series of spacemen and frogmen-like aliens. The gorgeous green alien ships with black accessories were a real triumph of toy design. They were later churned out in white with red and blue accents, looking more like the world cup in space than anything else!


  1. Good title, WOTAN. A nice play on words ^_^

  2. I'm afraid it has to all intents and purposes - ceased to exist.

    Britains Petite - the toy arm was sold to someone like Little Tikes of Fisher Price years ago and has long since disappeared into a ten year corporate marketing strategy!

    Meanwhile the Farm/Soldiers were sold to Racing Champions, who themselves struggled, changed their name to RC2 and seem to have totally folded now.

    W.Britain (or - on some literature - William Britain, both no 's') is a totally new company producing 'Heavy Metal' like King & Country, factory-painted by people on a dollar a day in the industrial heart of China. They did produce some plastics (cowboys, Indians, WWII and a rump selection of Knights/Saracens) a few years ago from original Britains moulds, but most of the old Plastic Figure moulds are wholly owned by DSG in Argentina.

    Meanwhile whatever is left of the Farm range is being sold by someone called WCIB Marketing Ltd.

    Three companies trading on Britains name and hundred-year reputation, but as a British toy manufacturer, gone forever....blub, blub!

  3. Thanks for clearing that up, Maverick. Like WOTAN, I thought they were still around :(

    I saw a roomful of those "King & Country" figures at a show in London last year. They stuck me as on the expensive side - damned expensive, in fact. I had no idea they were painted for a pittance bin China. That's a crying shame :(

    Is that the norm?

  4. Everything in a modern toy shop is made/finished/painted for a pittance in China, that's how they broke 80/85% of the Western toy companies. All these vinyl figures - Star Wars, Hero Clicks etc... same thing, production line painting (each painted does one colour, last person on the line gives the 'weathering' wash.

    What I hate is not that it goes on, global markets are harsh on those who can't compete, it's the price the things sell at, this is cheap technology, poured soft white-metal, poured resin, yet a single figure by any of the 'new metal' companies is more - new - than a set of six vintage 'Detail'.

    However a large complacent, affluent middle-class, for whom the recession has been a minor inconvenience, not only pay what's asked, but actually subscribe to all new issues (hundreds - if not thousands - of pounds a year), and think they are 'Collectors'!

  5. Picked up that green round spaceship, wings and docking unit at a boot sale on Sunday - a squid!

  6. I'm sure I had that elastic Fun Gun. But i also remember getting somethging similar in a comic - was it Fantastic maybe?

  7. I must admit that those Stargard toys do look nice.


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