This is a collection of terms used in collecting and modeling of toy soldiers.
If you can add any additions or better definitions, then please contact me.
army men or plastic soldiers, are toy soldiers that are about 5 cm (2.0 in) tall and most commonly molded from green or other colored relatively unbreakable plastic. Army men following World War II were sold unpainted, usually in a green color corresponding to United States Army uniforms in World War II. Also sold as American Civil War soldiers in Blue and Gray. Plastic figures were sold in clear plastic bags with an illustrated header card in different sizes and prices since the early 1950s. (Makers: John Hill & Company, Reamsa, Louis Marx and Company, Dinky Toys, Airfix, Matchbox)
collecting there is a substantial hobby devoted to collecting both old and new toy soldiers, with an abundance of small manufacturers, dealers, and toy soldier shows. There are even specialty magazines devoted to the hobby, such as "Toy Soldier Collector" "Plastic Warrior" and "Toy Soldier and Model Figure." Collectors often specialize in a particular type of soldier or historical period, though some people enjoy collecting many different kinds of figures. The most popular historical periods for collecting are Napoleonic, Victorian, American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Many collectors modify and paint plastic figures, and some even cast and paint their own metal figures.
connoisseur-grade high quality, collectible figures featuring highly detailed paint jobs.
dimestore hollow or slush cast iron, sold through five and dime stores from the 1920s to 1960 in the United States.
diorama a diorama has more figures that a vignette. A vignette may have 2 or 3 versus a diorama which would have more figures, like 5 to 10 or more. A diorama is a bit more on the grand scale and is intentionally telling a story with a larger all layout. The Diorama literally means "through that which is seen", from the Greek di- "through" + orama "that which is seen, a sight." It refers to a 19th-century mobile theatre device, or, in modern usage, a three-dimensional full-size or miniature model, sometimes enclosed in a glass showcase for a museum. The word "diorama" originated in 1823 as a type of picture-viewing device, from the French in 1822. The diorama was invented by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype process of photography, and was first exhibited in Paris in July 1822.
flat thin, two dimensional tin soldiers cast in slate molds.
gaming the playing of games with toy figures was popularized by H.G. Wells in his 1913 book, Little Wars. Wells, a pacifist, was the first to publish detailed rules for playing war games with toy soldiers. He suggested that this could provide a cathartic experience, possibly preventing future real wars. Although this was not to be, Little Wars was a predecessor to the modern hobby of miniatures wargaming. Although people continue to play wargames with miniature figures, most contemporary wargamers use a smaller scale than that favored by collectors, typically under 25 mm.
American Civil War (ACW)
American Revolutionary War (ARW)
American War of Independence (AWI)
French and Indian War (F&I)
Knights & Crusaders
Life of Jesus
hollow cast are figures cast in metal, usually a lead alloy, which cools and sets as it touches the mold; the excess molten metal is poured out leaving a hollow figure.
Artesania Latina (AL)
Collectors Showcase (CS)
Conte Collectibles (CC)
Country Honor (CH)
Del Prado (DL)
First Legion (FL)
Frontline Figures (FF)
[Note: the abbreviations are what I use as shorthand on this website only]
militiludibriology (mil•i•til•u•di-bri•ol•o•gy) the study of toy soldiers from the Latin for toy soldiers is militi ludibrio. Attribution in the form of a link to this website is appreciated.
scale toy soldiers are traditionally 54 mm (1:32) scale. I say traditionally because William Britain has been around forever and this is their scale. First Legion is also 54 mm. King and Country, Frontline and John Jenkins are slightly bigger at 60 mm (1:30) scale. Both scales are compatible. It is the visual difference between looking at a tall man or a short man. In the example below you have (A) Manes Marzano (54mm), (B) William Britain (54mm), (C) St. Petersburg (54-60mm ), (D) King & Country (54-60mm), (E) First Legion (60mm), (F) Frontline Figures (60mm) and (G) John Jenkins Designs (60mm).
St. Petersburg during the 1990s, the production of metal toy-grade painted figures and connoisseur-grade painted toy soldiers increased to serve the demands of the collectors' market. The style of many of these figures shifted from the traditional gloss-coat enamel paint to the matte-finished acrylic paint, which allows for greater detail and historical accuracy. The change was largely inspired by the introduction of very high quality painted figures from St. Petersburg, Russia. Figures also noted at “Russian Federation.”
tin soldiers are same as flats.
toy soldiers a.k.a., little men. One can find plastic and metal figures and accessories in scales from as small as an inch high (25mm) to just about 3 inches tall (70mm). Plastic soldiers are available unpainted or painted, while the metal toy soldiers we sell are generally painted. Toy soldiers can be as small as a 1/2 inch or as large as 3 inches. The most popular scales for toy soldier collectors are about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches tall. These scales are known as 54mm and 60mm (roughly 1/32nd the size of an average human being).
vignette considered a form of diorama. A vignette has less figures that a diorama. A vignette may have 2 or 3 versus a diorama which would have more figures, like 5 to 10 or more. The word is derived from its primary use in literature, art and theatre. In art, it is a small illustration or portrait photograph that fades into its background without a definite border. In literature is means short, impressionistic scenes that focus on one moment or give a particular insight into a character, idea, or setting. In theatre it is a collection of short scenes on a theme, such as a skit. The vignette is a more intimate setting and the focus could be more on just the couple figures and a "story" is not the main intention. A vignette is like a painting.