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Collector’s Statement

My first toy soldier was given to me by my father as a Christmas present when I was seven years old. It was in long red box with a picture of a heroic soldier on its illustrated cover. In the following years my father would take me into the big city—New York—to a glorious store on Fifth Avenue to look at the Toy Soldier “department”, an entire floor of toy soldiers imported from England and France. My youthful collection eventually amounted to about 10 boxes and 50 figures—long since gone—after I moved on to more adult things such as high school and college.

My next contact with toy soldiers was in the early 1960s on a trip to the Bahamas when my wife purchased a set of toy soldiers from a little shop on Bay Street in New Providence as a novelty family Christmas present. She had remembered me telling her about the soldiers my father had given me when I was a child.

About 10 years ago, in the late 1980s I found an unusual old book shop in Coral Gables, Florida, that featured military literature and also some toy soldiers. I started to purchase a few sets of both “Old” and “New” toy soldiers from the owner as well as books on military history, uniforms, and collections of toy and model soldiers. Subsequently, a family friend sent me a beautifully illustrated and documented book entitled “The Art of the Toy Soldier” that, among its many subjects, had several comments regarding one of the very rare toy soldier sets previously produced by the famous English toy firm, Britains Ltd. It was the same set my wife had purchased over twenty five years ago in the Bahamas. We found it in one of our closets still in the original box, which made it even more valuable. This was the start of my serious efforts at collecting.

For the past eight years I have attended annual shows and contacted dealers across the country in attempts to build a limited but representative collection of old and new toy soldiers, particularly in parade formations. Many years previously, as a young officer I had participated in a major field review as the Division parade guide and had been impressed with the pomp and majesty of massed military formations.

I have concentrated my collection on the British and French Imperial Armies and Allies of the 19th Century because of the magnificent colors of the uniforms, flags, pennants, and cavalry mounts.

Successful and meaningful collecting requires assembling an appropriate library to guide the selection of acquisitions because of the wide variety of figures, sets, models, variations, changes, age, and condition of the many old and new toy soldiers available. The history of the many military units is interesting and offers insight from a viewpoint not usually found in conventional history books.

There is also a form of professionalism involved in developing relationships with show officials, dealers, auction houses, and maker representatives. The discovery and successful acquisition of a rare and desirable set purchased at an advantageous price is a great feeling.

Camaraderie is experienced in joining with other avid collectors for regular meetings, and being an active member of the South Florida Toy Soldier Club is an enjoyable social experience as well as a means of acquiring additional pieces and information about other collections.

Among the many hundreds of bidders for the toy soldiers from the auction of the [Malcolm] Forbes Museum of Military Miniatures (Tangier, Morocco) recently held at Christie’s in New York and London, I was elated to have made a successful bid for one of Forbes’s impressive sets of British Regiments. It is a relatively rare set of limited production by an obscure but gifted maker, and to the best of my knowledge, not shown previously in any book, display, or exhibit. It is now one of my favorite sets.

My collection is primarily driven by nostalgia and memories of my father and boyhood. I feel that my collection has been carefully acquired and should have an investment value to more that offset its acquisition cost. Considering what I have been able to accumulate over time, I feel that I have been a very fortunate amateur collector.

Finally, my collection is something that my grandchildren will always remember about their grandfather: toy soldiers marching in parade in their brilliant uniforms in his den.

Frank Steffens
Hollywood, Florida