April/May 2021

Welcome to our April / May 2021 Newsletter

We are very excited to announce our first new product release since taking over the Imperial business.

Meet Field Marshal Blücher!

Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and his horse are the first Prussians to join the ranks of our Napoleonic range. We have chosen to depict Blücher because he and his troops, known as the Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine, played such a decisive role in defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A remarkable character, the Battle of Waterloo came only two days after his near death in the Battle of Ligny when his horse was fatally shot out from under him. He lay wounded and trapped under his horse for several hours while being ridden over by cavalry, saved from the French by the actions of his subordinate who threw a coat over him to disguise the distinctive colours of his Field Marshal uniform. Once he was finally able to emerge, he treated his own wounds with a paste of garlic and rhubarb, threw back some schnapps and rejoined the battle. He was 72.

In sculpting Blücher, David took inspiration from a combination of images that show Blücher in action, rather than a single portrait. He aimed to depict movement, which we can see in the lines of Blücher's flowing greatcoat and the mane of his beautiful horse. With its perfect proportions and careful detailing we think that this set is a very fine addition to our Napoleonic range.

Field Marshal Blücher

As well as Field Marshal Blücher we are also proud to announce the release of a new Town and Around set: Piggyback Girls.

This charming set was originally inspired by a Victorian magazine cover that recently caught David's eye. He was intrigued by the technical complexity of modelling the two girls. It is a challenge to achieve the correct proportions when sculpting a figure carrying another person, let alone one of a smaller stature, and we are all thrilled with the result.

The Piggyback Girls are reminiscent of our collective childhood - a simpler time when children played outside and made their own games. As parents we like to imagine the Piggyback Girls are sisters, which makes it particularly endearing to see the elder sibling taking care of the little girl.

Piggyback girls

Several collectors have been in touch recently asking for advice on keeping their figures safe from damage in the event of earthquakes and other natural disasters (cats, small children). We use QuakeHold museum wax and recommend applying it to the base of your figures. This is a clear microcrystalline product which will not discolour paintwork, can be reused, and pulls off cleanly without damage if no longer required. We have found that generic tack products can leave marks on paintwork and do not hold figures as securely. Here in New Zealand, museum wax is available from hardware stores.

You may see on our website that we describe certain sets as "retired". What does this mean? Well, it does not mean the soldiers in these sets are getting long in the tooth, it simply means that these sets are no longer in production. There are several possible reasons for this, but the primary one is that the moulds for those sets (or "molds" if you're in the US) have become degraded over time and can no longer produce reliable castings. Some of our moulds are nearly 40 years old! While we do re-make moulds for popular sets, we sometimes find that the demand for some sets doesn't justify the cost and time to remake the moulds.

We may consider reprising some "retired" sets or figures in future, but it is likely that this would mean a full re-modelling of the masters for that set. We have done this for several early sets, including the very first set that Imperial issued in 1982 - NZ1 Khaki Girls' Brigade, which was re-modelled some 25 years later and re-issued as a new set in our New Zealand series. While the original and re-modelled sets both have the same subject matter and treatment (poses and uniform), the figures look quite different - see photo above.

It can be a frustrating challenge for collectors who own most of a retired set but just need one figure to complete it - they have perhaps bought an incomplete set secondhand, or are assembling a set from individual figures sold on the secondhand market. While it is possible for us to make a new mould just to cast an individual figure to complete the set, in practice this would almost certainly be cost-prohibitive as making moulds is time-consuming and careful work. In addition, matching the paintwork would be tricky as the original paint will no longer be available and may have faded over time.

We hear some wonderful stories about the reasons why our customers choose to buy figures in our Town and Around range. Sometimes it is possible to custom paint these figures to suit your particular situation. While our standard geese are white and grey, the geese pictured have been painted to look more like the locals in their new owner's neck of the woods, and the puss in the photograph has been custom painted to match his markings, as a tiny Mothers' Day gift for his doting owner. Another common request, which we are always very happy to accommodate, is to customise the paintwork on our bridal couple. While we can't remodel the figures themselves, we certainly can change the colour of their hair, clothing or complexion.

If you'd like some custom paintwork on a Town and Around order, please ask!