Tinplate Toys Revisited

King & Country introduces new line of ‘vintage’ vehicles

These classic Wehrmacht troopers are behind schedule due to some  “unscheduled maintenance” on their tinplate Opel ‘BLITZ’.

These classic Wehrmacht troopers are behind schedule due to some
“unscheduled maintenance” on their tinplate Opel ‘BLITZ’.

Tinplate Toys had their start in the mid-19th century and gained popularity all through the next hundred years, with a small break during the WWII due to tin and steel rationing. Manufacturing began in earnest in Germany, but England, France, and the US all initiated production once demand increased. In the US, raw material became more widely available once tin mines were opened in Illinois. From the 1920s, the US was largest producer of tin toys until WWII. After the war the US moved the low-profit, high-labor manufacturing process to Japan. By the 1960s, government safety rules and the ready availability of cheaper plastic toys had ended the hundred year reign of the durable tin toy.

King & Country Goes Vintage

King & Country (K&C) is known for high quality, detailed mixed media (metal and polystone) fighting vehicles, but as an homage to the wonderful tinplate toys of the 1920s-30s, and 1950s-60s, K&C’s Andy Neilson commissioned a line of charming, all-metal toy military vehicles.

Even though current toy soldiers and vehicles have a higher level of detail and intricacy than vintage tin toy trucks, these rugged models have a charm all their own. They’re sturdily built and like all King & Country items, meticulously hand painted; making them suitable for display alongside soldiers or other vehicles.

Neilson, co-founder and Creative Director at King & Country explained, “Back in 2013, on a visit to China, we discovered a small workshop making all kinds of all-metal, tinplate vehicles and other models…One of the models we saw was a little tram almost identical to the ones that still run on the streets of Hong Kong. And so, we gave them a design of an old turn-of-the-century Hong Kong tram and asked them to make a few samples. This they did and we sold them immediately. We produced some more and they also quickly sold out.”

Among their other models Neilson saw were some Chinese Army trucks and cars. “Why not,” Neilson suggested to the workshop, “try a few other military models?” He  asked them to replicate the famous WWII GMC two-and-a-half-ton 6×6 truck. Neilson told Military Trader, “Well, now we’ve got the first small batch of them and I think they’re great!”

Figures and vehicles from King & Country are all hand-painted and highly detailed, with an eye toward historical accuracy. Each item comes ready to display, and rather unlike the penny toys of the past, these figures and vehicles are held to limited production runs making them collector items all on their own.

Trucks and Bolts

King & Country’s first tinplate offering is the GMC CCKW 353 Truck, the legendary 6×6 that formed the backbone of the US logistical effort throughout WWII. Only the Jeep saw greater production numbers than the CCKW. The 6×6 also saw a ‘truckload’ of variants, from the simplified CCW which ran on 6×4, a beam front axle, a transfer case locked in high range and was meant for on road use only, to the amphibious DUKW, or ‘Duck’.

This particular model of the CCKW has a closed cab and no machine gun mounting ring. The truck is designed on the same scale as King & Country’s painted metal soldiers, so it can be displayed as a stand-alone vehicle or as part of a diorama.

The second all-metal vehicle King & Country created using the classic tinplate toy technique is the Opel ‘Blitz’ truck. By far the most commonly found vehicle in German supply convoys, many thousands of these trucks served to keep the fronts supplied. The various conditions in which the Blitz had to serve spawned variants as well, though not as numerous as the score or more of the CCKW.

This model has been painted in a shade of the basic German Feldgrau and is detailed with dust-caked tires, fenders, and rocker panels. The open back allows for soldiers or supplies to be displayed with this vehicle. It can be used as a conversation piece all on its own, with some Heer infantrymen, or as a companion to the CCKW.

A Truck for Every Occasion

Either or both of these trucks represent a time in history when such toys were not available new at any price, as the raw materials were needed for the war effort. In the post-war period the Opel saw extensive production as a civilian vehicle well into the 1950s, while the CCKW served the Army well into the 1960s.

Producing tinplate toys of these workhorses of WWII now is somewhat an act of irony, but also a sign that we live in more peaceful times when such luxuries can be the province of every person. J

For information on these, other fine AFVs, or any of the items King & Country produces, contact Treefrog Treasures Military Miniatures at Treefrog Treasures, 248 Sandstone Dr NW, Eyota, MN 55934 Toll Free at (866)-394-2418, or via email at sales@treefrogtreasures.com.

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