A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Genealogy: The Descent of the Higgins Pikeman

This post was originally intended to be an email to Old John, who is the present owner and producer of the old Les Higgins/Pheonix Model Developments 20mm wargames ranges. John has supplied me with the greater part of my ECW armies during the last two years - especially in the Foot department, and I am very fond of these elegant, stylish little figures - I hope he will forgive this public version of what was intended as a private discussion, but I thought it might be of rather wider interest. In the course of buying in new castings, obtaining old stuff from eBay and receiving occasional samples from John of forthcoming products, I suddenly realised that there are more variants of some of the figures than I would expect, given that Higgins did not stay in business very long in their original form.


This is entirely a matter of idle curiosity - I'd be very grateful for any clues or expert views on how this all works, but it doesn't matter, really, beyond scratching a vague itch. As an example, here are some variations on one single pose - the standing pikeman. There is also a pikeman stooped to receive horse, and there is a pikeman involved in what looks to my inexpert eye to be "push of pike", and there are variants of these also, but, to keep things simple, let's just stick to the standing pikeman.

The chap labelled A is (I think) from the original (drop-cast?) "subscription" series which Higgins produced in the 1960s; John has cast some of these, and I'm pretty sure he has them back in production now. D is the famous mainstream pikeman that Higgins produced in large quantities - I'd have chosen a cleaner casting if I'd had a second cup of coffee; I think this is one of the iconic wargame figures from the early 1970s, and is probably largely responsible for Higgins' range being still regarded with such affection. E is a welcome extension to the range which John has added - the same pikeman, but in a hat. The other two figures? - B and C - no idea. They appear to be production figures, and presumably are earlier than D, but they are different again.

The subscription figures are rather slimmer than the later ones, with slightly smaller helmets, and easily distinguishable, but here I seem to have two examples which are similar in stature and style to the famous fellow at D. Maybe the hand-on-hip pose was easier to cast in commercial quantities?

Any thoughts would be most welcome, and if you are interested in the ECW, Marlburian or Colonial ranges of Les Higgins, remember that they are available now, and please contact John via his blog.

13 comments:

  1. A is from the LH Subscription series, originally cast with attached pike but this proved very difficult to recast so i just produced the figure only

    B & C i've never seen before, think they could also be Subscription figures or early production, like to produce these, hint hint!!!! :-))

    D mainstream pikeman

    E new variant of D but with hat, there is another variant with feather in hat that i now produce

    i've greatly expanded the LH ECW range to 60 odd variants, inc trumpeters, various cavalry, clubman, infantry command, seperate weapons, horse variants with different pistol holsters, food/loot bags, dragoon on foot firing and coming soon a couple of Scots in bonnets

    cheers Old John

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    1. Certainly I'll pass B & C to you for further study - I'll check out what other mutations I have in other poses too.

      Sudden thought - looking at the photo, it occurred to me that B & C might be posed to carry colours - you don't think they are colour bearers, do you.....? One with a plume, one without....?

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    2. Too bad you thought of that, I was about to suggest it! These are lovely little figures.

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    3. I think B and C are conversions of the figure that Higgins made with the horizontal pie. I am pretty sure that I have some in my army, One bent the right arm up and the left arm in to get a new position
      The original figures I had contained an error in that Higgind had modelled the assets all around the figure so that he had an armoure skirt. I remember having to carve these off my figures so that they had normal rear ends!
      Roy

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    4. Roy - that's a nice idea - I've got a couple of varieties of the horizontal pike figure, subscription and the later one, and B & C appear to be something else. The painted figure in the photo is one of about 8 or 9 similar I have - all of them have the hand cast against the chest, so if they are conversions they are recast conversions - not impossible, of course, but the quality of the casting suggests this is not the case. All jolly interesting.

      The full-circle assets sound tricky to sit down in! - haven't seen any like that - some of the samples of the earliest subscription figures I have here are quite odd - skeletonic build - pin heads - some quite un-Higgins-like sculpting.

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    5. Ross - they are nice, aren't they? When they first appeared they were greeted with superlatives in the wargame press about "the finest 20mm figures produced" which appears to have stirred up a little resentment which ultimately might not have helped. They are a bit stylised and the poses are generally accepted as a little stiff - there are even a few howlers in the uniform details (especially in the Napoleonics) - but they do look like little men rather than garden gnomes or whatever the alternatives have been. I like them, anyway - always have.

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  2. Not my period and nice figures and all that, however, is it just me or do they look like the Jackson 5 in mid routine?

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  3. Lovely line-up and interesting thought/discussion...I'd like to see this expanded to look at some of the other poses variations! I have a few of these and they are lovely figures, I remember the bases being 'lighter' but suspect that's more about photography light/shadow etc...tricking my eye?

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    1. Hugh - the point about the bases is right on the button - I spoke to John on the phone later on today, and he tells me that the bases on the subscription figures are identifiably thicker than the later stuff. I'm trying to find examples in my boxes which have readable codes etc underneath the bases - thus far I've only found glue and filing!

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    2. Many of the very early LH figures were made using drop cast method before LH resculpted the figures and commenced using centrifugal method, hence thicker bases, for more info/pics of LH figures see

      theoldmetaldetector.blogspot.co.uk

      under labels, ECW, Les Higgins, Marlburian

      as far as i know the early Subscription figures didn't have code numbers on the bases at least not on the ones i've recast
      cheers Old John

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  4. Interesting. When I first saw your photo, "B" and "C" immediately reminded me of the back rankers in Redoubt's ECW range.

    http://www.redoubtenterprises.com/shop/?page=shop/flypagehead&product_id=258&category_id=7ac25cb56431a62007e424d85bddccda

    The pose is similar but your figures do not have the same sense of exertion of pushing motion seen in the Redoubt lower body.

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