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.