Friday, 10 July 2015
eBay Capture - Very Old Toys Dept
I used to have one of these, or at least I had one very similar. This is a fortress made from moulded plastic sheet, manufactured by Eberlein & Co, of Neumarkt, Germany. Eberlein were not a specialist toy maker, they were a plastics company, but they produced toy castles under the trade name Eco, and they produced them in the German style already established by Hausser and Elastolin. [In passing, I am interested to note that Neumarkt is in Bavaria, very close to Regensburg, where I visited two years ago - yes, I realise this is of no interest to anyone else...]
I bought one in the basement toy department of Jenners, in Princes Street, Edinburgh, sometime in the late 1970s. I had grandiose ideas about adding sieges to my stuttering repertoire of wargaming activities, but I think really I just fancied one. Jenners had a choice of different models - this was a smaller one, I think. I have to make two hefty admissions right here and now:
(1) The thing sat in a cupboard for years and years, and never came near to any wargames
(2) Eventually it disappeared, and I cannot for the life of me remember what happened to it. I imagine it went to a charity shop or similar, and I guess the reason I cannot remember the details is because I wasn't interested by that time. Oh well.
This one came from eBay, yesterday. The background to the purchase is the usual haphazard series of coincidences which result in such things. Two years ago, on holiday, I went in a shop in the Salzburg area which had a mighty stock of old Elastolin things, and I was entranced. Crazy prices, and not my thing at all, but pre-war SS marching bands, and all sorts of exotic vehicles and buildings which I found very attractive (in an academic, holiday-time sort of way). Since then I have occasionally had a squint on eBay to see what Elastolin things are on offer - the rule of thumb seems to be that if it is in any kind of decent condition then the price is horrifying. That's OK, I maintain the same sort of vague interest in secondhand Ferraris. Recently a post-war Elastolin castle appeared - it wasn't in especially good nick, it was expensive, and it would need to be collected from a long way away. I thought about it, and watched it as it was relisted twice for lower and lower price. Still wasn't worth it (to me), and I didn't really want anything so big, or so difficult to store.
While I was losing interest in it, there was suddenly this much cheaper Eco castle available, complete with box, and I bought it very quickly, for very little outlay, and it was even shipped here by courier for an extra £7. Well now. I'm really rather pleased with it. It will make a splendid medieval castle section for a Peninsular War fortified city, and it may have applications in the ECW, though I haven't really explored that yet. It's in very good condition, though a bit dusty. It came from a shop that deals in old toys rather than a specialist wargame or military model supplier, so the low price probably reflects the fact that people who want old toy castles really want nice hand-made wooden jobs, not semi-realistic plastic ones.
The scale is around smallish-HO, which is perfect for me (I think the Elastolin castles are really designed for 40mm figures), and the factory paintwork is good and crisp and bright - the tops of the towers are a bit worn, presumably by being slid in and out of the box, but it is so good that I now have a very mild dilemma. Should I "improve" the paintwork? The red roofs are a bit too much of a Royal Mail shade for my taste, and the copper-painted tower on the church is as irritating as I found it in the 1970s. My general feeling is to give the model a good (careful) clean up, smarten up the roofs a bit and then dry-brush some of my house baseboard green colour around the edges so that it blends into the table nicely. my only doubt about this is caused by the fact that it is, in fact, in such good condition. If it had been shabby then it would be a no-brainer, same as for figures - repaint it. However, it is nearly perfect - if it were really old and really valuable, then the no-brainer choice would be to leave it exactly as it is. But it isn't - it's pretty old, and it's interesting to the oddball toy soldier collector like me, but it isn't Elastolin and it isn't valuable - if I were to choose to leave it alone, it would be entirely out of a sense of respect which might be inappropriate.
No. I think I'll do some painting on it.
I'm pretty sure that the plastic sheet is a lot heavier than I remember, so maybe it's not the same vintage as my previous one, and I see that the box is ticked against model #1493 rather than #1495, so there must have been two models of the same overall size, and I seem to recall that Jenners had bigger ones.
Anyway, it's here, and I'm still staring at it and grinning. I don't know how old it is - Eco still exist, though I don't think they do toys any more. If anyone knows any more about these, I'd be interested. I'll be in the courtyard, winding the working drawbridge up and down.
Late edit: I was doing a bit of browsing about, and I came across this picture, which I use without any permission, which appears to show 3 further Eco castles, placed end to end, none of which is the one I have. I also checked out Eberlein's current website, which says they made toys for a period commencing 1966. I must say they look good, they don't have the cachet or the value (or the scale) of the Elastolins, but they seem a useful buy if you can find one.