Britains Swoppet Knights: Links.

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  I think we should start this Links page with a reference to the publication Plastic Warrior. To most collectors of Britains and other plastic toys, no introduction should be necessary, but, for anyone who hasn't heard of them, this is what they say about themselves: "Plastic Warrior was launched in 1985 as a non-profit making newsletter with the aim of putting plastic soldier collectors in touch with each other at a time when the established modelling and collecting press ignored their interests. From the start PW was written by collectors for collectors and was the first ever publication to seriously cover soft plastic toy figures." There is little I can add to that except to mention that they also produce one-off "Specials", which have covered such topics as Britains' Swoppets and Eyes Right figures, though the former is out of print at the time of writing.

  Another useful source of information, as well as a vehicle for promoting and selling modern-day Britains items, is the William Britains Collectors Club of Wokingham, England. They offer special sales of Britains models, and publish a house magazine called The Standard, to keep the reader up to date with new ranges along with nostalgic if somewhat cursory looks at some of the great figures from Britains' past: the Swoppet Knights were given the treatment in 2004. Since the 2005 acquisition of the "W.Britain" brand by First Gear, it's not easy to judge in which direction the firm's fortunes will move, but Britains has been taken over before and survived. We shall see.


  Written sources of information about Swoppet Knights are rare, the two main books published in near-contemporary times being James Opie's "The Great Book of Britains" (New Cavendish Books, 1993, ISBN 1-872727-32-8) and Peter Cole's "Suspended Animation" (Plastic Warrior, 1997, ISBN 1-90898-01-2; Revised Edition, 2004, ISBN 1-90898-04-7).

Great Book of Britains by James Opie, © New Cavendish Books   James Opie's book sets itself the considerable task of being a definitive history of Britains toys over the whole 100-plus years of the company's existence. Cataloguing each and every figure produced, every boxed set and every colour variation, to describe it as comprehensive would be an understatement. As such, it pauses only relatively briefly on the Swoppets, but it remains essential reading if you're the least bit interested in this subject. With more than 600 pages, almost obsessively detailed, and packed with excellent pictures, it is well worth the high price it currently fetches. Sadly, however, this wonderful book is currently out of print, and regrettably there seems to be no way of obtaining it other than paying a lot of money in online auctions (see below).

Suspended Animation by Peter Cole, cover © Plastic Warrior   The Peter Cole volume represents an insider's story of the Herald years, and the merger with Britains, going into much detail about the personalities involved and the methodologies of toy manufacture around this period. As a Herald man, he naturally favours that company's way of working, and the models it produced, over the Britains style which gradually supplanted it over the 1960s, yet to his immense credit he doesn't come across as at all bitter about the course of events. He gives everyone space to tell their side of the story, and goes out of his way to be fair-minded when making his judgements. The book is, above all, a fascinating read, an insight into a world that has vanished forever, and anyone interested enough to have looked at this web site really should own a copy. The Revised Edition is readily available from Plastic Warrior.

  An important publication in very recent times is "Toy Knights" (subtitled 'The Other 100 Years War') by Peter Cowan (Roundtower Design, 2004, ISBN 0-9548467-0-2). A leading expert on toys of the age, and especially all things Britains, the author is a regular contributor to William Britain Collectors Club magazine The Standard. His well-received two-page spread on Swoppet Knights in the August 2004 edition (Volume 2, No. 3) was a taster for this more wide-ranging review, and few of his regular readers will be surprised to hear him praise the Britains Swoppets above all others. However, the book contains information about, and pictures of, many other "knight" (and Robin Hood) models of different eras, and should be of interest to all collectors of old toys.

Online Auctions.

eBay, 'The World's Online Marketplace', © eBay Inc.   We'll start, inevitably, with eBay. The address is if you live in the UK, if you're based in the US, and "www.ebay.your_country_code" elsewhere. Love it or loathe it, eBay remains the best way of obtaining many rare items, and toy soldiers of any description are one of its specialities. You could write a book about using eBay (probably someone already has?), and the best way to learn how to use it effectively is by trial and error, but below are three key pieces of advice:

  • Learn how Proxy Bidding works, and use it. Decide on your maximum bid, and place it a sensible time before the end of the auction, giving yourself enough leeway to allow for system crashes, etc. Last-minute "snipers" who weigh in with what seem like insane bids in the final few seconds of an auction, when no one else has time to respond, are the bane of many eBayers, but they're not doing anything illegal so it's pointless getting annoyed. And, if you have already placed your maximum bid, at least you won't lose out through lack of reaction time.

  • Always check the published picture carefully, along with the description. A "complete" Knight means one with sword, dagger, visor, etc, and if it hasn't got everything it's not complete. If the picture isn't clear, don't hesitate to ask the seller to clarify whether the Knight comes with some part or other which is obscured from view. The vast majority of sellers are reputable and knowledgeable people, and will gladly clear up any misunderstanding, often sending a photo of the item in question. However, if you get an evasive reply, or none at all, my advice is to keep your finger off the "Bid" button. In this regard, be especially wary of items described as "sold as seen" - that phrase is seldom there without reason.

  • Finally, always check the seller's Feedback Card before deciding whether to place a bid. The good eBay sellers - and there are many - have mostly been around a long time, and have big feedback scores (with at least 99% positive) to vouch for their status. A trader with a low rating may of course genuinely be a new seller, but also may be a cowboy who has had to cease trading under a previous ID due to adverse feedback - so tread carefully. If you have any doubts about the seller, try and pay by credit card so that, in theory at least, your purchase is redeemable if the goods don't arrive or are substandard.

  But the main thing about eBay is that it works. Many people use it every day to buy those things which otherwise would be utterly unobtainable, in trouble-free transactions with courteous and professional sellers who pack their goods carefully and deliver promptly. And Britains models, of just about any era, including the Swoppets, are almost always available on this, the world's online marketplace.

  Another proven method of finding Swoppet Knights and other Britains figures online is to use the reputable auction house Vectis. This company organises regular public auctions of many collectible items including Swoppets, generally in larger lots, typically a group of a dozen or so figures or a couple of boxed sets. They will allow online bids, by credit card, to be registered before the day of the auction. This is not quite as real-time as eBay, and you are up against other bidders who have the advantage of actually being present at the auction, but it remains possible for a bid placed over the Internet to win the day.

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Online Sellers.

  Below are some other online traders who, at least from time to time, have Swoppet Knights on sale on their web sites. Of course, decent figures are much in demand, and fresh stock does tend to get sold quickly, so it's a good idea to keep checking for updates.

  Important Note: The author of this site offers no personal guarantee as to purchases made from these sites, but can say he has dealt with most of them in the past and they have never let him down. Nevertheless, any transaction is entirely between you and the seller. When contacting these traders, it would be appreciated if you would mention where you heard of them. I'm not on commission or anything, but they might as well know who their friends are.

  Unique Collections of Chipstead, south London (formerly of Greenwich) is one of the most well-stocked shops in the UK, offering many items from years gone by, specialising in model cars and such, but also with a considerable selection of Britains and other toy soldiers.

  The Barracks is another store in the Greater London area with a strong online presence. Many categories of toy soldiers are for sale, often including Britains Swoppets and Eyes Right figures. Owner Eddie Oates is constantly updating his site with new arrivals, and always welcomes enquiries from new customers.

  Dave's Toy Box do sell some Britains figures, among many others, but their speciality is Timpo. If you believe that the Visor Knights, Great Helm Knights, Jousting Knights and of course Crusaders are worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as the Swoppets, then this site is bound to be of interest.

  The Lincolnshire-based Model Seeker is a site mainly devoted to Die Cast toys, but also features plastic figures in its online shop window, and in recent times many Britains rarities, including Swoppet Knights, have been spotted.

  I myself have had no dealings as yet with Allsorts Die Cast Toys of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but, contrary to their name, they do have a large section of their web site devoted to plastic, and include Britains Swoppets among their stock. Owner Eddy has done the whole site himself in native HTML, which on its own must be worth a plug.

  And, as its name implies, Steve Weston's Toy Soldiers of Canvey Island, features plastic toys of many eras, well worth a look.

  Another site which sells many items including Britains is the Dorset-based Pastimes.

  A German seller of many types of toys, with a good selection of Britains goods is PB Toys, run by Peter Bergner. Choose your language ("US" if English is required), then enter PB's online shop, and select "Britains". From here, there are always many interesting Britains models for sale, but the "Swoppets Ritter" box will find any Knights, if they have some available.

  A few US-based online sellers. First, from New York, suppliers of of all kinds of toy soldiers: The Toy Soldier Company. Choose "Product Search", then "Plastic Figures". Be sure to select Britains Plastic as "maker". (No pictures seem to be available at the moment, but I trust this will not be a long-term problem.)

  Toy Soldiers of San Diego. "The finest toy soldiers from America's finest city", as they say. A wide-ranging site with plenty of Knights for sale, or you can just look at the pictures.

  And the Michigan Toy Soldier Co. Many old toy soldiers for sale, including Herald and Britains. For old Britains items, click on "Old Toy Soldiers, Collector's Items and Rarities" at the bottom of the left-hand frame, then "Britains Plastic".

  Finally (for the moment), a British online model shop which specialises in plastic model kits but also deals in old and collectable toys, including Britains merchandise, called Models For Sale. Look under the "Soldiers / Figures / Playsets" category.

  Any person or company who wants a link, please contact the author by clicking here. You don't have to offer a reciprocal link (though it would be appreciated if you did), all I ask is that your site has some connection with Britains, or Swoppets, or Knights. Also, anyone who has dealt with any of the traders mentioned on this page, and feels they have had a bad deal, please get in touch and tell me about it. There is of course no sanction that I can take against these people other than to remove the Link from this page, but it is not my intention to publicise bad traders.

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Other Related Websites.

  Now we have a collection of non-commercial websites which, to a greater or lesser degree, have some connection with Britains Swoppet Knights.

  Firstly, The Knights of Avalon, a very personal series of pages from one Robert Hill. Dedicated primarily to all aspects of the Arthurian legend, but contains much information about toy knights - Britains, Timpo and other makes, well worth a look.

  Dave Jones's Toy Soldier Collection, a site by a well-known collector, with lots of pictures.

  An article from, concerning Swoppet Knights.

  Toy Soldiers on Parade, interesting pictures of many toy soldiers from all eras.

  Toy Soldier magazine has many articles devoted to the Britains / Herald era, one which is of particular interest being A Clash of Steel, an in-depth look at Swoppet knights in issue 35.

  The History of Military Miniatures: 1600 to the Present, by Les Keffel, contains much information about the history of plastic figures the section called "Part 5: New Century, New Rules, New Technology" being most relevant to our subject.

  Britains and Herald Swoppets by Gerry Daly is another interesting collector's site about the history of Britains and Herald.

  Collecting Toy Soliders is essentially a modellers' site with some interesting ideas for Swoppet Knight conversions, "sacrilege" as it admits some readers may find it, but plenty of ideas for those who find Swoppets not quite versatile enough for their displays or wargaming.

  Any collector of Toy Knights is bound to be interested in Allen Hickling's On-Line Museum and Shop for Toy Forts & Castles. The title says it all really, but this is a site in a class of its own, well worth a look.

  And, though the relationship with Britains Swoppets is merely that they date from the same period, I'd also like to recommend the following: The Dinky Collector, a site with many Dinky (and Corgi) models for sale, run by an enthusiastic and friendly collector. Still on the subject of diecast toys, a fascinating site packed with information for the researcher (as opposed to the buyer) is Diecast Plus, a searchable database of over 8,000 pages of diecast details with 16,000 links. OK, this might be getting a bit personal now, but another great site that may reawaken memories of the 1960s for some of you is Classics Illustrated, run by Jeff Brooks. For the uninitiated, this was a long-running series of volumes, each retelling the essential story of one of the "classics" of literature in comic-book format, albeit in a serious way, sometimes simplifying the plot for the school-age readership but always remaining true to the spirit of the original. As well as providing a complete guide to the series, Jeff is able to offer for sale copies of most titles at reasonable prices. Last but by no means least, Peter Upton's Subbuteo tribute website is a must for anyone who shared my passion for tabletop tournaments between brightly coloured combatants of the 11-a-side variety.

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History and Heraldry.

  A few web sites about matters historical ... First, if my account was a bit too much, a well laid out summary of the Wars of the Roses by Larry Gormley. And similarly a BBC site devoted to the Wars of the Roses.

  The official Warwick Castle web site, containing much information about the medieval "Kingmaker" Richard Neville.

  The Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre, providing background details about the battle that ended the Middle Ages.

  And the Richard III Foundation, which seeks to provide a modern-day perspective on the life and times of that most controversial monarch: in their own words, " promote research and scholarship into the life and times of King Richard III, his contemporaries and his era, and to attempt to cast a new light on the misconceptions of his life and reign" .

  A less serious site, but one well worth a visit, is Britain's Real Monarch, based on the celebrated Tony Robinson programme on Channel Four which expands on the - unproven - theory that Edward IV was illegitimate (see my Wars of the Roses page). It outlines the claim that the legitimate line of succession for British royalty flowed through George, the Duke of Clarence (along with Richard III, a true son of the old Richard Plantaganet, Duke of York), and traces that lineage, through Clarence's daughter the Catholic martyr Margaret Countess of Somerset and her grand-daughter Katherine Pole, down the ages via various hitherto unknown monarchs, such as Theophilus II and Barbara I, to the present day incumbent King Michael I, who in true Conspiracy Theory style turns out to be a middle-aged Australian with republican sympathies. Marvellous entertainment, though not exactly bona fide history.

  There are many books and web sites devoted to the complex and noble subject of heraldry, and frankly a visit to your local book shop or a few minutes with a decent Internet search engine should pay more dividends than churning through any incomplete list which I could provide. There is, however, one web site which is so comprehensive and put together with such care that it would be a crime not to add a link to it. "A Glossary of Terms used in Heraldry" by James Parker must be one of the most authoritative sites on the entire Internet. If you can't find the information you require here, it really can't be worth knowing.

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  Lastly in the list of useful Links, you ought to know of the existence of the Replicants web site. This firm makes and markets replacement parts for Swoppet Knights and other Britains toys, under licence from the copyright owners. To quote from their own amusing site, " can be rather annoying to have under one's command Swoppet troops who have surreptitiously mislaid part of their equipment rendering them useless for combat. Replicants conscientiously meets these would-be deserters at the edge of the battlefield, gives them replacement weapons, and forces the unwilling combatants back into the fray." I'm sure everyone who has ever owned a Swoppet Knight knows how it feels. Their swords and daggers are quite convincing, and the axes and crossbows can, with a little paint, substitute for the originals without offending the eye. Also, I must add, a very good firm to deal with.

  In recent times, The Barracks, a noted online seller of Britains collector's items (see above), have produced a small series of replacement visors and crests (designs IV, VI and IX), available through their website.

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  Before signing off, the author would like to thank the following people for the encouragement, advice and practical help they've offered me while I was developing this site: Graham Merkert, Peter Rushton, Eddie Oates, Jamie Oliver, Peter Cowan, Luiz Edgard. Most of all though, thanks to you for looking at it.