The toy soldier set that got me started with my love for the Civil War and miniature wargaming – the granddaddy of them all. This dealer was selling a complete set of the Giant Marx Battle of the Blue & Gray playset for a little more than $1100. I still have many of the pieces from my own set, which I received for Christmas in 1963.
I spent Sunday afternoon tramping around Gettysburg, one of my favorite pastimes. As I was driving into town along York Street (U.S. Route 30 / The Lincoln Highway), I was surprised to see the trailer for Belle & Blade, one of my favorite purveyors of vintage military-related movies, music, posters, hats, and shirts. Curious as to why they were in town when there was no wargaming conventions (where I am most used to see them), I proceeded to the town square, where I parked and noted a sign for the 1st Annual Gettysburg Toy Soldier Show at the Gettysburg Hotel (the McClellan Hotel at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863).
I spent a couple of very pleasant hours tramping around the dealer hall and the separate manufacturers room, as well as the always impressive Belle & Blade racks of old movies. I ran into several old friends, including a couple of extremely talented wargaming pals of mine, two guys I really like despite the fact they always roll extremely well when whipping me at Johnny Reb 3. LOL!
People seemed genuinely interested in the toy soldier show, a new event that hopefully will be a regular part of the schedule at Gettysburg. I saw one person shell out some big bucks for some vintage 12″ action figures. I was tempted to buy several items, but did not pull the trigger.
The ballroom was packed to the walls with dealer tables and browsers / shoppers. I was thrilled to see so many old toy figures that I remember from my childhood, especially those figure sets my friends had and that I had not seen for decades. Cowboys and Indians, Civil War, WWII, Vikings, Space Men, etc. were all there, from vintage makers such as Marx, Tim Mee, MPC, Rel, Ideal, and many others. I managed somehow to keep my wallet in my pocket (unusual discipline for me to be sure!), especially since I had already bought some antiques earlier in the day on my ride over from York. One memory was seeing an unopened bag of 100 Marx Japanese soldiers. I bought a bag of these at the Zanesville, Ohio, Jupiter’s discount store when I was a kid. My figures are breaking and fragile, as the plastic has dried out.
My friend John Zabawa owns and operates Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers, one of the shops that has steadily sold my series of wargaming scenario books.