1/6 Collectible Military Action Figures
Introduction - 1/6 Collectible Military Action Figures
If like me, you grew up with a collection of Action Men/GI Joe's with their multitude of uniforms and accessories, then I would defy you not to be a little bit excited about the range of collectible 1/6 (12") Action Figures that are available today. These figures from numerous manufacturers are aimed squarely at the adult collectors market and have a large following, and in some cases, a large price tag to match. The figure ranges cover many current historical periods with the most popular being World War 2 and Modern fighting forces, although there are smaller ranges of Napoleonic, World War 1, Japanese/Shogun, Vietnam and the Falklands conflict. There are a number of manufacturers in the market and the choices can sometimes be confusing, but here's a brief guide on what is available and from whom.
Dragon & DiD - Masters of the WW2 Period?
The World War Two period arguably holds the biggest interest for collectors, although this may primarily be down to the huge range of figures that are available. The biggest range is produced by the Hong Kong Based Dragon Models (DML Ltd) and their extensive which are very collectible and much sought after. Dragon have been producing figures since 1999 and the number of individual figures in their range is well over 400 now. Dragon produce some incredibly realistic figures and the attention to detail is extraordinary with each figure coming in a presentation box with full accurate uniform and all the scale accessories, usually including main arms, sidearms, gas mask/holders, belts, webbing, packs etc. Each figure is usually given a name and personality such as "Jurgen Baer", "Brad Mason" or "Reggie Moore" and they are usually detailed from a certain campaign and Division/Unit from the period Their range is extensive with a huge German range (over 200 different figures), which is much sought after and collected, British, American, Soviet, as well as some individual characters such as Italian. Due to their collectible nature, the Dragon figures don't come cheap, with figures retailing at anything from £25-£100 /$40 -$150 US, although you may well find them cheaper on Ebay second hand along with a multitude of individual accessories, however as they are widely collected, the items do tend to hold their value and in some cases, far exceed their original retail cost. Dragon also produce individual weapon and uniform sets (similar to the old Action Man/Gi Joe Sets) and for those with deep pockets, also produce a small range of amazing 1/6 scale vehicles, although these retail in the region £150/$230 - £480/$750 (from a 1/6 Jeep to 1/6 Sherman Tank!).
The other notable manufacturer of WW2 era figures is Dragon in Dreams (usually referred to as DiD). Established in 2003, they also produce a number of brilliant figures from this period with a stunning range of detailed accessories with each figure. The format of the figures is very similar to the Dragon in that the figures have a "personality" and perhaps the most striking thing is that a number of the head sculpts bear strikingly realistic resemblances famous actors in famous films that cover this period in history (Tom Hanks - Captain Miller, Major Richard - Damien Lewis in Band of Brothers - See Below and Major Erwin Konig - very similar to Ed Harris in Enemy at the Gates).
On balance, personally I think that the Dragon range cannot be faulted on it's expansive range, however I think perhaps the DiD figures might just pip Dragon in it's quality of detail and realism, the Africa Corps figure "Luka" shown on the right, is perhaps my favourite figure of all time!
As well as eBay, Dragon and DiD figures are available from a wide number of sellers, one of the biggest in the UK is Modellers Loft in Bournemouth - http://www.modellersloft.co.uk, who incidentally, back in 2006, commissioned Dragon in Dreams (after obtaining the license from Hasbro) to produce 40th Anniversary Action Man. Dragon have their own sales channel in the US at http://www.dragonmodelsusa.com/dmlusa/prodmidh.asp?tlcode=DRF (Dragon are also a well known manufacturer of scale plastic models) as well as some well stocked retailers such as Monkey Depot - http://www.monkeydepot.com/default.asp.
Blue Box International (BBI) also produce a notable WW2 range with figures in their Elite force range, although not as large a range as Dragon. Their figures have excellent uniforms and accessories (although I personally don't think some of their head sculpts are as good as DiD, but that's just my opinion) and covers most of the allied and axis countries, with perhaps a larger emphasis on US personnel. It's well worth having a look at their website to view their product range - http://www.bbicollectible.com/main/index.php. Another well known manufacturer are US based CalTek (who also act as distributors in the US for a number of 1/6 figure manufacturers including Soldiers Story, and if it's heavy armour and 1/6 Tanks you're after - Black Box Toys) , they produce a few outstanding WW2 (and modern) figures. Also Toys City (see below), although better known for their modern warfare figures, produce some amazing WW2 German and Soviet figures.
Modern 1/6 Military Figures - Soldiers Story, Crazy Dummy, Toy City, Hot Toys
There is a huge interest in modern military 1/6 action figures, fuelled in part, I'd imagine, by recent unfortunate conflicts and there is a very competitive market, with perhaps the above manufacturers producing some incredibly detailed figures. There does seem to be an emphasise on Special Forces figures, but I guess this is what the market demands. Once again, these figures don't come cheap with most manufacturers figures retailing at around £100-£150 ($140-$200) but almost without exception, the detail and realism on some the figure ranges are incredible, I particularly like the Soldiers Story range - See http://www.soldierstory-toys.com/products_list.asp?st=35&tit=Modern who provide incredible lifelike head sculpts and amazing full range of accessories for each figure, right down to the last detail, which goes some way to justifying the price on these figures.
Other notable manufacturers are Crazy Dummy, very similar in quality to Soldier's Story and incredible accurate details, these figures come with nearly 80 separate accessories including scale watches, radios, magazines, grenades, torches, pads, pouches and weapons. Crazy Dummy are a very active manufacturer and are constantly adding to their expanding range. Also there is ToysCity (http://toyscity.com/) who produce amazing modern figures and also regularly release new separate scale weapons and uniform/equipment accessories. Finally DAM produce a range of very fine modern US figures.
Many of the manufacturers mentioned also produce a limited number of figures from other periods in history, Dragon in Dreams produce some fine Napoleonic and and Dragon, an expanding range of World War 1 figures as well as the odd American Civil War and Zulu War figures, and there are some smaller niche manufacturers for certain historic periods, too many to mention here. There are a number of companies producing Vietnam era figures, Sideshow Toys and Hot Toys have licensed "Platoon" figures (Sgt Barnes, Elias etc) and Dragon also have a "Nam" range are also currently producing various British army and marine figures from the Falklands War as it reaches the 30th Anniversary. Ignite produce a range of figures from various periods such as Roman and Medieval, which are all very nice and worth checking out, if you are interested in that period.
Kitbashing, Retailers and further information resources
The phrase "Kitbashing" is derived from the practice of customising off the shelf models or action figures and is a popular pastime for collectors. This has spawned a small industry of specialist retailers who can supply every item of kit for your 1/6 military figure you can imagine and there are a number of excellent suppliers who can match your requirement, along with some popular online forums, in which enthusiasts can discuss and display their latest projects. Some of the biggest suppliers are in the UK Modellers Loft (as mentioned above) and Collectible Kitbash ( http://www.collectablekitbash.co.uk/), In the US - Monkey Depot have a massive range of figures and parts - http://www.monkeydepot.com/ as do the BigBadToyStore - http://www.bigbadtoystore.com/bbts/, also there is BlackOps Toys - http://www.blackopstoys.com/catalog/.
As mentioned, there are a number of forums on the subject - http://www.onesixthwarriors.com/forum/front-page-news/, and the Sixth Division - http://onesixthnet.yuku.com/.
There is also http://www.sixtharmygroup.com/forums/ which concentrates on World War 2 figures and has some nice video's. There are also a number of fan/enthusiast sites but my particular favourite is run by a group of British enthusiasts under the banner of Kampfgruppe Von Abt, who produce the most incredible dioramas using 1/6 action figures, most WW2 era but also some Vietnam era dioramas, these can be found at http://www.vonabt.co.uk/ Enjoy!