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Plastic Army Men

Updated on February 8, 2015

My Army Men

When I was a little girl I shared ownership with my brother of brown and green plastic army men. But not only did we have the army men with their guns and the various poses, we had the full artillery of tanks, machine guns, and army trucks.

Though he was seven years older than I, we would spend hours playing with these army men. The only problem I had was that I was never allowed to win. I would kill one of his men and he would say that I missed by a mile. The green men always went to my brother as well. Not that I preferred the brown men. But I did make up for it when friends were over, I was the green army and we took turns winning.

We both owned the cowboys and Indians made of this molded plastic too. Guess who played the cowboys most of the time?

The day came when my brother moved out of the house. Along with him moved out our army men, and the cowboys and Indians, despite the fact that these toys were half mine. To this today, I don't know if he still has our plastic army fighting toys.

Toy Army Men History

The original toy army men were made of tin, lead or zinc. These tin soldiers were popular in the late 1800s. The army toys mainly came from Germany, followed by England and France.

Toy soldier stood 2 to 3 inches tall. An English company, Britains, Ltd., later standardize the size to around 54mm scale.

Around World War 1, American makers began producing these toy figures. The plastic toys were creations of soldiers of Civil War, Cowboys and Indians.

In the 1950s, these tin soldiers changed over to plastic. This allowed makers to produce safer and cheaper toys. This was the start of the plastic army soldiers they were sold in plastic bags, as we know it today.

Most popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s were non-brand types and a very common sort with very flat feet and no stands. These were mainly products in Taiwan or Hong Kong and then exported them. Army Men were sold in every toy store. Every plastic bag included troops, a flag, and vehicles. Jeeps, trucks, half-tracks, cannons and tanks were usually included.

The brand types came from Louis Marx Inc, a large toy manufacturer and Ideal. Some soldiers came with ring hands and separate weapons to add to their hands.

The 70s saw a decline in war toys, though they grew in popularity again in the 90s. Green army men were also among the characters in the 1995 Disney movie, Toy Story. Thus giving these toys a large boost.

Toy Story

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (2 Pack)
Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (2 Pack)

Watching the toy army men in Toy Story brought back memories of my own childhood, spending hours building up my army and fighting the brother.


Love the Detail in These Toys

What I loved about the plastic molded army men was how detailed these toys were. One would think that these were made for adults, rather than children.

The modern army man has flesh colored faces. Though I have yet to see army women.

I may still play with these army men toys. Behind closet doors. Please keep this a secret. We would not want it to get out.

Army Men - Plastic Apocalypse: Modern Warfare

Army Men 3D

Army Men 3D
Army Men 3D

Great game for your Playstation.


Do You Have a Set of Army Men?

For all you action figure collectors, here is a one of the best places to go on the internet to find and buy items for avid collectors called The Collectionary

© 2009 Sandy Mertens

What was your favorite childhood toy?

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    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind 3 years ago from USA

      Love this! Plastic army guys were a mainstay of my childhood playtime.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      These were a HUGE part of my kids lives when they were little - in fact we still have a few containers of them - they LOVED these; honestly we had every army man I think there ever was and all the related equipment too!

    • aminebombom profile image

      Amine 3 years ago from Doha, Qatar

      i used to have a couple of those army soldiers when i was young, i don't know what happen to them maybe some spy took them so he can interrogate them lol. nice article sandy

    • profile image

      marsha32 3 years ago

      Oh gosh, my brother and I had so much fun with his army men. We would split them up, then set them up across from each other. We would throw small rocks across and the first one to knock over all of the other person's men would be the winner of the war. Then we would set them up again.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      I don't know why my pacifistic self still loves these little guys so.

    • profile image

      Squidtree 5 years ago

      I still remember the fun I had with these plastic Army men! Nostalgic feelings :) Great Lens I must say!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I played with green Army men with my brother too. We also had the plastic cowboys and Indians. Loved those little guys!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Nice lens. I can appreciate toys wich use an unlimited amount of imagination to run, batteries not included. Great job there General squid!

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      Wow, thanks for bringing up some old and precious memories for me. I know that somewhere in the back yard of my childhood home "Troop Elite Ten" is still buried several feet down in the dirt. They were ambushed and forced into a deep hole by an army of muscle men... They camped there overnight, but the morning a massive rainstorm came. While the captain of the troop was at school, their hole was filled in with layers of mud. They never were found or heard of again. :)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

      We had fun playing with the plastic army men. They turned a pile of dirt into a playground/battlefield.

      Thanks for sharing

    • imaginemdd lm profile image

      imaginemdd lm 7 years ago

      Interesting lens about plastic army men. Thanks for providing more information about them. I've added a link on my doll & puppet directory lens.

    • profile image

      suny51 7 years ago

      My child hood toy was a toy gun with lot of loud fire power, but at the age of 14 i got a small camera and that did the trick, though almost 45 years have gone away, the camera a Codac120 is still a prised possession for me.

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 7 years ago

      I really loved these soldiers especially Confederate and Union , we invented a game to go with them as well

    • nukemdomis lm profile image

      nukemdomis lm 7 years ago

      Nice picture of the army men for the the module, "Toy army men history" . I love seeing images like that at the top of lenses. Kind of lets me know what the lens is about.

    • profile image

      seegreen 7 years ago

      I don't remember is we had plastic army men, but we did have a tank that I could put a matchstick in and fire at a target. We built card houses and then had fun knocking them down with the matchstick missile (not lighted, but that would be fun too *g*). My favourite plastic army men are from Toy Story, I think they are one of the best parts. Blessed by an Angel.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      the flickr group for plastic army men is so creative

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 7 years ago

      I had hundreds of plastic toy soldiers. I grew up in the late 1950s in the UK and believed that there were just British soldiers who were the 'goodies' and everyone else who were the baddies and the baddies were called 'germans'. Talk about cultural indoctrination! Thankfully time has moved on, Any way later around the age of 11 I started collecting Airfix 1:75 scale soldiers, I played wargames with them and made a huge diarama of a WW1 trench system. I loved them and have just given my collection to a nephew.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      @bechand: Great costume.

    • bechand profile image

      bechand 7 years ago

      My little guy loves his army men. Have you seen the photos of guys dressed as army men for Halloween? We might just have to try it.

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 8 years ago from Chicago area

      So fun to read about a female army-guy-lover. My boys can't get enough of those little plastic dudes. I think I'm sitting on one right now! ;) 5*

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 8 years ago

      This lens really brings back memories. My brother,who's 3 years younger, had lots of plastic army men in every size you can imagine. I would play Army Men with him and every now and then he would play "Barbies" with me. Please don't tell him I told you about Barbie.LOL! Another 5 star lens!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      [in reply to CherylK] Lucky you...that you didn't have a brother! :)

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 8 years ago from Minnesota

      I didn't have any brothers so there were no army men in our house...after reading this lens, I'm kinda sorry about that!! Looks like I missed out :-) Very clever lens, Sandy.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      We were at Disneyland a number of years ago and had stopped for lunch when out came some real live army men. It was an excellent and very exciting experience for my boys one of whom loved his inexpensive little plastic army men. Blessed.

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 8 years ago

      Thanks for the memories - Yes, I rememer playing with all those ... Army Soldiers, Cowboys and Indians - What fun it was.

      I had to stop last year though when I bought my computer.

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 8 years ago from Rhode Island

      I never played army men but my husband still has them about the house on his desk on bookshelves he was a huge fan of them and still is great lens I enjoyed it a lot

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Nobody 8 years ago from UK

      I had an Action Man (U.K. version of the US GI Joe toy)

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 8 years ago

      When my sons were young, we had army men everywhere. Great lens.

    • profile image

      Joan4 8 years ago

      I just helped our 5 y/o grandson set up his army men yesterday with a block fort! And yes, our son played with them for hours and hours, too! What a classic!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      Oh what a great topic! I just sent my son, who is serving on an aircraft carrier, a bag of army men. Long story, but the army men protect the nuclear plant on the ship from gremlins.

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image

      thepartyanimal2 8 years ago

      My brother Army Men invaded my Fisher Price Castle and had a fire - my poor castle melted and was no more - Darn Brothers!!!!

    • momto4 lm profile image

      momto4 lm 8 years ago

      My older brother wasn't very good at sharing his army men but I remember sneaking in his room when he wasn't there and playing with them. Great lens!

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 8 years ago

      We had those plastic soldiers too in Germany, and of course, cowboys and indians. I preferred playing with the cowboys and indians. though.

    • profile image

      thesachambers 8 years ago

      I loved playing with them and as an adult I have stepped on a few

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 8 years ago from New Zealand

      I didn't have these toys, but do remember them from toy story. Great job Sandy, your lens are always so lively and filled with great information.

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      Oh yes I have fond memories of the plastic army guys lens!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 8 years ago from Australia

      Very interesting!

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 8 years ago

      Cool lens... I remember my little brothers having fun with these guys! :-)

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Great lens. My son has a few toy soldiers... they play among the Lego!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens, Sandy! I used to play with these too with my brothers! Those old lead soldiers can bring some pretty good money from collectors.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 8 years ago from United States

      Oh yes, these little guys were great! We had a dog that chewed on my brothers army men. They really did see battle! My brother would fight the dog literally tooth and nail to get his army men back even though they were now mangled.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      I hadn't thought about these little guys in years! Nice work!

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago


    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      My brother and I played with plastic army men and also had a lot of GI Joes. My grandson and his friends play with the little men with all the tanks, etc. down on the creek building forts. I really enjoyed this lens.

    • profile image

      motorpurrr 8 years ago

      I have sold many army men in the past 9 years on eBay. Some of the old dimestore army men and cowboys do quite will. The way small ones that are 3/4" tall and the huge Marx ones that are 5" tall are the best. Nice lens idea!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 8 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Sweet Memories. I believe my brothers had some of these plastic army men. My son still has some with the parachute that he left behind when he moved out. I kept them, lol! :)

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 8 years ago

      What a lot about little army ment that I didn't know...thanks for sharin'

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      I loved those army men too! I had forgotten that until you created this. Thanks for the memories!