Action Packs, the ugly duck of Timpo?
Timpo Toys is best known among collectors of plastic toy figures thanks to the 'swoppets' series. Figures composed of different parts. Several manufacturers brought these types of figures, but those of Timpo Toys are the most well-known. Timpo, however, has also brought many plastic figures from one piece to the market since the 1950s and continued this, with some interruption, until the end of the company in 1978.
Timpo Toys was founded in England in the thirties of the last century by Sally Gawrylovitz (1909-2000). A German refugee who could no longer carry out his work in Nazi Germany because he was of Jewish origin. At first he was involved in the import of toys (Timpo = Toy importers company) but soon the company also started to produce its own toys. Immediately after the second war, the first Timpo figures came on the market. Especially a lot of cowboys and Indians, but also knights and soldiers of more modern armies. First really heavy 'solid' figures, made of lead and tin, later metal 'hollow-cast' figures. Figures similar to those of Britains, though these Timpo figures never reached the level or popularity of Britains.
In 1954 Timpo switched to making plastic figures in one piece using the same casting moulds as for the metal figures. Not only was plastic 'more modern', especially an English campaign to no longer use the poisonous lead for toys will have been also have affected this transition.
Solids and swoppets
lready in 1955 Timpo produced special moulds for exclusively plastic figures. In the second half of the 1950s, quite a few series came on the market. The figures were cast in one colour plastic and hand-painted and sold separately. Eventually, there would be about fourteen different series of solids. A series of cowboys, Indians, knights, Arabs, foreign legion, modern armies, cadets, English guard, Napoleonic, American civil war, Cossacks and a few civilian series. A series could consist of different parts. For example, the Napoleonic series had French, English, Scottish and Prussian troops, both infantry and cavalry. Almost every military series consisted of a number of infantry and cavalry. The size was always 54mm and the figures were characterized by a rather clumsy detailed finish. Big hands, big faces and therefore they are sometimes called 'comic-style' figures and probably for that reason little collected.
At the end of the fifties Timpo began to experiment with what would later become the 'swoppets'. At first these were no more than solids that got a loose spear or sword in one hand. In the early 1960s, Timpo invented a new casting technique that allows figures to be moulded and assembled in multiple colours. The swoppets were a great success and the production of the solids stops in the early 60s.
The future seems to lie mainly with the swoppets in the sixties for toy figures. Thanks in part to the great success of Timpo, companies such as Elastolin and Britains are also focusing on these types of figures. And yet at the end of the sixties and early seventies Timpo comes with the company name Model Toys, with a series of boxes in which the old Timpo solids can be found. This always involves boxes with 20 unpainted figures. Why this series is put on the market is not entirely clear. In the early 1970s, Airfix also launched a successful series of boxes of 1/35 figures, but the start of it is just after that of the Timpo Action Packs.
In the 1969 catalog, Action Packs starts directly with six series consisting of 10 different boxes. In 1974 these are expanded with another three boxes, including the new sports series. This series will never have more than one box of football players. Shortly after, the Waterloo series is expanded with three boxes of cavalry, making this series the most extensive. Eventually, 16 different boxes appeared divided over 7 series.
Most of the figures are reproductions of the original solids from the fifties. This can be seen at the footplates. It says 'made in England' while the company was already moved to Scotland in the 1960s and put in the newer figures 'made in Great Britain'. For the Indians, forms from another company are used. These are clearly distinctive from the other figures.
The number of types of figures may differ per box. The Waterloo infantrymen consist of eight different figures, the 8th army out of eleven, while in some other boxes there are only four different ones. In the late 70's, the figures are sold in smaller sets and other packaging. Shortly thereafter it is over and the company goes bankrupt. After that, until today, Timpo Toys figures are still sold under the name Action Figures. Eight figures in a blister pack. Made with the forms bought by the Toyway company. Incidentally, production has also been discontinued in the meantime, but such large numbers have been produced that they can still be bought for little money. The material of these Toyway figures is of a different kind, almost rubbery plastic, which makes the detailing a lot less. Toyway also brings back the old solid horsemen from knights and American civil war that have never been issued through the action packs series. Especially the riders, including the re-issued Napoleonic, are of a lesser quality than the original solids and Action Packs figures. In part this will have to do with the type of plastic, but also with the aging of the moulds.