Margarine figuren - Miniaturesandhistory

Go to content
An old marketing tool
Not really modelfigures, but you can find them on internet sometimes on flea markets: small, mostly white hardplastic miniatures that represent all kinds of themes. What are these and where do they come from?
The figures of mostly hard plastic are called margarine figures. As the name suggests, these were given with the margarine, especially in Germany. The origin of the use to give small free gifts starts in the early twenties of the last century. There were a lot of margarine factories at that time in Germany. They all gave customers small gifts. These could be colorful cards, figurines of wood and metal, papier-mâché and so on. These gifts were very successful and especially in Germany more and more suppliers of all kinds of products make use of them. The economic crisis of 1929 marks an abrupt end.

Emergence of plastic and the Winterhilfe
In the second half of the 1930s, in Germany some factories succeeded in turning plastic into small figures. The technology is booming and mass production started. These are the first plastic figures that we now call margarine figures. However, these were not given free with a product, but sold for the benefit of the 'Winterhilfe' (WHW). A charity organization of the Nazi party that from the thirties every year raised money to help needy Germans in the winter months. Many millions of the plastic figures were sold for a few cents. Production continued until the first years of WWII.
Successfully reintroduced
After the Second World War, the German margarine factories started again with free miniatures. For that they used the old moulds of the figures that were made for the purposes of the WHW. Soon they also started with new themes and types in enormous quantities. The heyday of the margarine figures is in the years 1950-1954.  The competition between margarine factories is largely due to these figures and the industry has to conclude that things are getting out of hand. On March 1, 1954, all margarine suppliers signed a covenant declaring that they were adjusting the method of giving margarine figures. In practice, this meant that there came an end to the free gifts.
At that time, there were about a dozen factories in Germany that made almost exclusively margarine figures. Because the use of giveaway toys also arises in other countries, however, they are not dependent on the German market anymore. They continue to produce these kind of miniatures until the late 60’s.  
Ridder margarine.JPG
Types and themes
Because so many margarine figures are made, the number of themes is almost infinite. To list a few: Sport, farm life, pre-history, costumes, fairy tales, country themes, buildings, means of transport, zoos and complete nativity scenes. It's all there. It is striking that almost all of them are very peaceful themes. You do not or hardly encounter soldiers. There are a number of Indians, a single knight and cowboys. In this they differ from (flat) tin figures that have fewer civilian and more military subjects. The shape looks more like the flat tin figures. Margarine figures are somewhat larger, about 4 to 5 cm on average and slightly fuller in shape than flats. Margarine figures are generally white and made of hard plastic. Nevertheless, you can also find them in all kinds of colors and also in soft plastic. These usually concerns figures from after 1954 and were given with other products than margarine and also exported to other countries.
In Germany there are some collectors of margarine figures and about once a year there is even a collectors' fair. However, the number of collectors is limited and the supply huge. Not favorable for a high value. In general, the prices are therefore low. For a few euros you can buy a lot of figures at E-bay, sometimes a full box. There are of course exceptions. Many of the figures have a brand name or stamp of the producer and then that one collector is looking for just this special miniature. But generally the value is low.
Back to content