Here’s a tough one: What do Winston Churchill, Rod Stewart, Malcolm Forbes and Napoleon have in common? If you answered “they collected toy soldiers,” you’d be right.
Surprised? Don’t be. Those tiny figurines have been found in Roman ruins and tombs of Pharaohs. Forbes’ collection numbered 60,000 individual miniatures; Churchill had 1,500. Interest hasn’t waned with time, either:
A recent search of eBay turned up more than 51,000 listings. On the Netflix hit “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey’s character Francis Underwood sets up elaborate Civil War battle scenes as a way to relieve stress.
Like most collectibles, toy soldiers were originally drafted as instructional devices. “Churchill and Napoleon used them to demonstrate battle tactics,” says Major Duan Sinclair, a member of the South Carolina Military Miniature Society. “With miniature trees, forts and other landscape elements, they truly illustrated the strategy so planners could look for weaknesses.”
Ready to learn more? On Saturday, Aug. 9, at the SC Military Miniature Society will hold the Southeast Toy Soldier Show at the S.C. State Museum. In addition to all types of toy soldiers, there will be ornate dioramas and vignettes of various historic scenes and battles set up, living history re-enactments and more than 40 vendors selling militaria including books, artwork, flags, swords and uniforms. DIY-ers can learn to paint the figures themselves.
“These are beautifully made and detailed miniatures from every era of history,” says Sinclair. “The painting is meticulous – even down to the eyelashes.”
The Southeast Toy Soldier Show will run from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the State Museum, 301 Gervais St., Columbia. Entry is free with museum admission. For more information, visit scmms.net or museum.state.sc.us