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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Set of Georg Spenkuch the Russo-Japanese war toy soldiers

This box of toy soldiers and scenery props made of pewter in Germany in 1906, by Georg Spenkuch, portrays the Russian Japanese war, the first war won by an Asian power, Japan, against a European power, Russia, in the modern period. In their original box, and still in excellent condition, the toys travelled with their owner all his life, mostly spent in the Pacific and Indonesia, surviving both World Wars (the donor spent part of the Second World War in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia), and the tropical climate. Given to him when he was 12, the toys were his most treasured possession. Known as 'flats', this type of toy soldier was and is very popular in Europe, particularly Germany where these were manufactured, in contrast to the more familiar hollow rounded figure which became the type made and sold in England and the United States of America. Georg Spenkuch was one of the best known makers of pewter toys at this time. 
The box containing a sheet of cardboard, pasted with a blue-grey paper covering, and small slits to hold 33 flat model soldiers, 12 scenery items and 3 battleships. The Russian soldiers are attached to the left hand side of the sheet and the Japanese are on the right in action positions. The soldiers are painted appropriately on both sides, while the larger pieces of scenery are painted only on one side. There are three battle ships, one Russian and two Japanese, with one mounted officer, one flag bearer and one stretcher case per army. At the centre of the sheet is a cottage flanked by two fruit trees, and other assorted props. The figures are designed to be positioned on a flat surface in play. The box is cardboard and is covered in brown wrapping paper with a large coloured label in the centre of the lid which reads: 'Extrafeine massive Zinnfiguren' (in German); 'Figures d'etain superfine' (in French); and 'Superfine solid Pewter Figures'. The manufacturer's logo, featuring a 'bursting bomb', is at the lower centre of the label. The box is complete except for two missing edges and still contains the original straw packing material on which the soldiers rest, now coloured brown with age. This set of tin soldiers is kept in the collection of Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences MAAS (Australia).

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