Lead figures were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries but the use of lead waned in the 1950s and 60s in favour of the cheaper alternative, plastic.
Lead figures came in many themes and designs including kings and queens, animals and TV characters but the most popular by far were the lead soldiers.
Made in full numbered sets, they are accurate and detailed and despite a dip in manufacture directly following the First World War, they remained hugely popular.
These lead soldiers were made by a number of companies.
Britains is probably the most well-known name in the field.
William Britain founded the company in 1845 working as a ‘brass cock maker’ who had varying success with a number of mechanical toys until 1893 when he pioneered hollow casting.
The molten lead was poured into the mould and then quickly back out again before it had set, leaving just a coating on the mould and vastly reducing the amount of lead needed per figure, and thus the cost of manufacturing them.
This method is thought to pre-date William Britain but he is often credited with its invention as it was he who pushed it into mainstream mass production where it very quickly took over from solid casting.
Collectors look for fine detailing and unusual variations or characters.
Britains are renowned for accuracy in the uniform of the soldiers they produced.
Original paint is also important while missing, replaced or repaired parts such as arms or weapons will negatively affect value and saleability.
Soldiers in original boxes – better still good condition original boxes – are more valuable.
However, Britains boxes are more commonly found than some of the smaller companies.