I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane/history lesson. If you have insights or corrections, please post them.
Introduction, Metal Figures
Forty years ago there were not very many model plastic figures available. Those that were available were often no better than today’s soft plastic toys offered bagged by the dozens in grocery store aisles. While there were some injection figure companies -- Airfix, Almark and Historex being a few -- before the age of resin figures if you wanted accurate, authentic model figures, you had to look to metal castings. Those were often pewter, metal combinations and, occasionally, good ol’ toxic lead!
was a metal figure company that filled the void of decent specialized figures. Other big names in the business were:
Almark (Also made styrene figures.)
Bugle and Guidon
Valiant MiniaturesValiant Miniatures are highly regarded cast metal historical figures. Back in the 1970s when The Squadron Shop published their quarterly magazine-catalogue The Squadron, an anxiously awaited highlight was the new figures by Valiant Miniatures.
Valiant Miniatures started making casting metal 54mm figures in 1968. Valiant figures were prominent in model magazines, both as the primary subject as well as parts of a diorama. Valiant Miniatures showed up in many Shep Paine dioramas, including several of his famous diorama brochures included in Monogram kits.
I do not know how many figures V.M. cast although their website shows 373 models under the Valiant Miniatures series of 54mm figures. Furthermore, the site shows hundreds of other models in other series. The V.M. website catalogs these series in many scales (including 28mm and 1/1200):
32mm Fantasy Figs
Kobolds Ate My Baby!
Model Plane Landing Gear
1/48 Scale Helicopter
1/72 Scale Jet
1/72 Scale Prop
1/144 Scale Jet
1/144 Scale Prop
1/24 Scale Prop
1/32 Scale Jet
1/32 Scale Prop
1/35 Scale Helicopter
1/48 Scale Jet
1/48 Scale Prop
Alien Valiant Miniatures
Model Plane Landing Gear lists 665 (!) sets - I didn't know they made these!
Valiant makes a wide range of interesting subjects; with 373 figures and figure sets in dozens of subjects, I am not going to list each one but I do offer this sample of what I think are interesting:
Bugle-Major, Highland Lt. Inf. - 1896
Highland Light Inf., India - 1935
Lutzow's Reitende Jager - 1813
Maj. Pechkoff, French Foreign Leg. - 1925
Piper - 51st Sikhs
US Marine - 1900 Boxer Rebellion
USN - 1920's - w/B.A.R.
WW2 Australian Vickers Machine-gun Team
V.M. made a large range of Vietnam subjects:
Montagnard Tribesman - Vietnam
Republic of Korea Marine, 1970
US Air Force Crew Chief - Present
US Air Force Pilot - Present
US Army Grenadier, Vietnam
US Army Helicopter Pilot
US General Officer
US Helicopter Scout Pilot - Vietnam
US Marine, Vietnam
US Spec. Forces Off., Dress Uniform - Vietnam
US Spec. Forces Sgt. - Vietnam
US Special Forces Sergeant
US Tank Commander - Vietnam
USA Infantryman - Vietnam
Vietnamese Fighter Pilot
All of the above are on the Valiant website although all are not listed together as a series.
I do not know what happened nor when, yet today this company is named Valiant Enterprises Ltd
. (Today there is another Valiant Miniatures in England, which makes plastic 1/72 figure sets.) I also do not know how long V.M. cast figures although they do catalog US Pilot - "Desert Storm" - 1991
. The site lists New Products
North Vietnamese Regular
My records show that I painted and assembled this figure on 15 July, 1976. Back then Valiant Miniatures packaged their models in a clear plastic bag closed with a red card label. They included a color or black-and-white paper showing a photograph of the completed figure as well as line art of assembly.
This model is cast as four components: the right arm; rest of the body; neck roll; AK-47. Back then I carved away flash but did not put much emphasis on cleaning seam lines. As this figure does not show any marks, it must have been cleanly cast.
Some metal figures have a rough surface. This one does not. However, it must have had some 'tooth' to it as back then I did not prime figures and none of the enamel paint has scuffed off.
The subject is dressed in a floppy hat, a simple tunic, 'pajama' pants, and recycled tire sandals. He wears a web belt, backpack with a blanket, US canteen. He is armed with an AK-47. Oddly, he has no magazine pouches for the assault gun.
Facial detail is acceptable although eye detail is slight. The belt has definite stitching and buckle detail. The tunic is not well demarcated around the neck. The strap of the AK-47 shows the looped fabric and fittings.
Nowadays there are injection molded and resin 1/35 NVA and Viet Cong figures. "Back in the day" these metal figures were the only models of the subject available Aside from the limited facial and tunic detail, this model has good detail. Casting is good with no mold seam lines nor flash. The amount of detail of the equipment is good.
This model is a nice single figure representing a North Vietnamese Regular.
I did not explore where to buy these models. Valiant has their own sales part of their site and an eBay page; several years ago Squadron sold Valiant, and I stumbled upon another big online figure store with the product.