Two Types of Collectible Model Farm Animals and Figures From Britains:
Beginning in 1921, W. Britains Ltd produced a wide range of enamel painted lead based metal farm animals, figures, accessories and buildings for the children's toy market. The majority of the molds were adapted over to production of plastic models by 1959 and a few more recently molded figures continue in production under company ownership by Ertl, mainly the most popular herd animals. The models are sized the same as Britains more famous toy soldiers at a size of 54 mm for a standing male figure, roughly 1:32 scale.
Early metal figures and animals are widely collected, and there is increasing interest in the early plastic range as well.
Metal Home Farm Range:
Information for Britains Model Farm Collectors:
Plastic Home Farm Range:
The plastic Britains Model Farm Range is a mixture of molds from the original Herald animals of 1955 and 1956, and the Britains metal models, which were switched over to production in plastic beginning in 1957. By 1968 the combined range was being produced in PVC plastic, and by 1969, most of the range was being remodelled from the combined older molds of Herald and Britains.
History of Britains and Britains / Herald Model Farm Animals and Figures
W. Britains Ltd. began their metal 'Model Home Farm' line of collectible cast figures, animals and accessories in 1921 in an effort to improve their peace time sales after the First World War. The line was originally introduced with 30 individually available pieces, including trees, shrubs and a farm cart available at a price children could easily afford. The line was added to each year with the inclusion of more animals, village figures ,including a 'village idiot' in 1926, and village clergy. Fox hunting figures and cast metal wall sections were added, and following changes in farm life, the first farm truck or 'lorry' was introduced in 1934.The range of animals and poses became quite large, at one point there were thirteen different rabbit poses, beehives, donkeys, blackbirds (crows?) and a range of other items. In 1948 the first model tractor was added.
The cast metal (lead based) figures were sold from 1921 until 1966 when cast metal toys were discontinued. Beginning in 1955, Britains created a partnership with plastic toy maker Herald Ltd, completing a full merger in 1959, and the model home farm line was continued in injection moulded plastic. As fashions changed some lines evolved and some were discontinued, the fox hunting line ended production in 1966. In later years there was more focus on farm vehicles, and the animal range did not increase. The Britain family sold their ownership of the company in 1984. Ertl acquired the Britains line in 1997, mainly to accompany their line of metal farm equipment. A few plastic animal figures continue to be sold by Ertl. The Britains name continues with the production of a line of cast metal military miniatures by First Gear, but the range of farm figures has been reduced to a few items, mainly various herd animals.
Metal Figures and Amimals - Most larger and mid sized animals are labelled with a raised "Britains England" on the underside. Lettering may be in opposite directions for England and Britains. Figures with a base are stamped on the base with some variation of "copyright property of Britains Ltd. Made in England"
Plastic figures - 1955, Herald release their first range of plastic farm animals with a Herald blowing a horn as the identifying mark on the base. From 1955 to 1964 most, but not all figures have the Herald logo. In 1964 the majority of Britains Herald joint trademarks were removed, and "Britains Ltd England" or Simply "England" are found on the base of the figures.
Prices and Availability - Metal and plastic Model Farm figures are still widely available. Prices for individual metal figures range from $5 to several hundred dollars depending on rarity, condition and packaging. Paint and metal condition should be checked. At the time of writing (2010) the figures in the photo above have the following current values. The smocked shepherd with his crook is listed for $15 to $30, while the lamb is around $5 and the collie is $5 to $10. Plastic animals range from $2 up depending on rarity, packaging and condition. Plastic farm animals from the Britains range are still an affordable range of collectibles and toy farm animals for children. Children should not be allowed to handle or play with lead based figures.
Useful Websites for Collectors:
- Britains and Herald Plastic Farm Animals and Figures Jonathan Steven's site
- Powerhouse Museum Sydney houses a large collection of items from a child's farm collection including many metal and plastic items from Britains Model Farm range
- Blog serialized reproduction of the book Britains Plastic Farm Models 1955 - 1969 by Barney Brown is housed on the Planet Diecast Website.