If you are reading this and know about toy casting molds, your probably over 50.
Casting molds and kits were introduced into the United States from Germany during the early 1900s. Most of these molds can be traced to Grubner Schneider. Several American companies imported the molds and sold them under their names (e.g. Henry Schiercke and Eric P.Schalk). S. Sachs was one of the first companies to market molds made in America, although he sold some of the German molds as well. Many of the early companies blatently copied each others designs in addition to buying molds and selling them as their own. The "lineage" of some of the early American made molds is clouded by the break up of Junior Caster (The five Rapaport Bros.). Some of the brothers later produced the same molds under new company names.
A significant decline in this hobby came during WWII, partly due to the scapping and melting down of the master molds. The lack of metal and other war distractions brought this hobby to an all time low. This was followed by the concerns about lead poisoning in children and product liability (e.g. hot lead).
Although hurt, the hobby was not mortally wounded and some of the original master molds survived and are still in production. There appears to be a resurgence of interest in the hobby and new molds (most being silicon rubber) have been produced in the last few years.
A gentleman by the name of Ed Poole has written a number of excellent articles about the hobby for Old Toy Soldier News. He has also written a very good history that appears in Obrien's Collecting Old Toy Soldiers.
If you have molds or have questions, please leave a message at the Send Comments/Messagespage.
My personal experience
My first encounter with this hobby came over 45 years ago when an Uncle delivered a wooden box with about half a dozen molds and a Gilbert Kaster Kit. I think my dad had more fun the first few years than I did (something about not using them without his supervision). I did, however, get to play with the results. It wasn't too many years later when I could get out the molds and make my own toys. We were still heating with coal at the time and the little stove for hot water was perfect. My best friend and I would set these soldiers up outside, hiding them behind "fortications" (rocks and blocks of wood). We would then take turns "firing" lumps of dirt ("dirt bombs") at the enemy until one or the others complete army was "dead" (down). I think there may have been a time or two when, in the heat of battle, a dirt bomb may have been "accidentily" thrown at the opposing Commander. What fun!
An interesting conversation took place a few months back concerning the joys of pouring melted lead into molds and the magic of opening the molds to see the figures emerge. My comment was that if everything they said about lead poisoning was true, my brain should be "mush" by now. His reply was that the joy of casting hot lead was well worth a few points off one's IQ. I couldn't agree with him more.
Luckily I saved these molds through several moves, but did little with them until about 1987. At that time I came across some molds at a flea market and my interest was revived. I began contacting other collectors and purchasing molds and even entire collections. I now consider my collection respectable.
During this time, I have received much advice and invaluable information, much of which is available at this site. Please feel free to contact me by using the Send Comments/Messages page.
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