Category:Forts and Castles (display)
|Past Displays and Exhibitions|
? - December 2014
This display shows some typical examples of toy forts and castles, along with a limited number of boxed toy soldier sets.
Toy castles were always comparatively expensive items (often catalogue-order items from South German toymakers), and don't have obvious direct modern counterparts, the nearest modern equivalents being build-your-own "World of Warcraft"-style kits, and some castle-related Lego sets.
Toy castles were often the "boys' toys" equivalent of dollhouses, with the advantage that their open-topped design meant that they didn't need hinging walls. Castles and forts could have extravagantly ornate architecture, and their play value could be further enhanced with ramps, drawbridges, hillside defences and so on.
The disadvantage of toy castles and forts was that buyers tended to expect these extras, which all added to the manufacturing cost – a premium dollhouse could often still be made as a simple box-like construction with right-angled joints and floors, and the additional cost for an expensive dollhouse appearing in the wallcoverings, furnishings and accessories. For a castle on a hill, the makers would have to physically build the hillside and the sloped defences and walls and any architectural details, and since this wasn't just a matter of gluing reproductions of wallpaper or carpet onto flat surfaces, this meant that "nice" toy castles were expensive.
The problem with toy castles was essentially the bulkiness of the item (which deterred retailers from stocking and displaying the products) and the mismatch between how much they actually cost to build as opposed to how much it looked (to potential customers) as if they should cost to buy. Building a model hillside underneath a castle might require a significant amount of material and finishing, but to the customer, it might be seen as just a recreation of a pile of earth. In this respect, dollhouse manufacturers had things much easier, adding a few slivers of varnished wood veneer or marble-effect printed lacquered paper might not add a huge amount to the material costs for a dollhouse, but made it look much more expensive.
The desire for cheap toy castles with decent detailing prompted the an occasional tinplate manufacturer to try making tinplate castles with this detailing achieved with lithographic printing, but the idea didn't really catch on in the UK as a genre, except perhaps when it came to biscuit manufacturers sometimes printing castle details on their biscuit tins!
Even with tinplate, castle models were not particularly cost-effective – a tinplate fort still required a comparatively large area of lithographed metal, which in the 1930s (with the appearance of more popular gauge 0 model railways between the wars) could have been more profitably used to make a larger quantity of smaller model railway accessories and buildings.
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