Adults and children alike love toy soldiers

A march through time with a host of toy soldiers!

Those of us who are interested in toy soldiers, or those who have ever played with them will want a copy of “The History of Toy Soldiers” by Luigi Toiati. The beautifully illustrated book spans some 640 pages and includes a preface by James Opie.

The book provides a great deal of information as well as more than 600 color illustrations of a variety of toy soldiers from countries such as Germany, England, Italy, Belgium, Greece, France, Austria, U.S. and more. Divided into 17 chapters, the book covers the several different types of toy soldiers as well as the history behind their creation. The popularity of toy soldiers spans several centuries and whole chapters are devoted to particular periods of time –such as beginning in the 6th century BC to the 13th century and each century right up to the current day.

I found chapter 8 very interesting as it’s devoted to the “solid” toy soldier, which according to the author gained popularity in the latter part of the 19th century. Here’s what the author has to say at the beginning of the chapter. “At the beginning of the second half of the nineteenth century, early solid toy soldiers were first conceived for the wealthy classes emerging from the Napoleonic Empire, then the Restoration and then the Industrial Revolution. Soon solid ‘lead’ soldiers literally invaded Europe, later crossing the ocean too.”

He later adds that the toys became less expensive, due to the expansion and became more popular with bright colors and allowed people to re-enact –on the spot—the conflict of the moment.”

Being a girl/woman, I never had any toy soldiers, but I remember buying a few collector-style sets for my son when he was a young boy. And being female, I am attracted to the accompanying pieces that often came with the various toy soldier sets, such as lampposts, chariots, ships, fencing, gardens carts, and even some ladies decorated and molded in period clothing.

Other chapters provide information and illustrations on other categories of soldiers such as those fighting naval battles; using cannons in war, mounted soldiers in armor and many more.  

The artwork and illustrations provided in the book are plenty and magnificently done with bright colors and clear images.

According to press materials that came with the copy of the book, Luigi Toiati has a massive collection of toy soldiers –so many that he hasn’t even got a complete count on them. He’s worked as a professional figure painter in London, and in 1987 began making his own toy soldiers. He and his collection have been mentioned in several books on the subject. He currently resides in Rome, Italy with his wife and operates a marketing research agency with her.

Anyone familiar with toy soldiers probably knows James Opie, who is a consultant to Bonham’s auctioneers and a recognized expert on the subject. He has written several books on various aspects of toy soldier collecting.

In addition to all the outstanding information and color photos/illustrations within the book, serious toy soldier collectors will appreciate the comprehensive Index of Makers that spans seven pages.  

“The History of Toy Soldiers” by Luigi Toiati is published by Pen and Sword Military. Pen and Sword Books (U.S.) is at 1950 Lawrence Road in Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083. They can be reached at (610) 853-9131 or at The book is hardcover and is distributed in North America by Casemate Publishers. It is priced at $59.95 and is also available on the Internet at various sites including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.