Dealer, collector, author, military historian – Shamus Wade amassed the remarkable collection of toy soldiers and figures which was recently sold at Special Auction Services of Greenham, near Newbury.
Wade's collection crossed many different themes and factories but was particularly strong on the creations of Georg Heyde of Dresden.
Solid lead figures never really took off in Germany but, while unable to break the allegiance to the flat figure at home, Heyde enjoyed considerable success overseas with Great Britain and the USA both important markets between 1870 and 1944 when the factory was destroyed in Allied bombing raids.
According to the original display box, the extraordinary set pictured here depicts the Engl. [English] Balloon Detachment N. 737 and was retailed by Charles Morrell, 868 Oxford Street, London.
Dating from c.1910, it comprises a series of 'Prussian' British infantry in red tunics and grey trousers, including two cyclists, but its key components are a painted tinplate Zeppelin-type airship and an observation balloon connected by wire rod to a horse-drawn winch wagon.
Extremely rare in any condition, and here offered complete in the original (if damaged) packaging, it was estimated at £2000-3000 for the sale on June 15, but sold for £10,000 following a battle between two telephone bidders.
Heyde figures (distinctive for their plug-in heads) are admired for their character and sheer variety. Among the best known is the Viceroy's Elephant, an animated walking elephant with mahout and large gold howdah.
On board are the Viceroy in a plume cocked hat, the Vicereine holding a parasol and another white dignitary with his punkawallah. A good, rather than exceptional example with some flaking and gluing, it nevertheless sold at £3000, ten times its lowest estimate, after some fierce telephone and room bidding.
The buyer's premium was 15%.