ORIGINAL ISSUE WINDOW BOX 1968 It is now fairly obvious that the very first set of 1/32 Airfix figures was the first moulding of the British Paratroops set. Information supplied over a few months between 2006 and 2007 unsurfaced this, the actual first issue box. Produced in 1968, it was Airfix's original venture into the 1/32 scale figure scene. You can see it is a style which I think was fairly typical for toys at the time in having a large front window. It was simply titled "Paratroopers". The Airfix logo appeared in black and the Military Series range title accompanied. There was certainly a range of figures planned at this early stage as one edge of the box had the six intended sets represented by a small picture of a figure's head. The other edge pictured unit badges, as seen on later style boxes beside the painting guides. There were further representations of the planned range on the back of the box too. What is interesting to note is that all of these illustrations showed poses from the HO/00 range. I wonder if Airfix had originally planned to simply up-scale all of these figures? We shall probably never know! Both box ends had the range and set titles along with the black logo and one end stated "Made In England" whilst the other showed the pattern number.
FIRST EDITION BROWN BOX First produced in 1968 and 1969, this is where I originally thought it all started. See above! Six sets were initially offered in this guise with each set containing 29 pieces. This box was brown based on all panels except the back which was white. The rectangular Airfix logo of the period was on all faces of the box. As you can see from the scan, the front was almost fully artwork with the set details on the left. Here we have what would become the standard “actual size” illustration along with the set and Military Range titles and of course the scale. To the bottom right is the set contents.
The end flaps show the set details and the side panels would have colour illustrations of the figures in the box. On the back of the box was a brown panel with two simple line illustrations of the figures on it and to the right of that were the painting instructions and list of other sets in the range. These boxes are now very rare and collectable as they were only produced for one or two years. You usually find them either in very good condition due to their solid build or very tatty due to “enthiusiastic” use.
SECOND EDITION BROWN BOX This box closely followed the first, from about 1970 to 1971 and differed only on the reverse of the box. The brown colour carried right round now and the Airfix logo had a red background to it. Gone were the plain line drawings and in their place came full back and front colour illustrations of a figure on a white background. Along with this were unit badge and weapons illustrations and a brief description of them in the painting instructions. On the right hand side were the general instructions and set list. This box type would see the introduction of another two sets to the range, the British 8th Army and Afrika Korps. The British Paratroops set was not seen in this box as the set was completely re-moulded and would appear in the next box.
THIRD EDITION BROWN BOX Another swift change around 1972. As you can see, the round logo has been introduced to replace all the rectangular ones. That is really the only difference between this box and the previous one. Another set, Australian Infantry, was added to this box type.
In addition to this, the short-lived Sports Series came into being with this style of packaging. The box was green rather than brown and only ever carried the Footballers set. There were various colour illustrations on the back depicting a number of national teams along with a short history of the game. You need only look at the box artwork to understand why a set of footballers was produced – 1966 and all that!!
1973 “TARGET” BOX Right away here we can see a dramatic change in Airfix’s marketing strategies. Gone is the suddenly drab looking Brown Box and in comes the new colourful “Target” style of packaging. Presumably the intended appearance was such that you were looking through a set of gun-sights. I personally think that these boxes, which were produced throughout the 1970s, were the best of any manufacturer, past and present. The artwork on the boxes was now more professional looking and a lot more vibrant – the Brown Box artwork had a bit of an “action comic” appearance complete with rugged looking, square-jawed men, which would have been all the rage in the fifties and sixties, but this was the nineteen-seventies! Some sets were to get completely new artwork and others, such as the Japanese and American Infantry sets, simply a revamp. So, full colour all round now, the actual size figure and set contents were all set on the front at bottom left. The end flaps and one side of the box bore the set details and a small figure illustration either kneeling or prone and the other side had, again, the set details but also illustrations of the buildings and ready made vehicles recently introduced to the Military Range. On the rear was a back and front colour guide with weapons/accessories/unit badges and a brief description of the soldiers the figures represented. The British Infantry Support Group was the new addition to the range for this box and what an excellent addition it was – only seventeen figures but a great 58 piece set of accessories making up for the lack of soldiers! The Footballers saw a revamp as well as the others, again with a bit brighter looking box although the artwork remained unchanged.
1973 WATERLOO Four other new sets were introduced in 1973 packaging – the Military History series with four 29 piece sets of Napoleonic troops at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. These four boxes have what must be the best box-art ever. The boxes were red for the British and blue for the French and, like the Target box, had back and front colour illustrations on the back, along with a brief history of the battle and the regiments involved.
TRADE SHIPMENT BOX, CIRCA MID 1970's
Above are some pictures of a trade shipment box, this one in particular originally containing Waterloo Highlanders. There would apparently be four dozen (or forty-eight for our European cousins) original sized boxes in one of these packs. If you look at the fifth photo here you will see that the toy shop which placed this order had another twenty one of them to unpack!
1974 TARGET BOX This box saw the introduction of the American West series. The boxes were virtually the same as the Military series but with red edging. Two sets were produced, Cowboys and Indians strangely enough, and the sets differed here in that mounted figures were done for the first time, complete with saddles and horses. The two sets had 22 pieces each owing to the size of the horses and the amount of space they took up in the box! Each side and end had a figure pictured on it along with the set description and the back of the box had a single figure colour guide – no uniforms obviously so it was really up to the individual how the figures were painted. On the right again you had the description of the set along with an illustrative guide for positioning the riders and saddles on the horses.
1975 TARGET BOX The 1975 dated box was primarily a new issue box. Three new sets were added to the Military series and one to the American West. The box style was virtually the same as the 1973 but the new sets had a “NEW” starburst on them initially. American Paratroops, German Paratroops, the fantastic German Mountain Troops and a great set of US 7th Cavalry were added to the range. The American Paratroops came in a box exactly like the 1973 issue but with no vehicle or building illustrations on the side. The other sets were different in that they saw the inclusion of French text for the first time. The main set title was in English but all other text had a French translation. All sets were now to lose the vehicle and building illustrations from the box sides, to be replaced simply with another figure. The parts count is moved to the top left of the box but the actual size figure is still in the same position. The new Military series releases came with the usual black edges. The "NEW" flash was removed for the second 1975 run of those ones. The backs were as before with a colour guide but also with a bi-lingual set description. The second 1975 box of German Paratroops had coloured edging which differed from the others in black for some reason.
The German Mountain Troops joined the British Infantry Support Group in having an excellent accessory set and the 7th Cavalry accompanied the Cowboys and Indians with mounted figures, but with a 24 piece set this time.
The Cowboys and Indians were done in this box too, the differences from the first being the French text and the positioning guide on the back being moved from right to centre. The American West title was removed from the main set title on the box front too.
1976 TARGET BOX This style gave all the original 1973 sets a revamp, with the exception of the Napoleonic and Footballer sets, and also introduced three more new sets to the Military series, Ghurkas, Modern British Infantry and Modern German Infantry. I don’t think any of the 1975 new issues were carried over to the 1976 box, other than the US Paratroops – I may stand corrected though! The revamped 1973 boxes now all came with coloured edges, matching the centre circle in the “target”. The World War 2 box titles were now all preceded with "WWII" with the exception of the British Infantry Support Group (there is only so much room on one of these boxes after all). All boxes were now printed with accompanying French translations.
1976 GERMAN ISSUE TARGET BOX Airfix did a box dated 1976 with German text only and, as far as I know, only the German sets were done in this style, i.e. German Infantry, German Paratroops, German Mountain Troops and Modern German Infantry. I am unsure if the Afrika Korps set was done in the same style as I have never seen them, but the set title is a German term anyway so it would have been unnecessary to have a German translated box!
Presumably, this style of packaging was for the benefit of German buyers. Also, these boxes were marked "28 teile" - 28 pieces.
1976 USAirfix ISSUE TARGET BOX These boxes were exactly the same as the usual 1976 ones but the General Instructions text on the rear was omitted and the USAirfix logo put in it's place. Also, as these were produced in Waco, Texas, “Made in England” was deleted from the box ends. I am unsure exactly how many sets were produced in this box but, unlike the German issue, it may have been the entire 1973 Military Series in their 1976 re-boxing. Maybe some US visitors to this site will confirm this by contacting me from the home page. The sides were exactly as the normal 1976 boxes. This box was also marked as having 28 pieces. Unfortunately, these boxes appear to have been constructed from a lighter gauge card than the UK ones and subsequently, do not stand the test of time so well, especially if they are well used. There are exported boxes available too which are not actually USAirfix but UK ones and the difference is that they are UK boxes but have a small strip of white tape/adhesive paper over the "Made in England" text on the box ends. This occurs with both the 1973 and 1976 boxes. Another sign of a box exported to the US is on the 1973 boxes which is in the form of a small sticker on one box end with the Waco, Texas details on it.
1977 “STANDARD PACK” This is the point where we see the introduction of a second size of packaging – the new “Standard Pack” containing 14 figures. The box type keeps the idea of looking down a scope at the artwork but here it is a simple felt tip pen design. The same box art as the large boxes was used and the rear had the back and front colour guide. The text on the back was in three languages, i.e. the set title, general instructions and the set description. These boxes were very colourful but not all sets were done in this style. The two WWII sets with the accessories were left out, presumably as it would have been impossible to split the accessory packs in half without doing completely new moulds. The Napoleonic sets were also left out as far as I am aware but they were listed in the catalogues of the time with serial numbers for the smaller sets. All other sets at the time were issued in the new box although I have not yet seen the German Infantry or Modern German Infantry sets. The superb new Medieval Foot Soldiers set was issued in this box and was the only one to come in this style of packaging, firstly, with a "new" starburst on it, and, secondly, with the box dated 1978 and not 1977!
When production of the figures was moved to France in 1981, these boxes underwent a slight change, but only in the text arrangement on the back. First, the French importer's details in the French set description had the wording removed before printing and second, the General Instructions seemed to be done in a slightly finer text than previously. On the Medieval set, the French Importer details were simply blotted out with a black marker pen and a Made In France sticker placed next to the blotted-out Made In England text on the box side. Other than that, all other boxes were left with Made In England on the side of the box.
1978 TARGET BOX – THE NEW “SUPER PACK” This is the next big change in the packaging style. With the introduction of the new 14 figure boxes, this size of box was given the title “Super Pack”. The contents were now listed as being 28 pieces although they were more or less the same as before – sometimes you got 28, sometimes 30, and a lot of the time you’d get 29. French text was added to the main set title which is now horizontal rather than at a slant. In addition to this, German translation now accompanied the English and French text on all wording, other than the main title. The target and edge colours were changed at this time too. On the box sides any
illustrations of prone figures were replaced by a kneeling one.
It is difficult to say exactly which sets were available in this box style, but the Napoleonic, Western and Footballer sets definitely were not. I have never seen such long-standing sets such as the British 8th Army and Japanese Infantry in this box. Similarly, I have never seen Modern British and Germans and Ghurkas amongst others but these were relatively new releases so it is likely that they were omitted from this style of box.
One new set was now available in the Medieval Foot Soldiers. This set was found with the new flash on the box and I don't think it came without it.
On the back of the 1978 box, the set description was abridged slightly and the weapons and unit badge illustrations disappeared, all this making room for the extra German text. Unfortunately, the 1978 box would be the last box type with “real” artwork on it for another eight years. As with the 1977 boxes, when the figure production was shifted to France in 1981, the remaining 1978 boxes had a small sticker with “Made in France” stuck over the “Made in England” text on the back of the box and the French Import details simply scored out with a black marker pen!
1980/1981 SUPER PACK WINDOW BOX In the late 1970s Airfix packaging styles across the board changed to a more “peaceful” design. Hence the sad loss of all that excellent box art which had graced these boxes for over ten years. The boxes now took on a basic three colour scheme different to each set and a clear plastic window was inserted at the bottom right of the box. As you will see, the Airfix logo is the new oval one of the period and the main title is now “Model Figures” in red with the set title running diagonally bottom left to top right. The old actual size figure now acted as the “box art” and was enlarged to illustrate the set. You were now able to view the contents through the new window on the front of the box. A kneeling figure was still illustrated on the sides and ends of the boxes. On the back of the box the back and front colour guide was enlarged and moved across to the right and the set title and general instructions were listed in no less than five languages. The set description/history was dropped from the back of the box now. A few sets were dropped for this packaging but two new ones were introduced – the long awaited British Infantry and the now very sought after Italian Infantry. The British Support Group and German Mountain Troops are listed in the 1980 catalogue but they never actually appeared in this box type.
The figures themselves can be found in these boxes either loose in a shrink-wrapped box or in a sealed bag inside the box.
These boxes were introduced at the time when Airfx was going downhill profit-wise and the production of them was moved to France when C.P.G. Products bought them over. Subsequently, they (or some) can be found with “MADE IN ENGLAND. Airfix Products Ltd. 1980, Haldane Place, London SW18, UK.” Printed along the bottom on the rear of the box or without this and a sticker on the rear with “C.P.G. PRODUCTS CORPORATION 1981 MADE IN FRANCE” on it, along with other French text. This sticker will turn up virtually anywhere on the back of the box. I am unsure if all sets available at this time can be found in English and French boxes but certainly some can.
Incidentally, another new set was advertised in the 1980 catalogue – the WWI British Infantry set. I don’t think anyone has ever seen this set and as far as I am concerned this must have been some kind of mistake in the catalogue. I await correction! Also, the April 1979 Airfix Magazine mentions a forthcoming set of 1/32 scale Waterloo Prussians - the HO/OO set had been only recently released. Now there's a "what if?"!
1980/1981 STANDARD PACK WINDOW BOX The small box details are exactly as the large box . These standard packs can be found with “Airfix reserve the right to amend the specification in this set” printed on the back as with the “Made in England” boxes and a simple “Made in France” sticker put on. In most of the French boxes though, the text “C.P.G. PRODUCTS CORPORATION 1981 MADE IN FRANCE” is printed and not on a sticker.
1981 C.P.G. BOX Only one set was produced in this type of box (the newly introduced Space Warriors) and here again there is a kind of crossover issue from England to France. The first type is a solid fronted yellow background box. It has the print “Airfix reserve the right to amend the specification in this set” on the back as in the English sets but has the C.P.G. sticker there too. The other set is similar but has the window on the front and “MADE IN FRANCE. C.P.G. PRODUCTS CORP 1981 MAQUETTE A PEINDRE” printed on the back along with “ C.P.G. Products Corp reserve the right to amend the specification in this set”
Apart from all this, the Airfix logo was changed at this point to the basic looking one used by C.P.G. initially. There was box art on the front, although nothing startling, which illustrated three of the seven figure poses, colour illustrations on the back showing another three of the figures and on the side and ends the seventh pose took the usual position.
1983/1984 C.P.G. BOX These boxes see a return to the round Airfix logo but only five sets are produced in this style. The Afrika Korps and U.S. Paratroops were re-issued in the 1984 box and three new sets made an appearance. In boxes dated 1983, the final additions to the Airfix range of 1/32 figures were SAS figures, obviously inspired by the Iranian Embassy siege of 1981 and the recent Falklands Conflict, a set of US NATO Troops and the Modern Russian Infantry set. The sets in this packaging are some of the most sought after nowadays as production did not last very long. These window boxes were done in solid colours, and had colour figure illustrations back and front, the back ones being the actual figure size. The edges and ends still had the single figures at one end. The secondary text to all main titles was now gone but on the rear of the box, the general instructions were in five languages.
However, re-issued they were, and the figures were as good as ever. The colours used for them had changed in some cases but it didn’t really matter, these were Airfix figures! The boxes had been treated to the original box art from the range – war must have become fashionable again! – and the Airfix logo and set title dominated the top of the box front. The sides and ends, again, had the single figure illustrated and the back had the back and front illustrations again – but only on some sets. Some had two different figures, some had a single figure and some none at all!! The main title was still in English only except on the back of some boxes where there were the extra three translations. The boxes were also produced without the translated set titles on the back. The general instructions were still in five languages.
So it looked like the end of the 1/32 scale range of toy soldiers – or did it…….
1995 BAG (HUMBROL) The 1995 catalogue advertised the release of six sets of “Action Figures” in small crisp (potato chip) type bags of six figures each – which is a bit of a pity since the least number of poses found in any set was seven! Anyway, six sets were re-released, Cowboys, Indians, British Paras, German Paras, Medieval Foot Soldiers and Space Warriors, and were done in different colours again. The bags had a blue overall background colour and had the original artwork again. On the reverse was another, smaller piece of artwork and Humbrol paints advertised, along with the now normal safety conscious effort to dissuade you from feeding the contents of the packet (and indeed the packet itself) to your children! The bags were packed in boxes of sixteen and these boxes opened up to become a brightly coloured visual selling aid. Unfortunately, at the time these re-releases were made, I was not heavily into the collecting and remember thinking how pathetic it was that it had come to this, Airfix selling these figures in small bags, six at a time. I avoided them with the exception of a couple of packs of Cowboys and Indians for old times sake. Ah, how stupid I felt in 2003/04 having to pay up to three or four times their original price at eBay auctions to complete this part of my collection - I think the bags were around £2.00 Sterling when they first appeared! I have even seen the likes of the German Paratroops go for up to £20 per packet!
These packs were provided to the retailers in boxes of fourteen I think, the boxes doubling as sales aids as the top opened up and folded back to make a background banner for the box.This was the end of the road for these sets of figures. The nineteen-nineties saw Airfix go from strength to strength once again despite the uncertainty of the eighties. Maybe we will see them release 1/32 scale figures again. Until such a time comes we’ll have to make do with the various re-issues which have been coming out of the States since the early nineties if we want "new" figures. It's not the same having a set of Waterloo Highlanders in Olive Green! Similarly, it’s just not the same without that box with the Airfix logo in the corner either! And lo and behold, our wish came true - see below!!
2009/2010 BOX (HORNBY) 2009 and 2010 saw a well-met re-release of thirteen sets of the original figures in new style but original sized 14-piece boxes and two completely new full-sized box releases of the British Infantry Support Group and German Mountain Troops sets. Now it was up to new owners, Hornby, to give us a fresh take on the sets. The red base shows various silhouetted figures creating the background effect. The original artwork has been re-vamped in most cases with a bit more (or perhaps even original?) background detail, but still striking nonetheless. The only differences from the originals are with the British Infantry box which has taken the artwork from the British Infantry kit (which came originally with parts to make six figures in the seventies) and the German Mountain Troops box which takes on the artwork of the HO/00 set. Also, in the 2009 Catalogue, the British Infantry set is illustrated using the Modern British Infantry picture! The Airfix logo is the new 3D effect. The layout is simple with an actual size illustration and the set title and scale along the bottom. The reverse has actual-size illustrations shown as a painting guide above a picture of figures (and equipment for the BISG) to illustrate the poses (just so no-one is unduly disappointed though, there is a disclaimer to alert the buyer to the fact that the "quantities of each pose may vary". I suppose it should also have said that some poses will be missing! The U.S. and German Paratroops, having fourteen poses each, are obviously bound to come with missing poses, as in the previous 14-figure boxes but the two large sets come, as always, with the full set of figures and equipment. The first two Afrika Korps sets I purchased did actually come with the ammo cans and I also initially bought three sets of German Paratroops and all came with a bipod for the prone machine-gunner but no prone machine-gunner! One box side shows the same figure/equipment illustration along with a very brief description of the set and a guide to which paints are required to "dress up" these guys. The other side has all the legal stuff in no less than eleven languages about not allowing humans under three years old to eat the contents and that paint is required to finish the figures off.
The product is now "Made in India". The boxes are given a new set of serial numbers in keeping with the rest of the Airfix range.
The figures themselves come sealed in an inner polythene bag and are made from a harder plastic than the originals, apparently in order to make painting easier. They just don't feel like the originals though and are a little disappointing in my opinion. Remember when you tipped a box out on a hard floor you would get a satisfying sound? Well these new sets rattle like cheap plastic toys! Some of the sets are moulded in a much darker plastic too which, I also think, detracts from the originals. Even the 1986 and 1995 offerings were OK compared to them.
Still, it was definitely good to see them back on the shelf and I really like the new packaging, especially compared to the Humbrol offering from 1986.
Now, lets see the Napoleonics and American West series too and what about the fabled WW1 British Infantry that has collectors drooling at the thought?!
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