10,000 Toy Soldiers March On English Town

toy soldiers
A new museum dedicated to toy soldiers has opened in Silloth in northern England. Soldiers in Silloth opens today and houses the massive collection of local enthusiast Tim Barker.

Barker’s personal army, which numbers some 10,000 diminutive warriors, includes early lead examples and the more modern green plastic guys. The centerpiece is a large diorama (battle scene) of Waterloo. There are other dioramas of the Old West and Hadrian’s Wall, which terminates not far from Silloth. Check out their online gallery to see more.

While the museum is now open, the organization is calling for funds and volunteers. It’s strange to think a type of toy that was ubiquitous when I was a kid back in the ’70s now requires a museum. Most kids don’t seem to play with toy soldiers anymore. Many modeling companies have gone out of business or have stopped mass production and are now catering to collectors and war gamers. The owner of one toyshop where I get models for my kid says he hardly ever sells model soldiers to children anymore.

It appears that toy soldiers are increasingly becoming museum pieces. There are large collections at the Army Museum in London, the War Museum in Paris and the Tin Soldier Museum in Valencia.

Silloth is a major tourist destination in northwestern England. There’s some beautiful coastline and countryside nearby, plenty of fishing and camping opportunities and several annual events, including the popular and family-friendly Solway Music Festival (Solfest).

[Photo courtesy J.C. Butler.]

Tin Soldier Museum in Valencia

Tin Soldier MuseumValencia, Spain is home to the Tin Soldier Museum, Museo L’Iber, the world’s largest collection of tin soldiers (they have over 80,000). They have tin dinosaurs, tin designer fashions, tin Iraq war scenes and tin royalty. The museum is actually an amazing historical resource, as important political and international scenes from across the ages are set up and portrayed as accurately as possible in tin and toys. Naturally, Spain gets the most attention. If you’re going for a visit, which costs just €4, bring a guide who can translate for you; they don’t have English descriptions for the exhibits. And, if you’re a collector, bring your wallet — there’s an impressive gift shop with miniature treasures you won’t likely be able to resist.

The Tin Soldier Museum collection belongs to D. Alvaro Noguera Gimenez. The Gimenez family bought the building which houses the museum around the time of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The building has an event space and apartments which the family rents to keep the museum afloat. Pretty smart!

The Tin Soldier Museum contains reportedly over 1 million tin and toy soldiers, though just 80,000 are on display. Here are some highlights from the collection:

General Franco
Tin Soldier MuseumThe Wedding of Queen Isabella
Tin Soldier Museum

Specially-commissioned watercolor backdrops
Tin Soldier Museum

Epic war scene between Spain and Austria
Tin Soldier Museum

Nude toys in the overthrow of a Roman temple (there were more NSFW ones, but I’m “keeping it Disney”)
Tin Soldier Museum

American tin soldiers
Tin Soldier Museum

Hussein, Kennedy and Castro
Tin Soldier Museum

Teeny tiny fashion
Tin Soldier Museum

Special exhibit on India
Tin Soldier Museum

Case after case of tin soldiers
Tin Soldier Museum

The unassuming building in which the museum resides
Tin Soldier Museum

Read more about Valencia here!

[Photos by Annie Scott.]

This trip was sponsored by Cool Capitals and Tourismo Valencia, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.