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COLLECTORS AND THEIR COLLECTIONS – CHARLIE SINEL

Beginner’s luck
Charles Sinel’s serious toy soldier collecting began with a slice of luck. He spotted an advert in a local auction for a wild west display set which piqued his interest. Could this be an example of an unknown Marx Playset, like the other ones he had played with as a young boy? He was not exactly sure what he
was looking at, but it was definitely not a Marx Playset as pictured in the Sears & Roebuck Christmas Catalogues from the 1950s. The huge box contained not the plastic Marx figures, but instead lead figures including Buffalo Bill and a myriad of cowboys and Indians all in action poses, scenery which oddly enough seemed indigenous to a South Sea Island, and a host of other accessories. Charlie decided to have a punt. Fortunately for him, no other bidders turned up and he acquired the set for a song.

Later research, including an invitation to take part in TV’s Antique Road Show, established this was one of Heyde’s largest display sets, containing 70mm scale figures depicting part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Circus. That was back in 1984 and Charlie has been collecting ever since, focusing especially on
German makers such as Heyde.

Build your own museum!
As the collection grew, Charlie became increasingly frustrated that he was only able to display a small fraction of his figures in his family home. Fortunately, he was in a position to work out a possibly unique solution – Build your own museum: When a suitably sized house came up for sale just around the corner, he put in an offer and the rest as they say is history! Having confused real estate agents, who did not understand his lack of interest in the normal facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms, he
also baffled neighbours, who for months could not figure out what was going on in this particular house. Conventional fixtures and fittings were removed and customised cabinets fitted in their place.
It helped that Charlie was in the scrap metal business and was able to find many items that others were disposing of that would fit just nicely into his master plan. This included various cabinets and tables as well as trench art and similar items to display alongside the growing collection of toy soldiers.

Charlie with his Pride and Joy – keep reading find out what this huge box contains!
Charlie with his Pride and Joy – keep reading find out what this huge box contains!
The “Museum” – housed in a normal family home in the
suburbs of Providence, RI
The “Museum” – housed in a normal family home in the
suburbs of Providence, RI
Linda holding a rare pre war
combination CBG Mignot Set
Linda holding a rare pre war
combination CBG Mignot Set
Halie Selassie meeting European dignitaries (Rare Heyde, size 2, set No. 1401)
Halie Selassie meeting European dignitaries (Rare Heyde, size 2, set No. 1401)

A good pair of eyes
Charlie clearly had a good eye for such things, as well as a clear vision of how best to display his burgeoning miniature armies. These are now neatly laid out in ordered ranks or in battle and more peaceful scenes, including all manner of parades. In this he has been assisted by his patient and understanding wife Linda, who has helped cast an artistic eye over the whole affair.

Heyde Indian village scene with original playmat
Heyde Indian village scene with original playmat
American Revolutionary Army
American Revolutionary Army
Face off against their British adversaries
Face off against their British adversaries
Spenkuch, semi-ronde medieval set in two layer box
Spenkuch, semi-ronde medieval set in two layer box

The collection:
Spread over 3 floors, in many separate rooms, the collection is now organised into a number of different themes. The core of the collection is Heyde, standard No. 2 size sets, especially large display sets. These include such delights as:

  • The Siege of Troy
  • The Triumph of Germanicus
  • Famous battles and campaigns (Waterloo, Franco Prussian War, the American War of Independence, etc)
  • Many other military and non-military events and activities, including parades, camp scenes, polar exploration, early flight, etc.

Most of these still have their original boxes, although many of these have been consigned to cupboards so that the figures can be displayed to full advantage.

All the figures are displayed in large glass cabinets, with good lighting and excellent and well thought out captions and information boards explaining the significance of the figures and the scenes they are re-enacting.

CBG Mignot 35mm scale boxed diorama battle scene
CBG Mignot 35mm scale boxed diorama battle scene
Britains and other zoo figures
Britains and other zoo figures
Britains and other zoo figures
Britains and other zoo figures

Not just Heyde
This is not just a Heyde collection however. Many other German makers are also represented, including Haffner, Krause, Noris, Spenkuch and many more.

All of the main makers are covered:

  • Elastolin composition
  • CBG Mignot and other French
    makers, including hollowcast/dimestore
  • American Dimestore, including many
    conversions and accessories.
  • Marx and other plastics – many of
    these were childhood playthings for
    Charlie
  • Space toys
  • Paper soldiers

My personal favourite in the collection was not even a toy soldier and almost falls into this last category! These were two magnificent museum quality models of battleships from the “Great White Fleet”. At around two metres long, the model of the USS Alabama scales out at around 1/75 of the original (a picture of which is also shown here)! Charlie discovered the two ships in another local estate sale, which had been poorly advertised. Not recognizing the museum quality of the models, the auctioneer decided to offer the second ship for the same price as the first one to clear them quickly. With no other serious bidders present Charlie picked up the two for around $300 plus commission and related charges. What a snip!

Finally, we return to the one that started it all! The magnificent Heyde large scale display set, shown in its huge original wooden box at the start of this article. This, opens up to reveal a marvellous collection of Cowboys and Indians from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, including a stage coach, covered wagon and enough buffaloes to constitute a small herd.

All in all, a visit to Charlie’s museum is an ovewhleming experience. We spent the best part of a day taking it all in. Visits are however strictly by appointment, so if you wish to enjoy the experience contact Charlie at: csinel@hotmail.com . You won’t be disappointed!

USS Alabama just one of two magnificent museum class models of battleships
from the Great White Fleet
USS Alabama just one of two magnificent museum class models of battleships
from the Great White Fleet
USS Alabama in 1904 – the real thing
USS Alabama in 1904 – the real thing
Heyde large scale Buffalo Bill’s Wild West playset
Heyde large scale Buffalo Bill’s Wild West playset
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