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"The 25 cent tank that started it all" Topic

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World War Two on the Land

2,347 hits since 19 Oct 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Thortrains19 Oct 2018 1:48 p.m. PST

This little fellow got me started into World War II miniatures and wargaming

My article on the early days with Minitanks


Enjoy and please share!

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 2:13 p.m. PST

Boy, those bring back memories!


ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 2:26 p.m. PST

I remember buying Rocco style tanks/AFV at Arlan's a cut rate store for 29 cents. Also remember Airfix soldiers for 50 cents a box IIRC. Long time ago.


wrgmr119 Oct 2018 2:37 p.m. PST

Buying Airfix Model WW1 aircraft in 1/72 at the Black Point General Store. They came in a plastic bag. Under a dollar, if I remember right.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 4:37 p.m. PST

Great trip down memory lane, thanks!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 5:15 p.m. PST

In 1975 there was a department store -- probably a Sears -- that had a minitank display case full of unboxed vehicles. You would pick the item number you wanted, and the sales lady would open the locked drawers and get the vehicle you asked for.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

Wish I could get my hands on that set of Airfix Germans again! I really loved their size, poses and details! Still have a lot of my Minitanks from back then. Remember the Rat Patrol set from Aurora?

Jeeps and Sharmans 25cents….PzKFW IVH with skirt armor onlt 39 cents! Ahhhhh…those were the days!

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2018 6:29 p.m. PST


I remember those too.

Great fun with them, even with no rules.

Sears used to have bags of little troops too, with plastic troops about 15mm, or possibly HO scale. Had a little plastic halftrack with a twin .50 cal in the pulpit for the Americans – probably scaled out at more like a twin 40mm cannon.

Of course, there were the larger green and tan troops too, in the "Dime Stores".

Had both the Anzio and Rat Patrol sets.

Glengarry519 Oct 2018 10:20 p.m. PST

For me it was a box of Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry around 1964 or so bought from a toy store in Ambleside in West Vancouver, Canada. At least, that's how remember it.

Katzbalger20 Oct 2018 3:16 a.m. PST

Woolworth's used to carry the Airfix sets…so I always looked forward to a visit to that department store when my mom was going shopping for clothes.


Legion 420 Oct 2018 8:37 a.m. PST

Oh yeah Roco and Airfix ! The staples of my youth for modeling and gaming … thumbs up

wargamingUSA20 Oct 2018 8:44 a.m. PST

Yeah… thats where it all started… this addiction.

JCBJCB Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2018 3:55 p.m. PST

My local hobby shop had a small wall of Minitanks, and then moved them to a turnstyle display. I used to turn and turn that thing. Mine are in a box, somewhere. I painted my Panthers the correct colors, save for the wheels, which I painted solid gunmetal, for some bizarre reason. Guess I just didn't know, and they look ridiculous. Like the author, I ended up with a mix of 40s-50s kit.

Great memories.

genew4921 Oct 2018 6:32 a.m. PST

My brother and I started the same way you did; minitanks and those two boxes of Airfix figures.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP24 Oct 2018 6:24 a.m. PST

It was all Airfix for me with later, Matchbox additions. My first Airfix tanks were a polythene Centurian,M48 ,and a M113 looking vehicle or it could have been a FV432. A kit built Airfix Panzer 4 ( built by dad) was later added. My first kit I built was the Matchbox Humber Armoured car and I made a decent job of it for a first attempt.

It makes me laugh when we complain nowadays if the hatch isn't quite the right shape on a model . Expectations have obviously sky rocketed since those times.

William Ulsterman24 Oct 2018 5:34 p.m. PST

The airfix 8th Army box circa 1978. The Vickers machine guns were awesome!

Lee49424 Oct 2018 9:54 p.m. PST

I was a spoiled kid in Junior High. Lunch cost 75 cents. My mom used to give me a dollar. I'd save the left over quarters and splurge them on Minitanks at the local hobby shop which carried boxes of every sku they made, which back then was a quite extensive range. My gaming friends and I used to favor the 25 cent tanks which IIRC were the Panther and Sherman. Others like the Pz IV cost 39 cents and so we had fewer. And Airfix Infantry. We played on a 4 x 8 sand table in the basement. Never did drugs or drank in HS … had to feed my miniature addiction lol. Still haven't kicked the habit 50 years later. Cheers!

PS. Just for perspective those were the days of the Viet Nam War, Six Day War and riots in the streets. Every week we watched our favorite TV shows like Combat and The Gallant Men. Most gamers I knew were also Trekkies. Ah the "good old days"!

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

Yup, 25 cents for a tank and 50 cents for a box of Airfix! My allowance was 50 cents a week and I'd wheedle the 3 cents for sales tax out of my mom and go to the hardware/toy store and get a few every week. Still have most of them up in the attic.

Thomas Thomas26 Oct 2018 1:24 p.m. PST

Those were the days. Still remember getting my mom to buy me my first ROCO. Airfix Germans came with a strange AT gun – probably an attempt at the 2.8 squeeze bore.

Have stuck with "20mm" to this day.


Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 2:04 p.m. PST

I wish I had one of those old, original Sherman's, just to compare it to some modern 15mm ones for size and detail.

custosarmorum Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 6:42 p.m. PST

Thanks for the blog post -- it brought back many fond memories of my first exposure to miniatures and wargaming at age six in 1964 (if knocking over Airfix figures while going "pew, pew" counts…). I remember convincing my mother to take me into the local hobby shop (conveniently located near the public library, so the more books I read, the more opportunities to go to the hobby shop!) where she bought me my first Airfix box, the Afrika Korps, and a ROCO Grille. This was quickly followed by the 8th Army and Sherman maybe a couple of weeks later.

I also remember the Aurora kits -- the sand dunes from the Rat Patrol set saw years of use and were repainted (and later flocked) several times.

Fifty plus years later still playing WWII and back in 20mm!

von Schwartz30 Dec 2018 10:07 a.m. PST

WOW, brings back memories. I remember taking an old beat-up Stalin model and converting it so that I could get the chassis and motor for one of my HO scale race cars into it and race the tank around the track.

von Schwartz31 Dec 2018 8:28 p.m. PST

They, Airfix I think, also did a small highly detailed pack of American GIs with a really nice water cooled .30 with crew, a 60mm mortar, and various poses of rifleman. They also had a separate pack of soldiers sitting and standing to use in the vehicles.

Legion 401 Jan 2019 8:34 a.m. PST

also remember the Aurora kits -- the sand dunes from the Rat Patrol set saw years of use and were repainted (and later flocked) several times.
Loved that set. I still have the dunes flocked in my desert terrain inventory ! Just missing the Oasis … frown

genew4902 Jan 2019 7:59 a.m. PST

I still have a sand dune or two left.My brother and I got our Minitanks and Airfix first in the hobby shop on Main Street in Brockton, Mass (59/61) and Modelaire in Mt. Vernon, NY (61 and for many years after). Both long gone,

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2019 2:31 p.m. PST

I can't believe how much those Minitanks are today – 25 euros or so. You can almost get the Revell 1/32 for that.

Grumble8710603 Jan 2019 9:35 p.m. PST

AHM (Associated Hobby Manufaturers) made a version of the first Roco Sherman that had the wheels molded as part of the tank but then had flexible tracks that had to be slipped onto the wheels. It came in a kit form, accompanied by a jeep. I still have one of the boxes this kit came in. The box artwork was much more impressive than the model inside!

AHM in similar style made a PzIV F2 with a VW Kubelwagen. I converted a number of these into M13-40 and Semovente before the Italeri and other kits were produced.

I think there was also an AHM Long Tom SP gun in this style.

Sgt Steiner04 Jan 2019 5:27 a.m. PST

Still have that 'little' Sherman and some terrain from the Anzio set

von Schwartz06 Jan 2019 11:29 a.m. PST

I remember getting a set, I think it was Kassarine Pass with 2 jeeps, a M3 Grant, and a M3 Stuart all in HO scale I believe. That was just prior to my introduction to miniature wargaming. Had a nice little terrain piece of a desert crossroads. It was unique because I had not seen any early war tanks like the Lee/Grant or Stuart before in that scale.

PS Who remembers The Haunted Tank series in comics, Marvel I believe, with the ghost of General Stuart guiding the young commander of a M3 Stuart in Europe fighting, of all things, Tiger tanks with a remarkable degree of success. Obviously had an equally haunted 37MM main gun.

M60tanker05 Feb 2019 5:58 p.m. PST

I remember those days in the early 1960's very, very fondly; brings on lots of smiles every time. And I truly hope every follower, and contributor, to these 'Message Board' pages, reads the entries with an understanding that those really were fun days--the days when we saved our small change to buy them and then actually played with those tiny tanks and troops and the homemade terrain and obstacles, or in the dirt, with rules, if any, that we made up as we went along. So unlike today, when the kids have toys that play by themselves, and the kids just watch… We need to share what we did then with our kids and our grand kids. Keep it going. Thank you all for your efforts.
Where's Mr. Peabody and the "Way Back Machine" when you really need him?

von Schwartz05 Feb 2019 7:49 p.m. PST

I remember reading a wargame magazine back in the late 60s early 70s (yes, I am that old) using Roco Minitanks where they actually set the tanks on fire to add realism to the photos of the battle.

And I would like to ask you all to stand and give a rousing round of applause to M60tanker, well spoken!

Lee49405 Feb 2019 11:15 p.m. PST

I remember those days as being desperate for information and gaming by the seat of the pants and making it up as you went along. I'm from small town America and the local library had about ten books on WWII.

There was no internet. There was no mail order unless you were lucky enough to come by a catalog, my father died and my mom wasnt into gaming, and catalog companies weren't into mailing 13 year olds spam back then. I think we had one credit card, IIRC Diners Club, in the entire house.

There was no Amazon. No online ordering. No TMP Forum. You were stuck with the local hobby shop. Thank God mine carried Rocco and Airfix! He also carried (I think long long time ago in a Galaxy far far away lol) some Squadron and Osprey books. But they were way expensive, you could buy a platoon of Rocco tanks and one of Airfix Infantry for what one book woukd cost!

So we bought the tanks and made up the rules and unit orgs as we went along lol.

I had a prized copy of Bradley's A Soldiers Story which was my source of TO&Es for US units. We never could figure out what was supposed to be in a Panzer Division and from the many mentions of 88s and Tiger Tanks figured they had to be the standard equipment of German Divisions.

Ahhh. The bliss of ignorance! Cheers! Lee

Major Bloodnok06 Feb 2019 4:53 p.m. PST

I used to get 2/6d pocket money. I still have vague memories of buying Airfix kits at a model shop in Rayleigh, I think they cost me a couple of bob. This would be the early 60's. Who remembers the very first Airfix germans with a panzerschreck, a panzerfaust, and a 28-20mm taper-bore ATG? I still have a 1969 Airfix catalog.

von Schwartz06 Feb 2019 7:07 p.m. PST

I remember the 28-20mm taper bore, had no idea what the hell that was at the time, but you lost me on the panzerfaust and Panzerschreck. Africa Korps, right, and along side them the 8th Army.

Still waiting, do any of you remember the Haunted Tank comic series. Y'know the M3 Stuart haunted by the ghost of Confederate General Jeb Stuart? Gave me a hugely skewed view of WW II tank warfare. I actually thought a M3 had a good chance of success against a Tiger tank.

khanscom06 Feb 2019 7:32 p.m. PST

@von Schwartz

I do remember reading the Haunted Tank comics (DC, though-- not Marvel); I tried my hand at sketching the smoking Tiger I panel from the comic. There maybe was a touch of "realism"-- the .30 cal. was dismounted and the trigger locked down to distract the Tiger while the M3 maneuvered for a tail shot.

Lots of other great comics from the era, too: Sgts. Rock and Fury, Enemy Ace, Blackhawk, and the Star- Spangled War Stories series with dinosaurs in WWII.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2019 5:29 a.m. PST

And lets not forget in the early 70s on we had Wargamer's Digest! The "McCoy" system of representing forces later to be used by other rules. Each issue with its "battle problem". More often than not it was a WW II problem and illustrated with Minitanks.

Major Bloodnok08 Feb 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

The Panzerfaust etc. were the first release of Airfix germans for the european theater. The taper-bore was also in the Arifka Korps set. There were also a set of russians that had a nice mortar with sperate legs, a maxim gun crew with a gunner that came in two halfs.

Steve Wilcox08 Feb 2019 8:20 a.m. PST

I tried my hand at sketching the smoking Tiger I panel from the comic. There maybe was a touch of "realism"-- the .30 cal. was dismounted and the trigger locked down to distract the Tiger while the M3 maneuvered for a tail shot.
The Mouse and the Tiger!
link (about 60% of the way down)

Grumble8710627 Feb 2019 6:46 p.m. PST

The ads in the comics really take me back. I ordered the knights, then the Romans and the American War of Independence, several years before I discovered RoCo and Airfix. Great memories!

uglyfatbloke28 Feb 2019 7:00 a.m. PST

Anybody recall RiKo tanks from Japan? Very simple kits with a friction motor.

von Schwartz28 Feb 2019 7:08 p.m. PST

I had that comic, I remember it very well. That's the thing about getting older, I have a better memory of things that happened 55 years ago than things that happened 5 days ago.
The only way a M3 37mm could knock out a Tiger would be by sticking the barrel of the 37mm in the turret hatch.

Lee49401 Mar 2019 5:42 p.m. PST

Von Schwartz … if I remember my comic books the trusty 37mm gunned Stuart could always dispatch any number of tigers by shooting them in the underbelly at 6 feet or less and if all else failed ramming them! Cheers!

von Schwartz01 Mar 2019 6:28 p.m. PST

Ah yes, historical accuracy. Apparently the Germans only had Tigers.

Murvihill02 Mar 2019 6:25 a.m. PST

I still remember one of the first conventions I went to someone put on a massive WW2 armor game with hundreds of 1/87 AFV's, many still in green plastic on a table so large no one could reach the center. They stored the tanks in cartons from cases of sodas and each was full of tanks. One kid climbed onto the table to put his tanks up and dropped an entire box on the floor, then shouted "OH S@#$". My parent's never ever used that language and until I joined the navy hearing such was quite the shock. Now I swear like a sailor and no hard feelings.

Hornswoggler04 Mar 2019 4:12 a.m. PST

And lets not forget in the early 70s on we had Wargamer's Digest! The "McCoy" system of representing forces later to be used by other rules. Each issue with its "battle problem". More often than not it was a WW II problem and illustrated with Minitanks.

Ah yes, the "Series 78 Standard Unit". Sold as entire "battalions" in Mini-Tank or 1/72 Scale. The ads followed by fine print "Due to unavailability of some vehicles certain substitutes have been made…" etc. For some vehicles you only got a data sheet to help you build your own conversion. As you said though, pioneering stuff in representing units.

I was always slightly bemused by the Solutions to the Battle Stations Problems. They seemed to imply that each wargame had a single obvious solution that would unfold as predictably as a solution to a chess problem. But I did enjoy studying the problems and the orbats.

Grumble8710606 Mar 2019 9:16 a.m. PST

Anybody recall RiKo tanks from Japan? Very simple kits with a friction motor.

Yes! I still have one Sherman in my current forces.

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