Thursday, December 11, 2014

Classic Toys: Die-Cast Cycling Figures

As I was searching around for interesting, or unusual gift ideas for bicyclists, I happened upon something that I had assumed had disappeared a long time ago: die-cast miniature cyclists. Kids in an earlier era would collect the figures, stage miniature races, or even use them in bicycle-themed board games. Surprisingly, the little cast zinc figurines are still available, and still made by the same foundry in France where they have been made since the 1950s. It doesn't look like they've changed any since then either -- as the little riders all wear caps and no helmets.

Set up a miniature peloton.
The company that makes the little figures, Fonderie Roger, has been making die-cast lead, and later zinc (which the company calls "zamak") soldiers since the 1930s, later making little cowboys and Indians, and then in the 1950s, the bicycling figures. There used to be several foundries that made such toys around Europe, but Fonderie Roger is one of the last still making them.

Several poses are available.
Some are cast all in metal, while other versions have metal bicycles with plastic riders. The models are then hand painted -- and they look it. With little imperfections and little variations, each one looks slightly different from every other. And they are tiny -- each model measures typically no more than 5 cm. They come painted with Tour de France colors, like the mountain climber's polka-dot jersey, the sprinter's green jersey, and a yellow jersey. Also, there are national colors and world champion stripes.

The cycling figures are not cheap. Prices that I can find are typically listed in pounds or euros, but it seems to me that building a little mini-peloton would easily set a person back somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred and fifty dollars or more!

The versions from Miniature Cyclists in Belgium appear to
be painted with a little more care and detail. They're a bit
pricier, too.
Cycling Souvenirs, which appears to be U.K.-based, sells the little figures for about £12 each. I've read that the figures come packed in a box marked "Little Cyclist. Handmade in France." Cycling Souvenirs sells lots of other cycling-themed gifts as well, including mini Tour de France road markers, team logo coffee cups, and more.

Another company, Miniature Cyclists in Belgium, sells the same Fonderie Roger figures, but they apparently purchase them unpainted from the foundry, then hand paint them in-house, with a bit more care and detail. Prices range from about €12 to €45 ($15 - $56!).

For more info about Fonderie Roger, check out their website which has a complete history of the family-owned company.

3 comments:

  1. Yes, delightful little characters. It would be fun to have a few "racing" across my desk.

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  2. You can find more of them on this website: http://www.sportgoodies.fr/shop/

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