A-Toys was an alternative brand name used by Esci. As a result, everything marketed under the A-Toys logo was simply repackaged Esci product, and there was never anything unique in this range. Long out of production, these figures in A-Toys branding continue to surface on auction sites like eBay from time to time, so this article is a guide to what you will actually find inside. The good people in charge at A-Toys were not attentive to the names they gave their sets, and some are simply wrong, suggesting a different subject to what was actually in the box. We have matched these mistakes from their catalogue here to show the true contents.
The A-Toys figure range was divided into three categories. The first category was the blister pack, each containing a half sprue of approximately 25 figures. Second was the full box, containing a complete sprue of about 50 figures or 12 cavalry, and finally the paired box, which contained two complete sprues of opposing figures. This all made for an impressively long list of products, and there was some quite imaginative packaging with comic-book-style drawings on the boxes, but basically everything here is just an alternative way to sell the usual Esci figures.
These all came in simple blister packs like those shown above, and had either 'Action' or 'Battle' written on the top. Each contained a half sprue of Esci figures, which generally delivered about 25 foot figures. Which half of the sprue you got was random, so most of these came in two varieties, holding either of the two sprue halves. However as the blister was clear, at least you could see what you were getting as you stood in the shop, and had the chance to admire the figures too.
Below is the complete list (the gaps in numbering seem to be products never marketed), with links to the full Esci set from which the half-sprue came.
Several Esci sets are missing here, and some with good reason. All the cavalry sets had an unequal distribution of riders and horses across the full sprue, so selling either half-sprue would have delivered a mismatched number of horses and riders. The Crimean War Russians, if halved, would have produced two different sets - one of infantry and one of artillery, but perhaps that was too complicated for the packers to handle. Equally, halving the already mixed set of Napoleonic Austrian and Prussian infantry would have seemed strange, and a similar exercise on the World War II French infantry would have split the two stretcher teams badly, so none of these ever made it to this range. Romans and Barbarians would also have split poorly, but why sets like the Commandos and the Napoleonic French line infantry were never made is a mystery.
At the time this range would have been cheaper than the full set, and showed the figures off nicely, so it is easy to see why it would have parted many a small boy from their pocket money.
These came in a box with a yellow header card at the top, as on the above examples, so they could be hung on a rail. Like their smaller brethren they had exciting words at the top, this time either 'Action' or 'Combat', and the usual comic-style drawing. On the back there was a small plastic window so potential customers could get a glimpse of what was on offer. Inside you simply got a full set of Esci figures, just the same as were available in a standard Esci box at the same time.
Below is the full list, again with gaps in the numbering that were never filled, and with links to the identical Esci set.
This is a more comprehensive reflection of the Esci range, missing only the battlefield accessories and the very last releases, which presumably post-dated these products. Set 1212 is clearly mislabelled and should refer to 1880 rather than 1800, and set 1232 should also read something like 1890. The creative naming means the Esci Modern US Infantry have become paratroopers!
As a direct duplicate of most of the Esci range, it is hard to see why this range existed. Perhaps something in the complexities of marketing made this approach make sense, but as with the other ranges here this one is long out of production and hard to find in good condition boxes these days.
These were boxed pairs of full sets, sort of a mini battleset in its own right, but with just the figures and no base or accessories. The word 'Attack!' or 'Action!' was on the box, which included drawings of both sides warily eyeing each other, as shown in the above example. The back included a small cellophane window so the buyer could see something of the figures inside, and like the other series, a list of the full range.
Below is the full list, again with links to the Esci sets each box contained.
Between them these sets cover most of the Esci figure range, missing just the accessories, modern US and Spetsnaz, NATO pilots and the late German paras. The missing set 1125 would logically include the modern US and Soviets, but we can find no evidence that this product ever existed. The Zulu War set (1110) is badly labelled, as before, since it is not for 1800!
Like the battlesets many manufacturers have made, these boxes make a lot of sense as they provide an instant battle, making a nice gift idea.
Image courtesy of Vintage Sprue Facebook page
The A-Toys brand also made the most of the Esci figures with a small range of strategy wargames. These were made in the 1980s and each included one full sprue each of two opposing forces plus a game board, some vacu-formed elements, dice, various game devices and rules (as shown above). The following is the complete list, again with links to the corresponding figure review.
There was also a seventh set announced in the 1988 A-Toys catalogue, 'The Invasion', which would have had Modern Russian Paratroopers Spetsnaz and Modern U.S. Soldiers, but this was never released.
A-Toys made some other products, including some of the Esci 1/35 scale figures, but this is all they did in 1/72. Esci had some great figures, and they certainly knew how to make the most of them. Given that many are still available today in Italeri boxes, over 30 years after they were first made, they must be counted as some of the most hard-working figures in our hobby!