You might imagine that the ultimate collection of Britains is one of everything - every version, every variation and every set in its original set. Perhaps this is not impossible, although there are probably prototypes and specials that were one-offs and were since destroyed. In any case, I don't know of any collections like this out there. Maybe you do? The one that in my experience came the closest for Britains hollowcast was that of the Ruby family, and they had very little in plastic, civilian or post-1967.
In 1982, I put together a hundred items that every ambitious Britains hollowcast collector ought to have, and perhaps this will serve as a reference point for collectors. If you have any piece or set that is rarer or more famous and desirable than these (and they most certainly exist) you have something very special indeed. I start with my 1982 foreword:
These are the items that consistently appear on the wants lists that people send me, and the curious thing is that they inevitably look very much alike.
This is curious, because these lists do not necessarily contain absolutely the rarest possible items, although a fair proportion of them are very rare. Nor are they the items that have proved most expensive to buy at auction, although a fair proportion of them have been very expensive. It seems to be a combination of the 'Fame' of the item, i.e. how well known it is, and how it demonstrates a particular facet of Britains, that makes up the item's desirability. The consensus among collectors as to which these items are gradually condenses into a shortlist.
The list I offer, therefore, may have a few surprises in it, both of inclusion and omission. I have naturally leant, in my selection, towards those sets which I believe to be 'important', in the sense described above. Sometimes I feel it is only necessary to have an example of a particular type of set or figure, and here I have indicated that any one will do, e.g. any of the 'Regiments of the British Army' series, sets 1556 to 1602. Anyone particularly interested in this series might want to collect all forty-seven boxed sets, but in order to explain what Britains was doing in issuing this series, it is really only one boxed set that is needed to demonstrate the point.
I have also included more than a fair share of large display boxes, which particularly interest me. In a sense, this is cheating, since some of the pieces one would expect to be on the list are actually 'hidden' in the large displays. Box 73 circa 1905 has a particularly useful assortment, including the shafted limber Royal Horse Artillery gun team, 'Ulundi' 17th Lancers, 'Box Pack' Gordon Highlanders, 'Slotted Arm' Band of the Line and the unique 'One-eared' 2nd Life Guards.
As a commentary on my own method of organising a collection of Britains, the hundred items are arranged into the thirty subject areas that I use for my own collection.
1. Set 2149 Gentlemen at Arms
2. Set 1477 Coronation Display, 1937
3. Set 1908 Infantry Officers
4. Set 101 'Red' or 'Blue' slotted arm Mounted Band
5. Set 72 Jubilee Souvenir Life Guards 1837 and 1897.
This was the first souvenir set (as opposed to individual figure) Britains did. It provided the excuse for updating the early Germanic Life Guard figure, which was then used with a different head for the 1837 uniform in the lower rows of the box, which also had the difference of white sheepskin saddlecloths, like the 2nd Life Guards.
6. Single figure, British Camel Corps, from set 131
7. Set 93 Royal Horse Guards and Coldstream Guards Display
8. Set 37 Coldstream Guards slotted arm Band
9. Set 322 Drums and Fifes of the Coldstream Guards
10. Set 1722 Pipes and Drums of the Scots Guards
11. Set 2113 Band of the Grenadier Guards
12. Set 130 Scots Guards Display
13. Set 1555 Changing of the Guard
14. Germanic Royal Scots Greys plug shoulder
15. Set 2119 Royal Scots Greys at attention, 'half box'
16. Set 1721 Mounted Band of the Royal Scots Greys, 12 pieces