I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane/history lesson. If you have insights or corrections, please post them.
Introduction, Metal Figures
Forty years ago there were not very many model plastic figures available. Those that were available were often no better than today’s soft plastic toys offered bagged by the dozens in grocery store aisles. While there were some injection figure companies -- Airfix, Almark and Historex being a few -- before the age of resin figures if you wanted accurate, authentic model figures, you had to look to metal castings. These were usually pewter and, most likely, good ol’ toxic lead!
was one of several metal figure companies that filled the void of decent specialized figures. Other big names in the business were:
- Almark (I know they made styrene figures – can anyone clarify if they made metal ones?)
- Bugle and Guidon
- Cavalier Miniatures
- Old Guard
- Squadron/Rubin Miniatures
- Valiant Miniatures
- Vallance Miniatures
are highly regarded cast metal historical figures. I/R trace their beginning to the 1950s when William “Bill” Imrie founded Imrie Custom Miniatures in Ballston Spa, New York. Mr. Imrie sculpted and cast on commission military miniatures in 54mm and 60mm for museums and private clients. 
His wife Helen, an artist, joined in the endeavor. She wrote to the author during this review:
I have only one correction: Bill started his custom work on Long Island and continued it for three years in Greenwich Village in New York City.
And today, all of our new castings are lead free, but we still have stock containing some lead-tin mixtures. They were never all lead, as that would be too soft for a decent casting.
When in 1964 Clyde A. Risley partnered with the firm, the company was renamed Imrie/Risley Miniatures
The I/R Miniatures’ team used their combined knowledge of military history, uniforms and human and equine anatomies in the manufacture of their military miniatures that was seldom seen before; making I/R Miniatures the most highly regarded museum quality military miniature company in America.
So highly regarded were Imrie/Risley Miniatures that they were contracted by the Franklin Mint to produce the first pewter figures offered by the Frankin Mint. A stunning group of thirteen figures that represented the original thirteen states for America’s Bicentennial.
I/R also consulted with The Squadron Shop, modelers and entities to create new and accurate miniatures. I/R Miniatures’ line of models eventually numbered over a hundred figures in at least 13 series. I counted over 160 in the Summer 1974 issue of The Squadron Shop magazine the Squadron
before I tired of the count. The subjects include :
15th - 17th Centuries
18th & 19th Century Naval
19th Century Conflicts
76 mm Scale K-Series
American Civil War
French & Indian War
I/R Miniatures were prominent in The Squadron Shop magazine the Squadron
from its first issue in 1970. I/R contributed to the magazine with original artwork by Mr. Risley; much was black-and-white line art, and full color painting that were packed with the figures and illustrated magazines. Mr. Risley even penned and illustrated how-to articles for Squadron, i.e., shading of uniforms.
I/R was known and praised for the dynamic poses of the subjects, especially horses. They also issued subseries, such as 26 D-Day U.S. Paratroopers and a 57mm antitank gun!
Another thing I/R was known for was their own brand of enamel paint, I/R Original Military Colors
: 36 colors including 5 metallics, a gloss, a metal primer and its thinner, and a glaze. They advertised that with those colors 143 distinct national colors could be mixed. I always liked them for both brushing and airbrushing. I/R acknowledges they created this line of paints in collaboration with modelers and, specifically, Mr. J.L. Campbell of Squadron and Mr. Sid Chivers of Scale Modeler Magazine
In 1972, again in cooperation with Squadron Shop, a 16-page booklet of color formulas and applications for I/R Colors was published (with the location of five separate The Squadron Shops in 5 states listed on the rear cover!). Please see the related review of it.
Both Messer’s Imrie and Risley have passed away. The store was closed in 2011 although Mrs. Imrie continues to sell via internet and mail-order. I/R Miniatures can still be found in hobby shops around the world.
German SS Panzer Officer, head set, peak hat
I/R packaged their models in a plastic baggie with a cardboard label stapled to the top. Inside was a postcard (!) with Mr. Risley’s artwork illustration the packaged subject. A painting and insignia paper was also included.
Be warned that old stock I/R models may contain lead! Later castings do not, as previously quoted. I primed it with tan enamel.
The figure is cast in three parts with the arms separate. I/R provided a small base to display the figure on, and also thin copper wire for the headset leads. Casting is crisp. However, compared to today’s state of the art in injection molding or resin casting, I find this figure clunky and rugged. Otherwise it seems properly proportioned.
Mr. Imrie was praised for his understanding of the human form. Compare the profile to, say, Tamiya’s German Officer Set of the era. He sculpted the posture with the natural human “S” of the spine down through the legs; face-to-face the pose is stiff although not as rigid as other mainstream manufacturers of the time. I/R did a good job with uniform details.
The model is scaled 54mm. The instruction sheet states that it is suitable for 1/30, 1/32, and 1/35 scales.
I will let the photos do the talking here. I think the facial features are soft although it looks good in profile. The PanzerKampfabzeichen
(Panzer Assault Badge) looks a smidge too big, and the binoculars don’t look right.
I/R lists only their own paint brand. They list the colors required. A brief description of uniforms and insignia is provided. Mr. Risley ’s original color artwork helps with painting.
Maybe metal figures are the only really for pre-WW2 figures. Even though today we have so many good plastic, resin, and vinyl figures to choose from, I think these models are worth acquiring for more than nostalgic reasons. They are a bit bigger than 1/35. They can
be modified or kitbashed, and further detail parts can be added to create a unique figure. The drawback on this particular piece is that the legs are molded together. I still have a few I/R figures and enjoy looking at them. I offer the many photos for you to scrutinize to judge the highs and lows.
Source and Reference
, , . Vintage castings.com. Bill Imrie, Founder of Imrie/Risley Military Miniatures, dies. http://vintagecastings.com/?p=82.