Lately my eyes have been starved for color, so I decided to revisit this group of vintage tin swords. Originally, I was just going to obtain one or two, but somehow it was not difficult to persuade myself to acquire the entire lot. There is something about old objects in mass which makes them more appealing—that is the collecting instinct.
The fantastic quality of these swords is in the colors of the scabbards: green, red, mauve, orange, yellow, and champagne, all beautifully soft and muted, yet infused with life from the metal beneath.
The scabbards are further embellished with a primitive dot-and-dash design, and embossed with a crescent and circle symbol. There are two lugs for attaching a silk hanger, although few of these are extant. Finally, there is a gold label identifying the swords as the product of the Hong Dong (宏東) or Great Eastern toy company.
The blades are strengthened by a central groove, which I just learned is also called a fuller. The blades are separately inserted into the hilts. The cross-guards on the hilts repeat the crescent-and-circle motif, and some of the pommels still retain their original cotton tassels.
I still haven’t decided how to display these swords. The Victorians approved of weapon displays in dining rooms, libraries, and entry halls, yet this doesn't seem exactly friendly, even given their bright hues.
Looking over my shelves for information on old swords, I coincidentally found Arms and Armour by Charles Boutell, presumably not the same person as C. Boutelle, the boarding-school troublemaker, although you never know, as this book was published in 1907.
Swords as toys do bring up some moral issues. Some people disapprove of military toys, while others worry that they foster gender stereotypes, despite the image of Joan of Arc. I don't think that molding guns out of pink plastic for girls, which I have seen, is the best answer to this dilemma.
Toy swords are still very popular in Taiwan. Plastic ones are readily available, and even wooden ones are frequently seen, although I have not seen new tin ones. They are as much fun as ever—we all have a little Zorro in ourselves.