Before the start of World War II, action figures were already some of the most popular toys among little boys. During those days, military action figures and their complementary accessories were usually in the wish lists of kids for Christmas and birthdays.
Toy soldiers made by Marx during 1930s and the 1940s were some of the most popular to play with, particularly the playsets that were themed around different battles. During those decades, the military playsets were made up of metals that were assembled and manufactured at the toy making facility of Louis Marx and Company. The toys made a big impact and inspired a variety of other toy manufacturers to design and make similar toy soldiers.
At the onset of the World War, metal toys were scrapped because almost all toy plants were asked to spare the metal for military purposes. Thus, other materials were sought and used. Tin and aluminum provide better alternative to the usual metals used to manufacture the items.
In the 1950s, such action toys started being manufactured using plastic resources. The toys were not popular initially, but the flexibility and endurance associated with plastic won both children and parents over. So the material started gaining popularity as a toy making material.
The Marx military playsets included different types of figures like trees and rocks, animals and accessories, cannons and wagons and, of course, toy soldiers. Thus, kids were able to run a story plot and construct dioramas whenever they played.
Usually, the action sets included different figures in an environment such as a battleground, or with centerpieces like barns in a farm set, metal forts in a medieval castle and plastic forts in Fort Apache sets. The toy soldiers stood on a flattened base that enabled them to stand on their own without manual assistance.
Most of the Marx playsets are very colorful. The environment looks like miniature versions of actual environments while the accessories like cars were so beautifully crafted that they look just like actual but miniaturized objects. The soldier figures were not colorful, but they readily and appropriately serve their purpose and could be painted by hand as well.
Nowadays, the vintage Marx military playsets sets are still very much sought after by collectors, though they can be difficult to find intact.