Best Place To Find Toy Soldiers And Military Antiques

Grande Armée

If you can tell the difference between men and boys by the price of their toys, the miniature regiments stationed at Grande Armée serve as age indicators. Contemporary figures, starting at $10 for a single and $75 for a set of six marching men, could launch a young collector on a course that culminates in a $2600 game of turn-of-the-century cowboys and Indians. Co-owner Frank Muir initiated his "affliction" 50 years ago with Britain's limited toy soldiers, which now cost 100 times more than the few dollars he paid for a box then, and has since moved on to such rarities as a thimble-size Henry VIII surrounded by his six wives ($850 to keep the family together). "It's literally a hobby that's gotten out of hand," says his nephew, Jim Muir. "His wife wouldn't allow him in the house with one more piece. She was setting up metal detectors at the door." So ten years ago, Frank and his brother Bill opened the Worth Avenue shop that now offers one of the largest selections of toy soldiers in the United States, along with vintage weapons and other militaria. The ghosts of battles past pose solemnly in the windows, a $7500 marble bust of Napoleon plots his resurrection from atop a column in the corner, and a $24,000 helmet worn by a Russian Imperial Guardsman glints regally from a glass case. Even in peacetime it's an impressive display of force.

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