As a youngster, I owned the Marx Guns of Navarone, Battleground and Desert Fox playsets. A good friend of mine had an armyset of his own. But it wasn't comprised of the familiar Marx soldiers and vehicles I'd come to know through the Penney's catalogs . His army was comprised of much beefier tanks, trucks, jeeps and a helicopter that all shared the same olive drab hue generally associated with U.S. military. So, as most kids did, I beefed up my Marx forces with a few Tim Mee Patton tanks, cargo trucks, jeeps, cannons and soldiers. They were a perfect addition and readily available at the local Hoys 5 & 10 store. I was completely fascinated with them and quickly became my favorites. To this day I still have the occasional and very brief flashback of exactly how it felt when I walked into that store and saw the tanks and trucks lined up in the bins. It's truly remarkable. I should note that I had no idea who actually manufactured these toys at the time because the tanks and trucks were sold loose and therefore no header cards were included. And, for whatever reason, I never noticed the trademark underneath the few vehicles that were actually marked with one. Anyway, I bought as many as I could with my allowance. Soon I had the largest armyset in the neighborhood. But that wasn't good enough. I wanted the biggest armyset in the world. That grandiose dream would quickly fade away when the very first Star Wars figures hit the stores. The very cool Micronaut figures soon followed.
Unlike my other toys, which either got lost, thrown in the trash or given away, my armyset received special attention as it was safely stored away in my parents basement for over 25 years in a toy chest. In January of 2003, while visiting them, I decided to take a quick peak at the armyset I had long since forgotten. I brought the entire set up into the den and proceeded to line them all up on the floor like I did as a child. My father, who was watching TV at the time, glanced over at his now 38 year old son playing on the floor with toys. While most people would of thought me crazy, he got it. Not surprising, the Tim Mees remained my favorites after all those years. Rather than return the armyset to the basement, I put it in the trunk of my car and brought it home with me. After a quick search on the Internet, I found a website called Army Men a Go-Go. I sent the webmaster a pic of the unmarked olive drab tanks and trucks I had and his reply introduced me to Tim-Mee Toys. Thus began a lengthy process of discovering the company's history and their complete lines of military toys, many of which I had never seen before. My Tim Mee collection was officially underway. I began with 10 tanks, 3 trucks, 2 jeeps and 3 cannons from the original armyset. By 2005 I'd increased its size tenfold...and then some. That's around the time my attention abruptly shifted towards a company called Unimax, who produced a finely detailed line of 1/32 scale diecast vehicles called the Forces Of Valor. I spent the next 2 years immersed in my new collection until the company decided to significantly reduce their Modern Era line due to lackluster sales. And that was the end of that. My Tim Mee collection spent 4 more years tucked away until January of 2012 when I decided to have another quick peak. The passion for collecting Tim Mees came rushing back. As though I had never stopped. Time to fire up the Ebay search engine, invade the nearest toy soldier show and buy some more storage tubs!
It's amazing how excited I get when an Ebay auction is delivered to my door or when I find a Patton tank or cargo truck at a yard sale or flea market just waiting to be rescued by a collector who will take it home, clean it up, give it a new lease on life. Even more exciting is the never-ending quest for those ultra rare items that are nearly impossible to find. One of those being the Holy Grail of all Tim Mee toys ...the Mobile Atomic Cannon. My favorite and most memorable "score" to date remains the 11 tanks I got from a woman in Canada. She'd bought them in the 70's for her son who never played with them. So I essentially had 11 brand new Tim Mee tanks from the same production run. I appropriately dubbed them "The Canadian Tim Mees."
So there's the story. To the average person they're nothing more than cheap old plastic toys. Those who collect them may come across as a bit odd to others. But for those who do, they represent our precious childhood. An age of innocence, imagination and discovery. They bring as much joy to us now as they did back then. Perhaps more as we've grown to appreciate the little things in life.
Here are a few pics of my collection taken in 2004.
|99 Vintage Patton tanks|
|Convoy of Square cab trucks with elevating cannons|
|A sea of classic cargo trucks|
|SH-3 Helicopters ready for flight|
|Vietnam era soldiers marching on|
|Cayuse Helicopters standing by|
|Staghounds on patrol|
|Lockhead Armored Scout Vehicles|
|M41 Walker Bulldogs|