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Figure Type Identification.

Subbuteo is mostly a jargon free zone, but most of the technical terms we have seem to revolve around player types. Certainly terms like heavyweight and zombie are likely to confuse players and collectors who haven't heard the terms before - even if they recognise the players. For those who played in an era where only one player type existed (like the 1980s) this is a chance to catch up on the other forms that Subbuteo has taken.

The Flats. 

Illustrated from left to right: Cut-out card figure, Press-out card figure, and two celluloid players.

The flat teams were the first teams to be produced, and were the form Subbuteo took throughout the 1950s. The players are taller than the later OO scale teams, and the bases are smaller. This results in a playing piece that has lovely balance and touch. The figures continued to be sold into the OO scale era until the early 1970s, and were the preferred playing pieces of the serious tournament players up to the mid 1980s.

Note that these early figures don't have different sock colours. Although replaced by OO scale figures around 1961-62, Subbuteo were still trying to sell these sets up until 1971-72,  and the flat box sets were still being advertised as late as 1976.

OO Scale players from team boxes.

Illustrated from left to right:- Early Heavyweight, Classic Heavyweight, Zombie, Lightweight, Hasbro.

The OO scale figures appear around 1961, and really caused Subbuteo to take off as a game/toy aimed at youngsters. The new figures were on a larger base, which was produced in two pieces - an inner and an outer. The bases can be in a variety of colours - with the same team often appearing on several different base colours. A good example would be Brazil, who can be seen on a variety of green, yellow, blue and white inners and outers.

OO scale experimental/box set figures 1960s-mid 1970s

Illustrated from left to right: walker, rugby, winged shorts, moulded H/W, and Scarecrow. 

There were a number of other football figures produced by Subbuteo in the 1960s, and early 1970s. With the exception of the figure also used for rugby sides, these figures are recognisable by the fact that their feet are moulded to the base. Illustrated above are five variations of box set figures. 

The most common place to see them is in the box sets of the 1960s and early 1970s. This means that they are usually only seen in the standard red/white or blue/white strip. However, the "walker" figure has been spotted in all white (like 21), and white with dark blue shorts (England - like 154). I've also seen the winged shorts player in that England kit. These alternatives may well come from the "International Edition" box set, where three teams were provided. I've also heard that they were sometimes used for the extra teams in World Cup sets (i.e. Holland, or Brazil).

Whether any of the five "experimental" figures were ever sold in a team box has been much debated in collecting circles. Original collector club founder Paul Lloyd has heard that the Subbuteo factory once sent these figures to outworkers instead of sending heavyweights resulting in them being painted in team colours 1-76 in small quantities.

Where moulded teams do turn up in alternate colours are in the five-a-side Football Express team sets. These were generally sold in the following colours - ref 1, ref 2, ref 5 (Man City), ref 7 (West Ham), ref 10 (Fulham), ref 16 (Arsenal), ref 21 (Leeds), ref 25 (Celtic), ref 41 (Liverpool), and ref 42 (Chelsea). 

The Italian Hybrid.


This is the figure that catches a lot of English Subbuteo fans out. It was produced in (Portugal) by Edilio Parodi's Italian company as a response to the unpopular zombie. It is basically Charles Stadden's classic heavyweight re-cast onto a peg - so as to fit the new style bases being used on the zombie. Actually, it looks as if they had a little trouble with his casting, as there are two versions of this figure, one much thinner than the other. The key difference is in the heads, with one being a pinhead, and the other having a fat head. Both look a little comical, but perhaps that is just because I am used to the standard heavyweight. Many thanks to Marco Longinotti, who produced the fantastic photos of these two figures. In addition the Portuguese produced these figures for their own range of teams, and also cast a poor copy of the lightweight for their teams.

The Italian Production page goes into a bit more detail about hybrids.
The International Team Production shows the Portuguese production to good effect.

The 2003-04 Edilio Parodi Figures.

When Parodi gained a licence to produce new Subbuteo items in 2002, they designed both a new figure, and a new base. As usual with Subbuteo there are variations. The early box set figure has thinner ankles, and short sleeves as part of the moulding. The more standard team set figure can be seen on the right on the above scan. The figure also has a couple of alternative castings - a bald player, and a player with a pony-tail. 

Rugby Figures.

Like everything else, the rugby teams have rarer variations. The vast majority of rugby teams produced are in two main figures. The chunky rugby figure shown on the left here, and the heavyweight footballer on a rugby base, shown on the right. However, rugby editions from about 1978 onwards are just filled with footballers on standard football bases - first heavyweight, then zombies, and finally lightweights. These are usually in the standard red or blue, but apparently all these figures were used in rugby team sets. 

That concludes my little page of figure identification.

Text and Site Design - Copyright (c) 1999/2020 Peter Upton.

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