WHAT IS A FLAT ?

 

 

 

 

 

  GENERAL

 

Flats are two-dimensional miniatures, which were cast from slate moulds.Though they exist in different scale, most (95%) of them are 30mm high (eye-level of man on foot) and about 2mm thick. Flats of 19.Century have been smaller (28mm), modern intend to exeed even 31-32 mm size. Other ranges of "scales" are 20 mm, 40mm and there are some larger 60 to 80mm flats most of them depicting personalities pp.

Flats generally consist of an alloy from tin (55%), lead (40%) and antimony (5%) i.e. flats should be correctly termed neither lead nor tin but pewter figures. Their German term runs "Zinnfiguren" i.e. tin figures.

 

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Manufacture started in Germany during 19th century flats being thought for kids toy. There were millions of figures sold throughout Germany and Europe at the end of century. From about 1920 these miniatures became a collectors item.

Today exist about approximately 100.000 figures, covering every aspect of mankind. Though military figures are still in majority, there are many civilian themes covered.

According to my own interest, these pages covering mainly figures of Napoleonic period. This site is edited to no commercial purpose. It shall be an offer in information to collectors and maybe acquire some new collectors to this subject.

For further reference in English language I recommend Michael Taylor´s book THE ART OF THE FLAT TIN FIGURE, Windrow &Greene1995 ISBN 1 85915 070 5. Due to interest of its author, it covers ancient and mediaeval epoch mainly.

Napoleonic era counts about 15.000 figures; approximately 200 of them depicting Napoleon himself.

 

It is impossible to list and comment all figures of this era, as it has actually done for (approx. 2000) ancient Romans (Friedrich Giesler," Romans in tin" ISBN 3-7927-1209-1; German language only). Mr. Giesler lists all figures existing (48 editors) with a description of every figure released.

At section called "collectors resources" I published some lists of gone editors and of flats engraved by my favorite engraver Ludwig Frank of Nuremberg (1870-1955). He was probably the best engraving flats throughout his entire life starting at Heinrichsen in 1886.This does not mean other figures are less in quality.

 

 

 

 

COLLECTORS ITEMS

 

There are probably as many purposes with flats as collectors existing. Besides a certain interest in history, there are 4 basically different interests regularily connected with flats collecting :

 

  • Dioramas - Many collectors paint their flats to build a diorama of any historical event choosen. There are thousands of them existing in Germany some hundred assembled at the Flats museum located in an cstle, the Plassenburg at Kulmbach. There are dioramas of battles (Leuthen, Leipzig) which consist of 30-40.000 flats alone. You may find some samples here.

 

  • Painting - Some collectors are "just" painters and choose their flat irrespective of epoch for the beauty of the subject, assemling them like some special kind of picture.You may find a sample here.

 

  • "Stamp-collecting" - Some want to have just all flats of a certain epoch, designer, engraver, editor or subject for instance collecting all coaches ever edited with flats.

 

  • Wargaming - Some collectors assemble huge armys of flats to fight virtual battles with fellow collectors. This was popular in Germany before WWII but is rarly to be found today. You may find a sample here.

 

My personal interest is concentrated on both painting and "stamp collecting" as I try to collect for example all flats engraved by L.Frank, at least of Napoleonic era.

 

 

RARE FLATS

 

 

Generally speaking flats are not difficult to obtain as probably 90% of moulds are still existing today. Beginner will soon find themselves faced to an overwhelming offer of different subjects. But there are some notable exeptions.

 

There was another common "scale" of flats existing in Northern Germany of approximately "40mm" size. Most moulds of this scale have been engraved during 19th century (Wegmann, Dubois and others) being assembled and aquired between both Wars by Hanoverian Firm "RIECHE" who added own sets to this range. In 1945 this firm and all of its moulds were destroyed by allied bombardement of Hanover.

 Consequently this range of flats nearly completely ceased to exist. "Rieche" flats are very sought after and may meet very high prices at auction or other sales. You will find more details and a prominent sample when following this link.

There are some other rare flats of "30mm" scale for instance ALLGEYER flats edited from 1850 on. Even experts on flats will discover every now and then some flats completely new to them.