The History of Series 77
By Pat Bird, 1990
My discovery of the hobby of miniatures cane in 1963 when I was working in the back alleys of the Shepherd’s Market area of London. I found the shop called Norman Newton, Ltd. featuring Charles Stadden miniatures. This shop was full of beautifully painted 54mm figures of good realism and detail. As a professional sign painter it was no great step to paint these works of art, and start another hobby. Not that I was new to modeling, as I had been doing all forms of models for some fifteen years. But it seemed to we that I had found what I imagine other modelers find, that with the miniature I had graduated to possibly the compact hobby. Paint, brushes, a few simple tools and a miniature and you have a marvelous hobby in a small space. And more important still, a pastime that the family can appreciate for its decorative value. An eight-foot airplane, after all, is not the most appealing addition to the dining or living area.
However, I wasn't to have the hobby purely as a hobby for very long. Exhibiting at an annual British Model Soldier Society competition, I was approached by a member of the Company I had discovered so recently, and asked to paint their product professionally. Then followed what could be called an apprenticeship in miniatures. During the next six years, I painted some six thousand Stadden miniatures, read military history and generally took advantage of the advice given by the Norman Newton organization that was later to become Tradition. Not least of which was the encouragement from Charles Stadden, who to my mind, has done more for the hobby than any other in his work of improving the miniature from the toy soldier of earlier times.
It was a natural progression through a happy accident that caused me to become a manufacturer myself. I met John Tassel who had made a larger figure than the then popular 54mm size. We decided to form Series 77 in partnership, and test the theory that the hobby was ready for a larger, more detailed miniature. We started in grand style when on the first public display at a British Model Soldier Society monthly meeting we sold all the figures we had available. We were naturally very encouraged by this.
John, however, decided to leave Series 77 to devote full time to the now world-famous Lassett Miniatures. This left me in a quandary, as up to this time I had not made masters, but had been painting and looking after the business side. Of necessity I had to become a figure maker overnight. Although it took a little longer than I expected, eventually I replaced the original figures with models somewhat closer to the 77mm size that gave the Company it’s name. For the next few years my wife, Olive, and I worked hard perfecting the product, and learning the hard way. Gradually we enlarged the range and expanded the sales.
A landmark in the history of Series 77 was the decision to move, lock, stock and barrel, to California. And a most rewarding, pleasant and happy experience it has proved to be. It has meant a decided improvement in the quality of our work, and with American technical innovation, a rise in production quantity. We have during our time in the U.S.A. developed the new 154mm figure, and are now moving into the 90mm range.
As when we lived in Europe, we continue to met many interesting and pleasant people in the hobby, and gain much from their helpful and constructive criticism.
I am a man that has been fortunate enough to have made my hobby my work, and like most people in my situation, enjoy what I do. With this advantage, I feel that my work will steadily improve and maybe, one day, I might even be pleased with the final results.
My gratitude to all those people during the last ten years who have helped develop Series 77, not least of which is the collector. But my special thanks to my wife Olive, who has been an equal partner in my efforts. Although, like me, she knew nothing about military miniatures or business, she does, as they say, know what she likes.
The History of Series 77, Updated
By Burl Burlingame, 2006
In the early 1990s, Pat and Olive Bird decided the sell the business and retire to Florida. It was purchased by Dale Fong of Honolulu, and management of the company passed on to Owen Stanley of Pearl City. Fong and Stanley had high hopes for continuing the Series 77 line. Unfortunately, Stanley was not able to manage the company properly and the line was placed into storage.
Recently I was asked by Fong to try and revive the company. We have all the old molds, buckets of parts and casting machines, but no instructions, parts lists or other materials. Everything is in a state of disarray.
This web site is the first step in trying to sort everything out!
There is no comprehensive listing of every Series 77 kit. If you spot any errors or omissions here, please don't hesitate to contact me. This is complicated by a series of pirated "Series 77" kits produced in Canada. These are are not legal.
Likely, not all of the kits will be revived. We're still trying to figure out which. Some kits may be modified or parts cast in resin rather than metal. Larger kits will likely be a mix of both. Additional parts and etched-brass pieces and also under consideration.
The business model at the moment calls only for direct sales over the Internet, keeping costs down.
If you have any snapshots of your Series 77 builds, don't hesitate to forward them! And if you have any pictures of Pat Bird, forward those as well. He's a master sculptor, but notoriously shy.
And Pat and Olly are still in retirement in Florida, quite happy to see the Series 77 line revived....