Clairet was a post WW2 French brand that made toy soldiers, Western, knights, farm and zoo animals. The first models were hollow-cast lead and are very rare. Most production was done in cellulose acetate, a hard synthetic material. The first plastic zoo animals appeared in the early 1950s. In their book Soldats plastiques: Historique des marques françaises, Alain Thomas and Daniel Trombetta mention a document from March 1952 with a list of about 15 zoo animals and a later publication in 1953 with already over 80 zoo models (including vegetation, human figures and rock formations). Most models were first released in the 1950s, with only a few in later years. The models were sculpted by François Clairet, giving them their own unique style. The company ceased to exist in the 1980s and the last price list that Thomas and Trombetta mention is from 1979/80, which still contained 97 models. Although Clairet published price lists, relatively little is known about the company because no catalogues are known to the collecting community.
Source: Soldats plastiques: Historique des marques françaises, Tome 2: Clairet. Alain Thomas and Daniel Trombetta
Clairet animals, like quite a few other French productions from the 1950s to the 1980s, were made from cellulose acetate. This material has many qualities, more solid and a little more flexible than plastics drawn from petroleum, it allowed to tint the figurines in the mass and also to hang the paintings wonderfully. Finally, it enabled precision molding that keeps the exact imprint of the mold surfaces on a microscopic scale. Despite these countless qualities, this material had two major flaws: The first was the price, more expensive than other plastics, so it was only used in France by prestigious brands like Clairet and Starlux. Its second defect only appeared long after its use: it is an ecological product, as it is not petroleum-based, it is biodegradable and can be devoured by fungi or bacteria. Of course not all collections are doomed to destruction in the short term, but some pieces can be diseased. To avoid tragedies and contagion, we must avoid storing these figurines in confined or humid places: No plastic boxes or bags but ventilated display cases. What are the symptoms ? A smell of vinegar, powdery white spots or a shiny, syrupy appearance (as if the infected part was covered with oil), then come the deformations and the shrinking of the figurine. What to do with an infected figurine? The safest solution is to store it in the trash! It is also necessary to check if it has not infected its neighbors. Careful handling and hand washing is recommended.