Friday, February 26, 2010

Vintage Archer Space Men in Original Box

Yesterday my 1950s Archer Space Men in their original dime store box arrived (see my earlier, very excited post from the day I found them). They're in fantastic, factory mint condition.
Check out the pics:

 Top of the box. The "Archer" logo and spaceman pop up
to make a display.

 End of the box. It holds 2 dozen space men...

 ...and here they are! (Also 4 really cool robots.)

Here's a close-up of the space men. Several have lost their helmets, which are floating around loose in the box. Vintage Archer Space Men are frequently found with missing helmets. Design flaws caused ill fits, and the plastic used for the helmets tended to warp, crack, and discolor over time. These poor helmetless guys will likely suffer fatal embolisms when exposed to the vacuum pressure of space...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dotty Teddy Bears

Just got another bear made by Peng Peng, teddy artist extraordinaire: Domino, this little 4 1/2 inch panda wearing her fab polka-dotted dress. Here she is with her new friend, my 1950s British Merrythought teddy who is also into dotty fashions.
I love the Merrythought's big nose: 
it gives her such a comical look.

Here's Domino doing a little spring cleaning 
(she's overly optimistic: we just got 6 inches of snow yesterday...).

Mattel's Blaze Horse

It's been the month for finding horsies: first two antique wooden rocking horses, then the fab 1950s Harry the Hairless Horse ride-on, and now this: Blaze, the talking, galloping horse made by Mattel in the early 1960s. 

At first glance, Blaze looks like just another variety of the ubiquitous spring horse (the kind most of us children of the 70's remember for their tendency to flip over during exuberant riding and pinch our fingers in their springs), but he's got a few features that take him to a whole new pedigreed level.
First off: no springs! Blaze is mounted instead on an "untippable", according to Mattel, tubular steel frame. Secondly, as you ride Blaze up and down, his legs move independently in a quite realistic horsey gallop. As if this wasn't enough, Blaze also talked, courtesy of Mattel's patented pull-string technology. He said several phrases, including "How about some hay?" He also whinnied and neighed.
Naturally, the price for all this innovation was steep: $48 (that's a lot for a kid's toy now, let alone back in 1961!). Consequently, no one I knew as a child had Blaze, and I'd never seen one in the horseflesh until last week, when I found this one.

Mine no longer talks, as is typical of most Blazes found today, but he gallops great. We haven't tested the "untippable" claim, but if I crash, I'll let you know. I've installed my Blaze next to my dining room table. Guests can now pull up a chair, or a horse, as they prefer.

Blaze was heavily marketed on TV, and his original ad is now considered a classic. Click the link below to watch it, courtesy of  TV Days: it's fantastic:

And here's a print ad for Blaze, in which he apparently helps capture an evil fire hydrant:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Harry the Hairless Horse

I found this adorable little rocking pony at the same time I discovered the antique wooden horse in the previous post. I have a very small car (a tiny Chevy Aveo hatchback), and the horses more than filled the back seat. As I drove down the expressway, little horsie faces peered out of each side window. 
It was also the day I found a huge double gumball vending machine on its original stand, and that was propped in the front passenger seat, with a bit sticking out the window. Visibility, needless to say, wasn't great...on the drive home, I kept envisioning a policeman making out the accident report: "driver decapitated by gumball machine and/or rocking horse." Fortunately we made it home safely, and a hernia later were all ensconced in my increasingly crowded living room. 


Made in the 1950s by Moulded Plastics Inc. of Maple Plain, Minnesota, this little guy is called Harry the Hairless Horse. Odd name, odd-looking horse! Perhaps he was marketed to allergy sufferers. He measures 30 inches long by 22 high, and his body is fibreglass while his legs and rockers are wood. He's so cute and portly!

Here's a close-up of his label:

And here's an original ad I found for him and some other products,
all proclaimed "Harmless Fun For Young and Old".
Can you imagine getting shot with the "Air Fire Thunder Gun" that
"Shoots Standard Table Tennis Balls"?! Ouch. Perhaps you could make a quick getaway on Harry the Hairless Horse...

Folk Art Rocking Horse

Found another old rocking horse: a small stable is taking shape in my living room! This one is not quite as old as my other one. He's probably from around the 1920s, and is American-made. He measures 37 inches wide by 30 inches tall, has a "galloping" movement, and is quite the colorful pinto pony. I need to replace his mane and tail, but that could take awhile, and I couldn't wait to show him:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Antique American Teddy Bear

Found this guy at a toy show last weekend: an early American teddy bear made around 1908. He's in need of a good cleaning and a little restoration (proper ear reattachment, paw pad patching) but his enchanting expression makes him worth it!

People have a tendency to classify all "cute" early American teddies as made by Ideal, and that's exactly how the seller labelled this one, but this bear has 2 very distinctive traits that help identify it: a wooly coat, as opposed to mohair, and chopped cork stuffing as opposed to wood shavings, straw, or excelsior. These features are seen in only two manufacturers that I'm aware of: Hahn & Amberg and the Miller Manufacturing Company, who made what they referred to as a "Hygienic Bear".  They are both much rarer than Ideals, so it's good to be aware when you're "on the hunt." At first, I thought this one was a Hahn, which was the firm primarily known for the use of cork stuffing,  but after comparing him to my other, confirmed Hahn & Amberg and finding a bit more info. on Miller, I'm reclassifying him as the latter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dick Tracy Tin Litho Car & Cap Gun

Character toys are an extremely popular subset of toy collecting. Competition for such toys is fierce, as many of them have cross-category appeal, for example, to collectors of comics or radio show premiums.

The famous cartoon detective Dick Tracy featured in a great tin-litho character toy made by the Marx Company in the late 1940s and early 1950s: the Dick Tracy Squad Car. It was offered in several sizes and varying degrees of deluxe-ness, from a simple palm-sized friction car to this 11 inch model with a wailing siren, working spotlight, and "gun sparks" created by a concealed flint. Mine is missing its spotlight and has a lot of play wear, but the lithography of Dick and his sidekicks is still bright and colorful.

I love the design of this toy. The characters are visible from all angles in the windows: head-on in the windshield, in profile on both sides of the car, and from the rear in the back window.

I found the Squad Car just a few years ago at an antique shop; my other Dick Tracy item has a much more interesting  provenance. I was home from college one summer, helping my mom with some gardening. All of a sudden there was a "clunk" as my shovel hit something metallic in the earth. I was an anthropology/museums major, with a special interest in archaelogy, and I began excitedly yelling, "hey, we found something! Could be a treasure!" And indeed it was: my mother unearthed this Dick Tracy cap gun, made by Hubley in the late 1940s, and said: "huh. I wondered where that went to. I missed it one day little Robbie and I played cops and robbers in the yard." So...this toy was buried in my grandmother's garden for several decades. It now resides in a place of honor in my toy collection (I didn't give it back to my mom. Finders keepers, you know...).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Big Box Full O' Archer Space Men

*THUD* That's the sound of me fainting to the floor after finding one of the toys of my dreams: not only are they my much obsessed over 1950s Archer Space Men (so named because they were made by Archer Plastics), they are 1950s Archer Space Men IN THEIR ORIGINAL DIMESTORE BOX! Wheeeeee!

Just a big box of joy, that's what this is...

Trade-In Barbie with Original Box

Here's something wonderful I just got (technically, though, she's a Christmas present, because she's been on layaway since then...)

By the mid 1960s, the Barbie doll, which had formerly been the height of couture, was now looking matronly and dated in her tailored "Jackie O" ensembles and pillbox hats. The Mod era had begun, and Barbie evolved along with it. In 1967, Mattel Toys offered a remarkable promotion: by sending in $1.50 and your old Barbie, you could get the new version, complete with "bendable legs", a  patented "twist n' turn waist", and "real eyelashes". Little girls unsentimentally dispatched their original Barbies in droves, and what they received is pictured below: the "NEW Barbie", with her original box. Mine is in minty, unplayed with condition: it appears her box took the worst of the wear over the past 40 years.


The new more poseable Barbie offers increased 
photo opportunities 
for the robots:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vintage Norfin Troll

I love vintage toy trolls, but am partial to the earliest ones dating from the 1960s. This large 9 inch troll is a bit more recent (1977) but she represents a big moment in troll evolution: the creation of the Norfin model by Dam, the originator of the vinyl toy troll. Norfins were a huge departure stylistically from the first toy trolls, with cuter, more child-like faces and less rigidly posed, sometimes even jointed, bodies. Norfins are still being manufactured today, but they are now made in China of cheap plastic with brash, synthetic hair. This early Norfin was made in Denmark by the Dam Company of high quality European vinyl with a gorgeous mohair wig. She's still wearing her original felt tunic and hair bow, and is in practically unplayed with condition. Even though Norfins aren't quite my style, this was a special one, and a steal at only $6 from a toy show vendor last week.

1960s Ideal Pebbles Doll

This 8 inch Baby Pebbles Doll, made by Ideal in the 1960s during the initial run of the Flintstones cartoon, was discovered in a booth full of junque at a toy show last weekend. Ideal made both Pebbles and Bamm Bamm dolls, in a huge range of sizes. This was the smallest version, and she is soooo cute!



Archer Space Men

Found at a toy show last weekend was this 4 inch 1950s Archer Space Man, in a great dark emerald green color. I already had 2 bronze ones I got years ago at a yard sale, and since then Archer Space Men have become a small obsession. I love their Art Moderne styling, their Communist Bloc civic statuary look, their "retro futuristic" feel. It's always a thrill to find another one.



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toy Show Report

Yesterday my sweetie and I went to a little toy show, one we've never been to before. Treasures were plentiful, prices were affordable, and we met lots of delightfully eccentric people. My favorite was a seller who wouldn't let any of his toys go home with buyers he found "unsuitable", and who kissed each of his toys before he finally let them go. (Thankfully, I was found worthy of the doll I wanted: after a lengthy sizing-up period, he said, "well, you look like you would give her a good home, so that's okay then.")  Treasures found included:

-2 fantastic vintage novelty valentines, which I am gleefully saving to post next year
-a 1950s Archer Space Man for only $5!
-a cute, cute, cute 1960s Ideal Baby Pebbles Doll (from the Flintstones) for $15
-a big 1970s Dam Norfin troll, with mohair wig, original outfit, and made in Denmark, for just $6!
-a circa 1906-1908 American teddy bear with an incredibly endearing expression (considerably more expensive than the foregoing items, but still an awesome deal)
-and something I've never seen before: an early 1900s tin "postcard projector": a metal box about the size of a breadbox, with a magnifying porthole lens on the back and a sliding door on the front. By inserting a postcard into the sliding door, closing it, and turning on the lightbulb inside, the image can be seen in magnified form. Strange!

Pictures to follow throughout this week!

Creepiest Valentine Ever?

From my collection of "Creepy Valentines", of which there are a surprising number historically speaking, comes my vote for Creepiest Valentine Ever: this German die-cut from the 1920s. 

These two little girls seem to be enjoying their pop-up Demon-in-a-Box for Valentine's Day... the only thing I can guess is that this is related to the Krampus, the Germanic black devil figure who accompanies St. Nicholas on his Christmas gift-giving route and acts as his "enforcer". If this is him, I've no idea what he's doing on a Valentine.

And on that note, I'll end this month's Valentine show & tell! 

Hope everyone had a happy Valentine's Day, and if you didn't, well, 
at least no one sent you this.

Scary Teddy Bear Valentine

Here's a 1930s card I found this year that fits nicely into my little collection of "Creepy Valentines." Just what is up with that teddy bear?! He's got "possessed eyes", he's kicked a hole in that heart, and he appears to be attacking that little boy. Does he not like Valentine's Day? Is he related to Chucky of "Child's Play" fame? Who knows..

Creepy Valentine Postcards

These circa 1906 German postcards  were some of the first antique valentines I purchased. I remember thinking how strange, even creepy, they seemed: just what the heck were those cupids doing?! They appeared to be chopping up hearts, painting them with something caustic, and shishkabobing them. Finally an artist acquaintance explained that the cupids were not fiends, but friends: they were repairing a a broken heart by smelting it back together, and "stirring the flames of love" by roasting two hearts over one flame. Whatever, I still think they look creepy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Much-Loved Schuco Wind Up Mouse

Here's one of the most love-worn toys in my collection: an extremely tattered 1920s somersaulting mouse (actually an early, unlicensed Mickey Mouse knockoff made by Schuco). Originally this mouse, about the size of the real thing, would have had inset felt ears, felt hands and feet, and cloth covering his arms and legs, but it's all been loved away. I realize a lot of people would have passed over this item, but when I spotted him buried in a pile of rusty keys, chipped marbles, and broken lead soldiers in a dealer's junk case, he looked so forlorn, and I just couldn't leave him there! 

Here he is being chauffeured about in his tin toy car by his friend, a tiny 1920s Schuco teddy bear:

Cannibal, Snake Charmer, & Devil Valentines

Here's some iconography that would be hard to find in modern children's valentines: a snake charmer, a cannibal stewing a lady, and a devil (although devils still feature in adult valentines). These date to the 1950s.

"Vinegar Valentine": A Lady's Pipe Dream

Here's another "vinegar valentine" from my collection of these insulting postcards that were all the rage in the early 1900s. This one features a fantastic embossed scene of a lonely lady having a Valentine's Day "pipe dream." Dig the monocle and fancy mustaches!

"Vinegar Valentine": A Gentleman's Pipe Dream

Here's a "vinegar valentine" postcard from the early 1900s, featuring a bachelor's "pipe dream". This gently joshing card was sent between friends, and saved in an album for over 100 years before I found it. It's really a beautiful card.

"Vinegar Valentine": 'Tis a Lemon That I Hand You...

Here's a postcard from my collection of "vinegar valentines," sarcastic, sly, or downright cruel cards that people sent to friends (as jokes) or to their enemies (not as jokes). 
These were quite popular in the early 1900s.

This card dates to about 1906, and is one of my favorites. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Antique Dollhouse Icebox

We just had a big snowstorm here, and the day before, everyone scurried around like squirrels, stocking up on groceries in case they got snowed in. Coincidentally, I had just received my latest miniatures purchase: this 5 inch tall dollhouse icebox made by Hubley in the 1920s-30s, complete with its original glass "ice block," so I loaded it up too. Now everyone is prepared, including my dollhouse residents, and we won't suffer any Donner Party type disasters.


Here's the provisions:

And here's a close-up of the glass ice block. 
Amazing that this has survived!

Mundane Object Valentines

These little 1920s cards are some of my very favorites, and comprise what I refer to as my "Mundane Objects" valentines. I've found these over a number of years from different sources, but they seem to make a set. Many of the messages inside are puns, and feature a lot of intriguing historical slang. 

The brick reads: "You're a Brick...I'm 'Building Up Great Hopes' That You Will Be My Valentine"; "the pie: "If I Only Had the Crust...I'd Ask You To Be My Valentine"; the cork: "Gee! But You're a Corker...That's Why I Want You For My Valentine"; the briefcase: "To Make It Brief...I Have an Awful 'Case' On You"; the glove: "Do You Glove Me?... Be My Valentine"; and the plum: "I'm Plum Crazy About You!...Will You Be My Valentine?".

Flip Book Valentine

One of the most unusual valentines in my collection is this comical flip book from the 1930s. By turning the pages, you can make different characters (each with a great '30s marcelled platinum 'do!). Below you can see the three primary characters; by flipping the head and body pages, you can make variations, like the head of the first girl on the body of the third.


Change-A-Face Mechanical Valentine

Here's one of my favorite valentines: a mechanical change-a-face card, dating to the 1930s. By pulling the tab at the bottom, the goofy-looking boy's expression changes. Just a really fun valentine!

Here's the first face:


And here's the second:


Little Airplane Valentine

Just a sweet little moveable valentine dating from the 1930s. 
You can make the wings waggle up and down.

Courtship Sequence Valentine Postcards

Here's a great set of 1907 sequence postcards: these were mailed by the sender one by one, with the complete set telling a little story. These postcards were sent by a woman in Washington state who traded similar sequenced sets with a friend in Michigan. The message on the back of the first card reads: "Kind friend, yours received yesterday, couldn't get the rest of that set, therefore I shall finish with this." Pretty cool that these were kept together and saved for over 100 years!


Novelty Rebus Valentine

This is one of the most unique valentines in my collection. Made by Raphael Tuck in the early 1900s, it features a die-cut Dutch girl overlooking a rebus constructed of gilt paper utensils. Unusual and attractive, it's quite a treasure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Space Age Valentines

I love retro space age iconography, so naturally I love these great 1950s valentines: