Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coming Up in February...

-14 days of vintage valentines  

-a 1925 Tootsie Toy dollhouse with original furnishings   

-and our latest restoration project: a fancy 1890s German dollhouse pastry shop...sneak peek below!


                                                        and after...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vintage Space Toy Display in a Gumball Machine

I've accumulated a lot of vintage space toys lately, and was looking for a new way to display them that wouldn't take up so much room. I also had an old gumball machine that I'd been trying to find a use for, and one day, as I looked at it, I thought it might actually make an interesting sort of display case.

It had a prominent metal mechanism in the center, which originally turned to push the toy capsules out when a quarter was inserted, and it also had a wire arch that spanned the front window, used to hold the machine's original advertising card in place. They had a machiney, space-agey, electrical look to them, like props from the set of Metropolis, I I installed some 1950s children's space print fabric as a backdrop, then arranged a scene using vintage Archer Space Men and robots, along with some 1950s space-themed dexterity puzzles.

A closer-up view:

It hasn't really helped alleviate the crowded display area, 
(which is supposed to be my kitchen table)
but it came out pretty cool:

Friday, January 28, 2011

R and L Premiums

At a weekend toy show recently, I found a whole heap of...well, very odd things. These little plastic characters, between 1 and 1 1/2 inches tall, were cereal premiums (and sometimes Cracker Jack prizes) made in the late 1960s and 1970s by an Australian company called R & L. The tiny toys were found in packages of Kellogg's cereal worldwide, although there were some country exclusives. In the late '70s, the company was sold and the owners moved the plant to Mexico, where production continued in a range of new, brighter colors.

There were many different sets of odd and imaginative characters produced by R & L, often with spacey, alien themes, and each with individual names. Fanatical collectors strive to get them all, sometimes in every color combination possible.

These, the Crater Critters, are some of my favorites. The original cereal box promotion read: "Here are the cutest creatures you have ever collected -- Kellogg's 'Crater Critters." Normally they live way down in the deepest craters on a far off planet. They are shy little people, that's why we hardly ever see them."
Click here to see an original cereal box ad for the Crater Critters. 

My favorite so far is called Gloob; 
I have him (her?) in orange and purple:

Next are the AstroNits: "Round and round they go in lunar orbit, in their rockets and flying saucers, the mad, crazy Kellogg's 'Astro-Nits.' With retro rockets firing they zoom into Earth orbit to land on your breakfast table. So you can recognize them we have stamped a dotty name on every one of them." Some of the AstroNits shown below include Knot-Nit, Clown-Nit, Goof-Nit, and Yak-Nit.

My favorite is Goof-Nit:

Then there are the Funny Fringes: "Way out fun creatures from a make-believe land on the fringe of outer space." They all have names ending in "inge."

Here are some of my favorites:

Spinge and Fringe.

Sniffinge, Puddinge, and Nuttinge.

These are the far-out Toolie Birds: bird figures with tool-shaped beaks:

One of my favorite R & L lines comprises the Stretch Pets, funny animals with accordion bodies. These, and one of the Funny Fringes, I actually remember from childhood:

Collecting R & L premiums can be both a lot of fun (finding figures in cases full of unrelated items at shows) and a lot of frustration (trying to get that elusive last Crater Critter to complete your set), but regardless, they bring a smile to my face every time I look at them.

Collector Mike Speth has written a great guide to these toys, "Collecting Crazy Colored Plastic Weird-Things," that appeared in issue #12 of Freakie Magnet, a cereal collector's zine. It can also be read online, and is chock-full of photos and helpful info. The company history, figure identifications, cereal box quotations, and original ad linked above were all found at his site. Go check it out!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

itty bitty robots

When I was a kid back in the 1970s, one of my favorite toys was actually one of my smallest and cheapest: a set of tiny, 1 inch tall plastic robots that came from a gumball machine, or possibly from the "cheap toy aisle" at the grocery store, I can't really remember. They were just the right size to carry around, and they went everywhere with me. My two little brothers loved the robots too, and even though we all played with them and toted them about, we still have them today.

Shown twice as large as actual size!

I've always been on the lookout for more of these wonderful little robot guys, but had never seen any until we discovered some at a recent toy show. Oddly, these are red, although they're clearly from the same molds, and they have exactly the same stamping on the bottom ("H.K." for Hong Kong.) The dealer and I were both really excited to find each other, as we'd both been looking for more information on these guys for the last 20 years, but were both disappointed to discover neither of us knew anything about them. 

Does anyone out there recognize these robots???

1950s Space Race Card Game

I found this fantastic 1952 space themed card game, "Space Race," at a toy show last weekend, and was blown away by its graphics. The deck features classic mid-century space exploration illustrations, including sleek rocket ships, clean-cut space men, and outrageous space monsters.

Here are closeups of some of the coolest cards:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vintage Dexterity Puzzles

I saw literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage dexterity puzzles at a toy show last weekend. Several dealers had entire display cases full of them, and I spent what seemed like hours (oh: my long-suffering toy shopping companion just told me it was hours...) picking through them. In the end, I selected these three.

A fortune teller "Jiggle" puzzle from 1957:

A tiny Cracker Jack prize puzzle just 1 3/4 inches tall, from the late 1960s-early 1970s, made of paper and fragile plastic, with a fantastic character design:

And a wonderful space-themed, dome-shaped puzzle, from the 1950s, with great mid-century space race graphics:

Antique German Dollhouse Dishes and Tables

At a toy show last weekend, I found a wonderful, very tiny set of antique porcelain German dollhouse dishes tucked away in an old candy box, buried in a pile of junque under a dealer's table. Price: just $10.00!

(I cannot even count the number of times I've found fantastic things hidden in delapidated, unrelated's always worth taking a look!)

The set, circa the early 1900s, includes a tureen, vegetable dish, gravy boat, cream pitcher, plates, and a serving tray. For a sense of scale, the itty bitty tureen is just 1 1/2 inches long.

At a different dealer's table a few minutes later, I found these German dollhouse tables, circa the 1920s, just 5 inches long and priced at only $5.00 each. They turned out to be the perfect size for the dishes, and my favorite small doll:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tiny Troll

One of the dealers at a toy show I went to last weekend had tables full of "grab bags" she had made, each priced at just $5.00. Each bag, a large ziploc type, was filled with an assortment of small toys of varying age and quality. Mostly junk, yes, as is often the case with grab bags, but occasionally harboring a treasure, as is sometimes the case with grab bags, making them always worth a good look. In one, amongst the single doll shoes, broken barrettes, and unknown action figures missing an arm, was this tiny, 1 1/2 inch pencil top troll, made by Scandia House in the mid-1960s. She still has her original outfit (possibly a clown costume) unusual purple eyes, and her blue mohair. A hard-to-find and pricey troll!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vintage Ideal Games: Mr. Mad and Ker-Plunk

Found some great vintage games at a toy show last weekend, including two classics made by Ideal in the late 1960s. Featuring fantastic design and graphics, they are also two of the noisiest games ever made, as each one ends in a cascade of clattering marbles.

Mark Rich, in his wonderful book, 101 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys, writes of these games: "The trend that started in 1961-62 reached its crest a few years later. Games once designed for family enjoyment, fairly quiet...and often dependent on mental agility and knowledge, gave way to bright, brilliantly designed, fast-paced, noisy games of impulse and chaos. Many games gained their feeling of mounting tension by creating an imminent disaster, which one player would set off. No one could tell at the beginning who that player would be..."

Mr. Mad, released by Ideal in 1970, was the epitome of such games. Players took turns dropping marbles into the mouth of a fearsome looking, 10 inch tall robot, Mr. Mad. If the marbles hit a button inside the robot, he would begin spinning and tilting, shooting marbles left and right out of holes in his arms. One unlucky player had to try and hit his "off" switch using a plastic "stopping" stick. By that time, dozens of marbles had usually scattered across the room (I've still got some stuck under my refrigerator from our test run...)

Isn't this just a fantastic looking robot?

The next game I found was Ker-Plunk, made by Ideal in 1967. This huge game box, 21 inches tall, features great graphics in day-glo '60s colors. The object of the game was to remove plastic straws one at a time from beneath a heap of marbles, held suspended in the top half of a clear plastic tube by said straws. When the wrong straw was pulled, the marbles came clattering down. This was not a good game for those susceptible to migraines.

1950s Felt Beanie Hat With Vintage Charms

At a toy show this past weekend, I found a long-sought item: a vintage felt beanie hat from the 1950s, loaded with Cracker Jack and gumball machine charms. These hats were very popular from the late 1940s - early 1960s; the character of Jughead was never without his in the Archie comics. I've occasionally seen similar hats, but never one that was "just right" until I spotted this one:

The hat is festooned with all sorts of vintage charms collected by its original young owner: tiny skulls, little footballs and baseballs, a Snoopy-esque dog, even a Heinz pickle advertising pin:

One of my favorite pieces is this tiny 1950s microphone:

Here's the hat modelled by my 24 inch antique American bear, who wears it tilted at a rakish angle:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Toy Show Report

Yesterday we went to one of my favorite events of the year, a local antique and vintage Toy Show. It's held in a shared venue with a farmer's market, which makes it very crowded, and lots of fun to people watch  (little old ladies gently pottering along with their shopping bags, looking for fresh produce, are jostled by panicked vintage toy collectors, reminiscent of the Comic Store Guy from the Simpsons, racing towards the rare find they can see in a booth across the room.)
We raced and jostled with the best of them, and, although I missed out on a 1950s Mr. Potato Head set in its original box (I could SEE it, but just couldn't get around the corner of the table fast enough...darn little old farmer's marketing ladies...) we came home with lots of fabulous finds, including:

-4 vintage games: the Dark Shadows Game made by Whitman in 1968; Mr. Mad, a battery-operated, marble-spewing robot game made by Ideal in 1970; Kerplunk, another Ideal creation, from 1967; and an early edition of Barrel of Monkeys

-a fantastic 1950s felt beanie hat, loaded with vintage Cracker Jack and gumball machine charms

-2 German dollhouse tables, circa the 1920s, priced at only $5.00 each!

-a tiny set  of German porcelain dollhouse dishes, circa the late 1900s, with a tureen, gravy boat, cream pictcher, vegetable dish, plates, and tray, found in an old candy box beneath a pile of junk, priced at just $10.00!

- a little Scandia House pencil top troll from the 1960s, 1 1/2 inches tall, still in her original outfit, spotted in a grab bag of (mostly) junk, for just $5.00, too!

-4 vintage dexterity puzzles, mostly from the 1950s: a Cracker Jack prize; a fortune teller; a space-themed dome shaped one with great graphics; and a nursery rhyme design

-a fantastic space-themed card game from 1952 called Space Race; it features fabulous illustrations of mid-century rocketships, spacemen, and aliens

-a set of tiny 1960s robot figures, possibly gumball machine prizes

-a huge lot of R & L cereal premium figures from the 1960s-70s: Astro-Nits, Funny Fringes, Toolie Birds, Crater Critters, etc.

-and 3 interesting old Valentines

Seen, longed-for, but not purchased were a German-made, mohair clockwork cat from the early 1900s (standing and dressed, like Puss in Boots, it danced when wound, and was incredibly beautiful); and a whole booth full of vintage monster movie posters and ads, along with the much-sought Green Ghost and Outer Limits board games. Everything in the monster booth was priced at the very top of "book values" and, consequently, has remained in this booth, unsold, for the past several years...I have a feeling the dealer doesn't really want to sell any of it; he just wants to show it off, a sadly not uncommon thing among some rare toy dealers...)

Pics to come later this week!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Antique Bliss Dollhouse With French Penny Toy Furniture

I've posted this early 1900s Bliss dollhouse before, but I just redecorated it with some antique French penny toy furniture and a German tin fireplace. It came out really well, so I thought it was worth a re-post. (The furniture and fireplace were part of a fantastic recent find: they came with a Tootsie Toy dollhouse, loaded with accessories, purchased from the original owner's family. More on that in an upcoming post...)

 The lithographed house is 11 1/2 inches tall, 
with a typical two-room interior.
It still has all of its original wall and floor papers.

The French-made metal furniture, dating from the 1920s, is in a small, mostly 1/2 inch scale, and includes a table, chair, bench, dressing table with gilt mirror, sewing machine, and two twin beds. The German tin fireplace, from the late 1900s-early '20s, still has its red foil "fire." A Cracker Jack prize clock rests on the mantle.

The beautiful baby carriage, another of the French penny toy pieces,  holds a Frozen Charlotte doll.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Antique Teddy Bears

I recently gave a presentation at my library on the history of teddy bears, accompanied by about 50 of my teds who assisted me during the show and tell portion. Here's a virtual tour of some of the highlights:

A 1908 German Steiff and 1904 American Ideal, wearing his original antique Roosevelt campaign pin:

A 1907 Laughing Roosevelt Bear, made by the Columbia Teddy Bear Company of Brooklyn, New York. His mouth opens, emulating Roosevelt's trademark toothy grin!

A couple of very rare American bears from around 1907-1908: on the left, a teddy made by the Miller Mfg. Co., advertised as an "antiseptic, hygenic" toy; and on the right, a cinnamon colored bear from Hahn & Amberg. Both bears are made of a wooly fabric and, unusually, stuffed with cork:

Dating from 1906, another American bear, made by Aetna:

A couple of rarities from 1907, these Teddy Girls were an attempt by doll manufacturers to cash in on the teddy bear fad:

These two odd American bears were a novelty in 1908. Known as Electric Eye Bears, they featured light bulb eyes which actually lit up! (The second bear has had his glass bulb eyes replaced with shoe buttons by a cautious mother long ago.)


Another novelty ted, this American Sleeping Eyed Bear dates from the 1920s. His celluloid eyes tip back into his head when he is laid down, making him appear to be asleep:

Also from the 1920s, these miniature bears made by Schuco of Germany hold many surprises. The largest, in the back, is actually a perfume bottle: his head lifts off to reveal a glass vial. The pink bear on the right houses a compact in her torso, complete with a tiny puff and traces of powder, while her head lifts off to reveal a lipstick tube. The crazy looking bear on the left is Schuco's famous two-faced Janus bear: his head can be turned completely around, where a different face can be found. The tiny bear in front is Schuco's smallest variety, the Piccolo, just 2 inches tall, with his original felt paws and feet.

These two twin British bears date from around WWI. They belonged to twin brothers who emigrated to America in the 1920s, and were clearly much loved. In fact, the different wear patterns on each bear show how the boys played with and used them. The bear on the left has a completely bare, broken down arm, from being regularly carried by that paw, but his torso stuffing is intact and sturdy, indicating he wasn't slept on nightly and thus squashed flat, like his brother on the right.

Two of my favorite antique English bears are these, a small, portly ted made by an unknown company in the 1920s, and his friend, a very sweet-faced Chiltern from the 1930s, with Chiltern's distinctive nose stitching:

This odd bear, which has squeakers in its large ears, dates to around 1916 and may have been made by the British Peacock Company:

The presentation featured a whole table full of "character" bears, antique teddies who have little monetary value due to their extreme wear and repair, but have limitless appeal due to the character imbued by such wear. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The last part of the presentation gave examples of ways to display bears. A big, 24 inch American bear, circa 1918, was the perfect size to wear my little brother's childhood sailor suit and ride an antique rocking horse:

Miniature bears, including a 1910 Steiff and a modern artist bear, were just the right size for this dollhouse furniture and grocery store:

And an antique dollhouse made the perfect display for two tiny Schuco bears:

An itty bitty bear, just 2 inches tall, and his dolly friend: