This article is real departure from what I usually write about. I saw a bumper sticker the other day on a supped-up truck that read “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.” In looking over the Bushing and Kinunen MEARS For Sale Site, I took the time to search through their toy offerings to see if they had anything from my youth. Sad to say, but at this time nothing looked familiar. I decided to make a list of my Top Ten Favorite Toys and see what they would cost today, if I could even find them. Boy was I surprised at the selection and price. These are in no particular order as they encompass a wide range of years and things I found interesting.
1. Aladdin’s 1969 “The Astronauts” Metal Lunch Box: A lunch box as a toy? It was to me. I can remember eating out of it at Fairfax Elementary and pretending the thermos was a space craft and the cup being the capsule that splashed down to Earth. I saw one at an indoor flea market years ago with dozens of other metal lunch boxes and price tag of $65.00. I passed on it then. I did however see one recently on E-Bay that looks like to could have been had for under $10.00. Problem was no thermos “space capsule” so I guess I will have to continue looking. I did find that a current price guide for this item in top condition with Thermos lists it at $395.00. Maybe $65.00 a few years back would not have been a bad buy?
2. Rockem Sockem Robots: This was the only way myself and my sister Ann could fight without getting into trouble…o.k…maybe not too much trouble. This was perfect fight gift as we got in jointly for Christmas. Back then we seemed to fight about just about everything starting with which was the boy robot, the red one or blue one. Today, as back then, my position is that Blue is the Boy Robot. This was just one in a series of toys I loved produced by Marx Toys and appears to have first been released in 1965. While my metal lunch box might be a thing of the past, this game can still be found on the shelves today. I guess brothers and sisters are still fighting and if you are, kids…go old school and try this out…far more satisfying to see that head “snap up” when you knock their block off as opposed to some computer game. About $16.00 at Toys R Us or if you find an older version in top condition (with box), be looking to pay upwards of $150+.
3. Tudor NHL Hockey: A metal table top game that allowed you to maneuver your five players and goalie using control rods located at each end of the board. These are still very easy to find, even for versions going back into the 1960s. E-Bay prices, depending upon condition are around $100.00 with the ability to find just full sets of team players in the $10-$20 range. I can’t help but think that if I was a hockey collector, I would not have a few of these as they make for great display items as well.
4. Tudor Electric Football: Really the same thing as the Hockey game, but different if this make any sense. The game was controlled by vibration which you could adjust… the down side was the greater the vibration necessary to re-create the bone crushing action of the game, the louder the noise…My parents where not big fans of noise… go figure with a small house and six kids. Players movement could be set by a dial on the bottom of the stand…lineman would be set to just run in circles if it was a pass play. The quarterback piece could be held onto and moved (boy did you have to work our out the ground rules on this) or used to throw a pass to a man down field. The balls were small cotton swap like objects that, yep…got lost or damaged along the way. I think the first set we had was just plain nondescript players. Later we added the Jets, Colts Packers, Bengals, Cowboys and Vikings. These too are still available and I would imagine there is someone out there reading this that collects team sets.
5. Marx Metal Action Play Sets: These were just too cool and the concept was great. Each play set was actually a metal folding case that contained a theme. I had the Cape Canaveral and Fort Apache sets. My favorite was Cape Canaveral as it had spring loaded rockets that launched…or at least they did until one reentry disturbed my dad watching PBA King Of Bowling of Chris Schenkel and then all space operations became restricted to the outside or my father would crush ( and I mean it) my space program. In looking on E-Bay, it appears Fort Apache is easier to find and a lot cheaper. The Cap Canaveral set seems to go back well into the 1950s and cardboard box versions predate the metal case concept. The key to getting something like this, especially for someone like me, is that I would have to trust my memory with respect to what made a set complete. Thank goodness for vintage toy references which I am finding are in no short supply.
6. Marx Action Figures: What a long line of products this turned out to be. My holdings where limited to a few from the Johnny West Series and from what I called the Fighting Knights (also included some cool Vikings). If there is one thing I might be tempted to go back after it would be these because they can still be found in great abundance if you are not locked into having them MIB. The other thing about this, is because each of the figures had their own gear, weapons etc…there is still the chance to pick up individual pieces and then build back to a complete set or figure. What do I remember about these guys more than anything else…a shortage of hands. I mean that in a literal sense since the rubber gripped hands could be removed and yep, you guessed it …lost very easily. I always felt bad about making Geronimo (with two left hands) fight General Custer or Captain Maddox. The thing I found out in looking for these 12” action figures is that there were ones I did not even know about…good thing for my parents back in the day. Both the Western Line and Fighting Knights Line came with horses as well. These figures along with the horses can be found for a few bucks on E-Bay today.
7: GI JOE: My “Joe’s” were the ones without facial hair for the most part. I couldn’t understand at the time why Joe needed to grow a beard and fro…and become part of an Adventure Team? He was soldier or Navy Frogman. I could see the Astronaut thing since John Glenn was Marine, but capturing a Pygmy Gorilla? GI Joe was supposed to have a Jeep with search light (that really worked) and recoilless rifle (that actually fired something), not a six wheel all terrain-vehicle used to retrieve a lost mummy. With this in mind, and knowing that there was tons of product out there, I decided to see if I could locate the aforementioned jeep set. I found one with a box, but it did not feature the searchlight I can remember having at it was listed as being sold for $295.00. I found the type I was looking for and remember and saw that it could have been had for $275.00. Funny what you notice now that you didn’t as kid. The thing that caught my eye was the white star on a red background license plate on the front of this. I have spent the past 20+ plus years looking for things like this, since when the flag of a General Officer is displayed on the vehicle like this, the vehicle is to be saluted smartly as it rolls by…if not, expect for something to roll down hill.
8. Super Sonic Power Racers: If you have never heard of these or don’t remember them, then the name is mouthful to be sure. These cars were manufactured by Kenner toys and featured a plastic “rip cord” with teeth that was pulled through a geared motor that powered the car. There was a model of these which I never had, but wish I did that was actually intended to be rammed into each other as opposed to what we were doing any way. This was the “smash up derby” set. These were designed to have various pieces fly off the car upon impact…the ones I had just seemed to achieve this on their own after months of play. I tracked a 1971 edition of the “Smash Up Derby Set” on E-bay…longing for the wanton destructive nature of my youth…this was it…complete in the box, with both cars and the official ramps and instruction sheet. I had to laugh…What kind of kid needs an instruction sheet to learn how to crash his cars into each other….With over 7 days to go, there were 5 bids and a question from Robert who wanted to know if the “t-cords” were included…very tempting, but I passed and watched another unfulfilled childhood memory slip past me for $89.00 and $9.95 in shipping.
9. Kenner Girder and Panel Construction Sets: E-Bay was loaded with this bad boy with sets from 1950s through the 1970s. If my kids where little and not off to college, I would have to consider picking this up again… and yes, I would build with them. The concept for these involved snapping red plastic girders into the shape of the structure you wished to build. Then you had the option of snapping the various exterior panels (now you know why it’s called what its called) to create a the exterior façade. One E-Bay offering showed 4 boxed sets (2 Girder and Panel sets; 1 Bridge and Turnpike Set; and 1 Build a Home Set). I don’t remember all the different sets, as we kept all of these in one rather large cardboard box…goes to show what I knew about collectables back then. This treasure trove eventually sold for $77.86 and another $20.00 for postage.
10. Mattel’s Major Matt Mason: This was one of a number of smaller rubber action figures that could be posed due to a wire running through the arms and legs. Problem was, once the wire broke, Major Matt and SGT Storm were no longer poseable. There were a couple of other guys in his crew, but they were civilians and I don’t recall having them or wanting them. Major Matt and the boys had tons of cool stuff including a vast array of vehicles and equipment including crawlers and gliders. With a little imagination, these could be applied to the bane of my childhood existence, bath tub time. I was very surprised to see the prices on these things in looking on E-Bay. Even figures out of the box where in the $20-$40 dollar range. A complete space station in the box was going for over $300.00. Of all the toys I looked at, the prices here were the most surprising. This may have something to do with the short life span of the toy because of the wiring problem and its subsequent discarding.
In looking at this it became quite obvious that toy collectors and their game used cousins are miles apart when it comes to condition. Toys are most sought after when it seems they are new and unused and guys want there gamers pounded with use. What they have in common is that they both serve to connect us with a place or point in our lives…but as I always say…
Collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com