The ‘Primal’ made by Arnold of West Germany – A neat little mid-century cold-war artifact.

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The Arnold 'Primal' Streamlined Coupe

The Arnold ‘Primal’ Streamlined Coupe

This is a fine example of the Arnold ‘Primal’ streamlined coupe made in the ‘US-Zone Germany’ – probably late 1940s – early 1950s. It’s 9 1/2″ in length, has two neat composition passengers, and is powered by a unique crank mechanism. The rear seat even has a stylish plaid pattern.

Milestone Auctions has it up for grabs on liveauctioneers, Lot 478. Bidding is open and the auction goes live 7:00 AM PT – Dec 12.

The Arnold 'Primal' Streamlined Coupe Rear View - it's missing a tail light but like they say, 'that gives it character.'

The Arnold ‘Primal’ Streamlined Coupe Rear View – it’s missing a tail light but like they say, ‘that gives it character.’ The ‘Primal’ emblem can be seen on the back and sides. It also has rubber white-wall tires.

The Wind-Up Mechanism - It's wound with the crank then the button on the side is pushed.

The Wind-Up Mechanism – It’s wound with the crank then the button on the side is pushed. The ‘Primal’ design…way cool.

A View From The Front - Such a nice looking couple. And check the seat cover design. The front license plate is a nice touch. And the chrome...

A View From The Front – Such a nice looking couple. And check the seat cover design. Of course it has a front (and rear) license plate for a nice touch. And the chrome…

The ‘Primal’ made by Arnold of West Germany – A neat little mid-century cold-war artifact.

$17,000 Might Get A 2014 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer – Or You Could Get A 50s Bandai Space Patrol Super Cycle

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Supecycle Box Side GraphicBandai toys from Japan created a classic tin toy for the ages – the 1950s Space Patrol Super Cycle.

The Space Patrol Super Cycle With RiderThis friction powered futuristic cycle zips forward while the front fender mounted radar antenna rotates…

Super Cycle Side Rear View…and sparks emit from the gel over the back tire lighting up the red exhaust. Check out those rear fins too.

Super Cycle Spaceman DriverThis particular Space Patrol Cycle includes the original hard rubber spaceman driver – he’s a bit cracked but he’s a rare find in any condition. He’s missing his clear plastic dome helmet – but seems to be doing fine without it.

Super Cycle CompassThe Super Cycle also has a working compass mounted between the handlebars – this pic gives a look at the some of the neat litho art too. All very cool.

On 30 May 2015 Morphy Auctions had this little beauty up for bids. Its estimated value was between $12,000 – $18,000. When all was said and done the final winning bid (with buyer’s premium) came to the lovely amount of $17,500.

A person could have purchased a human sized cycle for that chunk-o’-change. But then it wouldn’t be a 1950s Bandai Space Patrol Super Cycle now would it.

(images via LiveAuctioneers)

The Wonderful and Weird World of Wind-Ups

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Late 1800s Ives Wind-Up Bear With Real Fur

Late 1800s Ives Wind-Up Bear With Real Fur (probably dyed rabbit fur) – A mechanical walker with key. Walks, makes mild growling noise. Head turns side-to-side. Jaw moves up and down.

Mechanical automatons have fascinated the curious for a very long time. In the 20th century toy wind-ups became a mainstay in popular culture. Most weren’t as elaborate as the Ives bear pictured above, but a lot of them were pretty neat. Below are a selection of some stand-out examples.

A Scarce Lehmann Captain of Kopenick Wind-Up

A Scarce 1903 Lehmann Captain of Kopenick Wind-Up – Depicts the true story of an infamous cobbler who stole the town of Kopenick, Germany’s money while dressed as an army officer. When wound the Captain rocks back and forth.

German Early 1900s Snookums Wind-Up

German Early 1900s Snookums Wind-Up – A character toy from early George McManus newspaper comic strips Their Only Child. Snookums is very hyperactive, when she’s wound she shakes about frantically.

Foxy Grandpa Wind-Up, c. 1910

Foxy Grandpa Wind-Up, c. 1910 – This is a scarce early version of the Foxy Grandpa wind-up. His weighted feet have a clockwork-like mechanism enabling him to walk.

Toonerville Trolley The Powerful Katrinka German Wind-Up, 1923

Toonerville Trolley The Powerful Katrinka German Wind-Up, 1923 (Fontaine Fox) – When wound, Katrinka pushes the wheelbarrow carrying little Jimmy forward, stopping every so often to lift up the wheelbarrow before continuing on.

Happy Hooligan/Buster Brown-Like Mechanical Toy, c. 1920

Happy Hooligan/Buster Brown-Like Mechanical Toy, c. 1920 (German) – This is a spring loaded toy. The main figure bears a resemblance to Happy Hooligan. When he is cocked and released, the hammer hits the anvil, yellow slide shoots up column to hit character at top who bears a strong resemblance to Buster Brown. When this character is hit, the ring in his hand flips to opposite side.

Marx New York Wind-Up Box

Marx New York Wind-Up Box

1928 Marx New York Tin Litho Wind-Up

1928 Marx New York Tin Litho Wind-Up – The plane circles around the skyline in the center. The train circles the outer ring of the base, going through three tunnels in buildings, one w/ a clock tower at top. The train is headed by a steam locomotive and moves in conjunction w/ plane.

When wound, Bonzo's separate tin litho eyes and jaw move up and down, giving the toy the illusion of blinking and speaking.

When wound, Bonzo’s separate tin litho eyes and jaw move up and down, giving the toy the illusion of blinking and speaking.

Bonzo Animated Wind-Up Toy, 1930s

Bonzo Animated Wind-Up Toy, 1930s (Germany) – When wound, Bonzo wobbles around.

Jitter-Bug Wind-Up Dancing Toy

Jitter-Bug Wind-Up Dancing Toy, 1930s (Chime Toy Products) – When wound these stylish figures move up and down as if dancing the 1930s classic.

Clown Marionette Playing GuitarGal Marionette Playing Tambourine

Bestmade Mechanical Marionette Theater Wind-Up

Bestmade Mechanical Marionette Theater Wind-Up, 1930s by Kuramochi, Japan – When wound the base rocks back and forth as figures move about.

Pango-Pango African Dance Wind-Up,

Pango-Pango African Dance Wind-Up, 1950s (T.P.S. Japan) – When wound Pango-Pango dances and his head bobs up and down.

Comical Clara Wind-Up, 1960s

Comical Clara Wind-Up, 1960s (T.P.S., Japan) – Clara is all 60s and weird. When she’s wound up her entire body shakes side to side as it moves around and her separate tin eyes move in and out of the eye socket openings so when eyes are fully extended, Clara has quite an unusual appearance.

The last wind-up for this post doesn’t do much – he just looks cool. He’s a clown manufactured by J. Chein & Co. (USA) (n.d.) – He just walks and wobbles.

Chein & Co. Clown Wind-Up

(All images via Hake’s Americana and Collectables)

Not Just Any Toy Robot – The DUX Astroman Robot

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The DUX Astroman

The DUX Astroman Robot – manufactured in West Germany and first introduced c. 1959. The artwork on the original box is considered one of the big pluses for this prized collectable. (Photo via Alphadrome Robot and Space Toy Database)

In the 1950s (and beyond), Japan toy manufacturers had the reputation as the best – in creativity, design, and quality. To this day some of the most wanted post-WWII vintage toys were manufactured in Japan – particularly the tin-litho windups, including robots, i.e. The Alps Television Spaceman and The Radicon Robot.

Still, there are some non-Japanese vintage toy robots that collectors prize – one of them is the DUX Astroman Robot made in West Germany.

The battery operated remote controlled Astroman Robot, complete with red antenna and padded hands.

The battery operated remote controlled Astroman Robot, complete with red antenna and padded hands.

Designed by Lothar Stanetzki of Bonn, Germany and originally seen in German catalogs in 1959. The original patent, which was filed in January of 1960 and granted in April 1964, defined the specific distinction of this robot:

…a serious drawback of many presently utilized toys of this general character is that all movements which the toys are capable of performing must occur in a predetermined sequence i.e. that the player cannot change the sequence of movements as he wishes…An important object of [this] invention is to provide an improved automaton which is…constructed in such a way…that the movements which it is adapted to perform are independent of each other and may be initiated either simultaneously or in any desired sequence which dependents only upon the user’s choice.

The final result was a 12″, battery operated remote controlled robot named Astroman – it became a best seller. Astroman has a translucent green body with a light up chest, a forward walking motion, bends at the waist, and opens and closes his arms to pick up objects. He also has a glow-in-the dark head, a clear plastic helmet, red antenna, and headphones.

DUX-Astroman 150 Catalog Listing - 1960

A marvel of toy construction immediately appealing for father and son. – DUX-Astroman 150 Catalog Listing, 1960 (Photo via Blechroboter at Alphadrome)


DUX Astroman Pickup PicPlastic robots in the 1950s and early sixties were very rare. DUX Astroman Robot is considered the first of its kind. It’s for this reason that the robot can be quite expensive – not only for its historical value, but also because of the wear and bowing that is known to happen with plastic toys. The red antenna is fragile and is often missing and the pads on the hands can often be worn down or missing altogether. The clear plastic helmet can be discolored after years of being exposed to the elements. A reproduction replacement for the antenna can cost anywhere from $35.00-$60.00 in some places. A reproduction of the helmet can cost as much as $90.00, and a reproduction head/mask can sell for $35.00-$60.00 – most aren’t even glow-in-the-dark. To find an original DUX Astroman Robot in mint condition with all working parts accompanied with the original box, standing display, cargo boxes, and instructions is very rare. Collectors have been known to pay anywhere from $1,100.00 to $1,800.00 for the complete set-up like the one shown below.

Complete DUX Astroman SetSo, if you’re a person who visits garage and lawn sales looking for that amazing find, and you see a DUX Astroman Robot set that’s selling for an amazing price, even if you’re not a fan of vintage toy robots, buy it. Consider it a worthwhile investment.

(Photos via ToyTent except where noted)

The Art Of Math – you could do that with SPIROGRAPH

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Spirograph is a geometric drawing toy that produces mathematical roulette curves of the variety technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids. – Wikipedia

The Marvelous Wondergraph drawing (1907-1908) - Manufactured by E. I. Horsman Co., U.S.A.

The Marvelous Wondergraph drawing kit (1907-1908) – Manufactured by E. I. Horsman Co., U.S.A. (Photo: © The Strong)

A forerunner of the 1960s Spirograph, the 1908 Horsman WONDERGRAPH allowed kids to create roulette curves with the help of a mechanical device. It was sold through the Sears catalog in 1908.

Fast forward to 1962.

Inspired by a Victorian idea for creating patterns using cogs and wheels, an English mechanical engineer named Denys Fisher designed a tool originally intended as an industrial drafting instrument. Using perforated interlocking gears and the point of a pen, Fisher’s invention would trace sine and cosine waves by using the gears as a moving stencil. This idea never materialized – Fisher had another plan.

In 1965 Fisher introduced his repurposed invention at The Nuremberg International Toy Show – SPIROGRAPH was a hit.

Denys Fisher original Spirograph - 1965

Denys Fisher original SPIROGRAPH set – 1965 (Photo: Ralph Stephenson)

Unlike earlier mechanical geometric design drawing kits – i.e. the WONDERGRAPH – SPIROGRAPH’s varied cogs, wheels, and racks, allowed for more interactivity and hands-on play. The relative ease of use made it possible for people of all ages to feel that they too could create interesting bits of art.

Found Spirograph Drawings (1)

Found Spirograph Drawings (1) via Mike Leavenworth on Flickr: ‘We found a nearly complete Spirograph Set with these (essentially) flawless images – all on one page and no do-overs!’

Found Spirograph Drawings (2)

Found Spirograph Drawings (2) via Mike Leavenworth on Flickr

The mathematical formulas inherent in Spirographs are intuitively recognized by the user. The visible interplay between art and math helps teach logical pattern rules. In the UK, SPIROGRAPH won the Educational Toy of the Year three years running from 1965 to 1967 and became Toy of the Year in 1967.

1967 UK SPIROGRAPH Drawing Set - The British version manufactured by The Denys Fisher Toys Group contained instructions on how to create drawings of animals, including the owl pictured on the box.

1967 UK SPIROGRAPH Drawing Set – The British version manufactured by The Denys Fisher Toys Group contained instructions on how to create drawings of animals, including the owl pictured on the box. (Photo via Daily Mail)

In 1966 Kenner Toys purchased the marketing rights to SPIROGRAPH for American consumers. It became the number one selling toy in the US for Christmas in 1967.

Kenner's 1967 SPIROGRAPH Set

Kenner’s 1967 SPIROGRAPH Set (Photo via eBay)

In 1969 Kenner introduced SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS. This set included interlocking arced racks, a geared square, and a triangle, adding larger and even more interesting design possibilities.

The 1969 Kenner SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS

The 1969 Kenner SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS set (Photo via eBay)

Various other Spirograph-related products were sold, including a SPIROTOT (a Spirograph designed for toddlers), and various refill packages. Other Spirograph products included the Spiroscope, with a kaleidoscope capable of bringing new depth and view to your Spirograph drawings; a Sparkle Spirograph, featuring glitter pens; and a kinetic art Spirograph in which the pen swings on a pendulum, drawing the pattern with the power of physics. As of 2009, there are electronic versions of Spirograph for creating designs on the computer. Math Playground has an online version called, Spiromath – The Intersection of Math and Art – it can be found here.

Denys Fisher’s SPIROGRAPH has gone on to become an art design classic for the ages.

In 1970 Fisher sold his company to Hasbro (making SPIROGRAPH a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc.) and Fisher became a wealthy man. In 2002, the inventor of the Spirograph passed away at the age of 84. While Fisher the man may be gone, his legacy endures in the countless number of artists, mathematicians, and designers whom his drawing toy inspired throughout the years.

Sound Feelings believe in carrying on the SPIROGRAPH tradition and they market a ten color pen that features ‘the original “thin-style” ballpoint pen tips that are required to fit through the narrow holes of the Spirograph gears.’ Their promo graphics cover the virtues of Fisher’s invention.

Spirograph Learning Math Through ArtSPIROGRAPH, Eye-Hand Coordination

SPIROGRAPH, Universe Of PossibilitiesSPIROGRAPH, Like Life Itself

Nat is a bookbinder and crafter extraordinaire. After her husband gave her a vintage SPIROGRAPH set in 2011 she’s added it as another tool in her creativity tool-kit.

One of Nat's early SPIROGRAPH works: I couldn't help myself!  Of course I just had to draw one straight onto my current embroidery, and stitch it up.

One of Nat’s early SPIROGRAPH works: I couldn’t help myself!
Of course I just had to draw one straight onto my current embroidery, and stitch it up. (Photo: Smallest Forest)

Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel is an artist who presents her love of illustration in Moleskine planners. She posted the entry below on Flickr in August 2009.

Fabulous SPIROGRAPH inspired illustration - Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel's Moleskine Collection

Wonderful SPIROGRAPH inspired illustration – Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel’s Moleskine Collection, 2009

This post ends with a splendid example of SPIROGRAPH in the early-21st century. Si Keshi created a multi-color multi-patterned design called, Spirograph Madness. Afterwords, using the basic Paint computer app, Keshi inverted the image creating Spirograph Madness Inverted. The original Spirograph Madness can be seen here. Denys Fisher would have been pleased.

Spirograph Madness Inverted - Si Keshi, 2008

Spirograph Madness Inverted – Si Keshi, 2008

Info Resources:
Retrowow UK
The Journal Of Antiques and Collectables
eHOW

In Which A Guy Named Dr. Seuss Put Play Into Learning And Creativity

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All around the world the name Dr. Seuss is synonymous with The Cat In The Hat. First published in 1957, the book The Cat In The Hat remains a favorite in children’s literature with a number of adaptations for film, television, and the stage.

First Editions With Dust Jackets: The Cat In The Hat (1957) and The Cat In The Hat Comes Back (1958)

First Editions With Dust Jackets: The Cat In The Hat (1957) and The Cat In The Hat Comes Back (1958) – (Photo: The Ephemera Network)

The classic came about as a result of a story in a 1954 Life magazine article that addressed the question, why can’t Johnny read? Writer John Hersey suggested that children’s low reading levels were a result of – boredom. Dick and Jane were just not stimulating to a young mind. Children just couldn’t relate to the ‘abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls.’ He suggested Theodor Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – as a guy who could change that. The director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, William Spaulding, liked the idea. Handing over a list of 250 primary words Spaulding gave Geisel the now famous challenge – ‘Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down.’ Nine months later, Geisel handed over the manuscript and illustrations for The Cat In the Hat. The book is 1,702 words long, but it uses only two hundred and twenty different words. Dr. Seuss’ seminal work was so successful as a reading education tool that in 1997 the National Education Association declared March 3 – Seuss’ birthday – the date to celebrate reading during ‘Read Across America Day.’

Many observations have been noted about The Cat In The Hat‘s success – i.e. it stressed phonics as a reading teaching tool, by connecting interesting illustrations with words it amped up the use of storybooks to teach language skills rather than primers and textbooks, it even had deep social and political ramifications (for a bit darker take on The Cat In The Hat, Louis Menand’s 2002 New Yorker article, Cat People, is highly recommended.) But with all that said, it can be simplified with one word – fun.

So it was with the 1959 Revell ‘Dr. Seuss Zoo’ toy set. The Zoo consisted of four snap together models with interchangeable parts. It encouraged creativity by allowing kids (and adults) to make up any number of creatures by mix-and-matching the various parts. Shown below are the main characters – Roscoe The Many Footed Lion, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle, Norval The Bashful Blinket, and Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle. It’s easy to imagine the fun one would have creating different zoo characters with this toy set.

Dr. Seuss Zoo Toy Advert Published in Life Magazine - October 19, 1959

Dr. Seuss Zoo Toy Advert Published in Life Magazine – October 19, 1959 (Photo: books.google.com)

Dr. Suess Zoo Model, Roscoe The Many Footed Lion

Dr. Suess Zoo Model, Roscoe The Many Footed Lion (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Doctor Suess Zoo Model, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle

Doctor Suess Zoo Model, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Norval The Bashful Blinket

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Norval The Bashful Blinket (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

So, what do we come away with when considering Dr. Seuss’ contributions to education and creativity? It’s pretty elementary – when it comes to developing the mind, nothing beats playful and compelling tools. And in today’s 21st century computerized world, that’s easier than ever.

In Which An Aerial Bomb Is Converted Into A Spaceship Pedal Car

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Salvaged Bomb Makes Juvenile Space Ship

Salvaged Bomb Makes Juvenile Space Ship – July, 1955

Its central structure a discarded 500-pound aerial bomb, a juvenile “space ship” gives two-foot-power transportation to Gene Montoya of Honolulu. The space ship was built by Gene’s father, D. L. Montoya, in a single week end at a cost of less than a dollar. The surplus bomb is lined with rubber padding and the wire wheels are from another juvenile vehicle.

Source: Modern Mechanix

It’s hoped that gutting out the bomb eliminated a good part of that 500-pounds, otherwise little Gene must have had a serious workout as he pedaled around.