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 ‘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 ‘Primal’ design…way cool.
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.
Bandai toys from Japan created a classic tin toy for the ages – the 1950s Space Patrol Super Cycle.
This friction powered futuristic cycle zips forward while the front fender mounted radar antenna rotates…
…and sparks emit from the gel over the back tire lighting up the red exhaust. Check out those rear fins too.
This 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.
The 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.
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 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 – 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 – 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 (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 (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
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.
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.
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, 1950s (T.P.S. Japan) – When wound Pango-Pango dances and his head bobs up and down.
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.
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.
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.
A marvel of toy construction immediately appealing for father and son. – DUX-Astroman 150 Catalog Listing, 1960 (Photo via Blechroboter at Alphadrome)
Plastic 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.
So, 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.
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.
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) 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!’
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. (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.
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 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.
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. (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.
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.
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) – (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 (Photo: books.google.com)
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.
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.
This robot is a star from the Golden Age of robot and toy production. It was a masterpiece of mechanical design. The ‘Television Spaceman’ was created and manufactured by Alps – one of the top Japanese toy companies to emerge post-WWII. If you wonder why so many collectors note Made In Japan when describing a mid century robot or toy, the answer is twofold: quality and multiple features. Alps put both of those virtues into the Television Spaceman – and a lot of creativity to boot. You can click here to read all about the fantastic features of this little marvel at Robot Era.
As can be seen in that nifty video, the centerpiece of this prized robot is the television:
…pre-Apollo era artwork inspired by (or more accurately copied from) the works of the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell…Also noteworthy is Dr Werner von Braun’s space plane prominently displayed at various points in the panorama.
Not all toy robots are alike – and there’s more than just a bit of graphics that set them apart. Alps’ ’61-’69 Television Spaceman robot is a splendid example of just what exactly does.
The year was 1966. Outer space was the place in the popular imagination and the space race was in full effect. All of this was not lost on the Mattel toy company. As an alternative to the Earthbound G.I. Joe, they introduced the moon inhabiting astronaut, Major Matt Mason.
Mattel Toys’ ‘Bendy’ Astronaut, Major Matt Mason
This wire-framed bendable action figure became an inspiration to toy collector/inventor/designer, Mel Birnkrant, and with the partnership of Harry Kislivitz – the president and creator of Colorforms toys – Birnkrant developed what would be the first of their kind: boys ‘fantasy’ action figures. Introduced in 1968, when the world was abuzz about the coming first US moon landing, ‘The Outer Space Men‘ – 3.5′ to 7’ tall bendy action figures – took to the stage of pop culture and turned into an icon of the age.
The concept…was to make equivalent figures to Matt Mason that would be basically astronauts from other planets and solar systems. The premise would be ambivalent and heroic.
We wanted them to be bad or good and let the kid decide how he wanted to use them.
The original seven Outer Space Men – also known as the ‘Colorforms’ – designed by Mel Birnkrant and produced by the Colorforms toy company.
Series 1 had seven original figures and the first shipment of units from the manufacturers sold with success. During the introduction of ‘The Outer Space Men’ to the markets, Birnkrant was busy developing Series 2. This series would become known as ‘The World Of The Future‘ but it would never see mass production.
The World Of The Future – six ‘bendie’ figures designed by Mel Birnkrant as the second set to the Outer Space Men series. (photo: Mel Birnkrant)
The 1969 moon landing was a disappointment to the imagination. Cold and desolate, it seemed to slip out of popular consciousness in a flash. Major Matt Mason soon fell to Earth with a crash and according to Birnkrant, ‘in the toy industry space had become a dirty word.’
With the release of Star Wars in 1977, a renewed interest in things space-related cropped up. Colorforms – forever known for their two dimensional vinyl collage kits – released the Space Warriors adventure set. The kits included figures from Series 1 and 2. Through the years, The Outer Space Men-like figures would pop up in various places – most notably in their tiny forms from supermarket gumball machines.
Colorforms’ ‘Space Warrior Adventure Set’ produced in 1977.
Flash forward to 1991. Enter Wall Street Specialist, Gary Schaeffer. A chance meeting between Birnkrant and Scaeffer at the Atlantique City Antiques & Collectibles Show would lead to a two-decade-plus friendship and a revival of the Outer Space Men line. The Outer Space Men, LLC, was created in 2008 and Birnkrant’s 1968 breakthrough is once again back in the sci-fi universe.
December 23, 2008, marked the release date of the graphic novel, The Outer Space Men, and the reintroduction of the crew. In 2010, Birnkrant licensed the use of The Outer Space Men to the collectible figure design studio and manufacturer, Four Horsemen Toy Design. Waves one and two of the Outer Space Men Cosmic Creators series went on sale as a Comic-Con International exclusive in late July 2010. Referred to as the Four Horsemen series as they were designed and sculpted by the studio.
Outer Space Men – Four Horsemen Edition – Waves 1 and 2
This year, 2013, marked the official return of the original Outer Space Men designer, Mel Birnkrant, in the Cosmic Creators Birnkrant Edition. Instead of the older wire armatures, a proprietary Glyos joint system, created by Onell designs, is used. Sculpted by The Four Horsemen, this set of Limited Edition figures is available ONLY through the Official OSM site, TheOuterSpaceMen.com! As of this writing, there are only seven sets still available of this signed and highly collectable edition.
Birnkrant is very proud and excited about these figures – you can see them in all their outer spacely glory, along with details as described by Birnkrant, by hitting this link. With the return of the Outer Space Men in their newer designs, perhaps another generation will be introduced to the original cast that started it all – at the heart of the space age.