Archive for the 'Space Toys/Playsets' Category

1978 Spiegel Catalog: Star Wars, Shogun Warriors, Star Bird, and More

Spiegel 1978-1

Spiegel 1978-2

Spiegel 1978-3

Spiegel 1978-4

Spiegel 1978-5

Catalog diving never gets old. We were conditioned at an early age, and the sight and smell of these filmy, glossy pages is like the ringing of Pavlov’s buzzer.

I was surprised to see that the Micronauts Battle Cruiser ($19.95) was more expensive than the Death Star ($17.95). Mego just couldn’t recover after rejecting the Star Wars license, although I think the Micronauts line, even in its last throes, is more creative.

I love the Super Joe toys, including Terron, shown at the bottom of the second page. You can see commercials here and here.

The “Sonic Ear” is new to me. It amplifies sound, which is pretty lame, but what a great looking gun to take into a space battle.

Don’t miss the Fonz watch—the strap is denim-colored, naturally—on the last page.

(Images via Yesterday’s Ads/eBay)

Saturne Inflatable Mystery Action Robot (Amico, 1980)

Saturne Robot 1980

Saturne Robot 1980-2

  1. I’ve got something that’s over 30 inches tall with bump and go action. If you know what I’m talking about.
  2. Every time I look at this thing I’m reminded of the inflatable automatic pilot Elaine was blowing in Airplane!.
  3. What precisely is the “mystery action”? Maybe I don’t want to know.
  4. Why is there an ‘e’ at the end of Saturn? The names of planets can’t be copyrighted, guys.

Matchbox’s Adventure 2000 (1977)

Matchbox Adventure Boxes

Matchbox Adventure Catalog 1978

Matchbox Adventure Catalog 1980

Adventure 2000 debuted in 1977 and the die-cast “ultra-modern vehicles designed for the world of the future” were produced through about 1980. The slim backstory:

The year is 2000 – The planets prepare for battle. Re-enact the excitement of inter-planetary conflict with the action-packed vehicles from Adventure 2000.

A new wrinkle was added in the 1979/1980 catalog—“The interplanetary commission prepares for an expedition to planet ZETO”—and all the vehicles were recast in a deep blue.

The beautifully detailed line was developed and made in the UK. Matchbox was a longtime British brand, in fact—owned by Lesney Products—until the early ’80s. I found a choice 1977 ad (via combomphotos/Flickr) featuring some great art. Not sure how “Zorgon the Creepy Monster” fits in, but they can have my 75p.

Matchbox Ad 1977I’ll do separate posts on each vehicle, because they’re that cool. (There’s a nifty tie-in with the 2000 AD comic and Judge Dredd.)

Here’s a close-up of the Command Force (K-2005) set, introduced in 1978.

UPDATE (3/4/14): Jason at Contra Dextra Avenue discovered that the three smaller vehicles in Command Force—the Hovercraft (1972), the Planet Scout (1975), and the Cosmobile (1975)—had been previously issued. They were part of Matchbox’s Superfast line, which you can check out at Dan’s Matchbox Picture Pages. I don’t know if the latter two are Matchbox’s first produced futuristic vehicles (doubtful), but they predate the Adventure 2000 line.

Matchbox Adventure 1978-1

Matchbox Adventure 1978-2

Matchbox Adventure 1978-7

Matchbox Adventure 1978-6

Matchbox Adventure 1978-5

(Top image via Vectis Auctions; catalog images via Moonbase Central; Command Force images via eBay)

Estes Model Rocketry Catalogs, 1976 – 1979

Estes 1976

Estes 1976-2

Estes 1977

Estes 1977-2

Estes 1978

Estes 1978-2

Estes 1979

Estes 1979-2

Just the front and back covers and a two-page spread from each catalog, but it’s enough to give you an idea of the once proud art of advertising to kids. Beautiful colors, beautiful layouts. Estes was the biggest model rocket company in the ’70s and ’80s. Centuri was second.

(Images via Myndscrape’s Paper Trail)

The Last Starfighter Super Electronic Gun (1985)

TLS Gun-1

TLS Gun-2

TLS Gun-3

TLS Gun-4

The “Super Electronic Gun” was a promotional item given away with purchase of The Last Starfighter on VHS. Nothing resembling it appeared in the movie, but no matter. The phallic, ribbed tip lights up after you “pull the battery magazine out for battery inserting.” If only it vibrated.

UPDATE (3/17/15): The gun was in the movie, as seen in the screenshots below. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be part of robot Alex’s equipment or Louis’ toy, but there it be!



Christmas Morning, 1978: Everything! (Part Two)

Regular readers will know by now the legend of Mikey Walters. D&D module designer, video game programmer, filmmaker, and compelling interview subject, Mikey has recently unearthed some jaw-dropping home video of several Christmas mornings in the 1970s.

See Mikey caress the Death Star! See Mikey fire the Laser Rifle! See Mikey apply decals to the Tie Fighter, play Electroman with his awesome Dad (“Hi, Mom!”), test the crank of the Star Bird Command Base, from which he launches his Star Bird Avenger into the stars! It’s a video prelude to the photo I posted of Mikey last year.

Here’s another one. Christmas, 1976. Look at him go!

Toys seen here include the incredible Star Trek Mission to Gamma VI playset and a Star Trek Tricorder; The Six Million Dollar Man Mission Control Center and Bionic Transport and Repair Station; the Earthquake Tower (“World’s tallest playset!”); and—wait for it—the Space: 1999 Eagle 1.

See all the videos on Mikey’s YouTube channel, and read about Mikey’s memories of those mornings on his blog.

There was a time when our biggest worry was which amazing present to open first. Here it is, in living color.

Christmas Morning, 1979: Playskool’s Star Rider

Star Rider 1979

The Star Rider is the only toy I know of that tries to simulate the experience of flying a spaceship. It was pricey (about $50) and, from what I can tell, was only produced in ’79 and ’80. This 1983 article describes the Star Rider as “a young child’s riding toy now being marketed by Playskool,” but it sounds like a mistake to me. There’s nothing in the catalogs after 1980. A very rare find today.

That’s Kenner’s Imperial Troop Transporter to the right of the Falcon.

(Photo via Jack Mayfield/Flickr)

Diener Industries: Space Raiders and Space Creatures (1979/1981)

Diener SR 1981-1

Diener SR 1981-2

Diener SR 1981-3

Diener SR 1981-4

Diener SR 1981-5

Lefty Limbo jogged my memory of these novelty erasers earlier this year, and I finally found photos of complete, carded sets (colors varied). They were originally included in McDonald’s Happy Meals from 1979 to 1980, and were very likely sold individually at this time as well. The earliest date I’ve found on the cards is 1981.

I slightly prefer the Space Raiders because that’s what we traded at school, although I think the Space Creatures are more interesting in terms of design and detail. (Check out Neato Coolville’s great post on their resemblance to classic movie monsters.)

Diener SC 1981-1

Diener SC 1981-2

Diener SC 1981-3

Diener SC 1981-4

Diener SC 1981-5

Murray Garrett started Diener Industries in 1957. The company peaked in the early ’80s, when promotional and retail sales combined were reported at $8 million, but the erasers, molded “using a secret process,” gained popularity throughout the ’70s, as dentists across America started giving them out to kids who were scared to death of dentists. (Dentist’s offices accounted for 25% of Diener’s business as late as 1983.) I remember digging through all the squishy pastel colors in the jar to get the one I wanted.

(Jay McDowell and Brian Williams have reminded me of the “prize bin” at school, where many of us were introduced to these guys.)

Diener was sold to Wincraft Inc. in 1993, with Garrett staying on as president. Its last big success came that same year, with the release of Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs had been a Diener staple from the beginning.


Don’t forget to turn in your quiz answers!

Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s Man in Space: Space Station Playset (1966)

Matt Mason Space Station 1966

Matt Mason Space Station 1966-2

Matt Mason Space Station 1966-3

Kenner’s Death Star didn’t come from nowhere. Any “greatest playsets of all time” list must include Mattel’s Space Station.

The Adventures of G.I. Joe: Spacewalk Mystery (Hasbro, 1969)

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969-2

G.I. Joe Spacewalk 1969-3

Ed White performed the first American space walk (EVA) on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission. When it was time, he pulled the handle to open the capsule hatch. Nothing happened. Command Pilot Jim McDivitt got it open, and “thought” he could get it closed again. White squeezed the trigger on his oxygen gun and headed out.

He’s maneuvering around, having a blast, taking lots of pictures. Flight control is telling him to get back in, but there are radio problems, and White doesn’t bother turning on his mic until he’s damn well ready. Finally, just before the capsule enters darkness, McDivitt gets him back inside. White says, “It’s the saddest moment of my life.”

The capsule hatch won’t close. If the hatch doesn’t close, both men are dead. Houston is buzzing: they want to know what the hell is going on. McDivitt fiddles with the mechanism for a while, gets it to latch. They’re supposed to open the hatch one more time to toss White’s EVA gear into space. That idea is scrapped.

The two men spend the next two days of the four-day mission drifting, conserving all of the remaining fuel for reentry. That’s four days in a capsule cockpit about the size of the front seat section of a Toyota Camry.

Our action figures were once based on real heroes, not pretend ones.




Donate Button

Join 1,103 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: