Blake Wright Remembers “Toys That Time Forgot”

Nostalgia for toys can be a funny thing. You may see a wind up tinplate car in an antique store and think, “Wow, I had that as a kid!” You hadn’t thought about that toy in decades, and suddenly, you must own it again at any price. Blake Wright has a different experience with forgotten and lost toys.

blake wrightHe’s fascinated with the toys he never had. In fact, no one had them. Blake is a collector and historian of “toys that time forgot,” consisting of prototypes and designs that never went into production. “I would guess only about 20 to 30 percent of what toy companies work on ever hits store shelves.” he said. “There are so many projects that die prior to flipping the switch on production… for many different reasons. Sometimes the toys are related to a license that underperforms… a movie bombs, a cartoon is canceled, a comic is retired to the dollar bin.”

Nonetheless, sometimes those prototypes are made, and if found, they can be quite valuable. Unlike the preproduction models of your favorite diecast cars, these samples might be the only ones ever made. “In 2014 I had a quarterly online toy magazine called ‘LittlePlasticMen,’” said Blake. “One of the recurring columns in the e-mag was called Prototypically Unproductive, which was all about unproduced toys. We covered the canceled second series of Coleco’s Sectaurs and the Palisades Sesame Street line among others. It was the most popular column in the magazine.”

As he wound down production of the magazine a few years ago, he received emails from readers who were sad to see it go. “So, as a sort of tribute I decided I would do one more issue consisting of all unproduced toys. As a started my research I uncovered a ton of material.” The quality and volume of what he’d found pushed him to ditch that bonus issue and produce a book. Actually, more than one book.

“”Toys That Time Forgot Volume 1‘ was my first book. It was available direct as well as BigBadToyStore as an exclusive online retailer. However, it recently sold out and is currently out of print. A reprint of Volume 1 is being considered.” You can also track his musings on the hobby at his Facebook page.

toys that time forgot

In the meantime, Volume 2 is on the way. “’Toys That Time Forgot Volume 2′ can be found on Kickstarter . We reached our funding goal at the mid-way point in the campaign. So now, we are unlocking stretch goals which consist of bonus chapters to be added to the book as the incremental values are reached. Bonus chapter topics include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Super Powers and more!

Yes, even powerhouse franchises like Star Wars will have a few unproduced toys. Considering that Kenner got a late start on the original Star Wars action figures, companies now err on the side of being too prepared, too early. “Knickerbocker Toys had the license to produce action figures based on the 1983 sci-fi fantasy film Krull. While Krull wasn’t a particularly good movie, I was very toyetic — heroes, monsters, horses with flaming hooves and the Glaive — one of the most iconic weapons since the lightsaber! Unfortunately, word from the set while the movie was being made was not favorable and the toy company opted to nix the line.”

Blake has a sense of humor to go with his sense of history. “The books are split into three sections — The Golden Age, Darker Times and The Gilded Age, which is roughly the 80s, 90s and 00s,” he laughed.

He also has a tendency to see these toys as more than playthings or commodities. “I became intrigued by toys as art. It is something that gets lost staring at a figure in the package at your local store, but that toy started its life as a sculpture, whether in traditional clay or in CAD. Before that, a 2D artist would bring the character to life via concept sketches or figure turn-around drawings. There was a level of creativity and artistic achievement that was going unrecognized and under-appreciated. I felt that was a bit of a crime. Now, these artists got paid for their work (usually) and for some it may have just been Job #704, but I quickly grew to appreciate the work and felt it should be shared.”

toys that time forgot

Remember Ozmosis Jones? Blake does!

In fact, there is a sadness to some of these toys that got so close to reality but never made it. Volume 1 mentions the Hasbro Dark Crystal line, which was weeks away from production when they pulled the plug. “I interviewed a Henson art director about the project just three years ago, and he thought the toys actually did go into production. I almost hated to break the news to him.”

toys that time forgotThese days, Blake’s collection is much smaller, as he has passed many of them onto other collectors to enjoy. “Ultimately, I found I was much more of a “thrill of the chase” type of guy, so I parted with my collection years ago. Today, I get the same thrill by seeking out images, scans and stories pertaining to unproduced toys.” He spends more time traveling “collecting mostly stories and miles now.”

If you’re enjoying his take on lost toys, good news: Volume 3 is likely around the corner. “It will likely come to Kickstarter in early 2021. I’m also working on a book about unproduced classic computer (and console) adventure games of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s. Think Sierra Online and LucasArts. That book — “Missed Adventures” — is expected to publish in 2020.

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What about Ethics on the Web?

Harry L. Rinker is a leading national expert and consultant on toys, antiques, and collectibles and the author of numerous books on collecting. He writes a weekly news column, hosts a radio call-in show, and has appeared as an expert on several national television shows.  You can read more about Harry on his website www.harryrinker.com.

The hobbyDB team is grateful to Harry to give us the permission to repost some of his posts here and hope to stimulate a debate.

Ethical issues are traditionally placed on the back burner when it comes to dealings in the antiques and collectibles trade.  The antiques and collectibles field has no standard code of business practices and ethics.  Each person sets his own standards.

As more and more individuals use the Internet to buy and sell antiques and collectibles, ethical issues are being raised.  I recently received an e-mail from Bob Culver, editor of Night Light, the publication of The Miniature Lamp Collectors Club, that read:

“On the Internet, the transaction is very public, open to all to see.  Do we have any responsibility if we see something amiss? Recently, I observed a reproduction Atterbury Log Cabin lamp offered as an original.  I first saw this a few days after the auction opened and already the bid had climbed to $200–a clear sign that the buyer was thinking this was a period lamp.  I e-mailed both the seller and high bidder with the facts and how to tell repros from the period example.  Repros have an applied handle typical of Victorian creamers, while period pieces have a molded-in handle.  A side view makes it easy to tell.

Real or Not?

 

The seller responded with a bit of a nastygram saying essentially ‘Keep out of my business,’ but agreed to check out my facts.  I suggested he call B&P Lamp Supply, the maker of the repro.  A day later, he closed the auction early with a public note saying that the lamp was indeed not old and that it was being withdrawn.  No note to me, no note from the high bidder.  Had this been at a show, it is possible the transaction would have been completed.

Do we have a responsibility to intercede in these cases?  Is my responsibility as an ‘expert’ in the field of mini-lamps any more than the average collector?  Or, should I be content to let it be buyer beware (caveat emptor)? Frankly, I think one of the unheralded benefits of online auctions is the public information afforded.  Countless auctions are updated as experts provide new information to the seller.  But if the seller ignores comments from experts, misinformation wins.”

I have had several experiences similar to those of Don.  Recently I checked out the jigsaw puzzle offerings on several Internet auction sites.  I found many puzzles falsely described.  An English advertising puzzle from the 1980s was listed as being from the 1930s.  In many instances, puzzles that were extremely common were listed as rare or scarce.  Sellers frequently had no clue as to the maker or correct title of the puzzles they listed.  Information about whether or not the puzzle was complete was often missing.

In order to contact a bidder or potential buyer, one has to register to bid on an Internet site.  After several days of just looking, I finally became so angry about the amount of false information I was encountering that I registered.

I e-mailed several sellers.  I only received one reply.  That individual thanked me for my input, said he was going to add the information I provided to his bid site, and did.  The others simply ignored my e-mail.  I did not contact any bidders.

In reviewing this article, Dana Morykan argued that I have an equal responsibility to contact the bidders as well as the seller.  If the seller is deceitful, I am wrong to think he will mend the error of his ways and contact the bidders.  She made a good point.  I have it under advisement.

Without becoming involved in the determination of what does or does not make someone an expert, I think everyone has an ethical obligation to point out to the Internet seller and any potential buyers the undocumented listing of a reproduction (exact copy), copycat (stylistic copy), or fantasy item (form, shape, or pattern that did not exist historically).  Misrepresenting something is fraud.  Hiding behind the “I did not know” excuse, it not an excuse.  The seller has an obligation to know what he is selling and to properly represent it.

Hot Wheels and not Hot Wheel (they have two or more wheels after all) –
but most fakes are much harder to spot than this!

 

The key is to avoid disparagement when noting problems with an object.  While everyone is entitled to his opinion, a person disparages an object when he has not examined the object in question and/or does not have the expertise to substantiate his claims.  It is a common practice at catalog and country auctions for a dealer to disparage a piece within the hearing of potential buyers so that he discourages them from bidding and buys it cheaply himself.

In the case of the Internet, it is impossible to physically examine the object.  As a result, there rests a strong burden of proof relative to substantiating any assertion made.  Don met this criteria when he provided detailed information on how to differentiate the modern reproduction from the period piece coupled with the name of the manufacturer of the example being offered for sale.  Hopefully, Don also listed in his e-mail his credentials, i.e., his role as collector and member of The Miniature Lamp Collectors Club.

Is it possible to regulate the Internet?  Many think the answer is no.  Because it is worldwide in scope, it is questionable if any government has the authority and power to regulate the Internet.

Since most sellers require payment in advance, the seller is in the driver’s seat when a dispute arises.  They have the money.  The buyers has the questionable object.  If the seller refuses to take it back because he disagrees with a buyer’s assertion that the object is not as represented, what recourse does the buyer have?  (Note: I like to stress that this does not pertain to marketplaces powered by hobbyDB due to their escrow-style service).  The good news is that most sellers ship objects to buyers via the United States Postal Service.  Misrepresenting anything shipped through the mail is a fraudulent act.  Do not hesitate to file a complaint with the Postal Service if the seller is intransigent.

While the antiques and collectibles barrel contains its fair share of rotten apples, they represent only a small minority of the whole.  Since it is unlikely that local, state, or national authorities will provide policing on the Internet, the burden falls upon private individuals with a strong moral and ethical conscience.  In other words, if the antiques and collectibles segment of the Internet is going to be policed, we must do it ourselves (and here on hobbyDB you could do this as a Curator or Champion).

Playing policeman is certainly not the route to take if one wants to win a popularity contest.  I know.  I am a regular recipient of nastygrams.  I am delighted to learn from Don that I am not the only one.

I grew up in a time period when speaking out against injustice was considered an obligation.  It was the American way.  I am not about to change.  I suspect I will find no end to the opportunities to put my principles to the test as I surf around other sites out there!  And in all honesty, I can use a little help.  How about it?

Please let me have your opinion (below in the comments).

Comments (2 Comments)
Bud Kalland

Well written and intended article and service for the collector/seller. On the other hand, mistakes can be made. Labeling someone for internet errors can be as disastrous for individuals and sellers.  The old attitude that "buyer be aware" will stand no matter who or what is involved.

The hobbydb listing form is very complete and can subject a seller to make a mistake with so many items of entry. To not be a completist leaves the lister subject to questions of truth and knowledge.

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Sinclair’s Auto Miniatures – a trip to the beginning of diecast collecting

Musings By Joschik
Christian Braun obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way. Diecast was a special area of interest ever since he helped his brother write a book about Siku Model Cars in 1987.

When a former team member called and asked for some help to sell her late father’s collection we were only too happy to help (I wrote an earlier article on how to best sell a collection).  When she then arrived with 20 boxes of amazing models I was glad we offered help, her father Jim just had an amazing collection,  see for yourself here.  But what really excited me was all the paperwork that she had.  And the best were catalogs and other items from Sinclair’s Auto Miniatures!  Since moving to the US and when meeting older diecast collectors I heard so much about Dave Sinclair and his store in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Way before the internet, his catalog was sent to 30,000 collectors around the world and he had the most amazing selection!

Check out for example his 1971 catalog  –

I was looking for the dress in the catalog as it is going very well with that Pocher Fiat

 

I had (and loved that) that Märklin Porsche 907

 

… and wanted to some Mercury Models with all those opening features!

 

Friends and I spend hours driving that Cadillac DeVille from Schuco back and forth (damn, why did I not keep it in its box)

 

You had to fill this out by hand to order! But at least you got a FREE decal with an order over $10…  Also, do not forget to lick the gummed flap to seal the form.  When did you do that the last time?

 

And then just fold the form in and send it in.

 

Dugu & Ziss!

How much I wish to go back in time to join Jim for a visit to Dave’s store in Erie.  And I wouldn’t even cost that much money!  Check out this letter from Sinclair’s with the then new Corgi Toys James Bond’s Aston Martin for $3.50!

Comments (8 Comments)
Karl Schnelle

Well, I guess I am an 'older collector'...  I don't want to admit it, but this brings back memories.  I got many of his catalogs and ordered a few things from him.  He even carried my favorite Teknos from little Denmark!  Their prices were not the cheapest back then though!   But I do credit Dave Sinclair for promoting and growing the 1/43 scene in the US.

He even wrote a great article in Automobile Quarterly about the breadth of 1/43 model car offerings back then (4th quarter 1979).   Many great color photos so it is well worth looking for...

Thanks, Christian, for the memories!

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Todd Coopee, Easy-Bake Oven Expert, Lights Up hobbyDB Advisory Council

todd coupee easy bake overn easy bake oven 1970sSometimes a light bulb goes off in your head, and you just have to chase an idea. For Todd Coopee, that light bulb was inside an Easy-Bake Oven.

Coopee, who lives in Ottawa Canada, is the world’s leading expert on collecting Easy-Bake Ovens, the light-bulb-powered kitchen appliances from Kenner. “We had one in the family when I was a child. It was from 1972, sunshine yellow with flower stickers,” he said. “As an adult, I ended up purchasing my first EBO on the web in 2007.” From there, he started on a quest to get one of every variant of the ovens.

The toy had receded to the back of his memories until he saw an exhibit at the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. If you don’t think there are enough different Easy-Bake Oven (EBO, to the insiders), you’re not the only one. “I wasn’t convinced there was enough material for an entire book, but the more I looked into the Easy-Bake Oven’s history, the more interesting it became,” Coopee said. “After some initial interviews with former employees of Kenner, I felt compelled to tell the story about how the Easy-Bake had become a pop culture icon.”

todd coupee light bulb bakingAccording to Coopee, there have been 11 different designs of the Easy-Bake Oven, plus variants in color and stickers. “Many of the models are simple cosmetic changes in color, sticker sets, etc., that occurred from year-to-year.” Anyone familiar with how we document collectibles on hobbyDB certainly understands the importance of such details.

There have also been changes to the engineering, utilizing different combinations of wattage to replicate a 350-degree oven. “The optimum wattage actually varied over the years,” he said.” At its initial release, the EBO was powered by two 100-watt light bulbs. Later models used two 60-watt light bulbs. A design change in the baking chamber in 1978 reduced the light bulb requirements to a single 100-watt bulb.”

While Kenner’s EBO dates back to 1963, the concept is even older. “Of course, it’s important to remember that working toy ovens were around for decades before the Easy-Bake Oven. Kenner just packaged and promoted the EBO in a way that made it appeal to a mass audience of consumers.”

As the Easy-Bake Oven grew in popularity, a slew of competing toy ovens also hit the market from companies like Argo Industries, Chieftain Products, Coleco, Peter-Austin, Topper Toys, and Tyco.

Of course, for Coopee it’s not all about baking at 100 watts. “I collect B-movies, mid-century modern memorabilia, and toys from the 60s & 70s, especially from Kenner Products. I’m drawn to toys that don’t have the ‘mass produced’ feeling you get from some of today’s toys.” To that end, he runs a website called Toy Tales, at toytales.ca. Articles are posted daily on a variety of toys, games, and other objects that were a big part of everyone’s childhood. His book is also available at lightbulbbaking.com.

toy timesSpeaking of books, Coopee is working on another book chronicling the entire history of Kenner Toys. The passion to research and write about a company that disappeared decades ago is the kind of thing that makes all our collecting community grateful to have him join the 70 other experts on the Advisory Council at hobbyDB. (It was Coopee who first reached out to hobbyDB for an interview with Christian Braun that got the whole ball rolling.)Kenner toys

His collection isn’t as big as it once was, however. “Initially, the main focus of my collection was to acquire all of the different Easy-Bake Ovens that were produced, so I could include them in my book. Since then, I’ve donated many of them to several different museums so they could be enjoyed by others.”

As for the best recipes, “Cakes and cookies are always the best places to start!” We’ll drink a tall, cold glass of milk to that!

Comments (1 Comment)
Karl Schnelle

Were are the EBO's on HD?    https://www.hobbydb.com/subjects/kenner-brand

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Toy Hunter Phil Chapman Lends Tinplate Expertise to hobbyDB Advisory Council

Phil Chapman Toy HunterYou might not expect someone who was a child in the 1980s to be a serious collector of tinplate toys. Phil Chapman, aka “The Toy Hunter,” defies that idea. We at hobbyDB are glad to have his extensive expertise as a tinplate toy collector as a new member of our Advisory Council.

“The main focus on my collection is tinplate toys,” he said. “Any size, age or brand mainly focusing on vehicles like car, trucks, bikes & tractors. What appeals to me about tinplate toys is the cars & trucks are so well built just like miniatures of the real vehicles of the time, & with clockwork mechanisms to make the toys move is just fascinating.”

In the collecting world, he is known as the “The Toy Hunter.” He picked  up that monicker after being inteviewd by a newspaper and a TV station, both of whom referred to him by that nickname.’The name just stuck, and people at toy fairs that seen me on TV  said ‘you’re that toy hunting guy!’”

To that end, he can be found on Facebook as “Phil Chapman Toy Hunter

Phil, who lives in the small town of Liskeard in Cornwall U.K, started in collecting tinplate toys about twenty years ago. “After owning a full size vintage tractor & motorcycle & not really having the room to store them, I soon realized collecting tinplate toys was just as interesting,” he said. “So the tractor and motorcycle went, and collecting toys started.”

His childhood featured a different kind of favorite toy. “My favorites growing up in the 1980’s were my A-Team figures,” he said. “Every Saturday evening watching Hannibal & the team getting themselves out of another situation to save the day! And yes I still have all my original figures plus the baddies!” he laughed. “I also have alot of early plastic toy vehicles, as the age of plastic took over from tinplate & batteries replaced clockwork motors, Phil said. “It shows how times were changing.”

tinplate tractor

Chad Valley Fordson Tractor from Chapman’s collection

Phil Chapman Toy HunterPhil is willing to share his toys, although not to play with. “All my toys are on display in Liskeard Museum,” he said. “It is one of the largest tinplate toy displays on show in Cornwall. With twenty years experience specializing in tinplate toys, we get many visitors from all over the UK either just wanting to visit the museum or looking for help identify a tinplate toy.”

He is also in the process of sharing his collection via the database at hobbyDB. His collection and expertise are extensive, and his sense of enjoyment of the hobby is what we’re all about.

Comments (7 Comments)
Joseph Livio

I just recently bought a Schyllings tin plate farm tractor and trailer made in Czechoslovakia with 3 forward gears and wind up clock motor at a thrift shop brand new in the box for $35, it's really cool and goes very fast. It belong to a lady who bought it new and never opened it, the lady passed away and it was in a estate sale.It was missing the windup key but I called Schyllings and they sent me one for free, great customer service!

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