Whether you've been bitten by the toy collecting bug - or devoured by the reptile version - the news is that the 2015 Miami Antique Toy Show, the longest continually running and last-remaining purely antique toy, doll and collectibles show in the Southeastern US, is back, and with extra teeth - but hold on on a minute! If you haven't already logged in to the Toy Show email page and made sure you are on our mailing list, do so now. That way, whenever there's Toy Show-related news to spread around, you'll be sure to be updated. Or, to communicate with us directly, whether for more information or to ask a question or share a story, or seek an appraisal or sell a collection or sign up on the mailing list, click on our Yahoo! e-mail account address. We formally note that we formerly used to be fond of social media, and that we posted toy-relevant photos and commentary several times a week. But, rare was the time when anyone commented or shared information on the page, so we stopped. The news presently on the Show's FB page is limited, but it is current. And, we surely don't twitter, or titter, fritter, or flitter, for that matter. Now, back to the Show...
For 2015, the Ramada Inn 'Airport' will host the Miami Antique Toy Show. As always, we've selected the hotel because it is right at the exit of a major expressway - the NW 103rd Street Exit of the Palmetto Expressway/State Road 826, about two miles south of the Interstate 75 junction, and because it features free parking and an on-site restaurant, and another dozen restaurants nearby. The map at the right shows the hotel nestled in to the intersection, with parking lots surrounding the facility. Show fans and guests should enter through the lobby at the front of the building (here, at the top); dealers will be unloading their toys, dolls and collectibles at the rear (at the bottom). Just as in our previous Shows, at February's Show you'll be able to dive right into the thick of the bidding and bargaining and buying, and get up close and personal and hands on with thousands of toys, dolls and collectibles. There's even an ATM machine near the Show's entrance, if you're so-inclined to use one. For Ramada general information, click here, and for another map to the hotel, click here.
And with the new venue, we're offering a new, larger and longer (depending on your perspective!) table configuration: all 2015 Miami Antique Toy Show tables will now be a full 8' (eight feet) in length. More room for our dealers to display, in other words, and of course you'll find that the Miami Antique Toy Show will again feature those dealersfrom around the country (last year, including Wisconsin, lllinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) and the globe (this year, already from Italy and Canada; last year from Mexico, Argentina, and Germany as well), who'll be heading south (well, north, from Mexico and Argentina) to offer their thousands of terrific treasures - a lot of them museum quality - to hundreds of collectors and buyers from all over Florida and the southern US. Remember that since toys are considered 'antique' if they are 25 years old (check out the Wikipedia link in the Web news, below), then anything manufactured in 1990 or earlier will be welcomed. Atari and Intellivision video games can take their rightful place on our dealers' tables, and so will most anything Pee Wee Herman-related, as well as everything from the first Star Wars trilogy (NH, ESB, ROTJ).
General admission to the Miami Antique Toy Show will be seven bucks (under twelves get in for five bucks, and fives and under are free), but contact us in advance by sending an e-mail to email@example.com for a five dollar promotional postcard/discount coupon or two. Or, just print yourr card right from this page. The show starts right at 10 a.m. and continues to 4 p.m. (although some dealers may get antsy and start packing up after three: shame on them). All the dealers, however, will begin setting up at about 7a.m., and early 'Floor Rights' passes are available then for thirty bucks, allowing all you diehard collectors access to the dealers' goods from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Whether you're an 'Early Bird' or not, the show will be the best chance to get a dose of toy reality and see, touch, talk about, argue (go for it!) and haggle over antique toys, dolls and collectibles anywhere in the southern US in 2015.
Remember, the surest way to be informed about the Show is to be on our mailing list: go to the email address and simply type "add me" into either the subject window or the message window. That way you'll be as sure as you possibly can be that you'll not miss any Miami Antique Toy Show news, updates or general folderol.
(Before you continue reading this page: for maximum visual enjoyment of the site, adjust your browser window so that either the 'Toy Show' banner at the top, or this very line, is centered left-to-right, and 'just' fits your browser window.)
Cool-lections: Just What We're Looking For! Can We Feature Your Toys?
Yep, we've coined (and trademarked!) a phrase to describe the fruits of your labors over all these years as collectors of cool antique toys, dolls, and collectibles...and electric trains, board games, action figures, wind-up tin, battery operated, Barbies, baseball cards, boats, comics, Coca Cola, Christmas decorations, lunchboxes, Matchboxes, marbles, play sets, (have we mentioned your specilty yet?), snow globes, Star Wars, Atari, petroliana, Tootsietoys, fast-food toys, TV tie-ins, license plates, cereal premiums (still not yet?), Art Deco items, Disneyana, neon display signs, cast iron banks, stamps and coins, slot cars, robots, bicycles, pedal cars...the point is, whether-or-not we've already mentioned your speciality, if it's cool, we'd like to find out about it, and share it with like-minded readers. Drop us an e-mail line, give us a call, share some photos (the cell-phone type are terrific, for starters) and let's get started. And for the wary among you, we'll make sure to keep your identification confidential, for security's sake. Come to think of it, Connecticut toy collector John Fawcett started out the same way - a few items at a time, mostly Mickey Mouse but a few Lone Ranger here and there - and his collection got so cool (and big) that he had to move to Maine and open a museum (see his story, 'Destination: Maine', below). But if you're as happy surrounded by your collection as John is with his, then do let us know, so we can let everybody in on your secret. We promise no one will barge in on you unexpectedly.
In recent months we've been approached by folks from around the country regarding the assessment and appraisal and sale - and purchase - of their toy collections. If you're in the same boat, why notsend us a few good pictures (cell phone pictures are usually fine) together withan inventory of your stash, to firstname.lastname@example.org; we'll get in touch with you soon. Whether you've got postwar British die-casts or 1950s Atomic Age tin or prewar WC Britains sets, or American Flyer trains or 1930s Chein lithographed toys or any other antique toys in the universe, by all means contact us: if we can't help you directly, chances are we'll know someone else who can. The Lockheed F-90 (above, left) by Asahi, for example, is but one piece of a large fortune of toys amassed by a collector from Kansas who came to us for help.
Not that we need another hole-in-the-head, but if your collection involves post-war die-cast toys - certainly Dinky, Corgi, and Matchbox, but also Tekno, Mercury, Quiralu, CIJ, Spot-On and others - then, especially, let us know. The table shown at left is chock-full of just the kind of excellent+ condition toys (boxed or unboxed) that we're interested in...even if it means acquiring another 'cranium crater.'
Art Deco at Play! - Toys with (Whaddayaknow!) Cultural Significance
Each year since 1976, Miami Beach’s ‘Miami Design Preservation League,’ the non-profit group whose mission is “devoted to preserving, protecting and promoting the cultural integrity” of the Art Deco period (the AD buildings on the Beach are collectively on the National Register of Historic Places) hosts a three-day themed ‘Art Deco Weekend’ in mid-January. For 2014, the MDPL recognized the importance of (not to mention the cultural significance of)…toys – with the theme ‘Art Deco atPlay!’ Whether we like it or not, or whether we even realize it or not, the toy collecting hobby is rapidly becoming ever more validated for its popular and historic cultural significance. It’s only been in the past few years that antique toys have become featured in televised segments on programs like Pawn Stars and Auction Kings and American Pickers; now entire shows are devoted to the subject – Extreme Collector is among the first (read about the specifics, below). And at the beginning of 2014, ‘Art Deco at Play!’ just builds on the case for presenting toys as cultural icons.
The twenty-year (1925-1945) Art Deco period produced some classics of toy collecting. The MDPL refers to it as “history’s most playful time” for good reason. Many of the toys are designed toreflect the recognizable Art Deco design cues with their linear style, symmetry and geometric ornamentation, and many reflect the Great Depression’s ‘streamline moderne’ style with their simplified but pronounced rounded, aerodynamic shapes evoking speed and efficiency – and many exemplify both. But whether Deco-ornamented or streamline-designed, or not, they all encourage andpresent the young ‘players’ of that generation with exceptional chances to use their imagination. Look no further than the elegant simplicity of a Monopoly board, and the Parker Brothers 1935 edition (it originated in 1906 as “Easy Money”). The game’s basic premise involves playing out the fantasy of high-risk real estate investment (in the midst of a great economic depression) on a wonderfully classic Art Deco game board full of symmetry and geometry of design and featuring equally classic Art Deco typeface and color application, while moving through the dream landscape with delightfully elegant bathtub, flat iron, battleship and sports car tokens that are miniature masterpieces of streamlining. And those tokens are significant because the Dowst company manufactured them, and Dowst was the creator of…Tootsietoys, examples of which are in nearly every Art Deco toy collection. Their selection of streamlined (and ‘moderne’) toys is legendary. From the Racer of 1927 (a giant version of the Monopoly car) through 1935’s ‘Doodlebug’ and 1936’s ‘Torpedo’ sedans, the company was a leader of imaginative toy-styling. In 1938, they even ventured into the Deco world of streamlined toy trucks, producing a series of slick fuel tankers with fully skirted fenders and ‘teardrop’ tails (the Sinclair version is shown below, right).
While Dowst may have lead the diecast toy race, the competition was keen, and the Manoil company’s diecast streamlining efforts shouldn’t be overlooked. Their “Futuristic” sedan and “Rocket” bus models are miniature spaceships-on-wheels – complete with stabilizing fins! (One of them will be featured as an ADAP 'signature' piece, at left.) But Tootsietoy trumped Manoil when it ventured into the equally imaginative arena of popular entertainment. In 1932, they introduced the “Tootsietoy Funnies” (Smitty, Moon Mullins, et al) diecast vehicle series; kids acted out the plots and panels from those popular 1930’s comic strips with their Smitty’s motorcycle or Moon’s police wagon. Then, in 1937 Tootsietoy made another mark on impressionable youngsters with the movie matinee-inspired Buck Rogers Rocket Ship fleet, which budding rocketeers could suspend using the crafts’ hidden pulleys and then ‘fly’ through the playroom airspace. If not smitten with Smitty or enamored by Buck, then children could role-play as other popular icons like Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Superman, Popeye or Mickey Mouse – with an electrified, working Orphan Annie oven, perhaps, or a Dick Tracy fingerprint kit, if so inclined. Toy manufacturers Wolverine, Wyandotte, Marx, and Chein readily used their pressed-steel and folded-tin expertise, combined with superior lithography decoration, to clutter kids’ playrooms with all manner of delightful character-related toys - the Chein wind-up alligator featured on the display banner, at the left, is a shining example.
Some of an Art Deco toy chest’s contents may have been ‘born’ during the period, but others had been created decades earlier, and then restyled to reflect modernity, efficiency and speed. The Lionel Corporation first made electric trains in 1901, but hit their stride with their steam engines of the 1930s. The terrific torpedo-shaped locomotive that mimicked designer Raymond Loewy’s Pennsylvania Railroad (a Monopoly ‘tile’!) engines, and the polished aluminum Burlington Zephyr passenger set, are Art Deco toy gems. Competitor American Flyer’s diesels were equally emblematic of futuristic styling, and Marx and Hafner each produced electric and key-wound spring-operated trains, catching the period’s need for speed with their own streamlined selections. Not all Deco toys were necessarily Deco-decorated or streamline-inspired, of course (althoug toy sewing machine designers managed to get in on the act - see right). Manoil continued to churn out conventional metal toy soldiers alongside their futuristic vehicles, and Tootsietoy dollhouse furniture, designed for girls’ play, was made on the same assembly lines as the boys’ transportation toys. If you were lucky enough to thaw out from huddling in your yurt on the frozen tundra of the rest of the country, and were able to visit Miami Beach in mid-January, you gott a good glimpse into toys of all those types – whether geometric and symmetrical, or streamlined and modern, or both, or neither – and you'd gained insight into the fantastic world of childhood recreation, amusement and imagination during “history’s most playful time.”
Colorful Schemes: 1950s Dinky Toys' Vividly Painted American Issues
A version of this story appeared in 'Hemmings Classic Car' #100. By the way, someone has pirated this photo for their own use on the internet. Shame, shame, you know your name - as do our lawyers: can you say "Cease and desist"?
If you grew up in the 1950s (or even if you wish you had) you might not have had a nickel to your name. But if you were a car-crazy kid, poverty probably wouldn’t have stopped the car craziness. Cars, and car colors, undoubtedly made an impression. Your family’s, and your neighborhood’s driveways, were full of the fashionable two-tone (sometimes even tri-tone) color combinations offered by American automakers. And even if you could only dream to own one of the full-size models – let alone a parking lot-full of them, there was one classically affordable alternative towards acquiring your own full color fleet. It involved some scaling down to be sure – to about 1/43rd scale, actually – but it could be done, and you needed to rely on only one manufacturer: Dinky.
Dinky Toys, that’s how kids knew them, although Meccano and Lines Bros. and Triang all had hands in the ownership and direction of the company. If you did manage to accumulate two nickels to rub together, and/or save your allowance money, or whine, wheedle and cajole your parents, you could start venturing into forming your own collection. Dinky started offering their two-tone miniatures in 1949. Up first was a 1949 Ford Fordor (in cream/red; Dinky #139a, later #170), then a 1950 Hudson Commodore (blue/grey; 139b, 171) and finally a 1952 Studebaker Land Cruiser (tan/cream; 172); the colors and the color breaks were Meccano’s, not the prototypes’ manufacturers,’ choice and design. The Ford entered Dinky’s range in 1949 and stayed through 1959. The Hudson came along in 1950 and lasted through 1958, and the Studebaker was present from 1954 through 1958 (all three shown l-r, top middle right, below). Various colors and combinations were offered at different times. Another American car was also in the Dinky Toys line during this period – in their ‘farm and garden’ range. Officially listed as “Estate Car" (27f), car-savvy American kids knew it was really a 1948 Plymouth Special Deluxe Station Wagon (top left center). It was in tan, with brown panel inserts – aka a “Woody” – and being officially two-toned, it held a worthy place in the growing collection.
1958 would not only turn out to be a banner year for full-size American car buyers who wanted to decorate their driveways with flashy cars full of chrome and color, but also for the kids of those customers, Dinky-style. In the span of twelve months the company issued a Studebaker Golden Hawk (169), Nash Rambler station wagon (173), Hudson Hornet (174), Studebaker President (179), Packard Clipper (180) and De Soto Fireflite (192). In early 1959, they added a Plymouth Plaza and a Dodge Royal, both four-door sedans (178 and 191, respectively). Each of these had a terrific two-tone combination that rivaled and imitated (but didn’t necessarily duplicate) their bigger brothers. Dinky’s version of the Hawk (top row, second from left) was in tan and red (or green and tan): Studebaker offered a Hawk in Apache Red/Arctic White, for instance. The Clipper (front, left) was offered in pink and tan (also in grey and orange), but the full-size cars were more typically seen in a somber gray over gray (Cumberland and Woodsmoke) package. On the other hand you might have seen a President (second row, right) in the factory’s Azure and Wedgewood Blue option, which Dinky mimicked with a dark- and light-blue (also available in yellow and blue) toy copy. Dinky’s Rambler (second row, left) could be purchased as either turquoise and red or pink and blue; a prototypical example might be done up in Frost White/Georgian Rose. The Hudson (top right center) came in red and cream or yellow and grey, but it was not unusual to see a full-size three-tone Hornet (multiple shades of green: ‘Oregon’ and ‘Bermuda,’ and white) on American roads.
The Chrysler Corp. cars were also miniature masterpieces of design and color. Dinky’s castings captured the Virgil Exner-designed tail fin and grille details exceptionally well, and they also fit white tires to the three ‘Chryslers’ (as they did to those of the Independents) so all of them seemed as if they were mounted with wide whitewalls. The colorful range of any kid’s parking lot might then expand with the De Soto Fireflite (center) in green and tan (also found in red and grey). The Plymouth Plaza (top left) came in blue-over-blue (also sold in pink and green) and finally the Dodge Royal (front, right) was issued in green and black (also available: cream and brown, cream and blue). Full-fledged DeSotos of the day, for example, were often seen in Sunshine Yellow, with Dawn Grey accents.
With such acquisitions fifty-plus years ago, you would have had a mighty neat looking parking lot of colorful American cars in miniature. Today, you can appraise them as worthy of a museum collection. All tolled, if these Dinky Toys had been the real deal, and if they were kept in equivalently excellent condition since new, then the initial cash outlay for the twelve models would have been thirty, maybe forty thousand dollars; their combined worth would now top a quarter-million. The toys, on the other hand, cost maybe a total of fifteen hard-earned nineteen fifties bucks; their total value is today over a grand. Probably every antique toy collector would like to have any one of those great fifties machines parked outside in their driveway, ready to cruise to the office or the market or the beach. But if you did have one, it would not be the same one that you bought (or got) when you were six. And if you did own all dozen, then you’d need a warehouse, not a driveway, in which to keep them. On the other hand, all the Dinky Toys can sit together on the same shelf, in their original condition, while all of your colorful memories remain vivid, and your investment remains sound.
Most of the Dinky Toys pictured here can each be purchased, in very good to near mint condition, for less than $100.00. In most instances, they can be found for less. If mint and in the original box, each can be worthup to $150.00. They remain a sound – and colorful – investment for toy collectors. By the way, regarding non two-tone (English) Dinky Toy American car prototypes...that's for another story!
The Grand Marshall of the Toy Parade is still the Beaver!
The Beaver is still marching along every weekday morning at 8:00 a.m. on the 'Me TV' network - for two consecutive broadcast episodes, no less - so we're not getting rid of this story just yet! "Beaver" remains one of our favorite TV shows - and since "The Toy Parade" is the official title of the "Leave It to Beaver" theme song...well, 'nuffsaid. The lyrics, as published in Jon Javna's 'The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Song Book' (St. Martin's Press, 1984) are: "Hey! Here they come with a rum-tee-tum, they're having a toy parade, a tin giraffe with a fife and drum is leading the kewpie parade. A gingham cat in a soldier's hat is waving a Chinese fan, a plastic clown in a wedding gown is dancing with Raggedy Ann. Fee fie fiddle dee dee they're crossing the living room floor, fee fie fiddle dee dee they're up to the dining room door. They call a halt for a chocolate malt or cookies and lemonade, then off they go with a ho ho ho right back to their toy brigade." Click here and listen to the tune as played by professionals!
But while the Beaver had his fill of cookies, chocolate malts and lemonade over the series' 234 episodes, he never played with any Chinese fans or Raggedy Anns or tin giraffes. Brand name toys weren't mentioned on the show and there was no product placement. When a toy was integral to an episode's story line, then it would be referred to generically and photographed usually not even in close-up. The bow and arrow set Beaver buys for himself (after the little skunk Larry convinces him not to buy a camera as a birthday gift for Wally ('Wally's Present,' Episode 53) or the neat gasoline-powered model car that the creepy Gilbert cons Beaver into buying with the ten bucks Uncle Billy sent him for his birthday (despite his promise to deposit the money in the bank: 'Beaver's Birthday,' Episode 161) are prime examples of toys as - to use a term that Hitchcock popularized - visual 'MacGuffins': they are props simply used to further the plot. They could've been "plastic clowns" or "tin giraffes," even...but they weren't.
Sharp-eyed viewers might occasionally glimpse an identifiable toy of the period that, while generic to the plot, has specific and well-defined characteristics. In seasons one and two, for instance, you'll see Beaver or Wally idly holding a built-up Revell model kit - the famous modelmaker's version of the Martin B-57B 'Night Intruder' Light Bomber. It's unmistakeable as a prototype, and it's equally unmistakeable in the hands of either of the Cleaver boys. Sometimes, even the very same toys used in the series - the props themselves - become available. The colorful set of six croquet balls pictured at the right is among them. You've read correctly: you're feasting your eyes on Beaver's own balls, from the author's collection. They are the very props issued to the 'Leave It to Beaver' Gomalco set by the Ellis Prop House ("Hollywood's Original Prop House") circa 1958 (Certificate of Authenticity included, naturally).
Several toys and collectibles were not used in the show, but rather were created as a result of the show. The three Hasbro board games are probably the best known, and the most available on the collector market. "As seen on ABC television coast-to-coast," they were issued in 1959: 'Rocket to the Moon,' 'Ambush' and the rarest of the three, the 'Money Maker' game. The first two carry values of from $50 to $125, depending on condition, and the Money Game is a bit more, with a range of $75 to $150 (well, it is a Money Game, after all). The first game reflected TV viewers' then-current fascination with the space race, and the second with their love of all things western-themed. The third was delightfully more Beaver-oriented, and capitalized (pun intended) on the themes of many of the shows - "Sharing Beaver's Ingenious and Often Disastrous Attempts at Earning Money" - like cat-sitting (Puff Puff), cat-kidnapping ("precious" Bootsie) baby-sitting (little Benjy), mowing lawns, or selling perfume ('Flower of the Orient' - which, according to Ward, "smells like an old catcher's mitt"), or hawking black market water (Beaver had insider infothat Mayfield's water mains would be turned off for repair). Hasbro also published a Beaver 'Eras-O-Picture Book' in 1959. An erasable coloring book, it was similar to those produced for several other television shows of the day - like the western series 'Maverick.' The Beaver version is a bit more rare than its counterparts and can fetch nearly $100 if in mint condition. Because the show continues to be popular some fifty years after the last episode was aired (now on both Antenna TV and MeTV), the Beaver's games and memorabilia are certain to hold, and increase, in value. And why not: after all, he is at the head of the "Toy Parade."
Toy IQ Q #1: Which Restaurant Featured a Matchbox Toy on its Menu?
The better question might be: why did it take so long to have to ask this in the first place! Antique toys are finally getting their due in current popular culture - they're all over the TV (see the story below for three examples of "real-i-toy" television shows), and now they've become cover art. Tiny cover art, but cover art nevertheless - albeit on a strawberry shortcake table card at a popular restaurant chain. The star toy is tucked away in the lower right corner of the card: Matchbox #31b, the second series 1959 Ford Fairlane station wagon in dark metallic green with a pink roof, with grey plastic wheels, issued in 1960. Mint and boxed, it's worth upwards of $75, and if you can find one with black plastic wheels, then congratulations - you scored a nice little $300 prize.
But we think that as long as the Matchbox 1-75 Series are now fair game and under discussion, we ought to mention a few more of the company's early ventures into producing miniatures of vehicles of American manufacture. Starting at the top of the assortment on the left and working clockwise, is #31a, the first series Ford station wagon - this time a 1956 model, issued in 1957. It was always presented in yellow, with variations only to the wheels - either metal (early production) or gray plastic (the later ones). The second series Fairlane, by the way, was originally issued in the same yellow color as that of the first, and those versions are far more rare: values can exceed $400 for a mint example. But the pink and green color combo is a lot more striking - the menu's art director obviously thought it would make for a better cover image (or did he just not have access to that rare yellow specimen?). The 1958 Cadillac Sixty Special in lilac, with pink roof, was issued in 1960 as number 27b. It's the second in the series, the first being the decidedly un-passenger car-like Bedford Low Loader tractor trailer combination. The Caddy stayed in the range until 1966, mainly in this color scheme. A really good example could fetch a hundred bucks or more...but the one to watch out for is the version in green, with silver plastic wheels.. That rarity will set you back almost $500.00. That tasty lemon yellow convertible is a 1960 Pontiac Bonneville, issued in 1962 as #39b and sticking around until being replaced (by a Ford tractor, no less!) in 1967. Nice yellow models can run close to $100, but an early purple one, with gray plastic wheels, will have a C-note price tag affixed to it.
The third GM division to be represented here is Chevrolet, in the form of a 1959 Impala. It was only offered in metallic blue with a pale blue roof, from 1961 through 1966. The variations of #57b are in the wheels and in the colors of the chassis-bases; mint and boxed models can be had in the hundred dollar range, tops. The 1958 Ford Thunderbird is another Matchbox first series, number 75a, introduced in 1960 in cream and pink, and remaining in that scheme until 1965 (when it was replaced by the worthy Ferrari Berlinetta in metallic green). Many great examples can still be found for less than a hundred dollars. Matchbox continued to make models of American road iron right through the transition to 'Superfast' production in 1969. For instance, the Studebaker Lark Wagonaire complete with the prototype's retractable roof (with a hunter and his dog as plastic accessories, no less) is a great model, and, who knows, could be the menu cover car when they redo the artwork for next summer's dessert special - at...wait for it...Cracker Barrel.
Toy IQ Q #2: What Do These Two Institutions Have in Common, Toywise?
We're exhausted. There just never seems to be enough time to do a proper article about this topic. It has been over a year since we first 'teased' this story. But patience is a virtue. Someday we'll have the time, and the inclination, to finish it! (Or, you could volunteer to write the damn story yourself.) It will be worth the wait.There's more in common with the two institutions on the left than you might think. But in the meantime, at the right, are a couple of visual clues to get your minds on the right track. A further hint? The featured city is decidedly for the birds. Okay, we'll stop procrastinating. The city is Baltimore (home of the Orioles and the Ravens), and the museums - the American Visionary Arts Museum and Geppi's Entertainment Museum - together provide at least a day's worth of extraordinary fun for toy collectors of pretty much all ages. The GEM is in the Camden Yards baseball complex, and the AVAM is a little over a mile away; a pleasant walk along the inner harbor that might take a half hour, if you're inclined to dawdle, on the Key 'Highway' near Federal Hill Park. Toys and games, albeit from different perspectives, are featured in both. For instance, at GEM you'll find an entire gallery full of Golden Age and Silver Age comic books, including EC's rare Mad #1 (pictured), while at AVAM Mad Magazine's poster boy Alfred E. Neuman is featured in a wonderful mosaic found on a...headboard of a bed (more later, if time ever becomes available).
Destination Maine? Plan to Visit the Best Toy Museum You've Never Seen!
Sure, this story has been posted for three years now, but since it concerns what is probably the closest thing to 'Toyland' that you'll ever come across, we'll leave it up. John Fawcett's Maine Toy Museum is undoubtedly the best toy museum you've never seen. Found smack-dab in the middle of the coast of America's 'Vacationland,' the State of Maine, it sits on US Route 1 in Waldoboro, about halfway between the (larger) towns of Bath and Camden, in a 19th century country road house. Before you start your pilgrimage, however, take heed: have a good rest, pack your corrected-vision eyeglasses or contact lenses, don comfortable clothing and footwear, have a decent meal (or, you could eat at the diner directly across the street - hint: try the clam rolls), arrive early – very early (because you’ll be staying until closing time, at four), and above all really, really be mentally prepared. One such preparation might be to play one of Martin Handford’s “Where’s Waldo?” puzzles, or two or three. Better yet, check out some of Marzollo and Wick’s “I SPY” books with their picture riddles – those treasure hunts for the eyes – but now think of the books three-dimensionally. And think of 3-D - as in rooms, big rooms. And walls, and shelves, and cases. And ceilings. And floors. That's correct, floors - the dizzying photo on the right is of an exhibit of old toys and comics arranged on one of the Museum's curving staircases, as seen from a balcony. The Museum is that full. But not only is every nook and cranny of the Museum chock-full, it is chock-full of classic toys, games and collectibles from the vintage years (and the recent years, too) of the 20th century. It is also full of toy-related displays and posters and packaging, and comic books, and original comic and animation art. In fact, the Museum is full of art: the rooms and walls form a continuous gallery. From any angle in any part of the Museum, any viewer will be guaranteed to be looking at a ‘canvas’ of wonderful images and fantastic colors and dramatic shapes and marvelous textures. The aesthetic credit should be given to the great artists, sculptors, designers and painters who created the various charactersand objects in the first place, certainly, but in this Museum, it’s as much about the context as the concept.
There’s a Lionel Mickey Mouse Hand Car…next to a Hopalong Cassidy comic book…next to a Star Wars Storm Trooper…and a Steiff teddy bear…and a Lone Ranger cap pistol…and a Raggedy Ann doll…and the list goes on, each canvas of toys turning into another as you wend your way throughout the exhibits. But it would be unfair to suggest that all this art is merely scattered throughout the building without curator Fawcett’s careful thought and preparation. Far from it: in fact, eachpiece is meticulously placed, and the overall impression is that any one itemwould look out of place if it were found anywhere else in the Museum. And of course there are plenty of themed areas where a guest can dote on a particular homage to a character or a collection. The Museum is justifiably proud of its Lone Ranger memorabilia, for instance. It features not only the complete 1948 radio giveaway Frontiertown – offered to all the listeners to the radio serial first broadcast thrice-weekly on Detroit’s WXYZ – but some collectibles that only one listener by definition (Fawcett himself) could ever possess: the original Lone Ranger radio actor Brace Beemer’s unique LR shirt, boots, hat, mask…and pistols! There are also comprehensive and equally notable displays with toys and collectibles devoted to nearly every major (and most minor) character themes of the past one hundred years. And, if the art, as toys, were not enough to occupy a day at the Museum, there's also a gallery/room full of toys, as art. Fawcett himself is a retired Professor of the University of Connecticut's Art Department and the imagery in his accomplished acrylic paintings, pen-and-ink drawings, and 3-dimensional art reflects his love for character-related popular culture. (Some have said, on meeting Fawcett, that he himself is a character of popular culture – that’s his self-portrait on the Museum’s outdoor sign, above right.) But as in the Museum, the art is ‘in’ the toys as much as the toys are ‘in’ the art. However one approaches it, the fun is in the search for the images,often radically altered and distorted from what they might originally have been. Many of the newer images are three-dimensionally crafted, using antique printers’ typography trays as frames (or armatures, depending) for popular subjects including Star Wars’ Yoda and the Beatles. The Maine Antique Toy and Art Museum isn’t just a stop on a toy collector’s journey, it’s a destination - a world-class facility with a world-class collection. For up-to-date information on the Museum's hours, etc., go to this website and then follow the links to the Museum website. Go experience it for yourself! Pack your bags to visit the best Toy Museum...you've never seen.
Real-i-toy TV: the Extreme Collectors is Airing; Auction Kings is in Reruns
The 'Extreme Collectors,' a Canadian-produced show that features the extravagant collections found in a different North American city each episode, is airing this season. Now, where do you think their staff turned when they needed help in finding collectors for their Miami segment? And whose collections do you suppose they might have filmed for that episode? For starters, tune in, look for the episode titled "Feeling Lucky," and find out!
Discovery Channel's 'Auction Kings', according to its press release, "reveals to viewers a rare look at timeless items that take the audience back to historical moments, while giving them insight to the long-standing tradition of auctioning. The show captures the emotional journey of discovering one-of-a-kind riches." Sometimes, the "one-of-a-kind riches" are in the form of antique toys. The show went out of production last year, but it airs occassionally in reruns. Should you catch it, you might recognize their 'toy expert' that appears from time to time. To be sure, there are other TV shows devoted to toy-collecting, but we think that by and large they suffer from a number of fatal flaws, including being hosted by extraordinarily and exceedingly obnoxious individuals, and we're studiously avoiding mentioning their name(s)!
Miami Antique Toy Show and Other Media: ATW Magazine, Toy Shows of America, Face Book Activity, Boston Toy Show Link, Wikipedia, etc.
We don't claim to be web page geniuses here at Toy Show Central, and we don't have tons of time to fiddle with this site, but if you'll pardon us for not creating especially fancy links to other pages here, you'll probably want to check out the following. First, if you were to use a web search engine (f'rinstance, Google) to research information on antique toy shows in general, you'd probably type in 'antique' and 'toy' and 'show' - right? If you'd done so a year ago, your results would have been...let's say "unpredictable" at best. Now, go ahead and do it. Open up a new window on your browser and type that search. Chances are, you'll be directed to a Wikipedia article on the 'Antique Toy Show' subject - and you'll learn about many of the antique toy shows held around the country, including the last regional show in the southeastern US, the Miami Antique Toy Show.
Second, one of the best print resources for antique toy collectors and dealers that we've found is Antique Toy World magazine. The largely four-color magazine has been produced since 1971. The periodical's mission has always been to "bring together toy aficionados from around the world" with monthly issues that offer "knowledge, history and pictorial splendor" about antique toys, dolls and collectibles. Without commenting on the "splendor," we can say that ATW regularly features stories on the Miami Antique Toy Show. Recent issues have contained articles on last year's show, the Art Deco at Play-themed Art Deco Weekend, Fawcett's Toy Museum (see above), the Boston Toy Show (see below) and others. Go to the ATW web site, and follow the links to contact publisher Dale Kelley directly, to subscribe to the magazine or to obtain a back issue or two. Dale was one of the original producers of the long-running Chicago (Kane County IL) antique toy shows. He's out of that business now, and is devoting his energies toATW full-time, but the Chicago shows are still produced twice-yearly, usually in April and October. Visit their website for more information.
Third, there's a new internet source, 'Toy Shows of America,' to help you keep tabs on antique toy shows nationwide. Visit the Toy Shows of America website to view a directoy of toy shows around the country, including the featured Miami Antique Toy Show. Their goal is to become "the premier source for toy show information," and we don't see anything wrong with that! Of course, feel free to contactthem with info about other toy shows you're aware of, that might not be in their database yet.
And as far as links to other really good toy shows are concerned, do visit the Boston Toy Show's site for information regarding their twice-yearly shows. The shows have been landmark events in the New England area for several decades, and now, under the brand-new leadership of Michael Melito and Wes Pettingil, they are following through with their promise to keep toy collecting alive and well in the Northeastern US - just as we at the Miami Antique Toy Show have been doing for 'Southeasterners' for thirty-four years! The next Boston show is in April, at the Holiday Inn in Dedham. The Miami Antique Toy Show will have a table there, so stop by...better yet, stop and buy.
The Doctor's In: Does Your Old Toy Need Critical Care, or Surgical Repair?
Toy collectors are entrusting us here at Toy Show Central with their family toy treasures for special care, and repair. A few months ago, a Lionel Mickey Mouse handcar (the one manufactured in 1934 that most say was responsible, due to its sales success,for saving Joshua Cohen's Lionel Manufacturing Company from bankruptcy) came into the shop: careless movers had broken both of Mickey's legs off, mid-thigh (Minnie was unscathed). The collector's goal was to have the toy repaired while the unsuspecting owner (the collector's father) was otherwise occupied with the moving process. The result? The Toy Show's surgeons operated successfully, and the toy was returned in its original condition - that's it to the right.
Recently, this Chein 'Cathedral' from about 1937 highlighted the workbench. Chein's color lithography is remarkable, and legendary. The toywas a gift from the collector's grandfather to her, and it has, naturally, huge sentimental value. The doctors here took special care with this heirloom, too. It's winding mechanism was producing a rather tired version of the intended church organ-type sound when the hand crank was turned. Although we didn't have to perform a full "organ transplant," we did determine that the toy's original main gear, made of fibre (and not metal), had deteriorated to the point that a brand-new gear, made from a special composite material, was fabricated by Jason Spangle at Indiana's Old Foundry Toy Works. The new gear fit perfectly, and the collector (from Massachusetts) and her organ are now making - what else? - beautiful music together.
Whether your special antique toy needs critical care, or surgical repair, or just a good cleaning or check-up or other attention, just contact us, by email or phone. No charge for the consultation!
Special Note to Dealers: the Miami Antique Toy Show has always made an effort to never turn away an antique toy/doll/collectibles exhibitor for lack of table space - all of you are most welcome, and we'll do everything we can to accommodate even the most last-minute of dealers. Contract rules apply, and premium space is always at a, well, premium, but contact us as soon as possible by phone or e-mail about reserving your tables for 2015. We look forward to seeing you, whenver (and whatever) you display.
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