The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

Straight Up: Helicopter Toys

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

The popular 1950s Swadar Bell 47 with litters was one of several versions made. G.R. Webster Collection.

The helicopter is an amazing machine. Pilots who fly them describe it as trying to control 20,000 spare parts flying in loose formation at more or less the same altitude, in roughly the same direction, at approximately the same time.

A helicopter derives its ability to fly lift by rapidly rotating the rotor blades while compensating for the torque from the engine with either a small set of vertically mounted rotor blades at the rear of the fuselage and or an additional set of main blades turning in the opposite direction. Another largely unsuccessful early design used rotor tip jets to power the blades avoiding the torque forces.

An autogiro appears at first glance to be similar to a helicopter, but it uses a free spinning rotor to develop lift and is not capable of making vertical takeoffs or powered landings. It is pushed through the air with an engine-powered propeller. Both machines can land safely without power, using autorotation to control descent.

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In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

WHAM-O: From Slingshots to Superballs

In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

In the summer of 1958, while Hula Hoop wowed the world, WHAM-O gave the word “Frisbee” top billing on their multi-named flying disc—the WHAM-O Frisbee Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. Photo courtesy of Tim Walsh from his book WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

Sixty years ago, two wild and crazy college boys in Southern California launched a slingshot… and, quite by accident, launched a business. Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr may not have realized then that a homemade slingshot would be the genesis of one of the most enduring toy companies of all time—the WHAM-O Manufacturing Company.

Their success is notable; their toys—such as Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Super Ball—are iconic. Few toy companies have as long or rich a history, but one thing remains certain—“There’s a lot of nostalgia over their toys,” said Tim Walsh, author of WHAM-O Super Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory (Chronicle Books, 2008).

That nostalgia—including his own childhood fondness for WHAM-O toys—prompted Walsh, a game inventor and toy historian, to track down the dynamic duo and dig into company archives for his new book. “I really enjoy giving inventors their due,” Walsh added.

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Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

Electric Football: Tabletop Touchdowns

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.”  Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players.  Chuck Miller image.

Tudor’s 1968 figurines, including this Kansas City Chiefs player, have thicker legs and are known to collectors as “hoglegs.” Hoglegs also have black shoes, a standard trait for 1960’s-era electric football players. Chuck Miller image.

Electric football, also known as “miniature football” or “tabletop football,” has returned from the attics and toyboxes of yesteryear to reclaim its position as one of top sports simulation games of all time. Sixty years after its original introduction into the marketplace, the game is now the focus of national tournaments, where grandparents and grandkids can compete on an equal level. Its players can now be found at the craft table of hobbyists, who painstakingly repaint the tiny figurines to resemble the greatest squads in football history.

“Electric football has seen a renaissance of attention today,” said Ira Silverman, whose Silverman Media&Marketing Group promotes the game for Miggle Toys, the company who currently manufactures electric football boards and games. “I think that the people who played the game as kids in the 1960s and 1970s, and those playing today, like the ability to actually control each and every one of your 11 players who are on the field, and I think they like the idea of playing against and hopefully beating another human being, rather than defeating an electronic team on a video game.”

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Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Captain Action: Quick-Change Hero

Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Ideal Captain Action from 1966. Image courtesy of Geppi’s Entertainment.

Joe Ahearn first became aware of Ideal Toys’ Captain Action in 1967 when he was 5 years old while visiting an older cousin. Ed Catto simply credits Santa Claus for his introduction to the character the same year. Little did either of them know that some 40 years later that they would find themselves in charge of Captain Action’s destiny.

The character debuted in 1966 into a climate that in hindsight seems almost made for it. G.I. Joe was the top action figure for boys. The Batman TV show was just igniting Batmania and the wave of superheroes that followed him from the printed page to the worlds of cartoons, movies and merchandising.

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Made by Wilhelm Krauss (Germany), this lithographed-tin, pulley-operated toy features two Mickey Mouse dancers. Previously documented examples include only a single dancing-mouse figure; this is the first of its type that Noel Barrett has ever seen. Estimate: $10,000-$13,000. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

Noel Barrett’s Nov. 15-16 auction led by Stan & Priscilla Cypher collections

Made by Wilhelm Krauss (Germany), this lithographed-tin, pulley-operated toy features two Mickey Mouse dancers. Previously documented examples include only a single dancing-mouse figure; this is the first of its type that Noel Barrett has ever seen. Estimate: $10,000-$13,000. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

Made by Wilhelm Krauss (Germany), this lithographed-tin, pulley-operated toy features two Mickey Mouse dancers. Previously documented examples include only a single dancing-mouse figure; this is the first of its type that Noel Barrett has ever seen. Estimate: $10,000-$13,000. Noel Barrett Auctions image.

NEW HOPE, Pa. – On Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 15-16, Noel Barrett opens a treasure chest of rare and unusual childhood antiques in his Fall 2008 auction of ‘Toys & Other Things.’

Collectors have become accustomed to the Houdini-like ways with which Barrett is able to unearth exquisitely rare antique toys, even within a collecting landscape that has been well trodden. Just when collectors think “all the good stuff” is accounted for, along comes a great surprise, together with a hefty price realized. A recent example of the unexpected consignments that can turn up in a Barrett sale is the original Monopoly “tie set” with hand-colored oilcloth roll-up board that was auctioned on April 12, 2008 for $46,750. Now in its new home – the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. – it is typical of the rarity and desirability consistently seen in Barrett’s sales.

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1868 3-cent stamp sells for more than $1M in NYC auction

NEW YORK (AP) – A rare 1868 U.S. postage stamp has sold for more than $1 million at a New York City auction.

The 3-cent, rose-colored “B Grill” stamp was among the highlights of a three-day Siegel Auction Galleries sale that ended Thursday, Oct. 30. The auction house says only three other known examples of the stamp remain.

“B Grill” refers to an embossed pattern in the stamp paper.

An anonymous buyer put in the winning bid of $1,035,000.

The auction also included one of stamp collecting’s most famous prizes, the so-called “Inverted Jenny” from 1918. The 24-cent American airmail stamp features a biplane accidentally printed upside-down. Only 100 of the red, white and blue stamps were printed.

Siegel says New Rochelle, N.Y., stamp dealer Harry Hagendorf bought the one auctioned on Thursday for $388,125.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

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Museum returns Leger painting found to be Nazi loot

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has sent a painting by cubist Fernand Leger back to the heirs of a Jewish art collector in France, after concluding it had been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

The museum had owned the 1911 Leger painting Smoke Over Rooftops since 1961. But after a decade of detective work, the institute decided to return it to the heirs of noted Parisian collector Alphonse Kann, who died in 1948.

“Having researched this to the end of the road, we decided we had to return the painting; it was the right thing to do,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the institute, told the Star Tribune for a story published on Oct. 30.

In 1997, the museum received a letter claiming the painting had been part of Kann’s collection that was confiscated by the Nazis after he fled Paris for London. Kann got much of his art back after the war, but not the Leger, now worth about $2.8 million.

The Leger was bequeathed to the institute in 1961 by Minneapolis businessman Putnam Dana McMillan, who had bought it from the Buchholz Gallery in New York in 1951.

It took years for the institute to determine if the claim was legitimate. Smoke Over Rooftops was a theme Leger painted at least six times, so it wasn’t clear at first if it was the same one Kann had owned.

The research took years of scrutiny of Nazi-era documents, gallery and auction records in four countries.

It’s not an unusual dilemma for a museum. According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, U.S. museums identified in their collections 22 works between 1998 and July 2006 that had been stolen by the Nazis. The art was either returned to heirs or settlements were reached, in some cases allowing the art to remain at the museums.

Investigators established that after Kann fled Paris, the Nazis confiscated the bulk of his collection, a trove so extensive that the Nazis’ inventory of it ran to 60 typed pages. A Paris art dealer, Galerie Leiris, bought the Leger at an auction in 1942 and later sold it to Buchholz Gallery.
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Minneapolis Institute of Arts: http://www.artsmia.org
Association of Art Museum Directors: http://www.aamd.org
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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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