In orbit at Sandown

08 September 2016
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Alwyn Brice finds that space truly is the final frontier…
In orbit at Sandown Images

There were, I have to confess, an awful lot of space toys at the May event. Maybe I’ve not noticed them before but every other stand seemed to have a rocket, a robot or some other inter-galactic toy for sale. Some were cheap… but many were not, reflecting the interest in this genre.
As we head innocently towards the era of artificial intelligence, so it is nostalgic to look at what makers foresaw back in the 1950s. Annie Niziolonski (yes, I checked the surname!) had a veritable Aladdin’s cave of Japanese tinplate, including a lovely boxed Yonezawa Space Scout vehicle at just under £600 (she’d found it in Germany) and the USA Space NASA Apollo capsule, with a separate floating astronaut. Again boxed, and in virtually mint condition, this was rather more affordable at £295.   

Mike Priest’s Technofix Rocket Express isn’t terribly rare but his was excellent, and complete with the space cars that orbit the world and the moon. Great litho printing elevates this model and his example was just £58: boxed, you’ll pay £170 or so. Nearby, Tim Simpson had plenty of Japanese tinplate robots (as well as saloon and sports cars), and of note was the Horikawa Space Capsule with astronaut inside but which sadly lacked the glazing. There was no box and the £120 seemed negotiable. For £160 he offered the Masudaya Flying Saucer, which looked rather spooky thanks to its printing: a wire spiral mounted on top would have originally contained a floating paper astronaut.

For fans of Gerry Anderson, Fireball XL5 ranks as the space toy, I guess, and there are a few models about. One I’d not seen before was from Comet Miniatures and this comprised a vacuum formed kit. The example at Sandown was mint and sealed but contained everything necessary for the construction process. I’d have thought this a rare survivor: at £75, it seemed a reasonable price. The seller also had the original advert that stated that the kit normally cost 9s (45p) but that it could be bought for half that price with the enclosure of two Zoom lollipop wrappers. I well recall Zoom - but not this particular offer!

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Andy Woodall’s Marx Mobile Long Range Atomic Cannon Truck looked truly awesome and represented the US in all its excesses. Semi-tracked and battery-powered, this leviathan came with five missiles and an operating antenna. It looked good for about 20 feet or so when the projectiles were launched and the box, somewhat plain, was also present. A devastating bit of hardware, it would have filled your display cabinet in one go.

Not really sci-fi, but rather spy-fi, the James Bond Official Quartz watch on its retail card looked to be somewhat cheapskate for the famous agent. Timothy Dalton was the 007 depicted and Malcolm Lake’s example was pegged at just under £100. How many survive, I wonder? Malcolm had also unearthed some carded and blistered Husky toys, which were US issues: the Aston Martin was £39, a Ford Thunderbird £29 and an ERF Cement Mixer lorry £24.

Several Dutch dealers had trekked over to the UK (were they anticipating the Brexit, I wonder?), and they had a lovely example of the Tudor Rose Austin Mini Countryman. In a great box and finished in fetching pale green, this was €550: its desirability has always kept its value high. Another Dutch dealer, was showing a large range of Herald plastic figures and animals and his stand was dominated by a fold-out sales rep’s display box of animals for which he was asking £500. There was a small amount of damage but this could have been rectified. The same dealer had a large matchbox-sized box of farm animals: originally 2s 6d (12.5p), it was now £250.

By far the most outstanding toy (antique?) was the papier maché mountain side, which featured a couple of huts and vegetation, along with a troop of foot soldiers made in card. These were well painted and looked to belong to the early 1800s. Mounted on a rubber track, they could be made to traverse the side of the mountain by turning a crank. Given the toy’s age (1800s) and its fragile nature, it was an amazing find – and had gathered much foreign interest, although its native country couldn’t be pinned down.