Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#89 MATCHBOX – FREEMAN INTER CITY COMMUTER, STRETCHA FETCHA & TOE JOE (1970, 1971, 1972)


These are three vans made by Matchbox at the beginning of the 70s. They have several characteristics in common, I chose those three because they’re vans or small trucks, but also because of their futuristic air. This characteristic is common to many Matchbox cars in the 70s, while in the 80s new models were far more realistic (mostly reproductions of real cars). That’s what makes Matchbox 1-75 models from the 70s so appealing for collectors in my opinion. These rare prototypes with strange forms were, to a small extent, actual prototypes; other were simply invented.

The oldest model, the Freeman IC Commuter seems to have been available only in gold and dark pink colour. Top Joe had another version in red with black hooks, while the Stretcha Fetcha has been released in many different colours and variations. The original one and the most common, however, is the one in the pictures, the white ambulance. Other versions include light green “Viper Van”, red and pink. The variants have different chassis colours (red, metallic or white) and different windshield colours (blue or orange). Some other time I’ll compare it with the copy Mira did in Spain.

Note in this last picture the difference between the regular wheels (short RW) (Freeman Inter City Commuter above) and the “superfast” wheels (the other two). Superfast wheels have a thin burr that protrudes over the surface of the tyres, reducing the area of the wheels that is in contact with the floor and thus the friction. With this simple idea, cars were slightly faster and could roll longer distances when pushed. First Superfast wheel’s models came out in 1969. Other die-cast brands made the same almost at the same time.

Update: Golden Freeman Intercity Commuter



FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: FREEMAN INTER CITY COMMUTER, STRETCHA FETCHA and TOE JOE (Nrs. 22, MB-46 and 74)
  • Scale: 1:64 (approx.)
  • Year: 1970, 1971, 1972
  • Company: Matchbox (G. Britain)
  • Size: approx. 3’’ or 7 cm

Sunday, November 27, 2011

#88 ACTION FAN Nr. 20

Action Fan celebrates its third birthday with a new whole issue (number 20!) that in my opinion is the best number I have read so far. Why? This time there is a mixture of articles dealing with vintage toys and new ones, while in the previous numbers there used to be more new toys than vintage ones.

Articles about vintage toys that can be found in this issue include: Toxic Crusaders, Captain Planet, Remco’s Conan and an introductory article about collecting and Star Wars merchandising, that it’s very promising.

Among the articles dealing with new toys there’s a very extensive review of Resident Evil Figures, an article about “cloned” figures and statues, and a very interesting gallery showing the Star Wars customs by Sillof.

For nr. 20, Action Fan is interviewing the Spanish sculptor Ale Pereira.

From TFTP, we’d like to wish AF a happy birthday and a successful fourth year of existence! Please download the new number, and enjoy it!

Find it here: http://actionfan.wordpress.com/descargar-revista/

Saturday, November 26, 2011

#87 DINO RIDERS – STEGOSAURUS with TARK and VEGA (1989)


If you remember or you check the older Dino Riders entries, “middle-sized” dinosaurs had some features like moving heads, while “small” dinosaurs had no featured action. Another sales argument in this toy-line is that some dinosaurs (the “big” ones) were battery operated, and they could actually walk.
The dinosaurs with “motorized walking action” are:
  • Wave 1: Tyrannosaurus-Rex, Diplodocus, Triceratops, Torosaurus
  • Wave 2: Stegosaurus
  • Wave 3: Pachyrhinosaurus
  • Wave 4 (Ice Age): Wooly Mammooth
If you look carefully at the original packaging of those dinosaurs you’ll quickly find a yellow spot that indicates this walking feature.

All of them were operated with a single R14 (size C) battery, and they were relatively slow. As a kid two friends of mine also had Dino Riders, (one of them had the tyrannosaurus, the other one the Diplodocus and I had this Stegosaurus), we used to organize races to see which dinosaur was the fastest. The tyrannosaurus was the fastest of all three, since it somehow “slides” with its wheels under the paws. Diplodocus always arrived second, and mine was the slowest.
The dinosaur, like all the others, is a great reproduction, including many details like glass eyes, the plates on the back (made in a different kind of plastic than the body), nice colours, and appropriate scale.

The armour and weaponry on this dinosaur is much more complicated than that from the previous ones. It includes many parts: harness with two seats and guns, 3 missiles and 2 rocket launchers plus two shields for the hind legs and the razors for the tail. The missile launchers are extremely fragile, since the peg that is inserted in the harness breaks easily. Another weak point are the pegs for the guns in the seats, which also break easily. In most second hand toys these parts are broken. The walking mechanism of the dinosaurs is also very likely to break down, specially is a battery has been left inside for many years.
The figures included with this dinosaur were two: Tark (right) and Vega (left). As Valorians from the second wave, they included the 2nd wave set of weapons, which can be seen here. This packs consisted of: Psyche-Blade, Double Barrel Rifle (2 pieces), Chest Shield, AMP and Infrared Night Scope, all of the in gray colour, and originally attached to a tree. It is curious that in the original instructions sheet from many dinosaurs in this wave, the weapons depicted are still the ones packed with wave 1 dinosaurs. Check for example instructions here.

In the same picture is depicted the cover of the comic book which was included in Europe and that was the same included in the first wave. As far as I am concerned there was only one version made, while in the US there were two different versions.
More dioramas in which this dinosaur appears (without the armour) were published in the Placerias entry.

No chance for Rulons

BONUS: Spanish instruction sheets:





FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: STEGOSAURUS with TARK and VEGA
  • Toy Line: Dino-Riders (Wave 2)
  • Year: 1989
  • Company: Tyco (U.S.A.)
  • Scale of the dinosaur 1:24
  • Size of the figures: 2½’’ or 6,5 cm

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#86 MAJORETTE – SONIC FLASHERS' YELLOW TRAIN (ref. 2341 Y) (1992)


The “Sonic Flashers” series by Majorette was a very successful one at the beginning of the nineties. I can remember when they came out, they were the first die-cast models ever with electronics inside. Until that moment it was probably too expensive to build those circuits in such inexpensive toys like die-cast cars. At those years there were some talking dolls and or figures that were completely analog, they carried inside something very similar to a vynil record with a small player, but electronics (or microelectronics) were still rare.
What does this circuit bring to a toy car? It’s very easy, some cars have brakes’ noise, some other sirens, other ones produce the sound of broken glass… there were many different noises. Additionally cars had one or two leds (lights) that glow while producing that sound.
 
Majorette started this series in 1991 with the ordinary 2300 series. The first wave included only 3 cars (Porsche 928, Ford Bronco and Ford Transit van), in 3/3/2 decorations from each model without considering possible variants.
The series proved to be a great success, and it was expanded during many consecutive years. It is difficult to determine when the line was cancelled, since I do not own the complete catalogues.
It is also difficult to determine to which series each model belongs, since some models were released in different decorations with different numbers. Some series were:
  • 2300 (1:64)
  • 2330 Special Forces (military)
  • 2340 (larger packs with trailer, trucks, limousines…)
  • 2350
  • 2360
  • 2380 Air Force (planes, jets, helicopters)
  • 1300 micro sonic flashers (smaller scale, micromachines scale)
  • 3300 (1:43)
  • 3390 Sonic Alarm (1:43)
  • Majo Baby
This model here was found in a flea market and since it only cost one euro I decided to buy it. It is very rare, since I didn’t know that there was a train in Sonic Flasher series, and in no way in yellow colour (I knew the red version, which was also available as 2341 R). The original model, (the one on which this one is based) is the “Western Locomotive” produced between 1982 and 1986 in several colours (green or blue with Ref. 278 in individual pack and Ref. 315 in double pack with wagon).
Majorette catalogue from 1993
The series 2340 consisted of several models that were a little larger than usual, for example limousines, trucks with load, or this trains with wagon. Series 2340 are to 2300 what series 300 are to series 200. And since these are better and more expensive toys, each of these models could perform four sounds instead of just one. For the trains: “steam whistle”, “engine sound”, “ringing bell” and “clickey-clak”, and additionally one light at the front side of the locomotive. By the way, to activate these sounds, you have to press lightly the car or vehicle against the floor. A little disappointing is that the models with 4 sounds perform all of them the one after the other, instead of performing one different each time.
The Sonic Flashers, unlike the standard models, can be opened to replace batteries. The body is fixed to the chassis with screws instead of rivets. This model, around 20 years after their sale is still working. The loudness of the sounds is not very high, but it’s still audible, so they were made to last.
These cars were presumably made in Thailand, where most models were being produced at that time.
This article is very likely to be expanded in the future. I never thought I could make an article with just this model, but here it is… hope you liked it.
 
FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: YELLOW TRAIN SONIC FLASHERS (ref. 2341 Y)
  • Scale: ?
  • Year: 1992
  • Company: Majorette (France)
  • Size: approx. 7 cm + 7 cm

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#85 PAYVA / GEYPER – TANQUE SOLITARIO / CLOCKWORK TANK (Around 1968)

Like many other Spanish toy brands I have written about, Pascual y Valls (short PAYVA or PAYVASA) was another toymaker settled in Ibi (Alicante), and like in other cases, it’s founder (well, one of them) had worked for Payá before he started their own company.
The complete name of the founder is Salvador Pascual García. He was the first employee in Payá, where he worked during a few years, and learnt the trade of tinsmith. In 1912, he decided to start his own company together with his brother-in-law Gaspar Valls Verdú. The company took its name from the first two letters of their first surnames: PA y VA or PAYVASA (where “y” means “and” and S.A. stands for “Sociedad Anónima” or “Public Corp.”).
Those days, the company produced different machines for the production of ice-cream, pick-iced lemon, horchata and similar products, which are very popular in this coastal region of Spain named Community of Valencia. In the 60s, they expanded their production line with machines to make wafers and ice cream cornets, washing machines, presses, whisks… as it can be seen in these classified ads taken from “La Vanguardia” (at the time “La Vanguardia Española”, a newspaper printed in Barcelona) the 24th March 1963.
Since they had to build many tin pieces for all those machines, they expanded the production once more during the 60s, and started producing toys, most of them made of tin. There were many different types of toys made: cars (in several scales), planes, trains, tanks, helicopters, toys similar to this one, even tin lunchboxes… until their closure in 1985. Note that most toys were made in tin, although by the end of the 70s and the 80s, some (completely or partly) plastic toys were produced. One example of this are these Jeeps.
The factory/warehouse of the company was settled in Calle Santa Elena, Ibi.
The toy presented in this entry is a small tinplate with one rail in which the tank is inserted, so it can move along that rail all over the plate. Especially nice is the tunnel, and the illustration on the tinplate, with many war scenes. The rails can be pushed or pulled to direct the tank to one side or the other (note that there are two loops, one at each side of the tunnel).
A very similar toy, using the same tinplate or another one, is one in which a vehicle move freely around the plate. Instead of rails, the plate has a frame to prevent the small vehicle from falling off. There were two models of this toy, one with a Tank, and another one with a bumper car named “Pista Carrusel”.
Another toy using the same plate but with different mechanism. Note that this one includes the manufacturer's name below the word "Salida". Pic was taken from todocoleccion.net.

UPDATE:

I have recently discovered that the toy was later manufactured by Geyper. In fact, my tank is probably made by this other Company, because otherwise it would have that "Pascual y Valls" mark on the side. Geyper did not use any logo on this model, but would later use the "red dot" logo on the tin plate of similar toys.

Here's the original box of the toy, taken from castrotoys-vintageradioradiosantiguas.blogspot.com

FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: TANQUE SOLITARIO TANQUE DE CUERDA / CLOCKWORK TANK
  • Year: Around 1968
  • Company: Payva / Payvasa / Pascual y Valls also Geyper (Spain)
  • Size: Approx. 25 cm x 14 cm

Thursday, November 17, 2011

#84 MADELMAN 2050 – BATRUS (1988)

Here is one of the vehicles from the first M2050 wave. Batrus is some kind of flying robot which can carry one figure in its chest. It is aligned with the evil Zarkons, and as indicated in the box, Batrus is the “Robot Insignia del terrible ejército de Zarkon” (Flagrobot of the terrible army of Zarkon).


The first wave of vehicles consisted of 6 different units, 3 for each faction. The COTA men had Sentinel, Tarantula and Defender, Zarkons had Batrus, Falcon and Scorpion, as it can be seen in this figure backcard. If you pay enough attention, you’ll probably observe, that many parts are reused from one vehicle to another one: Batrus and Sentinel are very similar; the cockpits of Tarantula and Defender are the same, and so they are Scorpion and Falcon; the legs of Defender and Falcon are also the same, and the same happens with the legs of tarantula and Scorpion, not to mention minor details, like the missiles, cables, cannons, wings, hands/claws, and so on.

Even considering that some parts are reused, this toy has an excellent quality, and looks really awesome. The pictures show my actual robot, to which I haven’t applied any stickers, but with the stickers it looks even better. The vehicle also has an interaction feature with the figures. As I told in older entries, the Zarkon figures had two faces, well, when a Zarkon figure sits inside Batrus, his face changes automatically to its “reptilian” mode, as it doesn’t need to hide its identity. Additionally, it has two missile launchers that actually shoot (similar to the ones included with G.I.Joe: ARAH figures in the 90s), and grappling claws… personally I think this robot as a toy is much better than any G.I.Joe vehicle made on these years.


If that was not enough, each vehicle was packed with a figure inside, which unfortunately wasn’t an exclusive one, but one of the 8 ordinary ones in its original blister, and a comic book. In the photograph above are depicted two comic books: one belongs to the figure, and the one named “¡Combate!” is the one that came with those first wave vehicles (there were two more of them made). The green card is just the quality control inspection of the toy. You could send it to Exin, if something was missing or broke.


 
Also amazing is the illustration in the box’s flap, made in the same style and by the same artist who did the artwork for the figures, Rafael López Espí. You can visit his website, and enjoy his great creations for M2050, Masters of the Universe, Comic covers for 26 different series, and much more.

FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: BATRUS (Ref. 1726)
  • Toy Line: Madelman 2050 (Wave 1)
  • Year: 1988
  • Company: Exin (Spain)
  • Size: Approx. 24 cm

Monday, November 14, 2011

#83 MB – HERO QUEST + EXPANSION SETS (1989)


Hero Quest was at the time the most complex board game ever. Profiting from the fashion of the role-playing games (many of which are set in this ancient age of Warriors, Dwarfs, Elfs and Wizards), MB launched a game together with Games Workshop (a figure manufacturer, worldwide famous for series like Warhammer 2000), which was partially inspired on those.

The four heroes...

...and their abilities.
Also in this pic, the block to keep control of the events happening during the game.
Each player takes the identity of one character, and controls him the whole time, fighting evil creatures and looking for secret doors and corridors. All 4 characters were different in strength and intelligence, and had specific abilities. 
There is a story behind each adventure, which is narrated by the Gamemaster, who, at the same time, controls the evil forces and sets the dungeons as the heroes go by.
Adventure and rule books, plus master edition's adventure number 13 "The Black Guard" (keep reading)
The difference to real role-playing games, is that the action is limited to the board, and not to your imagination, and the second difference is that your characters have simple and fixed values that you cannot change, so you cannot “design” your character.

I remember when it came out in Spain, and the commercial shown on tv, which was amazing. At the time, it was mandatory that toy commercials showed a label indicating if the toy was over 5.000 or over 10.000 pesetar (30 or 60 Euros), and this toy was over 5.000 pesetas, that in 1990 was extremely expensive! (game was edited in Spain one year later).
Nowadays, it’s even more expensive: collectors and players worldwide search the old games to play again with their children, or people who sold their games want to recover it, because it is so much fun. It has become a boardgame classic, and since there seems to be problems with the copyright of the name “HeroQuest”, it doesn’t seem probable that the game will be released again.

These are the monsters included on the basis game, plus the cards for the gamemaster to control them.
A complete set of cards in included in the box, to make the game more exciting. Otherwise it would just be a dice game. The cards above are magic spells, the other ones are Book, Armour and Treasure cards. Gold is used to buy equipment; sometimes heroes find gold or weapons in the rooms they are exploring.
There was a second version released with 12 extra miniatures and 1 new adventure (huge one!) named “Master Edition” or “Advanced Quest”. In these pictures you can see the cover and the additional figures.
Master Edition Box: So amazing looks the game
These are the extra-figures in the "Advanced Quest Version", there are 12 of them, with interchangeable weapons. I photographed four of them, each one with a different weapon, plus a 5th one unarmed.
And these are their abilities.
This is the 13th adventure, only for experts!
After the great success of the basis game, numerous expansions were released. I own two of them:
-“Return of the Witch Lord", a expansion that doesn't include any new figure, but 8 skeletons, 4 zombies and 4 mummys, apart from a few tiles and some new features, like the twisting room.

Contents of the expansion: "Return of the Witch Lord"
Back cover illustration of the adventure book included in the expansion "Return of the Witch Lord"

-“Against the Ogre Horde” includes 7 new figures, and new playing possibilities, since the Ogres can be enemies, or can be hired as unpredictable mercenaries. It was only released in Europe, what makes it a complete rarity, and also very expensive.
Contents of the expansion: "Against the Ogre Horde"
Close-up of the 4 different types of ogres included in the expansion

These expansions, and all the other that I do not own, are extremely valued by collectors, who pay over 100 Euros for each of those packs (some are so rare, that can go up to 200 or 300 Euros). Maybe it’s because of the miniatures, that were made exclusively for the game, or maybe it’s just they are really scarce.
If you want to read more about Morcars Magicians, click here.

FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: HERO QUEST, HERO QUEST ADVANCED QUEST, RETURN OF THE WITCH LORD, AGAINST THE OGRE HORDE
  • Year: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993
  • Company: Milton Bradley (MB) (U.S.A.)
  • Size: approx. 51 x 32 cm or 20 x 12,50 inches (basis game box)
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