Tuesday, July 7, 2009

888 Gun (Unknown / 1950s / Japan / 2.5 x 3 inches)

While America and various European countries were producing a rainbow of plastic ray guns, Japan's toy companies focused on creating their weapons out of tin. Because the stamping process doesn't allow for complex cuts, rings, or swirls, most of these toys were more simply designed than their Western counterparts. However, the Japanese had perfected the art of lithography, and they chose to use the ray guns as mini canvases, literally covering them in rockets, space men, galaxies, and anything else the designers could think of. Often these were combined with embossing techniques that resulted in toys that, like the 888 gun, were nothing short of beautiful.

The 888, a simple cap gun, remains a particularly uncommon toy. I consider myself lucky to own one, and in fact, it stands today as one of my best pick ups. I found it at an antique gallery down in Pennsylvania, and when I checked the price tag, I was astonished to find the seller wanted about an eighth of what it's typically worth. I put on my best poker face and carried the toy to the cashier, which is when I got my second surprise: Due to an ongoing sale, the toy was marked down another 10 percent! I didn't ask any questions, just forced my face into an even greater study in nonchalance, paid the nice woman behind the counter, and then beat the hell out of there before I lost control and started skipping around the store. 

That same day, I also managed to pick up another fantastic ray gun -- which I'll discuss later -- and a number of rare, vintage paperbacks. Yeah, those are the kind of antique crawls that you remember... 

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