In this case, it's all about the entire package -- the tight, sweet display of ray gun, dart, and wonderfully primitive space art. Of course, the flimsy cardboard backing rarely survived the decades and the dart was probably the first thing to get lost, so I never held out much hope of actually owning a complete set. Which is why I was so shocked to find one on eBay early on in my collecting. I bid pretty hard, but apparently no one else was interested because I snagged it for next to nothing. Saint Jude might be the patron saint of lost causes, but he ain't got nothin' on eBay.
The Space Explorer Gun is pretty simple, but there's something quaint about the funky little lightning bolt and shooting star designs. I also love the two-tone look, which I never knew about until I had the gun in my hands. Photo books are fun, but they never tell the whole story, which is why I always recommend that collectors try to see other people's toys whenever possible. (Try to get an invitation first, though. The Attic of Astounding Artifacts does not condone peeping in through other collectors' windows.)
As far as I know, this particular dart is unique to the Space Explorer Gun; other darts had explosive tips of various types, but none were designed quite like this one. I like that the display card proclaims: "Explosive Dart... SAFE AND HARMLESS." Because nothing inspires feelings of safety like the word "explosive." But these kinds of mixed messages appeared all the time on the packaging for old space guns, and frankly, I think the naivete was part of their charm.
A cap would be placed in the small opening. The spring-loaded suction cup acted as a firing pin.
When this toy arrived in the mail, I was surprised to discover a second dart. The toy was never sold that way, so I tucked it away, figuring I'd sell it to someone who had the gun. Then, one day, my friend Don won the gun and display card -- but no dart. After chatting a bit, I decided to trade it to him -- for goods to be determined. He didn't have anything I wanted at the time, but he really needed to have the dart so I figured I'd just send it to him and worry about it later.
About six months after that, he did me a solid by hooking me up with a gun that by all rights belonged to him. He'd won it on eBay, I was the underbidder -- neither of us knew the other was bidding -- and after listening to me wax rhapsodic about the gun, he decided that it belonged in my collection. He wouldn't take no for an answer, and sold it to me for what he paid. (Which was only a dollar more than my high bid.)
Well! It was such a nice gesture on his part that I also absolved him of any lingering obligations relating to that Space Explorer dart -- it really was the least I could do, seeing as he didn't have to let me have the gun. In the end, we all win.
Once again, it's all about Toy Karma, guys and gals. Collecting can be cutthroat -- but it doesn't have to be. If we help each other out, we'll all end up with pretty sweet collections.