Friday, August 21, 2009

Space Patrol Cosmic Smoke Gun (U.S. Plastics / 1950s / U.S. / 3 x 6; 3 x 4.5)

The TV series Space Patrol, which ran from 1950 to 1955, helped usher in the space craze of the 1950s. It's no surprise, then, that it also spawned a mountain of merchandise, including the wonderful Cosmic Smoke Guns.

This was the type of toy you can have fun with. It fires a puff of powder that does pretty much whatever kids in the 1950s needed it to do depending on what type of alien or evil overlord was attacking them. Of course, since the alien or evil overlord was probably being played by the kid next door, the most likely affect of the powder was temporary blindness and a face that looked like the third day of a cocaine bender. But all in good fun, right?

The Cosmic Smoke Gun was a mail-away cereal premium; send in a number of box tops and a couple quarters, wait six to eight weeks, and the toy magically ended up in your mailbox. It was available in two sizes: five and six inches. Each size also came in one of two colors: red and metallic green. However, the small green gun and the large red gun are both exceedingly rare; the reverse colors -- large and green, small and red -- pop up on eBay all the time. (A large red one did, however, recently appeared on eBay -- I wrote about it here.) However, even the common versions of the toy can still fetch good money since so many different people want to get them: Space Patrol collectors, ray gun collectors, powder-shooter collectors (seriously, they exist), and cereal premium collectors.

Leslie Singer, author of Zap!, has said that the red Cosmic Smoke Gun is his favorite ray gun, and it's easy to understand why. The toy's creatively designed, compact, and has great play value. Personally, I like the green one more -- I'm a sucker for metallic colors -- but regardless, I wholeheartedly agree that this toy is one of the greats.

I snagged my green one off eBay -- of course -- but the red one was an honest-to-goodness antique store find. That's rare in this day and age; and often, when a toy does show up in a store (or at a toy show or a flea market), it's way overpriced. Not so with this one, which sold for a couple bucks below what it usually gets online. I should also point out that I own my good buddy Donald Conner a tip of the hat -- he was the one who actually found this piece and then gave me the heads up so I could get it.

By the way, if you'd like to learn more about Space Patrol, check out the excellent Solar Guard Space Patrol Web Site.

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