Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ideal 3-Color Space Ray Gun (Ideal / 1952 / U.S. / 4 x 7 inches)

I have a lot of memories tied up in this particular ray gun. It's one of the first that caught my eye after flipping through the book Ray Gun, by Eugene Metcalf, and I was completely taken by how well its giant, bulbous lens and funny fins captured the retro futurism I love so much. Looking back, I think it was at that moment that my love affair with vintage ray guns transformed from the infatuation of a beau for his belle into the outright obsession of a stalker.

Ray Gun was my only reference at the time, and as such, I considered every toy in it part of my "must-have" list. It was canon -- no pun intended -- and I was thrilled every time a piece leapt from its pages and on to my toy shelf. The 3-Color Gun was one of the first to do so, and as such, it holds a pretty special place in my collection.

This gun also represents the first time I met the collector and dealer Justin Pinchot face to face. We'd been speaking online for a while when I decided to take a trip out to sunny California to hang out. He promised to show me the sights, introduce me to a couple friends, and let me check out his collection. Justin also mentioned having some ray guns for sale if I was interested. If I was interested? What a question...

So I get to California and eventually, Justin gives me the tour of his collection. At the end, we stopped in front of a desk covered with ray guns. "These are what I've got for you," he said. I stared, unable to process what I was seeing. Five or six guns, almost all of which appeared prominently in the Metcalf book. What a haul!

Among them was the Renwal Planet Jet, a ridiculously rare toy that I knew I'd be taking home with me. Sitting next to it was a pristine Strato Gun. There was also a small, pressed tin clicker made by a company called Tomy. A Pez gun in classic, fire-engine red was next. And then... the 3-Color gun!

I couldn't afford all of them -- heck, the Planet Jet alone knocked out a large chunk of my toy-buying budget. I could grab one more, and I decided to go with the 3-Color gun. I'd never seen one for sale before, and I'd been lusting after it for so long... It wasn't a difficult decision!

However, it turned out to be the wrong decision. Kind of. I was tempted by the Strato Gun, but passed because, at the time, it was popping up on eBay regularly. I figured I'd get one somewhere down the road. Unfortunately, the supply soon dried up and prices pretty much quadrupled. The 3-Color gun, on the other hand, turned out to be more common than I thought. Whoops! (Read more about this sordid tale here!)

Nonetheless, I don't regret buying the Ideal gun. It remains one of my favorite toys, and the memories make me smile every time I pick it up. Which, I've gotta say, is often.

Like I said, the toy appears on eBay fairly often, and is available in two standard color variations: A red body with a blue trigger, switch, fin assembly, and lens housing; and a blue body with a red trigger, switch, fin assembly, and lens housing. Every once in a while, blue triggers will appear with blue bodies, etc. There's also a much rarer variation -- I've only seen one -- with a black body and red trigger, switch, fin assembly, and lens housing. This matches the toy as depicted on its box, so there's some thought that it might be a salesman's sample. I had a chance to buy it, but I passed. I feel kind of dumb about that today, but I just didn't have the scratch back then to make it happen. Oh well.


  1. Ahhh all us collectors have a story about the deal we passed up! If you haven't found the one you want yet, be patient, you will find your deal. ;)

  2. Actually, I did end up getting the Strato Gun -- one of the links in this post leads to the posting about it -- so all's well that ends well.


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