Monday, May 31, 2010

A Question for Collectors: How Important Is Rarity?

I'm curious as to how all of you collectors feel about an object's rarity, and how much weight you put on rarity when considering whether to add something to your own collections.

A rare example of the Atomic Robot Man, with a stamp from the 1950 New York Science Fiction Conference on the back. (Read more about it here.)

Do you particularly like rare items? Do you seek out rare items? Would you (or do you) pay a premium for rare items? Does a boring item become cooler if you know it's rare? Do you have any stories about rare pieces you have (or have not) added to your own collections?

Those questions are just to get the ball rolling -- feel free to approach the overall question in whatever manner makes the most sense in relation to your own collections and collecting habits. Post your answers in the comments section, and please feel free to respond to other people's responses -- let's get a conversation going. (But be polite!)

I'll post my own answer to the question once everyone else has had a chance to speak.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

World's Fair Greyhound Tram (Arcade / 1939 / U.S. / 8 inches)

This one's for 1950s Atomic Ranch House, an excellent blogger -- with an excellent blog -- who likes to encourage my World's Fair addiction. Everyone check out her stuff!

If I had the opportunity, I'd love to visit the 1939 New York World's Fair. But since no one's invented a reliable time machine, I've instead decided to collect its memorabilia. And one of the best pieces in my small but growing collection is this die-cast metal tram made by Arcade.

Call 'em what you will: trams, people movers, trains, tuk-tuks -- whatever their name, I think they're great. Always have. There's just something fun about piling into the open-sided mini-buses and taking a tour through an amusement park or other weird tourist attraction. So of course, when I first saw one of these Arcade trams, I knew I had to have it.

It was last autumn at the big Morphy space toy auction in Adamstown, PA. I was exploring the shelves of toys, killing time, waiting for the robot I wanted to come up for bid, when I saw the World's Fair tram for the first time. I was blown away by the simple construction, the bold colors, the great Trylon and Perisphere logo. I knew I wanted one, but couldn't justify the expense. I only had one or two World's Fair items and this was a bit too far outside of my comfort zone.

But since then, I've picked up a number of interesting World's Fair knick-knacks, including a great squished penny that my girlfriend bought me for my birthday. (It'll be the subject of another post somewhere down the road). I decided that the time had come to add a really good, high-end anchor to the collection -- it was just the excuse I needed to get that tram!

The best part? I found mine on eBay for a fraction of Morphy's asking price. Score!

I have to admit, I don't know too much about this toy. I've seen one or two boxed examples, so I know it was sold with one front car and one passenger car. However, I've also seen an example -- loose -- with three passenger cars. I'm guessing it's legit and not something pieced together by a dealer or collector.

The main parts of the tram are made of painted, die-cast metal, while the awning is lithographed tin. The Trylon and Perisphere logo is a decal, while the words on the side of the front section are painted on. The wheels are rubber. The toy just rolls; there's no motorized mechanism. Fairly simple and straight forward, but that's part of why I like it so much.

So I can hear you asking: "What's so special about the 1939 World's Fair, Doc?" And I ask you, What's not special about this fair? First, there was one of its main themes: The World of Tomorrow. C'mon, if that doesn't have my name written all over it, I don't know what does! The World of Tomorrow!

And then there are the symbols of this bright, shiny future: The Trylon and Perisphere. Has there ever been such a perfect expression of optimism? Such geometric precision, like a city out of a science fiction story. The fact that the Trylon was also a radio tower, and the Perisphere held a giant theater, made them both even cooler!

In fact, the architecture throughout the '39 World's Fair was an explosion of deco and machine age forms and style. And inside those buildings... Oh man! Great displays by, among others, General Motors (with their Futurama exhibit), General Electric, AT&T, Ford, and Westinghouse -- the latter being home to the famous Westinghouse Robot! The fair marked the first appearance of color photography, nylon, air conditioning, fluorescent lighting, and... wait for it... View-Master! Everything about the World's Fair screamed "Buck Rogers is knocking! Let him in!" Just magnificent.

But there are other reasons I love this fair. It's in New York, and of course I've got soft spot for the the city. But more than that, it's got some interesting ties to science fiction. See, 1939 was an important year for science fiction, especially science fiction in NYC. Not only did fans have the World's Fair, which must have felt like traveling through time, but that year, the city hosted the first ever World Science Fiction Convention (a.k.a. Worldcon). That's huge!

On top of that, NYC had at least two significant fan organizations, including the legendary Futurians. John W. Campbell, Jr. had taken over Astounding Science Fiction two years earlier, and by 1939 had used it to thoroughly transform science fiction into something leaps and bounds ahead of the pulpy shenanigans of his forbearers. 1939 also saw the publication of the first two stories by Robert A. Heinlein, a man who would shape science fiction for decades to come. (Those two stories, by the way, were "Life-Line" and "Misfit.") To top it all off, Christmas of 1938 (leading into 1939) brought with it the sale of the first toy robot -- Lilliput -- and the fourth Buck Rogers gun, the XZ-38 Disintegrator.

So you can see why 1939 holds a special place in my heart, and why the World's Fair might be a fitting symbol of everything I'd love to see this world become. More posts on World's Fair memorabilia are definitely on the horizon.

Now, about that time machine...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Botstock VII: Vintage Space Toy Convention (Pt. 2)

Every year, vintage space toy and robot collectors gather together for Botstock (click here for Part 1 of the Botstock Posts). This year's event was held at the Toy Robot Museum in Adamstown, PA. Adamstown, for those who don't regularly read this blog, is a haven for antique hunters, with dozens of stores lining the town's main strip. In my last post, I wrote about Botstock itself. This post gives the nitty-gritty, blow-by-blow account of my weekend's antiquing adventures. As always, the less obsessive might want to just skim this one... 

I went down to Adamstown with three friends: Steve Jaspen, Karl Tate, and John Alvarez. We woke up early Saturday morning, raring to go, and decided to try an outdoor antique market called Shupp's Grove first. The place is usually picked clean by late morning, and the dealers often turn in early to beat the later-day heat. We ended up getting there by 8:30 or so, but sadly, didn't see too many interesting pieces. One toy that did stand out was the Electric Drive Marx Mobile riding car. It's a three-foot long, battery-powered, lithographed tin monster that was meant for kids to, well, ride on. Impressive, but also expensive... I passed, but not until I'd taken a few good pictures. (Thanks to Phil Marks, proprietor of Shupp's Grove booth T-17.)

The Marx Mobile! Kids would sit in the cockpit and put their feet up on the pars extending from either side of the toy. The whole thing ran on a lantern battery. Wow!

The cockpit. All those buttons actually did stuff, from turning on lights to making noise.

The last thing you see as this puppy goes tearing down the street... 

We spent a little more time poking through Shupp's before finally calling it quits. We decided to move on to Morphy's Auction House, a usually reliable source for vintage toys. Turns out we weren't disappointed; Morphy's had a number of beautiful pieces, some rare, some fairly common. All were expensive, of course, but some were still within the acceptable, if high, end of the market. The belle of the ball for me was probably a dead-mint Strato Gun and its scarce box. I'll admit, I'd seen it before -- it's been sitting on the same shelf for years, and I'm pretty certain the seller is either going to have to remove the word "FIRM" from the toy's price tag, or else give up entirely and take the darn thing home for good. It's a great piece, but I can't see spending the money he wanted to get.

This Strato Gun has never been fired, according to the seller. The box is ultra rare. The toy's priced accordingly. Sigh. For more info on this gun, check out this previous post.

Other highlights at Morphy's included a rare, boxed Space Patrol watch and original, domed compass; a nice example of the relatively common Robby Tractor; a super clean, grey Cragstan Mr. Robot; and a really rare Nautilus Submarine toy from the Disney film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. As if that wasn't enough, we also stumbled on a shelf full of drop dead gorgeous space banks. Unfortunately, they were part of an upcoming auction and weren't for sale before then. 

The nicest example of a Space Patrol watch and compass set I've ever seen. Dig Buzz Corey on the box top!

This nifty little tractor was also available in blue.

I've only seen a couple boxed examples of this extremely uncommon Nautilus submarine. I love this toy...

Various rocket banks. These are all rarer variations on banks that otherwise pop up quite often. I've never seen so many banks offered at once, or in such nice condition. It should be one heck of an auction.

Speaking of auctions, Morphy's was having one as we entered the building. It was a broad assortment of items, and I found a few interesting space toys. Nothing I desperately needed to own, though, so I didn't bother registering to bid. A friend of mine named Bill -- who goes by the Alphadrome handle Tinman93 -- scored a beautiful Archer Rocket. I wish I'd thought to take some pictures...

While I didn't buy any toys at Morphy's, I did indulge another collection of mine: 1939 World's Fair memorabilia. I'd found a nice, enameled pin on one of the shelves for $23 and couldn't resist picking it up. Little did I know that I'd be establishing a trend that would last through the end of the weekend. (You'll have to wait a few paragraphs for pictures!)

After Morphy's, we headed to something I remember being called the Antique Co-Op. It's a ramshackle little building with two floors and dozens of cases full of all sorts of interesting stuff -- including one that was practically overflowing with World's Fair material. I quickly picked out a number of items I wanted, but I decided not to buy them until I'd done some more toy hunting. I knew that the World's Fair stuff wasn't going anywhere, and I wanted to keep my money in reserve in case something really good popped up. Not only were there a whole mess of other antique stores to explore, but a few dealers were scheduled to show up sometime that day and I wanted to be ready for them.

A nice woman at the Co-Op gave me the name of the dealer who owned the World's Fair case and suggested I try coming by on Sunday when he'd be around. She figured he might be willing to cut me a deal on the pieces that interested me -- music to my ears. I promised both her and myself that I'd swing back to pick up at least a small item or two.

Next up: Adam's Antiques, a large, sort of ugly, brick building that's chock full of cases, each one stuffed with everything you can imagine -- including toys. Unfortunately, pickings were slim -- let's face it, pickings are almost always slim when it comes to vintage robots and ray guns -- but we did finally uncover a few good pieces. Chief among these was a super mint Tom Corbett: Space Cadet tin clicker gun and a nearly pristine box. I was tempted by it, I'll admit, but the price was just a bit too high. Not an unfair price, don't get me wrong, but more than I wanted to spend. If I was going to drop that kind of cash, it was going to be for something I like more than that gun.

Sadly, Adam's Antiques is touchy about photographs, so you'll have to close your eyes and use your imaginations. I realize that many of this blog's readers have no idea whatsoever what a Tom Corbett: Space Cadet tin clicker gun looks like, but I trust you'll come up with something suitably insane.

There were a couple other places we wanted to hit after Adam's, but first we decided to phone Joe and see if any dealers had shown up. Nope. So we headed over to a place called the Mad Hatter.

The Mad Hatter is another antique mall, one I've had a lot of luck with in the past. My first time there, I picked up a beautiful, red Space Patrol smoke gun, as well as a stack of vintage, first edition science fiction paperbacks. I managed to get more books on my next trip -- but those would be my last. This time around, the supply of books had dried up. There weren't any space toys, either. However, I did find an amazing shelf of early to mid century Hallowe'en decorations and toys. I love these things... They've got nothing to do with anything I collect, but the colors, the imagery -- it's all just so cool!

Every day is Hallowe'en! (A gold star for anyone who gets that particular reference.)

John did find something that interested him, though, and I uncovered a neat World's Fair postcard set. We decided to come back on Sunday if our money held out. Given our luck so far, none of us thought we'd have trouble in that department.

After the Mad Hatter, we headed back to the Toy Robot Museum for a bit, and then decided to swing by the hotel to see if any dealers had shown up. We must have had a psychic moment or something, because we arrived just as a dealer and long-time collector named Jay Brotter rolled in. Jay owns an online store called Robot Island, and specializes in not only unusual vintage bots, but also modern and reproduction pieces.

Because Steve, Karl, John and I are all such nice guys, we quickly volunteered to help carry all the boxes of toys into his room. And because we were feeling especially generous, we even helped Jay unpack them. Because that's the kind of guys we are. I suppose we could have made the job even easier by calling some of our friends who were still hanging out at the museum but, well... why bother them, right? Right.

Of course, this meant we had first dibs on all of Jay's toys -- what a coincidence!

A big part of Botstock is what's known as room trading. Collectors bring whatever toys they're looking to prune from their collections, dealers show up with their stock of toys, and everyone wanders around seeing what they can get. In the past, we've had three or four dealers plus a number of other people all bring a huge variety of robots and space toys. This year, however, we learned that two dealers had fallen ill and a third just wasn't able to make it out. It looked like Jay was it, aside from a few small pieces that other collectors were putting up for grabs.

Luckily, I finally managed to pick up a robot from Jay. It's a small, wind up, plastic toy that bounces around like a jitterbug on crystal meth. It's not a rare toy, but I've always liked it and finally decided to pick one up. This version, with the red body and blue arms, was made by a company called Cragstan in the mid Sixties. A slightly earlier version, done all in red, was made by the Japanese company Aoki. Mine is actually paired (incorrectly) with the Aoki box. I don't mind -- it's much cooler than Cragstan's version, and I actually paid less than what other dealers seem to be asking for the toy these days. As far as I'm concerned, it's perfect.

My Cragstan/Aoki jiggle robot. Note the wheeling and dealing in the background.

Room trading. The bed is covered by a variety of both old and newer robots.

Some more toys, a mix of older and modern pieces. The orange robot you can sort of see in the top corner is a custom bot made by a collector.

We called it quits for the day after hanging out with Jay. It was time for our annual BBQ, which takes place behind the hotel anyway, so we all decided that it was time for beer and burgers. We also had a raffle that night -- I didn't win anything -- and then stayed up into the night watching old home movies from the Fifties that someone had brought along. Fun stuff. And then it was time to crash out for the night.

We were up early Sunday morning to see if any dealers would show up. There were a couple, but none had vintage toys. So after hanging out for an hour or so, Steve, John, Karl and I headed over to a giant indoor/outdoor antique mall called Renningers.

Some robots at a dealer's table.

There were a few toys, but once again, nothing too spectacular. We still spent more than an hour picking through people's cases -- even when there's nothing I want, I have fun seeing what's out there.

After Renningers, we decided to head back over to the Mad Hatter so John could pick up something he'd found. While there, I ended up snagging a package of mini-postcards from the '39 World's Fair. (Again, hold tight for pics!)

We hit a couple other random antique stores after that -- we mostly came up empty, though I did pick up a small Westinghouse Robot pin. The Westinghouse Robot was part of the Westinghouse display at the World's Fair. It was a giant, supposedly intelligent robot; in reality, it was controlled by an operator behind the scenes. I like the pin because it nicely bridges my World's Fair and Robot collections. Or something like that.

Finally, right before going to dinner, I returned to the Antique Co-Op to see if I could score some of those World's Fair items I'd looked at on Saturday. The dealer who owned the WF case -- Al -- was there, and he proved to be a real nice guy who was happy to swing a deal on prices. I had planned on buying maybe two pieces, but ended up walking away with five. I still ended up spending less than I'd originally budgeted.

The packet of 16 mini postcards that I bought at the Mad Hatter. These were also sold in a sort of pinkish-orange box; neither is more rare. I happen to be partial to blue.

Clockwise from top right: Westinghouse Robot pin, World's Fair pin from Morphy's, and round World's Fair pinback from the Antique Co-Op. Underneath them all is a World's Fair mirror that I also picked up at the Co-Op.

The enduring symbol of the 1939 World's Fair, the Trylon and Perisphere. I picked this thermometer at the Co-Op. Apparently it was nearly 70 degrees when I took this photo.

A fantastic movie viewer set, complete with three rolls of film. The viewer itself is made from bakelite. Check out the awesome deco box art!

The viewer and two boxes of film. The third strip is stored in the viewer itself.

And that was that. After the Co-Op we went out for a nice Italian dinner with the remaining Botstockers, and then it was time to head back home. Fewer toys than I'd have hoped to find, but I'm really happy with the few things I did manage to take home.

And the hunt continues... 

Botstock VII: Vintage Space Toy Convention (Pt. 1)

Warning: This is an epically long post. So epically long, I'm making it a two-parter. Feel free to skim or just check out the pictures. Anyone who wants to delve deeper into the Botstock experience, well, okay then. Read on... 

Friday, May 14th. Time for Botstock, the annual vintage robot and space toy convention. I call it a convention, but it's really more of a get together, a gathering of like-minded toy geeks who enjoy nothing more than discussing the merits of pin-walking mechanisms, the scarcity of certain color variations, and whether Robby the Robot could take Lost In Space's B9 in a cage match. (The answer, of course, is yes.) Botstock is a chance to see rare toys, hunt for additions to our collections, and, most importantly, to hang out with friends from around the world who mostly only talk online.

This year's Botstock -- the seventh -- was being held at the Toy Robot Museum in Adamstown, PA. We'd been there three times before (Botstocks one, four, and five). The event moves around; besides the museum we'd also held it at the Robot Hut in Elk, Washington, and the Kane County Toy show outside of Chicago. Good times, for sure, but heading down to the museum felt a lot like returning to a home away from home. It's a comfortable place with lots to see and do, and the museum's curator, Joe Knedlhans, always goes out of his way to make sure everyone has a fun time. (I've written about the museum often enough -- check out entries here, here, and video here.)

The man...

The myth...

The legend! Ladies and gentlemen, owner and curator of the Toy Robot Museum, Joe Knedlhans!

Various robots from the Toy Robot Museum. I've posted about this place so often; check here and here for more pics and video.

Botstock began in 2003 when I decided to take my first trip down to the museum. I mentioned as much on Alphadrome, the online forum for vintage space toy collectors, and a member named Robert mentioned he'd be in the area and could meet me there. Joe Knedlhans than piped up that he could get the director of Unwound, a documentary about vintage tin robots, to come to the museum to sign copies of the film if other collectors wanted to make the trip, too. A bunch of Alphadromers decided to join us, and the next thing you know, we were having the first Alphadrome meet up.

That's when a collector named Darryl -- a.k.a. Robotnut -- posted a picture of a poster with the name Botstock. It stuck, and here we are today.

That first Botstock drew something like 10 people and lasted a single day. Since then, it's stretched to fill the whole weekend and we've had as many as 50 people show up (including wives, girlfriends, kids, and even a couple pets). We've had collectors from across the country and Canada, and even from Germany. It's really a fun opportunity to meet people who I've only previously spoken to online.

Unlike traditional conventions, which have scheduled panels and speakers and specific events, Botstocks are fairly loose -- especially when they're in Adamstown. Joe's museum serves as a meeting place and base of operations; it's a place to hang out and show off whatever toys we've found. Oh yeah, and Joe supplies lots and lots of booze. Free booze, freely flowing. And pinball. And Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots! And also booze, in case I didn't mention it. Ahem. Moving on...

In an effort to broaden the Botstock experience, Joe likes to clear some space in the museum for what we call "Special Exhibits," which are generally supplied by attendees. In the past, we've had some incredibly rare robots, lots of custom toys, an amazing collection of Buck Rogers memorabilia, and, from me, a small arsenal of space guns.

This year, I brought along four Dan Dare toys, plus a Marx Rex Mars Flashlight gun. The Dan Dare pieces were just something for other collectors to check out, and included a Dan Dare Cap Gun, the Dan Dare Cosmic Ray Gun, the Dan Dare Rocket Gun, and the rare Dan Dare Atomic Squirt Gun.

My various Dan Dare guns. 

I brought the Rex Mars gun, however, to accompany a display of original Marx blueprints sent along by a collector named Mike (a.k.a. ToyMemories). He collects not only the blueprints, but also Marx prototypes, molds, test shots (the first items to come out of a mold in the early stages of toy development), sculpts, and whatever other unique pieces of toy history he can get his hands on. Every year, he lends a few of these out to Joe with the idea that other collectors will bring along the final production pieces. Besides the Rex Mars gun, we also had blueprints for a set of Marx Jumpies and a Space Target set, plus original molds for a set of Marx aliens. Truly rare treasures!

Rex Mars gun with partial blueprints.

Marx Jumpies. Push 'em down until the suction cup on the underside of their bodies attaches them to the table. After a few seconds, the spring legs will pull them free, launching them up into the air.

A beautiful Marx Flash Gordon water pistol and box.

Two custom built toys created by an Alphadrome member named Joe Markee.

An extremely rare Johilco Space Station. This British toy was uncovered at a local flea market and carefully restored by Alphadromer Phil Redman. Amazing.

I also brought one other item to Botstock: A Takara die-cast, missile-firing R2-D2 from 1978. Joe's museum has a case full of R2-D2 and C-3PO toys, and I knew he was missing this rare one. Through a small misadventure in collecting (ahem), I'd manage to pick up two of them. Rather than flip the extra on eBay, I decided to instead contribute it to the Toy Robot Museum. Joe's done so much for us collectors over the years -- and he's been such a good friend to me -- that I'm always trying to find ways to give something back to him. He seemed to appreciate the R2, and I felt really good about supporting the museum. 

Every year, we try to give Botstock a theme, or at least a focus. This year, it was the Alphabot, which I previously posted about here. Based on the Alphadrome mascot, it's a custom creation by a collector and mad scientist named John Rigg. He made it out of aluminum and resin, and sold it in both pre-built and kit forms to members of Alphadrome. Eight Botstockers brought their robots to the convention this year and the whole group of toys was displayed in the museum -- a pretty impressive sight considering each one is custom built (with various tweaks to the design and colors) by either its owner or John Rigg himself.

Alphabots on display! Also, note the Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Disintegrator pistol just hanging out on the bottom shelf. Because you just. Never. Know.

As an added bonus, John sent along the foam-core mock up of the Alphabot, along with the first motorized prototype, for inclusion in our annual raffle. I'll admit it, I had my heart set on winning the mock up, but nope, no luck. It went to a collector with a great collection named Perry. In fact, he managed to win both the mock up and the prototype! So while I'll admit I was bummed about not winning them myself, it was great to see the pair stay together. Enjoy them, Perry!

John Rigg's foam-core mock up of the Alphabot. Sigh.

Botstock's official accommodation is the Black Horse Inn. That's where we have our room trading and the Saturday evening BBQ, which takes place at a pavilion out back. We also hold our raffle there, and on Sunday, dealers set up shop under the pavilion. It's a nice enough hotel, and thought he decor can most kindly be described as "Mid-Seventies Roadside," the rooms are clean and the rates are low. Guests also receive free breakfast, and that means more money for toys. Nice!

Room trading! Alphadromers pick over a dealer's wares.

Score! I picked up this small, wind up robot. It's from the mid Sixties and was made originally by a company called Aoki, and then later sold in the States through the company Cragstan. This is the Cragstan version -- red body, blue arms -- though it's paired (incorrectly) with the Aoki box. Frankly, I like this version of the box better than the rather boring Cragstan version, so it's fine with me. It cost less than those offered by other dealers, so I can't complain about the price either! (This has to be the longest photo caption ever.)

The raffle table. So much stuff, including both of John Rigg's Alphabot prototypes; a custom creation by Joe Markee; a custom Botstock hoodie; and various toys, comics, and even Christmas ornaments.

More raffle prizes: In the front, one of Andy Hill's Andybots. (For more on Anybots -- and Andy Hill's custom robot company, Electro Art Works, check out this post here.) Joe Markee's robot is right behind it. Fantastic work!

Free, embroidered T-shirts for all the attendees compliments of an Alphadromer named Leon. 

Another raffle item: Lithographed tin panels intended for use on a modern toy robot made by the company Metal House. Definitely a one-of-a-kind prize! Nope, I didn't win this one, either... 

When we're not at the museum or the hotel, most of us spend our time roaming up and down Adamstown's main strip, which is lined with antique shops and malls. There's also Morphy's Auction House, which has a well-stocked consignment wing, and Schupp's Grove, an outdoor antique market that, in the past, provided some amazing finds. You'd think that having 30 or more collectors hitting all the same places would inspire some hefty competition, but the truth is, we're all shopping at different price points and for slightly different toys -- there's often enough to go around. 

Yes, a majority of our time is spent picking through the antique shops. And no, we don't often find anything good. Prizes are out there, though, and we did stumble across some amazing toys -- as well as a lot of junk. For the complete blow-by-blow, check out Part II, coming shortly!

The weekend usually ends with a group dinner at either an Italian restaurant or a steak joint. It's a last chance to show off whatever we've found, commiserate over toys we didn't get, and generally eek every last bit of geekiness out of the time we've got left. About half way through my appetizer, I tend to get bummed out that the weekend is coming to an end. But at the same time, I also know that I'll return home reinvigorated and ready to jump back into the hobby.

I also begin counting down the days until the next Botstock... wherever it might be.

364... 363... 362...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Off To The Toy Robot Museum and Convention

This weekend is the annual gathering of vintage space toy collectors: Botstock. It's our seventh year in a row getting together to geek out over vintage toys, and it's always a lot of fun.

This year, we'll be taking over the Toy Robot Museum in Adamstown, PA -- always an appropriate meeting spot for this type of convention, right? There'll also be swag-filled BBQs, raffles, and lots of antiquing and toy hunting. A good time all around.

Of course I'll be taking photos, so expect a full report next week. I'll also be posting some great interviews which for now will remain hush-hush. So while the last two weeks have been a bit light on the posts, I promise I'll be back in the swing of things when I get home.

Have a great weekend, and as always, happy collecting!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Died: Frank Frazetta (February 9, 1928 - May 10, 2010)

Frank Frazetta died on April 10, 2010 from complications arising from a stroke. He was 82. 

Something tells me Frazetta needs no introduction, but just in case you're unfamiliar with the man and his work, it's safe to say that he was the most important fantasy artist of all time. He also contributed to science fiction, though not nearly as much as I'd have liked... (Guess he didn't get my memo.) 

John Carter of Mars artwork

Frazetta made a name for himself in the Fifties as a comics artist on everything from Westerns to crime stories to science fiction -- specifically, Buck Rogers. However, he became a sensation when he began painting covers for Ace Books' Conan titles in the mid Sixties. With his tight and bulging muscles, lanky hair, and simmering eyes, and wielding the mother of all giant swords, Frazetta's Conan became the Conan for the next 40 years. 

Frazetta's first Conan cover, for Conan The Adventurer (Ace Books, 1966)

Buck Rogers (inked by Wally Wood!)

Buck and Wilma menaced by a... thing... 

One ray gun beats eight tentacles every time!

Frazetta was also known for his cover art on the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars books; works for Ray Bradbury; and more sword-and-sorcery stories than I could ever possibly list. Frazetta contributed to Mad Magazine, painted movie posters, worked on numerous album covers, and collaborated with animator Ralph Bakshi on the film Fire and Ice. Books collecting his paintings have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and recently, one of his Conan paintings sold for $1 million to Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet. 

Promo art for the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. 

More early BSG promo art. If only the show really looked this good... 

More John Carter of Mars artwork. (I believe... someone correct me if I'm wrong!)

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Frazetta's paintings. I'll probably never own one -- even his sketches go for thousands of dollars -- but I've often considered collecting the paperbacks he illustrated in the Sixties. It might be fun...