Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TOY HUNTER/FARMER/GATHERER



I watched an episode of THE TOY HUNTER on the Travel Channel the other night. You may have seen this show. Jordan, a toy dealer goes to people's homes and finds cool vintage toys that he then buys and sells at collector's shows and/or on his website.

I enjoy seeing what Jordan finds but, like most other "reality" shows, I can't help but feel that the whole thing is if not technically "faked", it's at least set-up to achieve pre-determined results. I believe that before he sets foot in any toy collector's home to search for treasures, an in-depth conversation has already occurred between the collector and Jordan and the show's producers. They know exactly what they're going to eventually "find" and they've more than likely already agreed upon a final selling price. After all, if Jordan doesn't find any cool toys to buy, you don't have a television show.

I can overlook all of that because I'm genuinely interested in seeing the toys he finds. A lot of the stuff is vintage items from the '70s and '80s. I can admire and respect some of those toys but I certainly don't have an emotional attachment to toys from that era (I was in high school and college in the '70s and a college graduate in the '80s and I certainly wasn't buying toys in those years).

What amazed me in the episode the other night was that Jordan "found" some Major Matt Mason figures that looked to be in pretty decent shape and he passed on them, saying his clients weren't interested in toys from that era.

I damn sure am.

For those of you who came in late, Major Matt Mason was manufactured by Mattel Toy Company circa 1968-1969. Advertised as "Mattel's Man in Space", Mason was an attempt to cash in on the then red-hot NASA space program and the first manned landing on the moon in 1969. Mason and his buddies looked like regular astronauts and their space-suits and gear was only slightly unrealistic. I remember he had a flying sled, a crawling vehicle with front "wheels" of five exposed spokes and a multi-tiered moon base play set.

The second wave of Mason toys introduced Callisto, an alien villain with a ray-gun like weapon that shot a retractable line of colored string as a "death ray."

The figures of Mason and his men were much smaller than the contemporary G.I. Joe and Captain Action figures. Mason was only a few inches tall and he was made entirely out of rubber molded over a bendable wire armature. He didn't have the ball-and-socket flexibility of G.I. Joe or Captain Action but he was poseable and his suit was fairly well detailed and included a detachable helmet.

There was a pretty aggressive advertising campaign for Mason in the pages of DC Comics titles over the course of those years. The full color, illustrated ads featured Mason, his gear, vehicles and station, all of which were highly desirable in my eyes.

I was in junior high school at the time and was rapidly approaching that cusp of life after which it would no longer be respectable or cool to buy and play with toys such as Major Matt Mason. I did buy a Mason figure, his space sled, the all-terrain crawler vehicle and a Callisto figure. I never got his space station and lord only knows what happened to all of my Mason toys. I suspect lighter fluid and matches played a major part in their demise.

Other than the toys themselves, the only other Mason item from those years that I'm aware of is a Big-Little Book published by Whitman. It's a small, thick, square-shaped book that contains a black-and-white illustration on one page and a page of story text on the opposite page. It's the only piece of Major Matt Mason memorabilia that I own but I'd love to get my hands on some of the toys (provided they don't cost a kings' ransom).

Hey, Jordan, Toy Hunter guy. Are you listening? Next time you run across some Major Matt Mason stuff, buy it. There's an old guy in central Texas that wants them.

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