Souptonuts

Best Brand Spacemen In Metalic Colors

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Hi. I see the five little BEST space figures, pictured in Blast Off in bright primary colors starting to appear on EBay in Metalic colors. Are these new repros, does anyone know? I am kind of guessing they are because the fellow that usually has a gun from a separate bit of plastic is unarmed.

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Hi Souptonuts, A link to that certain Ebay auction would be helpful. :thumbs:

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Thanks, Brian, for finding the auction... There have been quite a few over the last weeks, and Bazooka Man is always sans bazooka... I Guess it's possible that it's a recent warehouse find that's seeing the light of day, I was just wondering if anyone knew or had any thoughts. If they are recasts, I wish the manufacturers had recast the gun as well.

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The Best spacemen were made in silver but I'm confused by the auction description and pictures. What exactly is meant by "150 pieces" and what are you getting if you win the auction? It seems like there's more than one broken bazooka spaceman, all missing the weapon; why would you reporduce a broken spaceman? Reproductions of the five Best spacemen without the bazooka weapon can be found on ebay but I think they were privately done in small numbers, I don't recall seeing a reproduction of the bazooka example. If the auction is for 150 Best spacemen, where did the seller stumble across that quantity?

I just asked the seller a few questions and am awaiting a reply...more later.

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Looks like you shut down the auction, Bill.

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Ok, I contacted the seller through eBay and here was his/her response:

"The lot consists of 150 pieces---all BEST Space Figures. There are 5 different figures/designs that comprise the lot. They are all Silver colored. I live in San Diego, and visit Mexico (Tijuana) quite often. I also purchase bulk lots from there. I had found 150,000 Mexican Lobby cards; and 15,000 vintage toys, part of which had been this lot of 150 BEST Space Figures."

My response to him was:

"Ok, thanks for the information. They're most likely Mexican reproductions vice 1950's spacemen made by Best in the USA; it makes sense because one of the figures should be holding a separately molded missile launcher which is missing in all of your pictures. That tells me they didn't have the molds for that piece...actually pieces since it fired a projectile. Somehow, many old toy molds have made it south of the boarder and are being put into production. Thanks again for the information, it'll certainly be helpful to the vintage toy collecting community."

Here's a pic from the auction, the figure in the upper left should be holding a projectile firing missile launcher, which is missing in all of his examples.

post-329-0-42124900-1413407761_thumb.jpg

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...and this was his response back:

"Could be, but doubtful.

Most all of the merchandise in the "sobre ruedas"/flea markets/street fairs in Tijuana had been discards from So CA. I had gone to these flea markets on a daily basis, for a period of 5 years. I came home with 15,000 vintage toys, picked up one by one. These BEST figures were not manufactured in Mexico (99% assuredness). If they are knock-offs, then they had been done on an industrial scale in So CA, or the US in general. They seem new, they are of a single color, there were no cards or packaging, nor were there the affiliated accessories. The lot that I had purchased did not have the accessories, but they might have been also manufactured and part of another "salvage" discarded lot."

What are the thoughts of the Alphadromers?

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Gosh, thanks Tin Man for looking int it. I think they (and a LOT of smaller groups of these Best figures in silver just now hitting Ebay) are certainly recasts, whether Mexican or U.S. Made. I went ahead and bought a set of five, and the details seem just a tad less sharp than my primary colored Best men, and while they are hard plastic, the clink is just a tiny bit less clinky and a tiny bit more clunky.

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I definately understand what your saying by less clinky and more clunky but the seller seems to believe they were made in America vice Mexico. I'm trying to figure out where the Best spacemen were made...where the 1950's company was, but I've found nothing so far; I would suspect the east coast vice southern CA. The original Best spacemen have very soft detail, if these are even more soft it may be a tell. I don't think the sell realizes how much stuff we're seeing come out of Mexico...we're seeing Archer Mars Men and various plastic ray guns to name a few. IMO, anything coming out of Mexico is suspect.

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I have a good friend who once ran into a New York City street vendor that had his little foldout table display set up and featuring some bulk buy clearance toys.  At that time this seller had one of these silver figures in a paper header plastic bag package that carried no markings.  My friend knew of the Best figures from his childhood so he bought it for the astronomical asking price of one American dollar.  The vendor told him that he had had others and that they came from either Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia.  Because he was crushed to hear that his new treasure wasn't a vintage piece, my friend paid less attention to the telling of the country of origin than he should have.  But he does clearly remember that the street seller seemed very sure of his information, and he's positive that it was definitely one of the two aforementioned countries.  This find occurred sometime between the late 1980s or early 1990s, so they have obviously been around for awhile.  It also seems that this non-Mexican origin scenario dovetails with Tinman's experience.

 

As for Best Plastics, little is known.  The firm didn't even list their address on the packaging for their figures, and Richard O'Brien didn't even list them as a maker in his giant Collecting Toy Soldiers:  An Identification and Value Guide masterwork.  However, I know of a company by that name that was located in Providence, Rhode Island at the time that those figures were being made.  This outfit made colorful costume jewelry out of brightly colored Lucite plastics, and it's quite possible that that was the same firm that made the Best Spacemen.  I would also not be surprised that a colored Lucite blend was the material used to make them.  It would explain their smooth, highly polished look.  It would also explain the differences in their weight, feel, and "sound" (when clinked on a hard surface), versus the same characteristics of their modern polystyrene cousins.

 

It's well known that most plastics firms made their bread and butter off of other lines other than plastic toys.  Household goods, novelties and sundries like hairbrushes, combs, radio cases and TV cabinets, handles for appliances, automotive parts, even jewelry--those are the products that generally kept the doors open for the early plastics entrepreneurs.  For many, even the bigger firms like Hartland Plastics, Auburn Rubber and Processed Plastics, the toys were primarily seasonal lines that were generally fit into the regular production schedule when the production demand for the main lines slowed down a bit.  A maker of plastic jewelry would be the perfect candidate as a maker of a small line of plastic space toys.  There are patent awards and law suit filing records that prove that the Rhode Island firm named Best Plastics continued in business into the late 1960s, but I can't find anything beyond 1967.  It's probably a safe bet that this is the company that produced the Best Spacemen during the 1950s, but without any empirical evidence the ID is only tenuous.  More research into business listings of the 1950s would be prudent before a final judgement can be reached.

 

I should add here that I have never seen a silver example of a Best figure turn up as part of a vintage find--just bright candy colors of red, blue, yellow, green, and a number of differing shades of several of those colors.  However the vintage copy of the Space Bazookaman by Selcol of the U. K. ("Men from the Moon - Complete with Missiles-Space Guns") was made in silver, but it is clearly marked with an imprint that reads "Selcol Made in England", not Best.  Personally, I've never seen any conclusive proof that Best used silver for their spacemen, but it is still possible that they did.  After all, no matter how long you collect this stuff there are still surprises waiting for us that often contradict and disprove our most closely guarded cherished cows, right?

 

 

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I love this mystery! Nice research, people.

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