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ALPHADROME ROBOTS AND SPACE TOYS
ervino

Italian spacemen, unmarked blistered...

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ervino

Hi all!

 

I just bought this two unmarked blistered sets of Italian spacemen.

 

I have frequently seen some of the figures floating around loose (have a couple of them too...) but this is the first tme I see blistered sets of them.

 

FWIK, they should be, at least in their original "iteration", from Torgano (but I'm not totally sure), but the blisters appear to be whitout any visible brand name, so they could be both vintage original repackaged or (still vintage enough, considered the packaging style...) unmarked reiusse of the same.

 

Funny little gun too... :-)

 

I'll post some more image ASA I get them.

 

Cheers

Ervino

 

TORG1a.JPG

 

TORG2.JPG

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ejpetrie

I agree with Tinman.  These are a great find--all 6 poses and still on their blister cards.  It just doesn't get any better than that!  In the past I have seen two hard plastic examples from this set, and I always assumed that they were the original releases.  I have also seen and purchased pale grey soft plastic examples like those in your second package and have been told that they were from the 1960's.  I'm still waiting for someone to give a verifiable dating to them.  I'm also still waiting for someone to explain how Torgano got those separate bases to bond to a soft plastic figure.  The hard plastic figures would have been easy to glue, but the later releases seem to have involved a bonding process that American firms never mastered.  In any event ervino, congratulations!  The cards are super.  I thank you for sharing them with us all.

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Tinman

Would love to see close-ups of each figure; I've seen pics of the figure in the lower-left of the second pic and think it would be my favorite.  I'd have a real difficult time keeping them on the card!

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ervino
29 minutes ago, Tinman said:

Would love to see close-ups of each figure; I've seen pics of the figure in the lower-left of the second pic and think it would be my favorite.  I'd have a real difficult time keeping them on the card!

 

The photos will be posted: I have no intention to keep them blistered, and, in any case the blisters are sealed only with some metallic staples, so I should be able to open them without too much damage, if I will be careful enough. :eeek:

 

:biggrin:

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ervino

@ejpetrie

I never had any of this figures in hard plastic (bakelite?), only in soft silver or gold-hued plastic. The ones that I already have had become brittle: the bases were the first to detach (so no misterious Italian magical bonding technology there! ;-) and now every one of them have some broken pieces (weapons, arms... Ouch! :-).

I hope this blistered batch will be of a more recent and resilient material...

BTW: the Torgano origin was an hipotesys: do you have proof that the original issue were from that brand?

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Tinman

I'd love to have a set of these, I'd venture to say they're even harder to find than the Plasticraft spacemen...which seem to be relatively common these days.  Looking at Ervino's set you can see they were inspired by other spacemen releases...like the leg-fins on these guys:

 

Capture1.JPGCapture2.JPG 

In fact, it may even be the same figure...from a different perspective.  Ervino, if you remove them from the card you may have duplicates! :cheers:

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Tinplate6

Ervino, the set of 3 with the gun are far more interesting, stylistically, IMHO. The poses are much more dynamic! Yup, pretty cool!!

 

I wouldn't mind having a set of those myself!

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ervino

Well, the set of the white figures is made, for what I can judge from the image the seller sent me, from a double set of three poses. I tend to belive that the "carding" was an aftertought to sell some remaining stock, considering that the header subjects of both of them don't have any space-related image, nor a brand. I should have them by the end of the week, "privatized & destroyed" Italian postal system permitting...

BTW, Bill: the figures are "half-flat", not totally 3D as the one in your second image.

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Tinplate6

Ha! You're correct; there are actually only three poses, the figures are just turned around...clever!

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ejpetrie

Ervino, here in the U.S. the term Bakelite refers to an early phenol compound (actually a  thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin) that was first patented in the very early 1900's.  It takes its name, not from any imagined baking process, but from the name of its inventor, Leo Hendrick Baekeland (1863-1944).  This early plastic was used to make just about everything as the main competitor for the other early plastic, celluloid.  But this Bakelite has one major weakness...it won't bond with coal tar color dyes.  It can do black or brown--that's it.  A lot of people who collect colorful jewelry and radio cabinets from the 1930's and 1940's think that it's made from Bakelite.  It's not.  It's usually Catalin. 

 

The plastic that Italian collectors refer to as Bakelite is not chemically the same as the earliest patented use of that name.  I'm not sure why that is.  It probably has something to do with patent law in Italy.  I would be interested in finding out more about that, but my research sources don't cover Italian patents.  (Maybe you could look into it and let me know?)  But I can tell you that the plastic that you call Bakelite is referred to by American plastic toy and figure collectors as either HP (hard plastic), or by its patented name, polystyrene.  So, to answer your question using your terms, yes, the two hard plastic figures that I saw would undoubtedly be judged to be Bakelite by Italian collectors.

 

I have the three figures that are pictured in duplicate in the first card you show us.  (I still need the other half of the set.)  The ones that I have are in the same light grey as the figures in the second card displayed.  I have owned one of those three for 30 years.  (It's the pose that Tinman displays next to the Thomas Toy Alien that was undoubtedly the other figure's inspiration.) The other two I picked up sometime within the last ten years.  None display any brittleness yet, and I'm very sorry that you have not had the same luck.  That's a heartbreaker when figures fall apart in your hands.  I had that happen to me with a group of Marx 60mm Roman Soldiers from England that I was ecstatic to have finally found, and I will never forget the feeling.  When your figures separated from their bases could you see any evidence of mounting pegs that went into the base?  I've always wondered if they altered their old mold when they made the change to soft plastic, adding bases that were actually molded as part of the figure.  If pegs are visible in the tops of the bases then the answer to my question would have to be "No".

 

I have to admit that I have no evidence of the manufacturer's name that produced these guys.  I was told years ago by an Italian collector that they were made by a firm named Torgano-Saronno.  That was reinforced by dealings with others since that time, or at least the Torgano part of the name was.  I just use that name because most people I have dealt with understand what I am talking about when I do, but no--no actual proof.  That firm is credited with doing three different types of space figures:  a cheap set of eight different HP "flats", your newly found full set of six SP poses that toy soldier collectors would refer to as "semi-rounds", and a "fully round" 3-D painted set of four HP "Flash Gordon" figures that are absolutely beautiful.

 

I hope this helps you in your collecting.  All of your photos and information that you have imparted throughout these threads has helped me greatly, and I thank you for it.  And you could help me even more by finding another example of that second card and selling it to me, although I'm sure that Tinman and Tinplate6 gonna fight me for it if you do!  Thanks again, ervino!

 

 

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ejpetrie

I found a photo of another carded set of the three "humanoids" (vs. the three aliens on the second card) being sold with a blue-nosed, white-bodied cap bomb.  It has loose line-drawn illustrations of kids at play flanking both sides of the card, with a "Made in Italy" declaration in tiny print at the bottom and a line of fancifully lettered text at the top.  Two of the letters of the three-letter word in the title are obscured by the camera's flash (marked in the coming quote with an *), but what can be seen reads as "E Ora g** Chiamo!"  As near as I can tell it's A Call to Gold, or A Call to Playtime, or something possibly not like either of those guesses at all.  Any ideas on this, ervino?  I'd post the image, but I don't own the rights to it, so it's better that I don't.

 

It's funny, but the company seemed to always separate these figures into the same groups of three.  Maybe they were from two separate molds, but whenever I see one Alien the other two are usually with it, but not the three more human-like poses (two of which have helmets similar to those worn by the three human poses in the Thomas Toys series).  It's clear that they were trying to do a three and three type of set, just as Thomas did, but it's interesting that they included one of the three Thomas Alien poses as one of their "humans".  Fun stuff.

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Tinplate6

Ejpetrie, wow, you have really burst on the Alphadrome scene with style; you really know your stuff!

 

Well, officially, welcome, I'm sure you'll be able to contribute a lot!

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ervino

@ejpetrie

You are truly an expert of plastic materials: many thanks for the infos!!! :-)

The "Italian bakelite" story, FWIK, is a strange one, and, IMO, it have nothing to do with patent law, but, I believe, originated mainly in the highly discutible "habit" of some sellers on eB to use the term to define the plastic of many type of Italian hard plastic figures they sell, to attract more attention form potential buyers. I'm no expert of plastic materials, but, based on my anedoctal experiences, I agee that a lot of the (Italian at last) vintage hard plastic figures that are sold as "baklite" are indeed polystyrene or vinyl acetate. My proofs are empirical: in my youth (yes, I'm THAT old... ;-) we had some house appliances (e.g..: telephone, some kitchen containers, etc.) that were for sure made of "TMed" Bakelite (I distinctly recall seeing the TM on them). Some of them got broken during use, and I remeber the neat and "glass-like surface" look of the point of breaking. This is opposed to the look of the points of breakage in polystyrene items, that have a "stirred" ans "color-whased" look. I have an almost full (7 on 8 of them) series and some spare of the flat early Torgano figures you write of, and I broke one of them some time ago (ACCIDENTALLY!!! ;-). I broke too (yes, I'm THAT clumsy too!!! :-D ) one of my spare CoMa first iusse 3" Spacemen of the Pattuglia Marziana (the metallic hued ones). The flat Torgano breaking point has the stirred polystyrene look, whereas the CoMa breaking point has the neat & glass like look mentioned above. This to say that I'm led to believe that at least the very early CoMa figures are indeed really Bakelite  (or similar-age Catalin, cosidered the hues), whereas the flat Torgano (or the, e.g., the Alpia ones) are polystyrene or similar stuff.

About Torgano as a brand, It was an Italian producer of many toys soldier types, based in the city of Saronno (near Varese). The company was active since the '50, at first with semiflat subjects in vinyl acetate, such as the beautiful pirates you can seen at the middle of the page this address: http://www.soldatinitaliani.it/pages/marche.htm. Subsequently Torgano produced figures very similar to those of the German Elastolin, both in rigid plastic and flexible plastic. I should have some more info in some books on Italian toy soldiers: when I will be able to find them I will post them there. For sure there are many more infos about the early Italian spacemen toy soldiers around, but, IME, many Italian collectors are not so "web-talkative" as, e.g., the USA or UK based ones that write here on AD, so, if one is not privy to the national collectors scene and/or don't have access to the few books published here in Italy on the national toy soldiers production (as, e.g., the Di Mauro books: http://www.newtoysoldiers.it/e_commerce/negozio/libri/soldatini-italiani/  & http://www.soldatinitaliani.it/pages/home.htm  ) infos are hard to find/verify.

About the writing of the card you speak of, I presume that the full sentence is "E ora giochiamo!" that can be literally translated as "And Now Let's Play!". If you cannot post the set with the capped bomb photo, could you at least post a link to the site where it can be found?).

Last for now: the base of the broken B.E.Ms of mine (as the one in the blister with the funny gun) shows no pegs at the breaking points, only a somewhat more glassy plastic. I will post some image with the intact ones when I get the package with the sets.

Cheers

Ervino

 

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ejpetrie

Yes, Ervino!  Telephone bodies and household appliances, particularly handles on cooking pans (because this early plastic is also heat resistant), were all made from real Bakelite.  Those are great examples, as are those wonderful old flour and sugar containers that grandma had on her kitchen counters.  However, if your family's items were truly Bakelite they could only have been black, brown, spray or dip painted, or possibly painted via electroplating (like some of the early toy figures were in shiny, metallic silver and gold color treatments). If you saw a glassy surface at a point of breakage then what you were looking at was Catalin, especially if its interior color matched that of the exterior. 

 

I didn't get into this in my last post, but I should have mentioned that Catalin and Bakelite are very closely related.  The primary difference between the two for our purposes is that Bakelite uses a filler agent to make it stronger--usually wood fiber.  This compound develops a nice surface sheen when it is molded and fully cured, but you can't sand it without exposing its rough, fibrous, unattractive interior structure.  However, Catalin uses no filler and can be re-worked and restored with a number of methods, including sanding.  Also, when it breaks it exposes a shiny interior, just like you saw.  But then, so does polystyrene.  That latter type can look quite glassy when it cleanly breaks.

 

Both Bakelite and Catalin plastics have fallen out of favor since the late 1940's, and in the case of Catalin that is a real tragedy.  Some of the colors that they engineered with Catalin in creating radio set cabinets are stunningly beautiful.  The main reason for their current disuse is because of their pouring and curing times taking so long, versus injection molding's far faster production speeds.  Slower production time equals a greater expense for a producer, so improvements are usually quickly adopted in the field.  Polystyrene was a major improvement.  But another reason why polystyrene was so readily adopted is that Bakelite and Catalin both shrink notably with time, while their replacements proved to be more stable.  Shrinkage, other than poor handling, is the principal reason for damaged Catalin radio cabinets today.  The cabinets shrink while the metal interior workings that are screwed to the cabinet in at least four points do not--SNAP!  These reasons are why I don't think any toy figures of the 1950's really used true Bakelite or Catalin as their production material. 

 

But if you have a couple of broken examples that you have kept around then I can detail tests to prove if your colored plastic is Catalin or not.  There are a couple of reliable ways, but both depend upon whether or not you know what formaldehyde smells like.  (If you don't, then maybe a quick trip to the embalming room of a mortuary or high school chemistry lab is in order. :>) )  Catalin gives off the odor of formaldehyde when it's heated up.  Rapidly rubbing a piece on the leg of your bluejeans or woolen slacks will heat it up to the point where you can detect the odor you're looking for for Catalin.  Or you could also soak it in a glass of warm water for 15 or 20 minutes.  That will produce the same smell.  However, if the smell is more like burned cheese or milk, or especially sour milk then what you have is called "French Bakelite" or "Fakelite" for short, a Bakelite copy made by the French which is still available and in use today.  If you don't get those smells with the test then what you have is Polystyrene, plain and simple.  I have tested my larger Co-Ma figures and not detected any odor.  But that doesn't mean that they always used polystyrene mixes.

 

Finally, there is one other test.  It involves an American cleanser called Formula 409, an antibacterial cleanser made for, and marketed by, the Clorox Company.  I'm not sure it is available on the Italian market, but if it is, then here's what you do.  Dip a Q-Tip into Formula 409.  Take your test piece and rub that Q-Tip in an inconspicuous area.  (Under a foot works for me!)  If the Q-Tip has a yellow stain show up on the rubbing surface, then what you have is Catalin.  Make sure to protect your hands at all times with rubber gloves when working with Formula 409, and, as with every  cleanser, always test it first on a throw-away example or in a hard-to-see area.  Also make sure to always rinse the piece thoroughly after contact with the cleanser.  I have used the stuff as a general cleanser for every American made plastic figure that I have come across with no problems, but--you never know!  You just spray it on and use a soft toothbrush, and it works just fine in most instances (except dirty, rubbery white vinyl which cleans best with bleach) One collector once told me that he was told to avoid it because it left a film on the figures, but I have never experienced this on even a single example in the last 15-20 years or so.  I think that maybe that poor guy just forgot to rinse well.

 

Whew.  That's over!  Now, as for the carded set, I'm afraid the.gif format image is one that  I lifted off of a sales site quite awhile ago for my own use, so no, it's no longer visible online.  I would e-mail it to you, but I've never been able to send images to an Italian e-mail address as visible attachments.  I suppose I could try to just paste it into the text area.  That might work.

 

The early HP examples of the Torgano's that we were speaking about clearly displayed the peg bottoms underneath the bases.  So if your damaged soft plastic pieces don't even show any sign of this at the top of the base then I think we can assume that Torgano modified their original mold and added bases to make the switch to a non-bondable plastic formula.  Thanks, ervino.  That answers a big question for me!  And thanks also for the website address that listed some of the many Italian makers.  Those Pirate pieces (my second favorite area of collecting) are indeed beautiful, as is that ISAS spaceman.  That was a real treat.

 

Oh, and at 63 myself, I probably wouldn't think of you as exceptionally old.  A little clumsy maybe, as you yourself said, but definitely not yet old!   ;>)

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