THE STORY SO FAR...
Of the great variety of toys produced by Triang, in its heyday amongst the largest groups of toy companies in the world, the Spacex series is quite an odd one out. When I started my research many years ago, the vast majority of Triang collectors didn't know these toys. Nor did Pat Hammond, who wrote an extensive three-volume history on the company. Even Richard Lines, son of one of the famous Lines Brothers (who founded Triang) and at the time MD (CEO) of its successor Hornby Hobbies (now Hornby plc), had completely forgotten about these toys until I wrote him to ask about them.
Mr Lines kindly checked his collection of Triang catalogues and confirmed that Spacex toys don't appear anywhere in them (1), which would help account for their obscurity amongst collectors. He also explained why. Being very cheap pocket-money toys, Spacex vehicles didn't fit with the main range of toys by Triang and its subsidiaries (which was vast, including extensive series of tinplate toys, fine pedal cars, dolls, model trains, cars, boats, model kits and much much more) (2). Aimed at the lower end of the market, Spacex toys were among the budget toys destined for sale at news agents and places like Woolworth's. These and any toy shops that carried the series ordered them through wholesale lists (3) instead of the many Triang representatives that supplied the main ranges to the better kind of toy store.
Amidst the greater scheme of things, Mr Lines described Spacex as something "we gave some warehouse space to." Because even though "in those days we were flying to Hong Kong all the time to get things made," most of the main Triang toy ranges were produced in British factories, while Spacex was entirely made in Hong Kong.
The real gem Mr Lines passed along, was the name of the man responsible for Spacex toys: Jack Rosenthal. Collectors of the beautiful toy models of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds (my brother and I had all of those when young) will at once recognise this name, for he was the JR in the JR21 trademark found on the packaging of those toys. The 21 refers to Century 21, the group of companies handling Gerry Anderson's wide-ranging productions of comic strips, toys and other merchandise relating to his very popular TV series.
Originally working for S Guiterman & Co in positions of
increasing responsibility, Rosenthal had started his first toy import and
distribution company, Cavendish Distributors Co, around 1960.
Next to offering one product licenced from Anderson's AP Films, Cavendish would also import and
distribute Quercetti rockets from Italy, including the one based on Anderson's Fireball XL5.
These Quercetti models followed Rosenthal when he founded J Rosenthal (Toys) Ltd in December 1963.
On the initiative of AP Films merchandising director Keith Shackleton, APF bought a majority share in J Rosenthal (Toys) Ltd in 1965, with both Anderson and Shackleton joining the board of directors. The company was next renamed Century 21 Toys Ltd in August 1966, in line with APF itself adopting the Century 21 name across its various branches. (4)
Amongst the Century 21 Toys directors, Jack Rosenthal's other occupation is listed as "toy factor." Which basically describes someone who sources toys and organises their production and sales. It will have been this expertise that attracted Shackleton, fitting in with APF/Century 21 plans of developing their own toy lines. However, Rosenthal & co did continue to also distribute many other toys they thought would sell.
By the end of October 1966, an office was opened in Hong Kong, at rooms 1701-1702 in the Realty Building, Des Voeux Road, Central District. Through this presence, I found a small number of documents that provide some very brief details about the company. Although initially successful, it's sad to relate that from 1965 the company was no longer making a profit, and in 1970 stopped being registered in Hong Kong. According to Robert Nicholls, then in the sales department at Century 21 Toys (5), Rosenthal sold his part in the company during the reorganisation of Century 21 before leaving around August 1967.
I have a guess about Jack Rosenthal's inspiration for Spacex: having found that relatively expensive toys didn't turn enough of a profit, he must have decided to try the cheap end of the market and make money through selling much larger volumes of pocket-money toys. And being a dedicated Socialist (see Rosenthal page linked at left), he will have enjoyed the idea of making much more affordable toys available to a great many more boys. Amongst the galaxy of Triang companies, he must have found people at Rovex with the interest and budget to support him. And he appears to have brought some inspiration with him.
Amongst Gerry Anderson's productions, there was TV21 magazine. Full of comic strips and other stories, either based on Anderson's TV series or developed on their own, the magazine was written and illustrated by a very talented group of artists. Who, both for their comic stories and various illustrated features, designed an extensive fleet of futuristic vehicles. They also had a lively interest in the exciting developments towards space exploration at the time. From the first issue in 1965, the magazine carried a page-length feature on space development called "The Truth about Space", written by "Roger Dunn, a member of the British Interplanetary Society." As is stated in an interview (6) on the superlative Anderson Comics History, Roger Dunn was actually Bill Dunn, a press attaché at the US embassy, from where he brought the NASA pictures that illustrate these articles. In 1966 another series of articles by David Stefan followed the Apollo project in detail.
Later, in June 1967, a number of genuine concept vehicles from American space projects would feature in the Project Sword comic strip, initialy published in Solo comics. As is described in coverage of this strip on the Anderson Comics History (7), Project Sword was originated by Century 21 Merchandising around a number of existing toys, some of which were acquired when Century 21 bought out a Hong Kong manufacturer (I don't see this in the Century 21 Toys accounts, but there are entries for writing off mould and tooling costs which had a negative effect on their balance sheets). Quoted in the interview, Keith Shackleton stated it was Jack Rosenthal who came up with the "Project SWORD" name, containing the acronym "Space World Organisation for Research & Development". TV21 magazine started carrying advertising for these toys in the Autumn of 1967, and would, in 1968, also feature the comic strip.
Other than pictures from NASA, I would expect the TV21 artists, if not the editorial office, to have seen books on space exploration and science fiction, and also copies of competing comic strips. The books included in the Origins section of this site are mostly the kind of book that a good public library will have had at the time (a couple of them are indeed ex-libary copies). It's from all of these sources that Spacex toy designs originated; all that was needed was somebody that could turn them into simple yet attractive toys.
Fast-forwarding a number of years in my research efforts, I discovered who manufactured Spacex toys. The later series of Pippin-produced cards each include a registered design application number on them, which the first series cards did not. A most kind and helpful lady at the British Intellectual Property Office had a look for me through the listings in the Official Journal (Patents) for early 1970, and found these Spacex designs had been registered to a company called McArthur Ltd. Which turns out to be a company in Hong Kong, founded in 1968 by two Hong Kong Chinese people named Lucinda Soong and Wellington Wong. Later again, friend and fellow collector Bill Bulloch ran through earlier issues of the OJ(P) at the Liverpool IPO section of the British Library and found McArthur Ltd to have registered the Spacex Stage 1 designs as well.
I had meanwhile hoped to find another connection among publicly available documents,
but the only thing I found is that from June 1969, McArthur Ltd had their offices in
room 1711 at the Realty Building in Hong Kong, being on the same floor as Century 21 Toys before
the latter left the Colony for good. Before that happened however, it looks like the
two companies did try to develop at least one toy together. Amongst the design registration
documents I subsequently ordered from the British National Archives was a design for the
Project Sword Hover Tank with photographs showing a prototype in plastic. This was very surprising, because
this vehicle was never produced in plastic but only offered as a paper kit. (8)
However, at this stage Jack Rosenthal won't have been involved anymore, for by the time McArthur moved into the Realty building, Spacex production was already well underway. Which does prove Jack Rosenthal had an even longer history with that company.
McArthur has since changed it's name to McArthur Toys Manufacturer Ltd, and still exists. They've moved to an industrial estate since then, where I imagine their older archives will probably have been discarded as so often happens. I've tried to contact them anyway, but sadly emails have gone unanswered and they don't seem to pick up the phone at any hour of day for all I get is their answerphone...
When it comes to the three larger toys (Mobile Launching Pad, Moon Base and Nuclear Pulse), the man that engineered them must have been Leon Raphael Lipkin, whose name is printed on the boxes they were sold in. Together with his wife Gentilla (known as Bobby apparently (9)), Lipkin set up his plastic toy engineering company in Lambeth, SW London, in 1954 (10). He certainly was a prolific entrepreneur, judging by the variety of plastic toys his name is associated with, as well as some patents he was granted for various toy inventions and improvements (see Lipkin page linked at left for a few examples).
Lipkin's activities were split across a number of companies and brands, where it appears Raphael Lipkin Ltd did the actual engineering and development, and initially also served as a brand on the toys' packaging. Work undertaken for other toy companies was also co-branded with this LRL running clown brand, while his own toys were subsequently sold under the Plaston and Pippin brands (11). At any rate, Pat Hammond told me Raphael Lipkin Ltd was bought by Triang in 1964, when Lipkin must have moved his company into the Triang works at Morden Road, Merton, London SW19, judging from the address found on Spacex boxes and elsewhere. His Pippin brand also appears to've been part of that take-over.
Coming back to Spacex, it seems however that Lipkin didn't engineer the smaller toys. On the later Spacex sets is marked that only "certain items in this set" were made in Hong Kong for Lipkin, which would refer to the large toys that have similarly attributed boxes when sold on their own. Spacex Superset 1 contains only the small vehicles, and bears no mention of Lipkin on it. So it seems Lipkin's expertise was required on the more intricate constructions, but not on the fairly straightforward smaller vehicles which presumably were done by McArthur as mentioned.
As to the golden astronaut figures, I believe these were sourced from LP in Hong Kong, who also sold them, marked as such, under their own brand as well as supplying them to other repackagers (see their entry under Copies and Clones linked at left).
In any case, certain pictures on the card backs reveal that prototypes of the toys were made, notably the Mobile Launching Pad and Nuclear Pulse. A number of vehicles also appear in different colours than when produced (on card backs as well as a photograph in a JC Penney catalogue), which I believe may've been test shots - test mouldings using provisional colours to test the moulds for accuracy and components fitting together. These pictures being used on card backs would indicate that packaging was being produced even before the full set of toys had entered production. There's even an illustration instead of a photograph for the Moon Base, which might indicate that this was the last toy in development before production.
Spacex Stage 1
The first Spacex toys were introduced to the public (by Rovex and Lipkin) at the Harrogate Toy Fair in January 1969, as announced in an advert in Games & Toys magazine the month before. The fair guide only mentions the introduction of "an exciting range specially designed for the wholesaler", presumably because Spacex was yet to be unveiled at the fair. Sadly, neither the toy fair organisers nor the hotels the fair was staged in have any photographs that survive of the event, and other possible sources also proved a dead end.
The initial offering of Spacex toys consisted of 15 toys sold on blister cards. As the card backs explained, these were divided amongst four (what I'll call) themed series (to avoid confusion with the later production series) each grouping a number of vehicles used for the various stages of mid-1960s space exploration theory: Earth Base, Space Station, Moon Base and Outer Space Travel. The card backs incidentally also explained the X in SpaceX, the entire name standing for "SPACEXplorers".
Spacex toys proved to be popular, as is stated in a brief feature in Toys International magazine in the summer of 1969, which also announced the three larger (Lipkin-produced) toys being added to the range. These are called 'Spacex Major' in the article (which sounds like the 'Corgi Major' used by Mettoy for larger Corgi Toys and some gift sets) but it seems that's the only place that name has ever been used.
The same article mentions that export accounted for four times the sales in the UK home market. At that point in time, this can only describe straight export, without repackaging, which indeed must've been quite extensive. Based on where I've seen (and bought through eBay) Spacex toys in their original packaging, the first series was exported to Western Europe (I'm sure of Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Ireland and even Hungary (12)) as well as the British Commonwealth (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa I'm sure of). The United States were next.
With the first series completed by the larger toys and happily selling away, a second edition was scheduled for production, now also directed at the US market. I assume Triang didn't have any channels into the US for this type of toy, because (presumably) Rosenthal (13) found a different company that would distribute his toys there. That company was Miner Industries at 125 Walnut Avenue, the Bronx, NY, who repackaged and distributed all manner of (cheaper) toys under their Multiple Toymakers brand, as well as producing vinyl cases of their own and components for other manufacturers. Used as a correspondence address, the company also had a presence at the International Toy Center at 200 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY - as did every other toymaker operating in the US until the building was slated for redevelopment in 2006-7.
For the Multiple Toymakers brand, Spacex toys received new packaging, with the logo of Triang -largely unknown in the US- merely appearing on the back. Most of the toys also received new, more dynamic sounding names to replace the rather prosaic British ones, and a number of them appeared in new colours, different from the first edition sold as Spacex. The four themed series for the range also received new names: Launch Site, Space Probe, Moon Exploration and Interplanetary Patrol. These grouped the toys in the same way as the Spacex themed series, except that the Nuclear Pulse moved from the Spacex Space Station theme to the GA Interplanetary Patrol.
We know when Golden Astronauts went on sale from the copyright date of 1969 on the boxed sets, as well as their appearance in JC Penney's and Montgomery Ward's 1969 Xmas mail order catalogues. Narrowing it down even more, the box lid of my GA Super Set revealed a printer's mark indicating it was produced in July 1969, meaning sales could've started already during the summer of that year. In terms of export, Multiple Toymakers also sold to Japan that I'm sure of. Canada next door only received regular Spacex toys, Triang delivering directly to its Commonwealth agents, but perhaps Miner also exported to South America as another of the few markets not yet catered for by Triang.
The single reference that I know about Spacex production numbers is a mention of some 12 million(!) pieces "last year" in the March 1970 issue of Games and Toys magazine. A staggering number which would presumably include the Golden Astronaut versions, but a number that was "certain to be exceeded in 1970." So even when considering a naturally high attrition rate, Spacex being plastic (and thus very breakable) toys aimed at younger children, this vast quantity would easily explain the number of on-the-card examples that still survive, as well as the number of loose toys still popping up fairly regularly some 45 years later.
The later series
1969 also was a busy time back in Britain and in Hong Kong. The first series of Spacex continued in production, now in the later colours as used for Golden Astronauts, but still with the original vehicle names as opposed to their American counterparts (14).
On top of this, a large number of new vehicles were added, extending each themed series with new vehicles and in time doubling the range. Again a mixture of fictional, speculative and real-life space designs, the new vehicles were sold in two series, Spacex and Spacex II, on blister cards with all-new graphics. This time the cards described each toy as "A Pippin product made in Hong Kong for Rovex Triang" and inasmuch as the new toys had a trademark on them, this now also read Rovex Triang. The Earth Base theme was renamed Earth Launch on the Pippin blister cards, while the previous Space Station and Outer Space Travel were combined to become Space Exploration (Moon Base was retained).
Added to the toys from the original Stage 1 series, the new first series of Spacex gained four new smaller vehicles. Appearing simultaneously it seems, the Spacex II series added another eleven new vehicles. Not mentioned on card backs, the larger (photonic-powered) Space Station (15), Apollo & LEM and a pair of Soyuz spacecraft may have been introduced awhile later, being announced in March 1970. And next to an astronaut figure, some (or possibly all) of the Spacex II toys also included a Spacex Commander pin badge, reminiscent in idea of the badges that came with Project Sword toys.
Although the new Spacex vehicles came on newly-designed cards, it seems the original toys remained in packaging bearing the original design. First because of the number of toys in later colours (still being) found on starry-black first-type cards, and second because of a brief bit of newsreel footage from the 1970 Brighton Toy Fair. (16) This shows a Spacex display consisting of a small revolving moon with a LEM on top as well as a LAMA and Tractor T-5 on its surface, and where a Nova Rocket on the original starry-black card can be distinguished hanging behind it, proving both were offered concurrently. The three later boxed sets that had also become available by this time (my examples containing a few late-colour toys amongst others in early colours) also remained more in tune with the early type of Spacex graphics as opposed to what's on the Pippin cards.
Over in the USA, four of the new vehicles were added to the Golden Astronaut range, packed in nice window boxes. These are all from the Moon Base series, though the boxes describe them as the Deluxe Diecast Chassis Series, leaving it a rather moot point where the new toys fitted in. As the name implies, they will have been selected because of the superior metal chassis.
During 1970, there seemed to be little stopping Spacex. The range of both old and new Spacex toys were being advertised in British comics magazines, while an advert in the March issue of Games and Toys magazine announced the three new additions of Apollo/LEM, Photonic Space Station and Soyuz 6 & 7. The same advert confidently stated there would be "more to follow!" but sadly events turned out very different.
The end of Spacex
During the later 1960s, the British toy industry suffered major setbacks. Some of these were due to overseas competitors entering their home market, but principally the faults lay squarely at the manufacturers' own doorsteps, especially within the older companies including Triang. Management control was only slowly developing, if at all present - which in the most notorious case resulted in the collapse of the previously mighty Meccano factory. Consumer research was pretty much unheard of; most manufacturers believed there'd be a market for whatever they decided to produce, and a substantial part of what they produced was in line with what they'd been producing already, in some cases for more than a decade. Although British toys were often of high quality, most British manufacturers believed that quality alone was enough to sell the product; packaging as a factor that could influence buying decisions had rarely been heard of yet. And more often than not, British toys were rather on the pricey side, partly as a consequence of poor management control, partly as a consequence of keeping their British factories occupied with work.
Meanwhile, Sterling was in the doldrums (despite the currency being devalued in 1967), which handicapped British planning. Import restrictions on foreign goods had also first been relaxed and then mostly abolished (except for products from Japan and the USSR), meaning there now was more competition for consumers' money on the home market. Which was starting to come in, from Hong Kong where toy production was growing exponentially, as well as from Continental Europe, where toy production was also evolving well. Toys from US companies came in too, notably Mattel who singlehandedly was most effective in offering modern toys through modern toy marketing.
To start with, Mattel had very innovative toys. I remember my Dad coming back from a business trip to the States in 1967 or so, bringing a Hot Wheels Camaro each for my brother and me before they were available in Holland. Our British-made Matchbox and Husky cars were instantly outclassed by these very shiny, very smooth-looking cars that would run the entire length of the living -and- dining rooms without stopping... The packaging was brilliant, too. As was Major Matt Mason packaging that we would discover shortly afterwards. Not just very slick and most attractive, it -sold- the product and its features (and features there were!) instead of merely stating its contents. Mattel had commercials on TV, unheard of in those days for toys. What happened in the Vreede household happened elsewhere as well; in the case of Hot Wheels, it took Matchbox more than a year to recover and get even anywhere close to their American rivals again. Mattel was one of many (GI Joe crossed the pond as well around this time for example), so many a British toy line was affected by other competition.
But Triang had also over-extended itself financially, not helped by its take-over of Meccano in 1964, which remained stuck in its haughty and complacent ways and had a recent history of serious losses to recover from. For the whole of Triang, overseas sales were down, home demand was uncertain, and the company was still burdened with high costs arising from a product rationalisation it had undertaken a few years before. Profits nosedived in 1968, resulting in further efforts at economy. But with interest rates reaching high levels and losses continuing through 1969, Triang share prices also reached alarming depths. Being started in the midst of this crisis, it's amazing Spacex ever got off the ground; it also seems to have been one of the few Triang toys that actually thrived in this period. Things continued to deteriorate in general however, and Triang started actively seeking partners to inject fresh capital. General Foods was seen as a candidate, and Gallahers Tobacco provided hope for salvation for awhile. Gallahers made £5 million available to Triang in 1971, only to withdraw this lifeline a few weeks later. Completely strapped for cash, Triang had no option but to call in the receivers. The largest toy company in the UK went under, and with it went its subsidiaries including Raphael Lipkin Ltd, Pedigree (which included Pippin) and all the rest. Triang itself was broken up and sold in parts, with one particular banker making a fortune from selling off various components. Some parts still survive to this day (Today's Hornby Ltd for example, which is the successor to Triang Hornby Railways and still owns Scalextric that once belonged to Rovex), but most were never heard of again. (17) Which also goes for Raphael Lipkin - no idea where he went next. Jack Rosenthal bought up a small distribution company called Alltrades (18) with three associates, who together grew it into a successful business importing toys by Taiyo and Tamiya (R/C models), Zylmex, Tomy, Masudaya and Biemme (ride-on toys) amongst others. Alltrades existed until 1983 when it in turn had cashflow problems, and unfortunately seems to have ultimately resulted in Rosenthal himself going bankrupt... (19)
In Europe, remaining stocks of Spacex toys went for discount rates in the liquidation. In the US, stocks were sold out under more normal circumstances by Miner. They did run out of packaging at some point though, judging by some GA cards carrying Spacex blisters, and which often contain a different vehicle than that mentioned on the card. And somebody somewhere (McArthur Ltd perhaps) apparently had a leftover stock of loose Spacex toys, because quantities of them were also sold at a knock-down price, packed in a simple baggy. But the story doesn't stop there.
The expanding universe
What could be described as re-issues occurred - new toys from the original moulds. Miner Industries offered at least four of the vehicles (that we know of) in a range called 2005 and Beyond in 1976. Another US company called Larami did the same in the 1970s, including the large Moon Base I've been told.
And then there are the contemporary copies that are markedly different to some degree or other. Most prolific are the toys produced by LP (from whom I think Triang sourced the astronaut figures), who included smaller copies of two Spacex toys in a range of other vehicles and equipment and sold these under their own brand as well as supplying them to other repackagers.
Roxy of Hong Kong made very close copies of Spacex toys which only differed in a few details, which Clifford Toys imported to the UK and maybe other Commonwealth countries. Because of the very close resemblance in their toys, there's a good chance that Roxy and Clifford may have been the companies which Miner and Triang sued for infringement, as is reported in a brief article in Games and Toys magazine in 1970 as well as a page in Toys and Novelties magazine in January of that year.
More Spacex copies were produced by another few obscure brands - some fairly close (to the point where I wonder if the original factory and/or moulds may have been involved) and some that obviously had been copied in design but newly produced. Details on all these copies are sketchy to say the least, especially since their packaging rarely illustrates the rest of each range. But this is very much in keeping with Spacex itself - never complete, and always something unexpected turning up, so the hunt continues!
As of 2002, a private company has pursued research and development for commercial spaceflight, resulting in their Falcon 1 becoming the first privately-developed liquid-fuel rocket to achieve Earth orbit in September 2008. Established by Elon Musk (also the founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors), the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation name is officially abbreviated to SpaceX. (20) Whether that's a coincidence or not isn't known, but what is known is that quite a few vintage Spacex toys can be found on their premises (which sadly can't be photographed due to understandably stringent security reasons). At any rate, the toys that were once sold as "scaled to space engineers drawings" -which some of them were as well- now have their real-life successors sharing not just a name, but the dream itself of space exploration becoming reality.
General note: all external
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1) Evidence exists that there was a leaflet produced on Spacex toys in 1970, but this will have been a trade leaflet quite separate from any of the main Triang catalogues. back to text
2) I'm not going to attempt to write even a condensed history of Triang. :) The V&A's Museum of Childhood has an overview of the company's milestones, a Dutch collector has a page with many pictures and there's similar information on Wikipedia. An aerial view of the main London works is included on the Places page of this site (use your browser's Back button to return here).
To be complete, I should point out that Triang (originally with a hyphen in it as "Tri-ang") was the main brand of the Lines Bros company, and that those names tend to be used interchangeably. There were three Lines brothers, three lines make a triangle and that's where the name came from :). back to text
3) Fellow-collector Will Osborne confirms this. His father had a toy shop that stocked Spacex, which was indeed ordered through wholesalers' product lists. A brief article in Toys International magazine also mentions Spacex had been "launched by the Rovex Wholesale Department." back to text
4) Guiterman company mentioned in The Thunderbirds Vault book (p 217) by Marcus Hearn, which I very much recommend. Additional details from daughter Ruth Rosenthal, see under Recollections at the end of Rosenthal's page linked at left. Dates are from a document I found in Hong Kong, also listed at the end of Rosenthal's page. back to text
5) From e-mail correspondence between former Century 21 Toys employees Robert Nicholls, Adrian Stern and myself. See under Recollections at the end of the Rosenthal page linked at left. back to text
6) Interview with Howard Elson, 2/3 down the page, at the Gerry Anderson Complete Comics History (GACCH - now sadly defunct, but thankfully still available at the Internet Archive). back to text
7) GACCH - Project Sword: Solo 1967, paragraph 4. I do beg to differ with the statement at the end of the paragraph, saying Spacex designs made cameo appearances in TV21 strips. As will be evident from elsewhere on this website, it's quite the other way round in Spacex being to a great extent derived from designs in TV21 strips. back to text
8) The registration photographs for the Project Sword Hover Tank are included with the other documents I found for Spacex designs (use the link at top-right on that page or your browser's Back button to return here). back to text
9) Nickname mentioned in London Gazette notice of her death. back to text
10) Mention in Games & Toys magazine, found by Kim Stevens. back to text
11) Entry in the catalogue for the 1969 Harrogate Toy Fair, where Raphael Lipkin Ltd states they are the manufacturers of Pippin and Plaston toys - included on Lipkin page linked at left. back to text
12) Hungary is a surprising market for Western toys, given that the country was then still very much behind the Iron Curtain. However, the Hawk from a Launch Pad set was offered on eBay by a seller in Budapest, still strapped to a piece cut out of the inner box tray, and recently the contents of another two boxed sets also turned up from Hungary. Karoly558, the seller of the latter, explained to me that at the time there were special "dollar shops" stocking Western products (incl Matchbox cars, action figures and bubble gum, he recalled), mainly aimed at Western tourists, but from which Hungarians were allowed to make limited purchases as well. back to text
13) During the Great Matt Mason Patent Hunt back in 2005, I also discovered Rosenthal had been granted US Design Patents (the US equivalent to a Registered Design) on many of the first series Spacex vehicles. This proves he was still the driving force behind Spacex at that time, and actively involved with initiatives in the US. back to text
14) This is judging by what's survived on original cards. I do have a boxed set, bought in Britain, which contains two Security Patrol Copters as opposed to Helicopter P3s which I'm convinced are original contents (a previous owner plastered each toy with contemporary Airfix model kit decals). However, these might likely have been a stopgap measure at the factory. The list on the back of later Pippin Spacex cards also features a number of "American" names, but not for Helicopter P3. Apart from a single Terrain Tiger, I haven't seen any "American" names on still-carded Spacex toys. back to text
15) First series Pippin Spacex doesn't have the Nuclear Pulse listed on card backs, while it was still advertised in British comics. I believe this is due to a minor mixup: on its box, the craft is called the Nuclear Pulse Space Station ("nuclear pulse" most likely referring to its engines), but this was shortened to just Nuclear Pulse in the list on the Stage 1 card backs (with the consequence that all collectors now refer to the craft by this shortened name). This will subsequently have been corrected for the list on the Pippin Spacex cards, where it's now referred to as a Space Station. The later Photonic-powered Space Station was still being developed at the time, together with the Apollo & LEM and the pair of Soyuz craft also not mentioned on card backs. back to text
16) I could be wrong, but I believe the Brighton Toy Fair, organised by the British Toy Manufacturers Association (now British Toy and Hobby Association) was a competitor to the fair in Harrogate by the NATR Toy Retailers Association. Both being staged in January made sense for foreign buyers' travel arrangements. The clip is included on the Newsreel page (use your browser's Back button to return to this page). back to text
17) For a good account on the history of British toy manufacturing, I'd very much recommend The British Toy Business by Kenneth Brown, parts of which can also be read through Google Books. back to text
18) I'm most grateful to Mr Terry Aarons for his information about Alltrades, where he was one of the partners and in charge of sales. back to text
19) I found several notices related to bankruptcy court proceedings in the London Gazette, starting in 1983 and ending somewhat more happily with Rosenthal being discharged as a bankrupt in 1989 - listed on Rosenthal page linked at left. back to text
20) See the official SpaceX website. back to text