David Jefferis reports: Most of the truly collectible space kits and toys come from the golden age of space exploration, the 1950s and 1960s. Those Space Race decades were periods of intense activity in real-space technical development, and this headline activity was reflected in the wide range of space toys and kits available to buy in model stores.
Kits with working features were popular, and the tin-can space station, as modelled by Revell (header, below) clearly fell into that category. The basically rather plain cylindrical design was brought to life in several ways. The antennas at top and bottom could rotate, and, as depicted in the attractively busy box-art, sections of the outer walls opened up to reveal a detailed interior, with parts that came, in Revell-speak, ‘4 space-age colors.’
Wonderful stuff, and it has certainly become a classic kit, even if the actual design never left the drawing board, or into lunar orbit, as depicted on the box-top.
The Waco toy company matched Revell’s kit with a tinplate version (above, below) which was arguably a sturdier choice if you were giving it to a youngster. The Waco space station had an electric motor to power its ‘new multi actions’, which included ‘stop o go’ action, and ‘run and revolve.’ The top-mounted radar antenna worked, and interior lights could be switched on to display the neat interior, viewable when you slid open hull sections.
Wheel-shaped space stations were a more advanced design than tin cans, and were generally thought to be the shape of things to come. A rotating design offered the convenience of simulated gravity for onboard crews, and various toy and model companies offered their ideas of how such a space wheel would look.
Not as well known as a similar space wheel from competitor company Strombecker, the Lindberg Space Base is nevertheless a highly collectible item.
Tinplate space wheel
Here’s a similar space wheel design (below) produced in tinplate and plastic. The Space Station No. 378795 N.A.S.A. is a nicely conceived and presented piece of space-age technology.
Space Satellite Station
One of the best space toys from Marx (below) was the Space Satellite Station, conceptually a ground-based building that could be used as a launch pad for a squadron of plastic flying saucers.
A radar antenna could also be plugged in to the spinner mechanism, as could a rocket. Sad to say, this last item has not survived with the classic toy set shown here.