Trending: Vintage Electronics and Toys

Ok, I’m not sure if it’s prudent to call something “trending” if it’s only a recent trend in my personal buying habits, but as a collector I often notice trends in my purchases. Whether it’s something new I’m just getting into or something I’ve been collecting forever, it always seems like I’ll find several items in rapid succession and then things will cool for a few weeks, months or even years before I hit another hot spot. For now, vintage electronics and toys seem to be what I’m picking up the most and I’ve been pretty pleased with some of my recent scores.

1950s GE Portable TV, Zenith Table Radio, RCA Victor Transistor Radio, Westinghouse Fan in Turquoise

I’ve been fascinated with vintage electronics since I was a child. There’s definitely something alluring in all those mystifying electrical parts. What I appreciate the most about them as an adult, however, is the attention to detail that went into even the most benign things. Granted, in the 1950s and 60s these things were much more exciting technology—and much bigger purchases—than they seem to us now, but the design of these pieces is so fascinating to look at from the “black plastic box” perspective today’s industrial design. The 1950s GE portable TV is perhaps my favorite—its all-steel body taking numerous design cues from cars of the era.

Not far off from electronics are vintage photography equipment. In fairness, I’m always on the prowl for this stuff, but recently I’ve been really drawn to the look of some of the more refined and higher-end equipment from the 1950s. The mix of metals, leather, and gray/black palette is pretty timeless with a sort of industrial elegance. The gold metal mesh on the projector is such a cool texture I wish everything were made out of this stuff. There’s just something about old cameras that makes you want to wrap some sandwiches in waxed paper, grab a plaid blanket and go take some family photos by the lake.

The kid in me has clearly been making a lot of the purchasing decisions lately, as evidenced by a fleet of miniature metal cars. Lithographed tin toys (often called tin litho) from Japan are so fun and cool to have around. Growing up in the 1980s with chunky plastic toys, I’m instantly jealous of the kids from earlier generations who got to play with these highly detailed toys. Although the 1950s was all about forward thinking, during the 1960s there was a surge of interest in design and culture from the early part of the century. Antique cars like these are a pretty common theme from this era. The larger car with the crank is battery operated, complete with functioning coach lamps, although its motor is seized up. The car on the right is friction operated. The detailing is super cool, from the tufted metal seats inside to the purple battery compartment underneath.

Even tinier cars are even harder to resist. The toy theme continues with this pair of vintage Matchbox cars. As a kid I used to play with my uncle’s old Matchbox cars at my grandmother’s house. Although they were old and beaten, I still remember thinking, “these are so much more fun than my Hotwheels.” When I found these two at a tag sale, I snapped them up. As a Cadillac enthusiast I am in love with this little ambulance and I couldn’t believe it even had the original box. Somebody appreciated their toys. The BP truck was a nostalgia buy, as I used to have one exactly like it. The cab actually flips up revealing the engine mounted underneath. How cool is that?

So, those are my big trends at the moment. I’m getting particularly excited about both so I hope the trends don’t cool anytime soon. Of course, I may need to start a shelf-buying trend so I have somewhere to put all this eye candy.

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