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1950s Plastic Space Model Kits:
Buyer Beware
1950s space books
Glencoe Reissues
Lindberg Spaceship kits
Monogram / Willy Ley kits
Revell model kits
Strombecker / Disney kits




Related reading:

classic-plastic-model-kits.jpg (9199 bytes)
Classic Plastic
Model Kits:

& Value Guide

by Rick Polizzi

Feature Article
Strange New Worlds  Issue 14 - June/July 1994

Vintage Spaceship model kits and popular publications of the 1950s
by Elliott Swanson

Vintage 1950s Space Books and Magazines

It would be impossible to include a complete bibliography of 1950s space books in this article, so I’ll just hit a few major items and examples of general publishing trends.

Colliers Magazines

The following issues include space-related articles that were later expanded to become the Viking Press books

bullet1952: 22 March
bullet1952: 18 October
bullet1952: 25 October
bullet1953: 28 February
bullet1953: 7 March
bullet1953: 14 March
bullet1953: 27 June
bullet1954: 30 April

Value for any issue ranges from $5 to $15 depending upon condition. No one issue is considered as being appreciably more valuable than another. They all contain excellent illustrations, some of which did not appear in the Viking books. However, in terms of quantity, the Viking books contain many more illustrations than the Collier’s magazines.

Viking Press Books

bulletThe Conquest of Space (1950)
by Willy Ley
illustrated by Chesley Bonestell
bulletAcross the Space Frontier (1952)
edited by Cornelius Ryan
includes illustrations by Chesley Bonestell
written by Wernher von Braun, Willy Ley, et. al)
bulletThe Conquest of the Moon (1953)
by Wernher von Braun, Fred Whipple, Willy Ley
bulletThe Exploration of Mars (1956)
by Willy Ley and Wernher von Braun
illustrated by Chesley Bonestell
(Viking edition 1956. Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1956)
bulletBeyond the Solar System (1964)
by Willy Ley
illustrated by Chesley Bonestell

Prices for these books, especially first editions with dust jackets in good condition, have been steadily climbing. For example, the first in the series, The Conquest of Space, 1st edition, fine in fine dust jacket, should probably sell for about $50 to $75. The others should be in the $25 to $50 range (1st, fine in fine dust jacket).

Even later printings are picking up in value, often priced at $25 with a dust jacket. I’ve seen dealers asking this amount for later printings without jackets, which, in the current market, seems overpriced. The books exist in at least US (Viking) and British (Sidgwick & Jackson) editions. There are probably others. Printing quality of the books is often erratic — some of the color registration is fairly sloppy.

Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland Adventure Series

L. W. Singer Company, Syracuse, NY. Published 1959. Adapted for school use by Willy Ley. Issued in softcover and library hardbound versions. Each is approximately 50 pages long, with many color illustrations and photos of props from the Disney animated films Man In Space and Mars And Beyond.

The films are not currently available on video, but air occasionally on The Disney Channel. Disney spent more per minute on the Mars And Beyond animation than any previous film.

Titles published are: Man In Flight, Man In Space, Tomorrow the Moon, Mars And Beyond, Man and Weather Satellites. Value is $5 to $20 each, depending upon condition.

Miscellaneous paper items and movie memorabilia

The Fawcett space publications and their clones (pictured above) came out in the late '50s and early '60s. Especially interesting are the photos and illustrations of design concepts from the archives of major aerospace firms, many having little to do with the printed articles. Subject matter ranges from yah-hoo things on UFOs to the 75-cent Going Into Space (Trend Book #150) a reissue of an earlier Arthur C. Clarke British juvenile title The Young Traveller in Space. With few exceptions, they are non-technical and are targeted to a mass readership. A step up in terms of scientific information are periodicals like Space World, Space Age, and Space Journal (pictured below) which also benefit from being heavily illustrated. All of these items are worth from $5 to $15.

For prices on the few comics that exist, the best resource for pricing is the current Overstreet guide. The Disney Man In Space and Mars And Beyond comics are among the best. The comic book adaptation of the film about Wernher von Braun I Aim At The Stars is also worth picking up. (When the von Braun film came out, one reporter sarcastically commented, "He may have aimed at the stars, but he hit London.")

For other movie items such as posters or lobby cards, try auction and sale catalogs, or listings in Movie Collector’s World, PO Box 309, Fraser, MI 48026 ($30 yr.) or The Big Reel, 3130 US. 220, Madison, NC 27025 ($25 yr.). Both publications are comprised primarily of buy and sell ads. The value of the space trading cards is unknown — various non-sports card price guides exist for this sort of collectible.

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