Creepy Celluloids

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I dunno how things have been going for you, but 2010 was a pretty rotten year for me for the most part. Thank goodness it’s 2011, right? Time for a fresh start. Putting the past behind us is basically a good thing.

In some cases, it’s a great thing. Case in point: some vintage celluloid toys. Celluloid is basically one of the early forms of heat-moldable plastic, a precursor to polyethylenes that has long since fallen out of disfavor because of its high flammability and tendency to decompose over time. Celluloid was intended to replace china, porcelain and ivory as a lower-cost material for children’s toys, allowing kids to actually play with their figures, an act that was much harder to do with the other kinds of material.

Now, there are some genuinely cute and charming vintage celluloid toys out there, especially celluloid animal figurines. But then there are some that will haunt your waking moments. I found a few auctions on eBay that are just plain creepy for one reason or another.

This vintage 60’s Astroboy figure just doesn’t look right to me. I’m getting serious Uncanny Valley vibes here. Is it the creepy “Dr. Tenma took apart a Ken, a Barbie, and a baby doll and fused them together with a head from a Bob’s Big Boy to make the world’s least adorable Junior Frankenstein” look, or the stubby little hands, or the fact that the boots aren’t removable but the shorts are, or maybe it’s the perky man-chest on a little boy figure? Or is the scariest thing about this the asking price of a whopping $5475 for Buy It Now?

And those eyes. They don’t look at you, but they still see you.

They see everything.

Likewise, this winding tricycle doll. Someone actually bought this. They paid $675 for it.

Right now, as of the writing of this article, that same amount of money could get you a lot of 16 Palisades Muppets exclusives, or an 18 piece mint condition Masters of the Universe Classics toy set, or 26 Beast Machines figures, or even a 1983 Kenner Boba Fett – (sorry, Eltingville Club fans, the price has gone up!)

Note the creepy tin legs that don’t match the rest of the body proportions; that glassy, unseeing look of frozen anxiety. A rare specimen of an extinct line. They mostly come out at night now. Mostly. They still haunt some rural areas, after dark, pedaling, pedaling, the rusty squealing of their old tin construction eerie and hollow on the cracked old roads.

Vintage Celluloid Japanese Winding Dog Toy

And then sometimes, they squeak. They clutch their little balls and shake and squeak the squeak that warns you the end is near. The jaws come almost unhinged, all the better to swallow little celluloid mice and birds’ eggs and your immortal soul.

It doesn’t even make the sound of a dog- it sounds more like a parrot, some kind of bird, something that chirps. It shivers in place and its eyes lock on with such sadness. It seems to cry out for oblivion. Help me, it pleads. It’s like the vintage toy equivalent of a Pomeranian, one of those tiny toy dog breeds that shivers and pees all over things because it’s been ruthlessly bred down into someone’s idea of “cute” and can’t defend itself. Auction is set at $325.

Baby Doll in Cardboard Peanut Shell

Speaking of inappropriate definitions of cute, you’ve got to be kidding me. The description of the auction calls this “cute and different”. That’s putting it mildly. If you honestly consider finding a baby with bizarre arms suffocating in plastic wrap inside your peanuts cute, I think we need to have a serious talk. Paging Laura Palmer, paging Laura Palmer…

Stick this on your coffee table – it’d be one heck of a conversation starter!

“So, baby in a peanut, Bob? How much you pay for that?”

“$85.”

“Oh god, seriously? Why…? No, wait. I don’t think I want to know.”

JVZ Celluloid (Pluto?)

Be utterly honest with yourself – really, deeply honest. Would you want one of these toys – any of them – staring out at you from your toy shelf or bookcase at three in the morning after you’ve had one too many, the lights are dim, and tree branches are scraping at the window while the wind howls?

I understand nostalgia and the drive to collect and that rare pieces don’t necessarily always have contemporary aesthetic values- and that what one person considers horrifying another might consider cute or precious. But honestly, these pieces are just unnerving, and the asking prices are even worse. Is this really what the market is willing to pay just because something is old?

Cassandra writes about media and randomness at her blog, cassandrapoe.com, when she’s not hiding under the sofa in fear of the advancing celluloid army.

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