Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vintage View Master

View Master is considered a toy today, but in 1939 it was created as a home entertainment device for adults. William Gruber put together a prototype and after his debut at the 1940 World’s Fair in New York sold over 100,000 the following year. The device which looks similar to binoculars allowed viewing of 3-D images on a paper disk. There were seven stereo views (the illusion of depth in an image) on each reel in color with Kodachrome film by Kodak.

What started out as disks/reels of colorful and picturesque tourist attractions branched out in almost every genre and 1.5 billion disks/reels were produced for 25 different models of viewers. There has been a Bakelite viewer, talking viewers, bright colors, even a red white and blue model to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and many others.

Reels were sold individually from 1939-1950 but eventually there was a significant catalog of titles to group existing single reels into packets of three reels with a common subject.

View Master which was first manufactured by Sawyers has been produced by many companies over the years such as Ideal, Tyco, Mattel, and currently, Fisher-Price. The reels are still available for purchase today in stores like Walmart and Target featuring many favorites such as SpongeBob, Barbie, and Beauty and the Beast.

The scenic reels which were the beginning for View Master were briefly discontinued in 2008 before an agreement with Fisher Price was reached by Alpha Cine in 2009 to produce them again. Earlier versions of scenic reels are increasingly difficult to find.

Here are a few recently completed listings for View Master and reels:

Vintage View Master - sold for $117.50

Lighted View Master - sold for $99

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