Tiger? Tank – In the Collection

For probably about a dollar from a second-hand store I picked up a bag of random toys that had a very strange tank inside. Now I’m quite the tank person, I have at least a dozen books and quite a few models of tanks, but even if you aren’t a tank person, the distinctive turret of a Tiger is instantly recognizable.

But this turret was strange, not just because it was molded in the (unrealistic) standard army-man green, but also because of the “chassis” is was mounted on. The turret is a crude but serviceable representation of a Panzer VI (Tiger), but everything attached below is a perfect representation of a “generic” tank. That is to say, it resembles no tank specifically (least of all a Tiger), but all tanks superficially. That isn’t necessarily to the detriment of the toy. Most kids don’t know or care that their plastic army-men are decked out in Vietnam War-era gear and smacking each other around with Patton or Centurion tanks. Some even have WWII-era gear with matching Shermans and Tigers (or even Panzer IVs), and more up-to-date ones have Abrams* tanks; I’m sure the kids don’t care.

What I find strange is that someone (probably in a Chinese factory) took the time to make a decent facsimile of the turret of a Tiger tank and didn’t follow through with the body. Why? Did they run out of time? Did they not care? Did their boss tell them to make a Tiger and they got away with just sculpting the turret because no one actually cared? Finding the set, which features a very unsettling modern German flag (I get they couldn’t wouldn’t use a swastika, but couldn’t they at least use the Imperial German flag?), probably answers the question (nobody in the whole process cared), but I still wonder what was going on in the exact moment this thing was created. I bet the idea that someone would ever look closely enough to determine that is wasn’t a Tiger was never even considered.

*Could be Challengers or Leopards, or any other modern tank that looks almost the same.

Grimaud S.I.C. 4-color Playing Cards (Symmetrical International Cards) – In the Collection

I have more playing cards than is good for me, really. I’ve seen so many decks it sometimes seems like I’ve seen them all… usually until the next week, when I find something different. Often it’s just a different back, but there’s still room for me to be surprised with the faces. We haven’t yet perfected the design of the playing card, uniform as it might seem with the dominance of the USPCC (United States Playing Card Company {And to a lesser extent Cartimundi}). Every so often you find a deck that has been designed to meet a specific challenge, such as the Symmetrical International Cards (or S.I.C.) deck, in this case printed by Grimaud, the French playing card manufacturer (now owned by Cartimundi) (I don’t know if any other manufacturer ever produced these cards).

The S.I.C. deck is a design that sets about trying to solve two problems: left handed players wanting to fan their cards the opposite way, and asymmetrical icons on odd numbered cards (that are sometimes used to covertly signal other players). To solve these problems pips are placed in all 4 corners, and on the odd numbered, non-face-cards of 3 suits (diamonds is unchanged) the center pip is replaced by two pips that are slashed in half and meet at the middle. The slashes on spades are left-handed, and the slashes on hearts are right-handed. For clubs the icon now simply has 4 “petals” (leaves) instead of 3. The deck was developed by Michele Leone, a bridge player, to help stop cheating in that game. The design was used by the Italian Bridge Federation around 2010. And that is literally all the information I could find about it.

My particular deck(s) (the one shown here has a yellow back, and I have another with a green back somewhere), printed by Grimaud, also have the clubs and diamonds in green and yellow respectively, rather than their traditional colors. I suspect this is because they wanted to clear up some confusion that may result from having the pips on all 4 corners (I like it but from what I’ve read online it’s pretty divisive). I can find no reference to this deck online. I found it in America, with many other sets of bridge cards (mine isn’t in the original box, instead it’s in an “American Contract Bridge League” box. The cards that are supposed to be inside have quite a different design), and the face-card values are the English standard (J,Q,K). So I just have no clue.

They are one of the most well-thought-out decks of cards I’ve ever seen. Of course it’s not necessary unless you’re worried about people cheating at bridge, but it’s still a lovely design with an unobtrusive back, simple face-card design, and those really neat French-style clubs.

Cadillac Craftsman Zippo Tape Measure – In the Collection

I like items that confuse me at first. Like many, I enjoy figuring out the puzzle of their story. When I first saw the words “Cadillac” and “Craftsman” engraved on an item with a laurel in a font similar to the Craftsman Tool logo I assumed it was some strange crossover of the two. And I became more intrigued when I discovered the item was a stainless steel tape measure made by the Zippo company.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a three-brand crossover, but it is a fascinating thing. Cadillac Craftsmen were a group that was sponsored by the Cadillac car company and certified to have a certain amount of knowledge and experience working on Cadillac vehicles. As a reward for being up to the company’s quality standards, those certified also received a bunch of cool swag, which seemed to change from year to year. And one, or a few, of these years they were given an engraved Zippo tape measure.

I never knew Zippo made tape measures, which they still do, in several versions: the main one looking nothing like this, and the promotional version (available only as such, it appears, like the Bic Clic) which is very similar to this one. This 6’ (180cm) (though the feet aren’t marked, only inches and cm) model has a brushed stainless steel body quite similar in dimensions to the bottom half of your standard Zippo lighter, and a plastic base bearing the company name. The tape is nothing special: it’s white, and 3/8ths inch thick. Mine’s a bit dirty and the action is kinda gummy after what I assume is years of use, but it’s still readable and retractable.

I hope that items like these have led long and useful lives. It’s a well-built tool that was presented to a workman and I’d like to believe it performed admirably for many years. I probably won’t be nearly as hard on it (as I’m not wanting for tape measures) and it’ll now likely be able to mostly retire into my Zippo collection having done its job well.

“Woodstock” Harmonica Keychain – In the Collection

As a man with many harmonicas who has been “playing” them for years (I made a couple hundred doing that once), of course I would jump at the chance to have one on my keychain, which is apparently a possibility I had hitherto not considered.

Well, actually it won’t go with my keys. If I put every novelty keychain I own on my belt I would quickly end up with many times more chain than key, but it’s the thought that counts, really. Indeed, though, if you wanted one on your keys they are available from companies like Hohner, everyone’s favorite blues harp company, and many other, likely Chinese, manufacture’s who will engrave anything you want on to them. Mine says “Woodstock” and other than some nameless company capitalizing on a famous event I have no other explanation of why it says that, nor clue a about who made it.

Fortunately they (at least mine) do play, which slightly justifies their probably-on-the-high-side (but still cheap) cost, actually being made out of brass and steel with a plastic insert and held together by screws. I couldn’t get mine apart because, while I did have a small enough screwdriver, I didn’t have anything to hold the nut on the other end. Out in the wild they seem to last for a while on the keys, and make for a nice conversation starter/intro to your new “folksy” single.

Discovery Planet 10” Human Torso – In the Collection

If you’re as excited by scientific models of the human body as I am (that sounds weird), there are quite a few options to go for, some even ranging into the thousands of dollars. I don’t have that kind of money to spend (I didn’t even get my model new) so I’m gonna talk about one that’s quite a bit cheaper today.

The 27cm (10”) version of the 8 part human torso by Discovery Planet is the smaller of the two I could find (the larger being simply double the size). There are technically 8 parts to the model, but this includes the base and the main torso frame, into which slot/peg a heart, liver, intestines, stomach, and 2 lungs. Included in the box that unsettlingly says simply “Human Torso” is a small “manual” in full color that describes the basic shape and positioning of all the removable bits as well as some of the other “exposed” organs. Unfortunately missing from mine is a “Bonus Instructional CD”, but I don’t believe that has any effect on operation. The material is a slightly flexible plastic (vinyl?) with a very strange feel. It’ll probably hold up to some abuse from children even though it’s hollow, but then again there’s not much you could really do to it. Probably as a result of this material being hard to paint, the paint application is very minimal, but precise. It certainly doesn’t look real but it’s not all one color. Though, if I were a child I don’t know what I would actually do with it, because it’s more of a classroom “toy” than an actual one.

These kids are far too happy

This is backed up a bit by the company “Discovery Planet”, which is just a brand used by the Hong Kong import company Bowen Hill. Neither the brand nor the importer have a functioning website, but a few branded items can be found around, and there is an abysmal “Bowen Hill” Amazon Store that does sell science class product(s). This model is surprisingly still available in several places (Toys R Us for one but it can be found cheaper elsewhere), I suspect mine is quite a bit older, but there’s no copyright date on anything to indicate that.

My little statue will be going either on the shelf of weird things or the one of random artistic aids. I can see this being a nice, decently accurate model of a torso for a science class or drawing reference, and it was/is fairly cheap to aquire. If nothing else it’ll freak some houseguests out.