Tree Tops – In the Collection

We’ve all had the experience of the “classic” toys. Ones that only really entertain for the amount of time it takes to learn how to use them or ≈5 minutes. At least that was my experience with tops. I like them, but I couldn’t be entertained with them for long (even EDC tops, which are a thing according to some people). And anything like that really benefits in my mind from having a joke tacked on to it. In this case it’s “Tree Tops”, wooden spinning tops that look like the tops of pine trees (the nice, light wood they’re made out of).

Surprisingly enough, they’re made by a fairly competent company, Areaware, and it shows in their construction. Once you get the technique down they really are fairly decent spinning tops. The company makes loads of things, most of which are things I don’t find interesting, but in the section of “toys and games” they make the Cubebot (I think you’d put “the” in front of the name), an elastic band toy that made it into my local arty bookstore, and a deck of minimalist playing cards I’d seen several times around the internet, and had considered getting.

The designer of the tops, Karl Zahn, who is helpfully credited on the cloth carry-bag, seems mostly content to create strange wooden furniture pieces, and most of his other Areaware contributions are wooden animal-shaped boxes and brass rings. There’s nothing really in his résumé that would indicate he’d make such a silly joke toy, but in any case, he made a good wooden top, even if I wouldn’t really consider purchasing any of his other items.

And that’s that. There isn’t much to the tops themselves. They are for sale still at the time of my writing in packs of five, either natural wood color or different shades of “green” (one’s yellow) like mine for a price that’s a little on the high side but not too bad. And you get a posh (rustic, minimal, I can’t accurately describe it so I went for a joke) box (which I don’t have) and bag to go with it. So if you’re lookin’ for good tops and good jokes, look no further.

Soviet Leader Nesting Dolls – In the Collection

There’s a pretty big collectors market out there for Russian Nesting (Babushka or Matryoshka) Dolls. And, if you search, a surprising number of them are various versions of a “Soviet Leaders” theme. I have no idea if this is a done in a mocking, jesting, or approving tone. Nor do I know why the particular public figures are chosen to be featured (in a fairly unflattering way). The previous owner of my set also told me that it was made in the Czech Republic (perhaps when there was also a “slovakia” attached), and any significance that has is lost on my American post-1990s brain.

The dolls themselves are fairly basic: the carving is unfinished (with a few burr,s here and there) on the inside and the paint is there but far from a masterpiece. I’m not quite sure who all of the people caricature-ized are, but after a little bit of research I believe from smallest to largest they are: Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin (Who potentially breaks the pattern by being president of Russia and not a Soviet Premier {He does have a Russian Federation flag that would indicate it’s him though}). And if I’m correct, they’re all roughly in chronological order, and some pretty important figures for Russians (though I personally don’t know much about Khrushchev). My absolute favorite has to be little itty-bitty Lenin. And slightly-bigger Stalin is pretty funny too.

I like to think that this is some form of political slight. I certainly would take it as such if they made me part of a Babushka doll set. That’s a joke I could get behind, but I’m willing to bet it’s both something meant to insult and endear, like bobble-heads of American Presidents. And like those, who doesn’t want a traditional Russian toy of traditional Russians looking traditionally silly on their shelf?

A Few Interesting Things Part 1 – Cobra Puzzle, Pirate Ship, and Wooden Village

I collect lots of things, for all kinds of reasons. And while some things I have are massive collections, others are single pieces, or fit into smaller groups. And right now I would like to share a few of those things that I have been messing with recently and quite enjoying.

First up is the “Mighty King Cobra” 3D puzzle. It’s a 3D jigsaw puzzle with thick wooden pieces. Mine (as with most of my stuff) is second hand and it looks like it was heavily used, meaning that the pieces don’t fit back together as well as I think they once did. I also must admit I haven’t taken it apart fully to assemble it, because I am terrible at puzzles and it might never be complete again if I do that. Even then it’s a great coffee table piece.


Next up is a pirate ship, again found second hand, and I believe, based on the paint job and the flags that this ship was customized. Whether it was from a store or a kit I can’t tell, but I’m leaning more toward a store bought thing. I do have a (surprisingly large) collection of ships on stands, but the two are separated at the moment. Once this ship meets up with the others there it will go, but for now it sits proudly on my interesting shelf, as evidence of the uniqueness one can find in many places.


And finally, something a little older, a wooden toy village that is German inspired, I don’t know where it came from or how it was made. But it reminds me of the toys I had when I was a kid (and still do). It’s like a more primitive version of Legos. I just spend however long organizing the houses and church and making sure the people and animals are in the right spots for what they’re doing. And that the trees are providing enough shade. It’s really fun and peaceful, and it looks so quaint.


Speak Your Mind 164 #816-820


1. Which do you like best: plastic picture frames or wooden picture frames?

2. How do you think life would be different if you lived in Russia?

3. Do you like to wear sunglasses?

4. Does your locker need to be cleaned out?

5. Do you like chinese food?

ANSWERS By: Austin Smith

1. i prefer wood due to the craftsmanship.

2. I would be a lot less free and a lot more employed (with like a real job, and not a silly internet job). (and a lot less happy I would say)

3. No, I don’t like glasses in general.

4. I’ve been out of it for two years so I’d say no.

5. Yes, but on a limited scale.