Ripped Off at Age Eleven

… And I’ll Never Forget It

By Jeff Salter

We’re basically talking about rip-offs this week, and I’ve had quite a few. But possibly the earliest of my disappointing transactions was this one. And it’s a bitter memory, indeed.

I can’t even estimate how many comic books I’d read with this incredible back-cover advertisement. You should know this was during the four-year centennial of the Civil War years… and I desperately wanted a set of Rebel and Yankee soldiers like my neighbor and some friends had — with sturdy rubber molded soldiers and large plastic cannons and mortars.

JOSELY CO. Carle Place, Long Island, NY.
Offering 150 Civil War Soldiers for $1.49.

This ad seemed to have all that – and a larger set (almost three times as large) than any I’d seen in real life. Surely a 150-piece set for only $1.49 was too good to be true.

Alas, it was.

But, at age eleven, I didn’t know any better. I assumed I’d receive what was depicted in their ad, which included a spacious “gun box” to hold all the pieces.

150-CW-soldiers-A

My treasure took some 65 days or more to arrive. When I saw that tiny cardboard box – roughly 5 X 3 X 2 inches, I knew there had to be some mistake. How could a 150-piece Civil War set (including soldiers, cannons, buildings, ships, etc.) all fit into that teeny-tiny cheap cardboard container?

Well, if the soldiers were only one inch high and stamped two-dimensionally in ultra thin, brittle plastic — I guess they could’ve fit 200 pieces in that little box.

Crestfallen. I’d been taken. Cheated.

I re-examined the ads I’d seen on all those comic book back covers. Nowhere did it say they were not full, three-dimensional figures. Nowhere did it indicate the soldiers were a mere ONE inch tall. All the soldiers, buildings, cannons, ships, and wagons were merely two dimensional silhouettes. Nowhere did it suggest that so-called “gun box” was a teeny cardboard container smaller than the type which holds 64 crayons.

Research

Writing this column, while searching the Internet for replicas of that infamous ad, I found several articles about this scam.

[Note: these following three (edited) paragraphs come from an introduction I found in an internet article]

From the very early 1950s, through the mid-1980s, comic book companies printed the beloved, now-classic advertisements for Toy Soldier Sets in the infamous “Back Page Mail-Order Ads” of most typical comic books.
The sets always looked HUGE in the ads and were always sold CHEAP enough for the average kid to actually hope to buy! * * * consisting of “Flats” (“2D” Toy Soldiers made of thin, hard plastic).
The Toy Soldier Sets were sold by several small companies, all of which seemed suspiciously related to each other somehow, despite their different names, lack of phone numbers, and/or mysterious “Dept. Whatever”/”Box Whatever” often-anonymous P.O. addresses. It seems that from the start they were all based in the same basic southern NY State area.

Lesson Learned

Yeah, I became a cynic at age eleven. From then on, I doubted every ad I saw… certain they were either directly misrepresenting their goods… or hoping to keep your eyes from the small print.

By the way, they still make toy soldier “play sets” which are similar to the quality, hard rubber Marx soldier [54 mm tall] sets of yesteryear. To acquire a comparable set today (this one with only 115 pieces, however), of what I THOUGHT I was buying back in 1962, would cost about $120.

civil-war-set

I guess you can see why I wanted one at age eleven.

Question:

Have you ever been ripped off? What happened?

[JLS # 261]

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About jeff7salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Twelve completed novels and five completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015, "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015, "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015, "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014, "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014, "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014, "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014, "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013, "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013, "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013, "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012, "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012. Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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15 Responses to Ripped Off at Age Eleven

  1. 65 days to wait! For that! But, as you say, a lesson in life, I suppose.

    You mentioned Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid last week, Jeff, and your tale this week reminded me of the story he tells of his brother sending off in the fifties for a contraption to make black and white TV into color . . . but from what I recall, when it came it was just a sheet of colored cellophane for him to hold in front of his face!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How terrible that must have been for you.
    I’ve had to tell my kids not to get their hopes up when saving upc codes from cereal boxes in hopes to get a giant beach ball, it was about the size of a tennis ball. The older two never tried to get anything from a cereal box after that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      yeah, ads are notorious about misrepresenting SCALE. They make all the kids’ toys appear gigantic… and depict them doing all sorts of complex things that the actual toy won’t do at all.

      Like

  3. jbrayweber says:

    Great post, Jeff. Sorry to hear about your disappointment. At least you learned early.

    For me the biggest rip off is insurance. Mostly health insurance. I get all frothy at the mouth thinking about how many times they’ve screwed me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      ugh. health insurance has done nothing but gone downhill since they switched from the old “hospitalization” policies… to the point (now) when THEY decide which dr., when, and what meds you can take. Crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember the centennial of the Civil War well, Jeff! My brother had felt replicas of caps from both sides, if I recall correctly.I know that he had gotten a very nice replica rifle as a gift.It was a toy, but the poor man who saw it sticking out of the car window while trying to get out of his own car at the local grocery store didn’t! He nearly had a heart attack and my mother apologized profusely! I always found it funny that we had actually been parked under the famous Hanging Tree of “Mosby’s Raiders”. The local government preserved the tree even when they built around it and paved over its roots.After some years they drilled holes in the macadam to fee and water it,but it all took its toll…not to mention that the thing had to be two hundred years old.
    I remember those ads, too.I don’t know any one who ordered anything from them to ever find them worth a nickle.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Patricia Kiyono says:

    What a disappointment to get those flat plastic figures! Yup, mail ordering is the worst. I remember my brothers playing with figurines like those in your last pic, but they didn’t have all that many of them.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yeah, I had some “modern” army soldiers — but no more than about 18 or so. Also perhaps 10 cowboys or Indians… some with horses.
      My brother had a cool cowboy wagon that was drawn by a team of horses!

      Like

  6. pjharjo says:

    What a total Bummer, Jeff! There should have been (and there probably is today) a law against scamming minors like the way you were taken advantage of. My heart aches for the little boy you were at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      yeah. And from that article I read, there must have been hundreds of thousands of kids like me who were snookered by that group of companies.

      Like

  7. Walter w. Budworth says:

    I sent away for and recieved this set when i was in 6th grade. I loved and cherished them. Played many many joyful hours in the sandbox with them. My only regret now that i am 70 is that i cant find them any more . If i could i would gladly by more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      I wish I could find my set from about that same period. I’m sure I didn’t toss them, so perhaps it’s possible I traded them with somebody for something.
      That said, my dad threw away a LOT of our stuff after we left for college, so that may be what happened to mine.

      Like

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