… 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.
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.
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.
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.
I guess you can see why I wanted one at age eleven.
Have you ever been ripped off? What happened?
[JLS # 261]