Thursday, May 26, 2011

Collectible of the Week: Space:1999 Chest Pack Radio (Illco., 1976)

My love for Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977) began when I was five years old and while the series was still broadcasting on WPIX, Channel 11 out of New York.  Even today, I vividly remember the abundant toys, books and model kits from the TV series dotting the aisles of local toy stores, particularly Newberry's in Verona, N.J.

My parents -- indulgent sorts that they are -- always made certain I was equipped with eagle spaceships, Mattel action figures, Power Records, H.G. Puzzles and the like.  Most of these Space:1999 items still hold cherished positions in my home office today.  Some of them, as you can guess, are pretty well played out after thirty-five years.

Another Space:1999 toy I vividly recall was the Illfelder Toy Company's Chest Pack Radio (style no. 37-2070).  As the box reads, this was a "solid-state transistor radio with microphone, space signal morse code button and ear-plug."   In design, this ATV-licensed toy is made to resemble the Alphan space suit chest pack.  It straps on over the shoulders, and is worn across the torso.  It takes four C size batteries to operate properly.

The Space: 1999 Chest Pack Radio includes the following features:

1. Solid State 5 Transistor A.M Radio
2. Sensitive Volume Control.
3. Microphone.
4. Space Signal Morse Code Button
5. Earphone
6. Precision Tuning Dial
7. Microphone Mix Control.
8. "Red Alert" Light
9. Authentic Space:1999 Chest Pack Style
10. Heavy duty body straps
11. Completely portable.

With the microphone you can "Broadcast your voice or sing along with your favorite tunes

With the "Space Signal Button" you can "send real morse code messages."

And with the ear plug you can engage in "private listening."

So in other words, this is really just a sort of kid's radio, only styled and packaged to seem futuristic.  It's similar to Mego's Star Trek Command Communication Console in concept, I suppose.  The toy likely wouldn't seem too thrilling to today's kids, I'd wager.  Precision tuning dials? Volume controls? Ear plugs?  I mean, whoo-hoo, right?  Today we sleep next to tiny alarm clocks with many of these features...though personally I'd like them better if they also included "red alert lights."

But back in the 1970s (the decade of the CB radio, lest we forget...), this kind of toy was absolute nirvana...and state of the art. 

The future of the year 1999 perhaps wasn't as fantastic as Space:1999 predicted, but thanks to toys such as this Chest Pack Radio, the seventies were certainly pretty awesome for sci-fi kids.


  1. Wow. Boy, that's a vintage piece. I've not seen that one. But yes, my parents relented to my sci-fi toy discoveries.

    I was solely responsible for finding stuff and they were generally receptive. It couldn't have been too much.

    Gosh, I remember ordering stuff via the mail and cutting out forms out of comic books, enclosing checks and waiting and waiting for stuff to arrive.

    The idea of doing that today seems so, well, alien, with the advent of the internet. Today, more than ever, a mail order purchase really feels dangerous, like your order is going into some black hole never to be returned. : )

    Love your retro toy coverage.

  2. Wow! A Morse Code button for all those pre-teen Morse Code enthusiasts! I was 11 years old when Space:1999 premiered, so I was too old for toys like this, but I certainly fantasized about being a few years younger and running around the neighborhood with one of these. I did, however, have the books, comics, models, and some of the action figures. This was the beginning of my science fiction geekdom.

  3. Anonymous10:45 AM

    How fun! My parents weren't into buying many toys (we traveled too often as a military family), but I can remember dearly wanting things like this back in the 70s. I still find it amazing that there were and are so many others out there that love this stuff.


  4. Hi everyone, thanks for the great comments and memories regarding this Space:1999 Chest Pack Radio collectible.

    SFF: I agree with your reflections on how much things have changed since the 1970s and the days of mail order. With E-bay, Amazon, the Internet, etc., we have instant gratification, almost, and the ability to purchase toys, models, books and other treasures we might never have encountered in another age. It really is remarkable.

    Neal P: Your comment gave me a good laugh (especially the bit about all those pre-teen Morse Code enthusiasts...). But you are absolutely right: for many who were kids in the sixties and seventies, imaginative toys such as these were the gateway to an appreciation and love of science fiction. Absolutely!

    Meredith: I've made it a life goal (!) to collect Space:1999 toys. The visualizations and narratives of the series still thrill me, and these toys are a vital piece of the puzzle!

    best to all,

  5. Does anyone know where I can buy one?


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