thrift store finds: viewmaster and VM reels (part one!)

For the next two weeks, we’re looking at a View-Master and a random assortment of View-Master reels. I found this “collection” at our local New 2 You store while I was waiting for my oil to be changed. I paid around $3 dollars for everything you see below.

I’ve always been a big fan of View-Masters, even though I didn’t I own one as a kid. My grandmother had an ancient View-Master buried away in the closet of her apartment in the Bronx. When I’d be left with her for the weekend, she’d take it out and I’d spend hours spinning through the various reels she had haphazardly collected through the years of raising three children. Put it this way: the newest View-Master reel in the collection was an epic three-reel story retelling the episodes of The Brady Bunch where Cindy and Bobby get lost in the Grand Canyon.

I’ve always wanted my own View-Master but having that toy in reserve at Grandma’s meant I never quite got up the gumption to add it to my Christmas list. As an adult, I’ve occasionally considered buying one for fun but the problem was this: picking up a vintage View-Master is one purchase… finding a collection of View-Master reels at a cheap price is another matter altogether. When I saw the haphazard bag full of reels, I pulled the trigger.

Let’s talk about the View-Master itself. The model I have is the Model O version and it looks quite a bit different from the standard View-Master. While all VMs have the look of a pair of red plastic binoculars, the Model O shifts some aspects of the design, with the reel tray being horizontal instead of vertical. There were a couple of standard View-Masters kicking around the thrift store, but I chose this one because it was the newest and cleanest of the bunch. It’s a clever design, apparently created to save shelf space for retailers. I dig it.

If you’ve never used a View-Master, it works thusly: insert a reel and look through the viewer. A stereo image is projected within the viewer, presenting a 3-D layered picture if the VM is directed toward a good light source. While View-Masters were eventually marketed almost exclusively to kids, it was originally conceived as a toy for adults, and a lot of the reels were tourism oriented.

I’ll go into some details on the reels themselves next week, but for the sake of specificity, let’s talk about one included in this massive collection: three Batman: The Animated Series View-Master reels.

Although the branding in the middle of the reel marks these as being released during the New Batman Adventures era of the series, the slides themselves are vintage B:TAS, adapting the first season episode Be a Clown, wherein The Joker disguises himself as a birthday party clown.

This website offers a great look at each individual slide ( you’ve got to scroll down a bit to see ’em). The effect of looking at these slides through the View-Master is pretty cool and you can see each “view” is composed of two slightly different pictures.

Next week I’ll talk about some of the odder View-Master reels in this collection… and there are a couple of strange ones!

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2 Responses to “thrift store finds: viewmaster and VM reels (part one!)”

  1. Chuck Field Says:

    I’ve been collecting for many years. The oldest VM were mostly round and opened likes clamshell. I don’t think red ones showed up until the1980s. The older viewers and reels are often nicer. Older reels often show true stereoscopic photographs. Much nicer than those cartoony reels! Thanks for this nice post. It’s great to see others become interested.

  2. […] This is a continuation of last week’s Thrift Store Find. Go read that before you read this. […]

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