October 31, 2012


Spy Vibers looking for rare and out-of-print cult films and documentaries should check out the 1-day sale at The Video Beat. Until midnight tonight, retro movie fans get 30% off each title. Check out their website for categories like Mod & Miscl Cool, Music Docs, Monsters Surf & Teens, Beatniks & Hippies, Rock N Roll, and Juvenile Delinquent, Bikers, and Hot Rods. In the Mod section, you'll find treasures like Deadlier Than the Male, The Cat Burgler, Girl On a Motorcycle, Hell Drivers, Performance, Smashing Time, and The Swinger. Use promo code: Halloween30 at checkout. I've ordered many music documentaries from them and they are fantastic! Happy hunting! More info at The Video Beat. Poster below available from movieposter.com

October 29, 2012


Taschen has published a 14-page spread about James Bond that includes many cool design images and behind-the-scenes photos from their new James Bond Archives book. The article is available in a large download edition (over 100mb) of their magazine, which also includes some very cool items on modern architecture. Collector alert: First print-run orders of the book will include an original segment of 35mm film from Dr No! See Tashen for details.


Sir Roger Moore is currently making his way through a tour to promote his new book, Bond On Bond, and to connect with fans during this 50th anniversary season of the James Bond films. If you are in New York, you can see Roger at the Hudson Union Society on Thursday, November 8th and at Barnes & Noble on 18th street on Friday, November 9th. This is a great opportunity for fans of 007, The Saint, and The Persuaders. Everyone who RSVP's to the Hudson Union event will receive a hardcover edition of the new book. More info at the Roger Moore website.

October 25, 2012


Thanks to Design Within Reach, an interesting item showed up on our radar today. For Spy Vibers who are looking for the perfect lair, now is your chance to own the Goodyear house by John Johansen. The home is located near where I grew up in Connecticut. Some of you may know that my family started the New York School of Interior Design. The Whiton home was designed and built in Wilton, CT, and my grandfather was also part of a modern design community in the area. For many years, we lived in a modern structure with large glass walls. Sadly, all of the houses in our community were later replaced by McMansions. Just over the hills from us, however, were protected projects by more prominent designers, Phillip Johnson, Elliot Noyes, and John Johansen

From DWR: "The only surviving member of the Harvard Five, architect John Johansen settled in Connecticut in the 1940s, along with Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson and Eliot Noyes. Drawn to the New Canaan area for its open landscape, the men experimented with new materials and construction methods as well as open floor plans and indoor-outdoor living. The homes they built for themselves and their clients attracted other architects to the area, which resulted in more than 80 modern houses being built over the next two decades.

The most famous is Philip Johnson’s Glass House, now a National Trust historic site and open to the public for tours. Many are still owned by the original families, and on the rare occasion that one of these homes comes up for sale, the hope is that the buyer will be a passionate fan of American mid-century modern architecture.

In the case of the Goodyear House, built in 1955 and located on more than two acres in Darien, Conn., the house is surprisingly large for its day, and nicely suited to today’s way of living. Listed by Halstead Propery, the house showcases Johansen’s use of spatial symbols, such as the cave, bridge and labyrinth. I’m guessing that the “lower level hockey arena” is not original to the home, but the structure appears to be unaltered." More info at DWR.

October 24, 2012


A new fashion book was published this month that might interest Spy Vibers: Fifty Fashion Looks That Changed the 1960s by Paula Reed. From Amazon: "Building on the international success of the Design Museum Fifty... series, including Fifty Shoes/Bags/Hats that Changed the World, this new title - curated in the series by fashion guru Paula Reed - takes a look at key pieces in fashion history from the 1960s. From the Courreges 'Moon Girls' to Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell's 'romantic peasants', this books captures the influential looks of the decade. With more and more people buying vintage pieces to add to their wardrobes of contemporary items, this authoritative and inspiring book will prove an invaluable source of reference." Moon Girls!

October 23, 2012


Fans of the new jacket designs for Amazon's Ian Fleming series may be interested in checking out Noma Bar's covers for the new Haruki Murakami editions from Vintage Books. Published on October 4th, the books are available at Amazon.uk. 

From Vintage: "Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. He is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His works include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, After Dark and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. His work has been translated into more than forty languages, and the most recent of his many international honours is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J.M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V.S. Naipaul."

October 19, 2012


For Your Shelf Only continues! Spy Vibe recently talked with Jon Gilbert, rare book dealer and author of Ian Fleming: The Bibliography. Our chat began a new series on Spy Vibe, offering fellow collectors a chance to share their experiences and some of their prized treasures.

Our guest collector is Alan Stephenson. Alan was born in the San Francisco Area, and graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Industrial Design in 1983. He promptly entered telecommunications, where he stayed for some fifteen years. As a result of both the dotcom bust and a serious heart condition, he relocated to the CA Central Coast in 2004 where he's been engaged primarily in charity work. 

Alan shares his experiences with Spy Vibe as a serious collector of James Bond toys with some rare and exclusive images. By age seven, Alan began acquiring "spy stuff." Though Bond represented the bulk of it, over time he also amassed a large collection of other entertainment memorabilia: The Phantom of the Opera, King Kong, The Rocketeer, and much more. In recent years he's pared-down those other interests to focus more exclusively on 007. He has been fortunate to visit a great many places where the Bond films were not only shot -- including Pinewood Studios -- but written (Goldeneye) as well as attend several premieres both domestic ('A View to a Kill,' 'GoldenEye') and overseas ('Die Another Day,' 'Quantum of Solace'). He has also coordinated a number of personal exhibitions and lectures in addition to co-hosting a series of small-scale conventions. His hope is that all of this will one day culminate in a book on Bond memorabilia.

Q: When were you first introduced to the James Bond character?

A: One reason I think I collect Bond is that I was first introduced to the products rather than the character himself; my late brother built the Airfix/Craftmaster Aston Martin and, naturally, as the younger sibling, I wasn't supposed to even look at it let alone play with it so, of course, it became this coveted thing.

The first embodiment of Bond I encountered was when the '67 'Casino Royale' played on TV; that actually permanently warped my view of 007 … Hell, it pretty much permanently warped my entire world view.

Q: Do you remember what it was about that Bond experience that captured your imagination?

A: What with 5-6,000 items, my collection certainly takes fandom to another level; still, I don't think what draws me to the films and so on is any different from what draws the average fan: the lavish look, the production design (Adam's in particular), the story lines (despite an occasional misfire), the humor, the stunts, the travelogue, etc.

Although the Bonds of the past couple of decades have become more realistic (something I find lamentable), I'd say up until the '80s that the series had a certain kitsch factor which is also reflected in the products: the paint-by-numbers kits, the magic trick set, the logo (however subtlety … or not) applied to everything and anything … the market was filled with this stuff yet, at its core, it's simultaneously the antithesis of the glossy, sophisticated 007 who supposedly inspired it … that contradiction (and all the objects it generated) -- including what remains in my mind the biggest question of all: how did Bond -- who was pretty "adult" in nature from the start -- become such an major influence on the children's market? -- I find endlessly fascinating.

Q: What was the first 007 film you saw in a theater?

A: I remember seeing double-bills of the earlier titles when UA re-issued them in the '70s plus going to Saturday marathons of three or maybe even four at once, but I can't tell you which I actually saw first. I do know that 'Diamonds Are Forever' was the first I saw in its initial release.

Q: Do you remember the first Bond toy you bought?

A: Absolutely: The Corgi-made Toyota 2000 from 'You Only Live Twice.' Oddly, I hadn't seen the film and was actually too small to even get a clear look at the sales sample on the Corgi counter display; I was hooked by the spring-loaded trunk and the idea that something shot out of it! I used to get 25¢ a week allowance for pulling weeds in the yard or whatever and I remember having to get an advance of $3.25 for the Toyota; still have it, in the original box!

Q: When did you start collecting Bond toys more seriously?

A: I started to realize in high school that this wasn't just random spy stuff anymore; I really identified it as "collecting" and got much more focused in college.

Q: Did you score any rare holy grail items early on?

A: Yes and, sadly, probably a bit *too* early: I got the "Shooting Attache Case" mint in box at a flea market for -- get this -- $3! (The owner had stepped away so we dealt with his mother; we came back to pick it up later because we didn't want to carry it around all morning and he was angry because he had wanted $11!) At any rate, I took it home and played with it and cut-up the box. I don't want to tell you what it cost me to replace the whole thing a couple of decades later.

Q: What were the things that first attracted you to vintage collectibles? Was it graphics, like package designs and typeface, or a nostalgia for toys?

A: Keep in mind that alot of what you call "vintage" was "new" when I started! As a kid, I was especially interested in the duality of many of the toys (though that was really a more pronounced quality in the Bond wannabes): the camera that became a gun [Mattel's Agent Zero M], that sort of thing; some of the designs were -- and still are -- amazingly complex. As an adult, an appreciation of the graphics -- illustration in particular -- came into play. Today, new pieces mostly satisfy the compleatist in me while nostalgia definitely figures in securing older items.

Interesting that you mention "typeface" because wording itself is a factor for me: I love that A.C. Gilbert described Largo as a "cruel one-eyed villain" or that -- and this is my all-time favorite -- Coibel made a sort of unintended editorial remark with a typo on one of their products, describing it as "exploiting" instead of "exploding."

Q: Did you ever specialize, or was anything 007-related fair game?

A: Earlier on, if it had the 007 logo, I'd buy it. Looking back now I really wish I'd specialized with, say, just die-cast cars or just action figures. But then again, when I started, there wasn't that much stuff available … or at least in my little corner of the pre-Internet globe, it didn't seem like there was that much. And certainly nothing on the level we have today where so much of it is made expressly as a collectible. Could be worse, though: at least Bond still seems finite some how; if I was hooked on Star Wars or Star Trek I'd be doomed. Regardless, I'm much more selective about Bond now, I wish I didn't have to be, but I am.

Q: Are you a completest? Do you try to get full-runs of things like action figures and movie tie-in products?

A: Yes, unfortunately for me, if it's a series, then I've got to have it all. That would be the intent, anyway; I'll admit I have several lines which are incomplete, either because to own the entire line represents a fair amount of repetition, or I sold a piece (for the same reason), or I just haven't gotten around to it. For instance, I only recently took notice that I was missing one set out of the A.C. Gilbert 3.75" figure line and made a point of picking it up earlier this year. In that same vein, though I have the S.D. Studios Golden Gun, I'm watching for an affordable Factory Entertainment edition.

Q: Where do you hunt for collectibles? Do you make the rounds of the Internet and various auctions?

A: I used to attend maybe 10-12 toy shows a year and while they seem to be making something of a comeback, they've been effectively displaced by online sales.

There are several auction houses where I bid virtually or in-person but, anymore, I mostly look on eBay just like everybody else (though I've learned a few tricks over time that help me find listings others miss). Also, while I don't necessarily find rare pieces, I have found some great deals on Craig's List. The Net can't be beat for access but it's also almost certainly translated to a decline in value of some items acquired in the brick and mortar days.

Q: I once owned a large collection of Gilbert figures and accessories still on their cards. Looking back, I wonder if they were genuine. Have you run across counterfeit collectibles?

A: I've got to assume there are fakes out there, certainly in the segments where -- regrettably -- it's something of a given, like autographs. I'd say I'm lucky in that about the time collecting 007 kind of exploded, I had matured enough to be wary of anything that seemed too good of a deal to be true though I'll confess my biggest failing is buying without reading the entire description first.

Maybe I'm naive but 007 is such a niche market that I have a hard time believing anyone is devoting a great deal of time and expense to recasting toys or whatever; again, this isn't a brand like Star Wars where there are fortunes to be made. It's rare that I happen on what I perceive to be an active attempt at deception; most often it's just a seller who hasn't done their homework. Sadly, that experience isn't limited to expected venues like eBay; I can think of at least one major auction house which doesn't do the research it so easily could.

Q: We were emailing about amusing ad campaigns and I think of that famous cologne ad with the gorgeous vixen saying, "If you don't give him 007... I will." What are some of your favorite examples?

A: My favorite example of 'Mad Men' era excess is from that same P&G product line: "'007' gives you the license to kill … women!" Seriously?! Even in '65 who would approve that?! That's my favorite specific tagline.

But if you look at the campaigns for "bachelor accouterments" (what we now term "lifestyle") -- the clothes, the liquor, etc. -- there was a pervasive message of "buy this and you WILL BE James Bond." It speaks, I suppose, to a certain consumer innocence. It's interesting, though, that you move forward, say, a decade to, again, something like Star Wars and you don't have "buy this lightsaber and you WILL BE Luke Skywalker!" I think audiences have become both more sophisticated as well as more jaded; you just can't use that kind of pitch anymore.

Q: You have your collection displayed in absolutely beautiful cases. The racing set looks especially cool. Did you have most of those displays built? And is everything together in a 'Bond Room'?

A: The road race table I designed and built myself; with the wood and exposed metal, I was shooting for something that Adam would have done. The phone booth is -- or was -- commercially available. The rest is, for the most part, IKEA, although a good deal modified for my purposes; for example, the main cabinets are actually re-worked stand-alone closets.

Q: Collectors often have to sell things to either trade up or to pay bills. Have you parted with any treasures that you now regret losing?

A: I sold a Corgi set that I wish I hadn't but it goes back to that "repetition" factor: I had all the vehicles individually and in other sets. On the other hand, the buyer turned-out to be George Steinbrenner so at least it left me with a cool story. Also, during a period of unemployment, someone made an offer on my S.D. Studios attache case that I couldn't -- at the time -- refuse; that's the one I regret the most but, I needed the money.

Q: What is the most you've ever invested in a collectible?

A: I will say only that there is nothing in the collection for which I paid more than $3,500 (exclusive of shipping, duty, etc.).

Q: Having said that, do you have an item in your collection that you prize above all others?

A: That's such a tough call; there are pieces which appeal to me for aesthetic reasons like the Mayfair chess set or because they're intriguing in ways that have little to do with Bond like the IDA sphere from 'The World is Not Enough.' That said, I definitely value the SDS Golden Gun, the Liparus/Broccoli Soundstage model, the SPECTRE volcano playset, the Connery handpuppet mold, the Moonraker jumpsuit … like I said, it's a tough call.

Q: What are you looking for now?

A: The same things everyone else can't find: the Sears exclusive and Cecil Coleman 12" figures and accessories, the French Moonraker child's playsuit, pretty much any vintage Japanese stuff. I did just find a Sensitizer Mitt like the one used in 'Thunderball;' that eluded me for decades.

One item that's proven oddly tough is the 'Die Another Day' issue of British Airways in-flight magazine: the cover is identical to the one seen in the film. There are a few pieces of '60s branded clothing -- such as dress pants -- I haven't been able to locate. There's a Belgian 'Spy Who Loved Me' jigsaw puzzle I should have bought the first time I saw it. The thing I most want, though, is only quasi-Bond related: Irwin Plastics made a HUGE "secret agent" Aston Martin around '65 that's quite rare.

Q: Having seen all of the cool James Bond products over the years, what would you like to see designers create that hasn't been available before?

A: It would be impractical in terms of size and sales, but I know I'm not alone in wishing someone would make a 1/6 scale Aston Martin DB5. I'm also a little surprised that certain things strongly associated with the series were never officially offered as toys, like the Golden Gun or Scaramanga's flying car [commissioned piece below]. Along those same lines, it's funny that several companies have made "spy gear" over the years but none really made an attempt to brand it 007 or particularly replicate gadgets from the films.

Q: What were your impressions of Goldeneye? What was it like being in Ian Fleming's creative space?

A: Goldeneye was … okay. I should provide some background: Ocho Rios, Jamaica, was a port on a Royal Caribbean cruise that I booked as part of a Bond group. There was alot to see so, of course, it was the one time we docked like four hours late. Immediately we're cutting stops and rushing the ones we do make, though in part to guarantee time at Goldeneye. Once you get away from the secure beachfront properties, the disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots" in Jamaica is shocking. And Goldeneye having become an ultra-exclusive hotel underscores that all the more. We weren't allowed to take pictures as we might capture an unauthorized image of some celebrity guest (one of whom I recall being Michelle Pfeiffer). The house itself is now a sort of communal living room while the grounds are covered in bungalows, of which they were constructing still more at the time. Fleming's bedroom -- which still contained his writing desk and wheelback chair -- was about the only thing left undeveloped. Fleming designed the residence himself and while it's a prime location, he set all the windows so high that, from inside, you really can't see anything. No wonder neighbor Noel Coward dubbed it "Goldeneye … ear, nose, and throat." [image below from the Ian Fleming website]

I appreciate that Goldeneye can't be a museum: it's too remote; still, I hate to see it so commercialized. In fact, it was Coward's home, Firefly* -- just down the hill -- of which I have stronger and more positive memories. It was pretty much untouched and gave you a much greater sense of what it must have been like to live and work in what then would have been paradise.

*Coward had a large home, Blue Harbour, closer to town but found himself overrun by so many frequent and sometimes long-term house guests so he built himself the secluded Firefly, which is really not much more than a bedroom with a kitchen.

Q: Tell us about the golden typewriter in your collection.

A: In 1952, having completed the manuscript for the first James Bond novel -- 'Casino Royale' -- Ian Fleming bought himself a "simple" wedding present: A Quiet de Luxe portable typewriter ... plated in real gold.* Ordering the unit directly from Royal Typewriter of New York for $174, Fleming was forced to rely on friend Ivar Bryce to transport it to the UK aboard the steamship Queen Elizabeth.

Owing to his later being popularly called the "Man With the Golden Pen," Fleming's friends regarded the typewriter as the ultimate in verisimilitude.
Though Fleming thought the whole thing a marvelous joke—even vowing to have paper specially made to suit—and posed on occasion with the typewriter, it's not known to what extent he actually used the Royal. Auctioned by Christie's of London on 5 May 1995 for over $89,000, the well-worn device is rumored to have been purchased by the then freshly-cast Pierce Brosnan. [Brosnan has denied in interviews that he purchased the typewriter]

Fleming eventually composed twelve full-length Bond adventures plus an assortment of other novels, short stories, travelogues, and more. His work has been translated into at least a dozen languages and appears in libraries throughout the world.

*It sounds more auspicious than it really was; beginning in 1948—the fiftieth anniversary of the company—Royal offered each succeeding version of the Quiet de Luxe in gold as an award to top salesmen, a departing gift to retiring employees, or as a special memento for customers like Fleming.

Just to demonstrate how deeply Alan's love of collecting Bond toys is, check out this image below. A serious fan by High School, Alan actually built this scale model of Ken Adam's volcano set as a teenager!

Thank you to Alan Stephenson for joining us and sharing his experiences hunting down rare James Bond toys. Check out our recent posts, including Neil Armstrong: One Last StepNew Beatles ReleasesInterview with Playboy Bunny Deana, and our series, For Your Shelf Only, where guests share stories about collecting and show us some of their treasures. Series links: Jon GilbertRaymond BensonJeremy DunsPeter LorenzDavid FosterRob MallowsRoger LangleyCraig ArthurFleming ShortMatt Sherman. Check out my books Counting Sheep and Mort Walker ConversationsYou can find James Bond books and other spy treasures in Spy Vibe's secure Amazon Store.