Monday, 20 May 2013

Project sword: The Forgotten Plastic Anderson Rockets of the 60's

by paul woods u.k.1999
Project Sword: Long, sleek, curved, big fins, astrodomed, big retros, futuristic shapes, prolific - these are all words describing that forgotten range of plastic Gerry Anderson space-ships and vehicles of the sixties - Project Sword.

Forgotten, perhaps, but how many baby-boom Xmas mornings were lit up by the wondrous coloured lights of the moonbus or the moon prospector? How many airfix plastic- soldier carpet- battalions were blasted by the Booster Rocket! More than we think I bet. For me, the toys completely eclipsed the other Anderson craft by Century 21, Lincoln et al. For 1 or 2 Christmas's in the late sixties, Project Sword- the ships, badges and space- age boxes- were my only reasons for getting up at the crack of dawn, falling over the dog and raiding the pile at the bottom of the tree!
Always destined to be in the shadow of their more famous cousins, Thunderbirds, and the other Gerry Anderson TV series, Project Sword was one of the most exciting and futuristic fleet of space toys around, particularly in the UK. Yes, they never made it onto the small screen or even the scriptwriters' desk and some of them were straight out of NASA, but the toys were masterpieces of plastic design and the peak of space- cadet cool.
The one exception to this lack of fame is, of course, Zero X - the star of the Thunderbirds are Go Movie and a fantastically huge toy to boot, which graced the pages of all the Project Sword publications.
The 'Sword world of toys was conceived through a mixture of Century 21 Toys purchasing some old Hong Kong/ Taiwan toy moulds and then doing there usual magic on the designs. All this was way back in 1967/68. The full range of 'playthings' consisted of: plastic toys, one annual and comic strips.
It is unclear who at Century 21 Toys oversaw the Project Sword range, although it is likely that Jack Rosenthal and Keith Shackleton were central. Allen Fennel had a role in creating the concept/ story. The design work will have included Derek Meddings, most likely on Zero X. Other staff included Angus Allen, Richard Curtis and Todd Sullivan. Gerry Anderson will have certainly endorsed the whole Project Sword line.
The plastic toys were neatly bound together in stories featured in the Annual and the comic and text strips in Solo and TV21respectively. At the nub of the Sword concept is Earth in the year 3031- struck by a meteorite and dying, global civil war and a mass evacuation to other planets- this last challenge being the reason for all the Sword ships and vehicles. Pity it never made it onto the TV!
As a collectable, Sword has everything: a defined but numerous range, a degree of obscurity and hence is challenging, relatively modest prices, stunning good looks and a few real rare nirvanas like the Nuclear Ferry . A particular area worthy of further exploration is the precise number of different American Sword toys by Tarheel - there could be a whole replica US Sword universe out there (let me know if you find any!)
They deserve not to be the forgotten plastic rockets of the sixties because they are as good as anything else produced by Century 21 or any other sixties space- toy outfit. Then again, I don't want everyone to start collecting them! I have written a Checklist for collectors and I am always interested in talking Sword, so please email me.

NB Spacex history page in development.

created by paul woods u.k. copyright 1999.
Golden Astronaut

by Multiple Toymakers

The US version of the Triang Spacex 1 series is called 'GOLDEN ASTRONAUT' made by Multiple Toys with 3 sets or phases, each one having 4 craft:


  1. Interplanetary Patrol
  2. Moon Exploration
  3. Space probe

These correspond to the UK sets respectively with the same craft:


  1. Outer Space Travel
  2. Moon Base
  3. Space Station

Unsure if there is a set corresponding to the UK set 'Earth Base'

At todays prices, $79+ for each set of four(courtesy of Toy Shop Newspaper). Check out ebay too

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Top-US Montgomery Ward Advertisement courtesy of John Eaton USA/Paul Vreede Belgium/MarK Maclellen USA.

Bottom and below- Loose and carded US Golden Astronaut and Space Adventure (top right of piccy) craft above and below courtesy of Mark Maclellen USA

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Top- Launch Site set-courtesy of ebay


Amongst an assortment of Spacex Prospector and badges ( note the Spacex 2 Triangular badge) is the one of the Roxy line of Space miniatures ( purple and to the left)- courtesy of Bill Bulloch UK