In a third grade classroom, the secret agent-in-training fires the message towards his comrade. The missile lands helplessly on his teacher's desk as recess comes to a close.
The finest spy trench coat in the world cannot hide the agent's embarrassment as his teacher pulls the housing off the missile and reads the message aloud: "The man with the hat is the spy" She holds it up to the class- "Who does this belong to?" The young agent is mortified as laughter fills the room. Hanging his head, he trudges to the front of the room and retrieves it from his teacher.
He was lucky; it was the second day back from Christmas break and each student had been allowed to bring in their favorite gift that day. Obviously, her Christmas spirit had carried over into 1966. He lived to spy another day.
The advent of the 1960s brought with it a new theme for boy's toys. Whereas the 1950s had been all about cowboys and Western themes, the breakout toys of the Sixties were spy toys. The success of the James Bond movies- Dr. No in 1962 and From Russia With Love in 1963 led to TV imitations, the most successful being The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Later, Secret Agent, The Prisoner, Mission Impossible, and even a comedy- Get Smart, filled the airwaves and inspired boys everywhere that the spy game was an intriguing and romantic one. Toys fashioned after the television series were bound to be a hit also. But generic spy toys were also big sellers. One of the most successful was Topper Toys' "Secret Sam Attaché Case". This apprentice spy received one for Christmas in 1965 and he doesn't remember a cooler toy since.
The elaborate plastic Attaché had all the makings of a spy survival kit. There was the basic pistol, complete with scope, which shot two kinds of white plastic bullets, long range and short range. In addition, there was a silencer and barrel extension (which really DID deaden the sound) and a stock which converted the pistol into a rifle. A periscope fastened to a yoke behind the handgrip, perfect for peering over obstacles and around corners. You can't be too careful in the spy game! In addition, the pistol/rifle was capable of shooting a "message missile", a plastic housing slid off the missile body and a paper message could be wrapped around it. Once the housing was replaced, it could be shot over long distances to a fellow agent or operative.
One of the neatest features was that the weaponry could be operated while the Attaché was closed. A secret button on the briefcase's side would allow the firing of a round through the narrow side of the Attaché if needed. Quite handy. And on the other narrow side, a working camera was nestled within the Styrofoam interior shell, and could be operated from a secret button outside the case, perfect for photographing would-be assassins and conspirators.
The Secret Sam line also included a smoking pipe which could fire bullets while clenched in one's teeth (not very politically correct today!) and the "Six Finger" gun, an artificial index finger which fired bullets and missiles of various sorts. Though they were fine toys, they never held the cachet of the Secret Sam Attaché'. While it listed for $6.88 in the 1965 Sears Christmas catalogue, a near-mint copy today can fetch $150-$200 on the auction market, a small price to pay for the world's greatest spy toy.
About the author: David Galassie is a human resources specialist in Columbia, SC. When not writing in his free time, he pursues genealogy, Wisconsin history, and comic book collecting. He has been published online in The Comic Book Electronic Magazine, Long Story Short, and in print in Good Old Days Specials magazine.
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