Thunderbirds

The TV Sci-Fi puppet series Thunderbirds was created in the mid 1960s by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.  It run for 32 episodes from 1964 to 1966 and over the years it has generated a vast number of collectables.

What was so special about Thunderbirds at the time was the new technology which enabled the puppets to move their mouths, and thin tungsten strings were used instead of  visible control wires .

Thunderbirds is the name given to the specially designed vehicles and equipment of the secret group called ‘International Rescue’, which was a private group that could respond to any emergency at sea, or in air, land or space.  Thunderbirds were based at Tracy Island, a gadget filled hideaway in the middle of the ocean.  There were altogether five Thunderbirds, including an underwater vessel and a scout craft with a top speed of 7,000mph.

In order to sell the series into the UK, two British characters were created, namely Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and her butler Nosey Parker.  The two of them were the Thunderbird’s top undercover agents.  Penelope’s choice of vehicle was a pink Rolls Royce, driven by Parker, which contained machine guns and a smoke screen.  This was a special vehicle for espionage and had the registration number FAB 1.

The show was screened in almost 100 countries and earned the Andersons international fame.  Although the TV programme was very successful, the 1966 spin-off movie was a financial disaster.  The original film posters are highly sought after now.  The film was accompanied by a massive merchandising campaign promoting a huge selection of toys, posters and models of the various gadgets used by the team.  Toy manufacturers around the world produced a wide range of Thunderbird related toys and models, the most popular being the Dinky Toys Thunderbird 2, which in most cases carried the Thunderbird 4 inside it.  The Dinky pink Rolls Royce FAB1 was also in much demand and if you have one in mint condition, it is worth around £200.

Many items and books about Thunderbirds were produced in the US and Japan and early editions are fetching good prices at specialist toy auctions.  There is also a lot of interest in the models and props used for the TV series and they are quite often to be found at TV and film related auctions.

Apart from the models of vehicles, playsets were also very popular, such as Lady Penelope’s Dressing Table Set and a Thunderbirds Are Go biscuit tin.  A number of dolls of the different characters were also made.

Matchbox made The Thunderbirds Commenmorative Set Collection, a limited edition issued in conjunction with the BBC in 1992.  It made $70 million for the company.  Other collectables have included toys, trading cards, badges, books, records, posters and videos.  The 2004 movie produced a whole new lot of colletables.

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