Bang, bang! You’re dead. No I’m not. Yes you are! Ah, the peaceful days of childhood. Why is making noise such a large part of being a kid? Whether we old guys like it or not, noise is fun. One of the all time great kid noisemakers is the cap gun. They first showed up sometime after the Civil War when gun manufacturers augmented their reduced sales revenue with toy guns that fired loud gunpowder caps. They became a common American toy but really came into their own after WWII when radio, then television popularized western dramas. When the genre faded about 1965 so did the cap gun market. As the children of that time period grew up a collectible marketplace was born. The number one driver collectibles in the economy is nostalgia.
The memories of shoot ’em up days is about to surface at auction. Kenton, Ohio resident Bob Bailey will be auctioning off his extensive collection of over 230 cap pistols at Kenton’s 17Th annual Gene Autry Days, June 26-27 at the Pokies Hardin County Fairgrounds. Bailey’s collection is the largest in the country and features guns made by the Kenton Hardware Company from 1904 to 1950. He has one Gene Autry model gun from each year of manufacture from 1938 to 1950. His collection is on display at the Hardin County Historical Society.
It will be interesting to see what kind of interest will be shown in this day when children are more likely to relate to light sabers and and ecologically friendly fun. Social change also made cap guns a less popular item on the American scene. The 1960’s anti-war movement, the counterculture in general and academics in the field of psychology pointed to violence on TV and violent toys as influencing violent behavior in children. The point is debatabe but the effects of the discussion can be seen on the shelves of toy departments across the nation. It’s clear that the big box stores are kinder and gentler places than the old Woolworth’s stores of my youth. And quite a bit more sterile.