Ray Gun Collecting in Europe:
The Adventures of Hans Hobert


His business card and stationary bear the image of a large ray gun and beside it, in block letters, the inscription RAY GUN COLLECTOR. Hans Hobert takes his ray gun collecting seriously! A graphic designer living in Antwerp, Belgium, Hans is the proud owner of a large and diverse collection of toy space guns. One of the most active collectors in Europe, Hans' experiences, as well as his collection, reveal much about the hobby of collecting toy ray guns in Europe.

Hans Hobert discovered toy ray guns in 1994 when he received Leslie Singer's book Zap as a birthday present. It was love at first signt. "I immediately fell in love with these wonderful toys," says Hans. " I loved the shapes, forms, box art, and the diversity." Soon Hobert was searching the countryside looking for toys and buying everything he could lay his hands on. "I went to every old toy store or general store in the area I lived in," he recalls, "and I bought every kind of ray gun I could find. Most were from Hong Kong, but in some old shops I did find nice French and English ray guns."

Soon Hans discovered Toy Shop magazine, and with it the American market for toy ray guns. Through Toy Shop he made his first purchases


in the United States, and soon he was in touch with American toy dealers like ray gun specialist George Newcomb of Plymouth Rock Toy Co. By this point, Hans admits, he was "seriously hooked" on collecting. He began making the rounds of Eruopean toy shows. Today Hans travels to all the European shows he can in addition to keeping in contact with numerous dealers around the world .

Unlike many collectors of toy ray guns whose fascination is supported by their fond memories of playing with these toys as children, Hans never saw a ray gun until he read Zap. "I am what they call a new generation of ray gun collector," he says. "I am not a baby boomer, and I do not collect out of wanting to relive my childhood years or to buy the things I wanted as a child. I collect toy ray guns simply because I love the things. Not for the money, nor the memories. Simply for the love of their forms."


According to Hans, toy ray guns are much harder to find in Europe than in the United States. In addition to the fact that far fewer space guns were made in Europe than in the US, few guns were imported from Japan to Europe. Thus, there are far fewer Europeans who remember having played with ray guns as children. Finally, especially in recent years, the enthusiasm for toy ray guns that has developed in the United States has encouraged European toy dealers to ship the majority of the ray guns they find directly to America where these toys often find a larger, and more lucrative, market.

"One might think that it's easier to find European ray guns over here," says Hans. "Well, let me tell you that it's not true. English ray guns are hardly seen outside of England. They are either bought by English collectors of English brands or sold straight to dealers in the USA. The same goes for Spanish and Italian guns. They only show up in local t


oy shows in Spain and Italy or get sold to the US. And the few German and French ray guns made are very hard to come by as well. US made ray guns are impossible to find here. Most found are Japanese ray guns, mainly because of the fact that they are made of tin, which is still considered more collectible than plastic in Europe."

However, all of this hasn't stopped Hans from amassing a remarkabe collection of toy ray guns. By staying in close contact with dealers, attending European toy shows, and constantly scouting rummage shops and flea markets, he has come up with some wonderful "finds." "You get really hooked by the search and then the grand prize: the find!" he says. Among Hans' favorite discoveries


is a MIB French "Voyageur Interplanetaire," a rare and wonderful diecast flashlite gun that comes with its own lightningbolt-studded holster and target set. Hans has also discovered an unusual Canadian ray gun, a rare plastic toy made by Reliable Co. in 1948. This is the earliest Canadian toy ray gun that has yet been found. Among Hans' other favorite "finds" is a beautifully sculpted French spinner gun called "Le Sideral" which Hans has acquired both on a graphic card and in its original box. Yet Hans' favorite box is for his Spanish Space Outlaw gun. Made in Spain using the mould of the English Space Outlaw by BCM, this gun is known as 'La Pistol Atomica: Bandido Del Espacio,' and its box is a graphic delight.

In recent months Hans has become a very active bidder on Ebay, and has been able to acquire many American ray guns that were previously unavailable to him. Now his collection is quickly becoming remarkable not only for its European examples, but for its American ones as well.



Hans' collection is interesting also for the fact that it has been acquired on a limited budget. "I'm proud of my collection keeping in mind that I do not have a lot of money to spend and that ray guns are very hard to find in Europe," muses Hans. "I have been lucky in some cases like the French "Disintegateur" which I bought for very little money. The "Le Sideral" in the box I found in an old toy shop for the price it was thirty or more years ago, and other ray guns I bought at toy shows for good prices because there isn't a public for them here, although that's starting to change. Now I'm at the stage where I'm only missing some of the harder to find ray guns or looking for boxed examples. Let's hope my luck keeps on going for a little longer!"

As much as Hans Hobert loves to collect toy ray guns, he loves to talk to other collectors even more. Never reticent to share his views or opinions, he welcomes email from other folks who share his interests. If you would like to find out more about the state of collecting ray guns in Europe, or if you have have something to sell or trade, drop Hans a note.