VertiBird was the name of a line of
toy helicopterproducts made by Mattelbetween 1971 and the early 1980s.
The VertiBird helicopter flies around a central base containing an
electric motor, spring lift assist, pitch control, batteries, and a throttle. A 21-inch arm with pitch control rod and the spindlethat transfers the power to helicopter via drive springs and drive rod, is connected from the central base to the helicopter.
The original VertiBird playset has a space theme appropriate for the
space ageattitude of the 1970s. The first set was reminiscent of the Project Mercuryprogram. Later versions of the VertiBird would continue to revisit the space theme as well as other popular television and movie themes of the 1970s and early 1980s time frames.
The box contents of the average VertiBird playset consisted of the following items:
* Cardboard packing for the Vertibird. Holds the VertiBird and rotor Also has punchouts as noted below.
* VertiBird with base and controls and helicopter mostly preassembled (except as noted in version list below).
* Cardboard skill accessories. (cardboard punchout Landing Platform)- Accessory bag with the following items.
* VertiBird Instructions.
* Label stickers for the VertiBird and accessories.
* Two-bladed plastic rotor with safety rubber tips.
* Pickup accessories. (Astronaut, Space Capsule)
* Plastic skill accessories. (Life raft)
Other versions of the VertiBird also included:
* Molded forms for the base and controls that were set theme specific. (Rescue Ship, Polar Adventure)
* Punch-out cardboard buildings that are playset theme specific. (Airborne Rescue)
* Glow-in-the-dark luminous Label stickers for the Vertibird and accessories. (Night Patrol)
* Play mats. (Paramedic Rescue)
* Site accessories that are playset theme specific. (Polar Adventure, Battlestar Galactica)
* Various other pickup items that were set theme specific.
Power was provided by 4 'D' sized
Alkalinebatteries in the base. They also doubled as weight to hold down the base.
The helicopter is controlled using a two lever control unit. The controls operate similar to a real helicopter. The throttle control provides proportional control of the blade speed. The pitch control provides for tilting the Vertibird forward or backward. During flight the VertiBird is subject to the same physical flight characteristics as a real helicopter. This included ground-effects for low level hovering, plus altitude gains and losses when changing direction. Overall the VertiBird is easy to learn how to pilot for basic flight, but precision flying will require some patience and time on the controls as in a real helicopter.
As noted there is a spring assist to lift the VertiBird. However, in actual operation the assist is not enough to lift the VertiBird off the ground. Most of the lift comes the spinning rotor itself. Subsequently, dropping heavy items during flight will result in a very rapid ascension of the VertiBird unless the pilot has good flight skills.
Mattel designed the set with the young flyer in mind. The VertiBird can take quite a beating during crashes and toybox storage. This design has resulted in a toy that has survived over 38 years and remains as fun today as it was when VertiBird first came on the market back in 1971.
The one exception to the required VertiBird flight skills was the introduction of the themed playset. The version was the one playset which (more or less) abandoned the VertiBird concept in favor of a look and feel to match television series. The set had controls were radically different from the standard VertiBird controls. The Eagle (helicopter) was fully supported by controls. The set used only two C-cell sized batteries. The throttle provided nothing more a switch to spin the rotor. Effectively there was no lift provided by the rotor and instead all lifting is performed with the controls using hand strength. This set would not be a good version for the first time VertiBird pilot wanting to have a true VertiBird experience. Considered notable only for its VertiBird branding, theme tie in, and high collector value. But otherwise a poorly performing VertiBird set. The later
Battlestar Galacticaplayset successfully blended the VertiBird concept with a space theme.
This product is one of the most famous and cherished toys ever. The average retail price for most VertiBird's back during the 1970s was between $8.00 and $20.00(USD).
Today, with more and more people collecting and restoring them, collectors are willing to pay over $400 for a working Vertibird. On July 31, 2006, a "mint in box" Vertibird sold for $500 on eBay, with 4 individual bidders bidding at least $400. [ [http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=250012434640 eBay item #250012434640] ]
Earlier eBay sales were also noted for final sale prices in excess of $1200.00 for the extremely rare themed playset in unplayed, brand new, (C-10) condition. In 2005, a complete, near-mint condition set of the German "Libelle 12 Polizeihubschrauber" (considered by collectors to be the second-rarest worldwide VertiBird variant after the "Space: 1999" model) changed hands for $ 850 in a private sale.
Distribution and Licensing
Distribution has not only been in the
USA. Mattel has produced international versions of the VertiBird playset for the various markets including the Canada, Brasil, UK, Germany, and Italy. Just when it seems the final international VertiBird version has been found, another is reported. To date it is unknown just how many markets and languages Mattel distributed the VertiBird into.
Mattel also licensed the VertiBird for production buy other companies. At least two are known (see list below).
In The Media
Several Mattel VertiBird commercials were made in the 1970s and early 1980s. One of the advertising ageny's used for production was Ogilvy & Mather. However there is only one known commercial in existence on the Internet at this point. The commercial was rescued from an auction site by [http://www.VECTREX.com] Vectrex.com and will be posted soon on [http://www.Retrothing.com] Retrothing.com web site.
A host of 1970's store catalogs have VertiBird's listed in their toy and game sections.
The VertiBird's iconic nature and popularity has resulted in appearance in several movies and television shows.
One of the more recent appearances was in an episode of
That '70s Showwhere one of the main characters Eric Formancan be seen playing with the VertiBird in a basement scene during a Christmas themed episode.
A helicopter called "Vertibird" (although different in appearance) appears in computer games "
Fallout 2" and " Fallout 3".
imilar VertiBird toys and games
In addition to the VertiBird itself there are several other pre-VertiBird and post-VertiBird units covering various eras, global regios and business lines. Some units Like the Dan Dare (see list below) were home usaga toy sets. Others such as the WhirlyBird were skill games meant for arcade distribution or other location based business usage. All units share the VertiBird's basic premise of fun by allowing the user actively control the helicopter, while still providing a safe and easily controllable experience.
There are 13 known different versions of the VertiBird playsets. For the original VertiBird there was an early manufacturing change that resulting in drive spring to drive rod coupling being modified. The first first version had the end of the drive rod screwed into the drive spring on the helicopter. The production modification resulted in the drive rod being permanently soldered drive spring and packaged the base, controls, rods, and helicopter (except rotor) into one complete unit.
In addition to the different US versions other international versions were produced. These international VertiBird versions were localized as needed for language, playset graphics, and pictures, and local service depot information as required.
There was also some contracted production runs of the Mattel VertiBird for other companies.
Grouped all together the resulting versions currently numbers at 22 different variations. Every year or so it seems a new variation is discovered somewhere around the globe.
* 1971 - Set No. 5972 - VertiBird. (Version 1, screw connected drive spring)
* 1971 - Set No. 5972 - VertiBird. (Version 2, drive spring soldered in place)
* 1973 - Set No. 7604 - VertiBird Air Police. (themed to tie into police tv shows of the 1970s)
* 197? - Set No. 7646 - VertiBird Polar Adventure.
* 1973 - Set No. 8243 - VertiBird Rescue Ship. (another space themed set tying into the
* 1975 - Set No. 9040 - VertiBird Paramedic Rescue. (themed to tie into the
* 1976 - Set No. 8997 - VertiBird Okanagan Logging 'Copter. (also released in Canada)
* 1976 - Set No. 9637 - VertiBird Space:1999 Flying Eagle.
* 1978 - Set No. 2898 - VertiBird S.W.A.T. Patrol. (themed to tie into the
S.W.A.T. (TV series))
* 1979 - Set No. 1675 - VertiBird Night Patrol.
* 1979 - Set No. 2983 - VertiBird
Battlestar Galactica.( Battlestar GalacticaTV series theme)
* 1981 - Set No. 5306 - VertiBird
Megaforce. ( MegaforceMovie theme)
Localized for language and/or graphics.
* 19?? - Set No. 22.13.15 (Brazilian Issue) - VertiPlano. (Brazilian version VertiBird).
* 1971 - Set No. 5972 (Canadian Issue) - VertiBird. (Canadian version set)
* 1973 - Set No. 7604 (Canadian Issue) - VertiBird Air Police/Police De L'Air. (Canadian version Air Police set)
* 1976 - Set No. 8997 - VertiBird Okanagan Logging 'Copter. (also released in the USA)
* 1978 - Set No. 2677-0919 - Libelle 12 Polizeihubschrauber (German version of "Air Police" set). It is of note that this very rare and much sought-after variant does not feature any reference to the "VertiBird" series on its packaging despite being a genuine Mattel product.
* 1979 - Set No. 2675 - VertiBird Elicottero Carabinieri (Italian version of "Airborne Rescue Mission" set). It is of note that the initial version of this set featured the original US "Airborne Rescue Mission" packaging, containing two different instruction manuals in both English and Italian languages.
* 1980 - Set No. 3017 (Italian Issue) - VertiBird Mazinga 'Z'. (
Battlestar GalacticaTV series theme) United Kingdom:
* 1976 - Set No. 9780 (UK Issue) - VertiBird Airborne Rescue.
Contracted Vertibird Versions:
Bluebird Air Police contracted set by Mattel:
* 197? - Set No. PT-681 - Bluebird Air Police. Distribution in Canada and Europe. Produced during the same period as the Mattel branded set. Burbank Toys contracted set by Mattel:
* 1973 - Set No.7604 - Burbank Toys Issue Air Police. Produced during the same period as the Mattel branded set.
Other VertiBird-like toys and games:
Pre-VertiBird Era similar sets:
Childs and Smith (Atherstone, Warwickshire, England):
* 195? - Set No. ???? - Dan Dare (aka Nulli Secundus) Landing Mat Game. European release. Electric tin toy set similar to VertiBird, probably from the 50's. Maline:
* 195? - Set No. ???? - MARX-A-COPTER, Ship version.
* 195? - Set No. ???? - MARX-A-COPTER, Space Version. Many accessories. A beautiful space themed playset from the pre-Apollo era.
VertiBird Era Similar sets, Spin-Offs and Knock-Offs:
Amusement Engineering Inc.:
* 1968 - Model No. ???? - Helicopter Trainer,. Coin operated arcade and location based skill game. Direction and speed controlled. Also included scoring posts that were electrically operatated by contact.
* 1968 - Model No. ???? - Helicopter. Coin operated arcade and location based skill game. Direction and speed controlled. Also included scoring pads that were electrically operatated by contact. Also had an 8-track tape for sound effects.
* 1969 - Model No. 601 - Whirly Bird. Coin operated arcade and location based skill game. Direction and speed controlled. Also included scoring posts that were electrically operatated by contact.
* 1974 - Model No. 583 - Chopper. Coin operated arcade and location based skill game. Direction and speed controlled. Also included scoring target that were light sensor operatated. Also had an 8-track tape for sound effects.
Remco Controlled Space Flight (CSF):
* 1976 - Set No. 602 - Star Trek CSF.
* 1976 - Set No. ??????? - Batman CSF.
* 197? - Set No. 6140901 - Spiderman CSF.
Post-Vertibird Era similar sets, Spin-Offs and Knock-Offs:
* 19?? - Set No. ???? - Chopper Ace. Twin Rotor design but otherwise similar to VertiBird operation and control. European and Canadian Sales.
Galoob Micro Machines:
* 1994 - Set No. ???? - Micro Machines Chopper Command Base.
Kool Toyz, contracted for Target Stores and KayBee Toys by Jasman Toys:
* 2000 - Set No. 087 07 1039 - Chopper Command Helicopter Set.
* 2000 - Set No. 087 07 1039 - Chopper Command Helicopter Set. This Chopper Patrol with safety ring three-bladed rotor shipped to stores in a Chopper Command box. A two-bladed rotor was mistakenly shown in the picture on the box.
Jasman Toys Chopper Command:
* 2000 - Set No. 16810-015 - Chopper Command Police (with play-mat).
* 2000 - Set No. 16810-016 - Chopper Command Military (with play-mat).
* 2000 - Set No. 16812-001 - Chopper Command Police (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe).
* 2000 - Set No. 16812-002 - Chopper Command Military (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe).
* 2000 - Set No. 16812-001 (2nd Printing) - Chopper Command Police (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe)
* 2000 - Set No. 16812-002 (2nd Printing) - Chopper Command Military (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe). Jasman Toys Chopper Patrol:
* 2001 - Set No. 16810-??? - Chopper Command Police (with play-mat).
* 2001 - Set No. 16810-??? - Chopper Command Military (with play-mat).
* 2001 - Set No. 16812-??? - Chopper Command Police (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe).
* 2001 - Set No. 16813-??? - Chopper Command Military (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe).
* 2001 - Set No. 16816-??? - Chopper Command Sea Rescue (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe).
* 2001 - Set No. 16871-??? - Chopper Command Rega (with play-mat, sound, flashing strobe) Swiss Rega contracted the set from Jasman. Jasman Toys Command Force Chopper Patrol:
* 200? - Set No. 16963-??? - Command Force Chopper Patrol, Micro Series, Apache.
* 200? - Set No. 16964-??? - Command Force Chopper Patrol, Micro Series, Cobra.
* 200? - Set No. 16992-??? - Command Force Chopper Patrol, Mini Series, Patrol AH-64 Apache. (with play-mat, light-up base, sounds, flashing strobe)
* 200? - Set No. 16993-??? - Command Force Chopper Patrol, Mini Series, Patrol AH-1 Super Cobra. (with play-mat, light-up base, sounds, flashing strobe)
* 200? - Set No. 16994-??? - Command Force Chopper Patrol, Mini Series, AH-6 Little Bird. (with play-mat, light-up base, sounds, flashing strobe)
* 2007 - Set No. 1????-??? - Spiderman 3 1/2" Chopper Chopper. (Command Force sized , AH-6 Little Bird. (with play-mat, light-up base, sounds, flashing strobe)
* 2??? - Set No. 255590-??? - Command Force Chopper Countdown. (with play-mat, light-up base, sounds, flashing strobe, countdown timer)
Jasman Toys Spiderman 3:
* 2007 - Set No. 23530-??? - Spiderman 3 12" Chopper. (Command Force size)
* 2007 - Set No. 2????-??? - Spiderman Flying Figure. (Command Force size)
* 2007 - Set No. 2????-??? - Spiderman 3 18" Chopper. (with play-mat)(Command Force size)
* 2007 - Set No. 2????-??? - Spiderman 3 Amazing Spiderman Chopper. (with play-mat, sound, light-up base)(Chopper Patrol size)
RoboFly custom Set:
* 2000 - Set No. ???? - RoboFly. Custom produced all aluminum,
CNCmachined, super-powered VertiBird knock-off. Magnetic pickup instead of SkyHook. Set include numbered and personalized plates for the owner. The RoboFly maker also sent out a free customised keychain fob to the owners and all others who requested them.
Draganfly Innovations. Acquired RoboFly production rights:
* 2000 - Set No. ???? - Skybot. Same as the RoboFly except no owner personalization. No longer manufactured.
[http://www.toybender.com/2007/02/ ToyBender.com 2007-02/]
* [http://www.peterhirschberg.com/vertisim/index.html VertiSim] -Free Vertibird Simulator for Windows
* [http://www.whirlybirdcentral.com/ Whirly Bird Central] -Definitive site for the Vertibird
* [http://www.vertibird.biz/ Vertibird Central] -Sells Vintage and refurbished Sets, parts and accessories. Repairs, Tune-ups and Refurbishes.
* [http://www.stuffwelove.co.uk/vertibird.htm Stuff We Love] - 1970's Nostalgia site featuring many toys from the era
* [http://marvin3m.com/arcade/htrain.htm] -Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum - Amusement Engineering Helicopter Trainer
* [http://marvin3m.com/arcade/shelico.htm] -Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum - Sega Helicopter
* [http://marvin3m.com/arcade/whirlyb.htm] -Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum - Midway Whirly Bird
* [http://marvin3m.com/arcade/chopper.htm] -Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum - Midway Chopper
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