|By Larry LeMasters
While cap guns are a common sight at many auctions and antique malls, explosive caps have been used on many other toys including a simple deviced called a cap bomb.
Cap bombs are toys shaped like an aerial bomb that contain a firing mechanism in the nose capable of holding a single cap. The cap explodes upon impact with a hard object, most often cement or the ground. Both paper and plastic caps have been used in cap bombs with paper caps normally indicating an older or vintage cap bomb.
Many, older cap bombs were made in the United Sates which pleases collectors since American made toys are scarce today. Until about 1965, companies, such as Callen Mfg., Kilgore, and Ashley Manufacturing manufactured most cap bombs sold in the United States.
The oldest cap bombs known were made of wood with a metal firing pin embedded in the bottom of the bomb. Wood cap bombs were individually carved, so each is unique. These wood cap bombs are usually small, around 2, and are valued in the $50 range, depending on condition.
Cast-iron cap bombs were more or less invented in the late 1860s when the Industrial Revolution came to America. Casting toys made of iron was easy and profitable, and for some of toy companies, cap bombs provided the “bang” the company needed to stay afloat.
One of the rarest and most expensive cast-iron cap bombs ever manufactured is the figural Dewey Cap Bomb. Grey Iron is thought to have produced the Dewey Cap Bomb around 1900. In good condition, a Dewey Cap Bomb sells in the range of $275 - $525. Dewey Cap Bombs came in two different sizes, small and large; so don’t stop looking when you find one.
Another figural cap bomb worth looking for is the figural cast-iron Bozo the Clown Cap Bomb. Produced by Kilgore of Westerville, Ohio, circa 1900, a Bozo the Clown Cap Bomb in good condition sells for around $325. Like many cap bombs, Bozo fired a single cap at a time, inserted into its mouth, when the bomb was dropped to the ground, the pin fired exploding the cap. Along with cap bombs, Kilgore made highly sought after cap pistols and its own brand of roll caps.
Another cast-iron cap bomb worth looking for is the Powder Keg Cap Bomb. Shaped like a keg of gunpowder, this tiny bomb offered a loud explosion when loaded with a cap and dropped. Today, a Powder Keg Cap Bomb is valued at $125 or more.
The 1950s saw a renewed interest in cap bombs as toy companies produced cap bombs shaped like rockets with names like “Rocketeer.” The race for space began in 1957 when Sputnik circled the earth, and toy companies jumped to translate this giant step for mankind into “toy” dollars. Empire Plastic Corporation of Pelham, N.Y., produced the Rocketeer Cap Bomb in the 1950s. Today a Rocketeer in good condition is valued at $100.
Plastic cap bombs of the 1950s and ’60s were inexpensive to make and sold well.
Two of these mid-century cap bombs to watch for are the Royal TOT Spaceman Cap Bomb, from 1958, that sells for $60 today and the large, 10-inch long, three-stage Rocket Cap Bomb (the three-stages are painted red, white, and blue for patriotism) that was manufactured in the late 1960s and sells for around $50.
Today cap bombs are still being made in China.