Beauology 101: My Time Capsule – 1966 Marvel Mini-Books

Your Host-Beau Smith and his sidekick Cobb.

Your Host-Beau Smith and his sidekick Cobb.


by Beau Smith

I remember the 1966 Summer day when, as a kid, I went to the local supermarket to get some candy. That fifteen cents was burning a hole in my pocket. Candy was the goal because I knew this particular supermarket didn’t have a spinner rack or a designated shelf to sell comic books. That was the usual priority list when I had money-Comic books first, Candy second, and what I called “Capsule Machine” was third.

"Capsule Machines"

“Capsule Machines”


I figure I don’t have to explain what comic books and candy are, but a “Capsule Machine”, well, maybe you need a little help there. They were/are gumball vending machines; bubble or glass shaped containers that had a coin slot for you to place your nickel. (Now…multiple quarters) Once the coin was in the slot, you cranked the knob around and out through a trap door came either a gum ball, wrapped candy, or my true goal-a plastic capsule, and within that capsule was a prize-a toy—a cheap piece of plastic that had the shape of a toy. To me, it was treasure. I loved the process of getting that capsule, the thrill of the hunt, the looking at the glass to see what possible gem might be the next thing to slide out of the trap door. It was a kid’s version of a slot machine; that supermarket was my Vegas!

NFL/AFL Mini-Helmets

NFL/AFL Mini-Helmets


I can remember my thrill, after spending countless nickels in the machine, of getting all the then NFL and AFL Football mini helmets. I displayed them for decades in my room, I even used them to show the season standings once football season began. Creativity!

Back to point. That day my plan was to get three candy bars, (Snickers, Zagnut, M&M’s) as well as five pieces of Super Bubble Gum. That plan got disrupted as I walked in past the capsule machines and saw a little sticker on the glass container that read: MARVEL COMIC MINI-BOOKS HERE!

The Sticker On the Capsule Machine That Made My 1966 Summer.

The Sticker On the Capsule Machine That Made My 1966 Summer.


Yes, I did the famous double back step/double take. I’m sure my grimy little face was smeared to the glass as I looked at these capsules, each one fill packed with mysterious Marvel Mini Book. Something I had never heard or dreamt of. My palms were coated with sweaty anticipation. There were these tiny, and mean tiny, little books of The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, and shock of shocks—Sgt. Fury and Millie The Model. I was filled with such excitement that I knew even if I inserted my nickel and Millie The Model rolled out, I would be happy. These were Marvel Comics—In a capsule machine!!!

The Marvel Mini Book Covers

The Marvel Mini Book Covers


Each book was 48 pages! I remember looking through the glass and wondering how they could pack 48 pages in something smaller than a quarter? I was mesmerized by this find. I must have studied that machine forever before I final worked the three nickels from my pocket. There were six books, but today, I could only get three. What if I got three of the same book? What if they were all Millie The Model? What if my nickel got jammed in the crank? Such stress!

Finally I knew I had to roll the dice and take the chance. I put in the first nickel, super careful how I placed it. I wanted no mistakes. Next, I cranked the knob, again, being ultra-careful to do it just right so nothing went wrong. I completed the process and heard that noise that ever kid that has ever played the vending machine game knows, that clank of the trap door as the prize hits it.

The Hulk has moves

The Hulk has moves


I pulled out the capsule and my eyes went wide as I saw it was The Incredible Hulk! I didn’t open it. I was gonna wait until I got home where I could carefully extract the mini book from its plastic prison.

The second nickel came out.

I repeated the process. This time I was rewarded with the mini book I desired most—Sgt. Fury! I didn’t think this could happen. How lucky was I??

I took out my third and final nickel. I have to admit, I was really worried that something would go wrong this time. I repeated the process, only this time with even more ridiculous care. CLANK! My final prize came through. It was Millie The Model. Yeah, there was that momentary little boy of the ’60s shame that I got a “Girl’s Comic”, but then I realized as a kid collector, I needed that Millie The Model at some point to complete my collection anyway. I was back on the Happy Track.

Look! Up in the sky!

Look! Up in the sky!


I left the store pretty quickly. I wanted to get back home and examine my treasures. As you can probably figure out, once I got home, I made sure I carefully opened the plastic capsules so as not to damage the precious contents. I was stunned at just how small these books were. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was a bit surprised to find that they were one panel per page drawings/story. After a second or two, it made sense to me, after all, these books were tiny measuring 5/8-in. X 7/8-in. They had semi glossy covers with black and white interiors. They had stories, the Spider-Man story repeated his origin. (I found this out later as I tossed many more nickels into the machine to complete my collection.) Let me add that the Spider-Man book really surprised me in the fact that it had an obvious to me cameo by Superman in it!

By Summer’s end, I had not only completed my collection, but had doubles and triples on a few of the books. I was so hoping there would be a Daredevil or Avengers, but that never happened to my knowledge. I was stoked to have these books and that’s all that really mattered. I enjoyed those fragile, little books for many years. As with most comic book readers/collectors, at some point in my life, through moves and time, I lost those books. There were so tiny I’m surprised I managed to keep them for as long as I did. The books may be gone, but the memories remain and they will always be shaded with a blue Summer sky and feeling of pure joy.

In these times of Twitter Trolls and Facebook Fights, I’m glad that I have comic books as a constant source of just that—Pure Joy.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith

@BeauSmithRanch Twitter and Instagram

 

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