Every kid, young and old, has played with a View Master. The simple toy takes no battery's, no charger, no power source, only a reel and a pair of eyes. The iconic toy finds its way into garage sales, ebay auctions and etsy pages...making the job of collecting View Masters fun and accessible.
A View Master is a device for viewing 3-D photographic reels. View Masters are most commonly seen as children's toys, but have also been used as tourist paraphernalia (for viewing sight seeing images) and used by the United States military-who purchased 100,000 viewers + near 6 million disks between 1942 and 1945.
The first View Master was introduced at New York Worlds Fair (1939). It was the brain child of an organ maker and a photographer, William Gruber and Harold Graves, with help of Sawyer's Photo Services. Gruber and Graves had created devices for viewing stereoscopic images. The pair came up with the idea to use Kodachrome film (RIP) which really took their idea to a new level. In 1939 they officially formed a partnership and created their first View Master.
An early View Master model, "A" was round and made from Kodak tenite plastic. It opened like a clam shell and cost about $1.50. Over the years View Master went threw many evolutions. A notable model was the "Talking View Master."
If you are interested in collecting View Masters a good place to start is the National Stereoscopic Association. If you are curious about modern View Masters, the Official View Master sit, via Fisher Price would be helpful. Amazon.Com has two useful books; "Stereo Views: An Illustrated History & Price Guide." and "Collectible View-Master: An Illustrated Reference and Value Guide."
Two incredibly helpful websites for identifying and dating your View Masters and Reels are View Masters & Tru View Collectors Association (for machines), and The Brooks View Master List (a comprehensive list of every reel ever made).
If you are interested in creating your own View Master reels, there are a few ways of going about it. If you can find the discontinued film, and a Personal Stereo Camera, you could shoot your own. (Though you would have to also come across a cutter, a mount, and most likely develop and print them yourself too). This company says they can make you custom reels out of any visual format. (They also sell View Masters in bulk). And Melangerie Inc. will make you the most beautiful personalized View Master wedding invitations. (as seen above).
Be sure to play this one! You won't be sorry.