I started my View-Master collection in the summer of 2013. It was a hot out that day. Real hot. So I ducked into a basement thrift store to cool off. In the back I spotted a model C. At the time, I didn’t know it was a model C or that View-Master had such a rich and interesting history. I was only ever aware of the red model L, that classic children’s toy by Fisher-Price. But the model C was nothing like that. It was heavy. And it was old. And the accompanying reels depicted a bygone era. Photos of people and places that you might only see in your parent’s photo albums (lol, I make my parents seem ancient!).
I bought the model C for $30, which seemed steep, but fair enough. This was a piece of history after all. I took it home and started researching View-Master online. And the more I learned, the more I became intrigued: the fact that it was started in Oregon, where I live. That at one point it was attempting to offset the postcard industry (imagine racks of reels at the Grand Canyon gift shop). And in the 1930’s, View-Master even partnered with the U.S. military to produce a series of training reels so our troops could identify enemy aircraft at various distances. What a hilarious image.
My new model C was nothing like the Fisher-Price toy I’d grown up with. It represented something much cooler than that (though I have since added the classic model L to my collection). Since 2013, my collection has grown: ten viewers, dozens of reels, original packaging, collector’s guides, and even a View-Master stereo camera, which I plan on using to produce my own personal home reels. Here, I’ll track my collection, thoughts, and online resources in hopes that other collectors might find something useful.
My Collection (in progress)
- My list of Reels (in progress)
- My Viewers (in progress)
- My Camera (in progress)
- Miscellaneous (in progress)
Research & Documentation
- The View-Master Database – as far as I can tell, the single greatest archive of known reels online, hosted by 3dstereo.
- Book: View-Master Collectors Guide, Vo. 1,2,3, and Index
- The Ultimate Reel List – the View-Master Database’s predecessor. Very valuable. Less user friendly.
- VMResource – documentation on how to buy, use, and maintain the View-Master-Stereo camera.
- Manual Archive – various manuals for View-Master products
- Youtube Videos – various information
- Book: The Collectable Stereo Viewers Guide
- View-Master Single Reel Variations – AMAZING, detailed archive of reel variations. Super interesting!
- How Viewers and Reels are Made
- Packet Archive – see and print out 3 reel packet sleeves
- Antique/thrift stores. Oregon stores will likely have the most. Based on my experience, you’ll find more View-Master merchandise on the west coast than anywhere else.
- 3dStereo – your first stop for collecting/shopping online.
- Collectors Weekly – database for vintage / antique collections
- Image3D – buy custom reels online. Owned by Rich Dubnow, an early View-Master photographer
- CataWiki Online Auctions
- Yahoo Community – the largest and most active group of collectors I’ve found online
- NSA: National Stereoscopic Association – “a non-profit organization whose goals are to promote research, collection and use of vintage and contemporary stereoviews, stereo cameras and equipment.”
- Local NSA Clubs – by state