Well done Arto! That's it! The MIGNOT War of the Worlds Diorama made in 1925. Here's the only pic I can find on the web - from the cool Toy Ray Gun site.
Arto jogged my memory as to where I'd also seen the old WoW set, in the cool hardback book Blast Off! by Mark Young, Steve Duin and Mike Richardson.
And quickly raiding my toy book 'library' [i.e bookcase] lo and behold, there it is! And to prove I'm not going completely loopy, it contains a photograph of Mignot's 'Big Red Box', which the diorama was housed in.
I'd forgotten how amazing the set is close-up, the photograph's in the book are truly stunning. If you like 1950's space toys like Archer and Tudor Rose this is the book for you.
Like me and Arto, I think Bill B has the limited edition boxed version of the book as well.
There's a brilliant online account on Scoop from 2002 of how the book's author and Mignot owner [a rarified group for sure!] Mark Young came to acquire this unique piece of merchandise, which made in 1925, is surely the forerunner of all sci fi and fantasy toys. Or?
Read an extract below:
"Do you have a story of a particularly rewarding hunt for a specific item - or a "one that got away" story?The best item in my collection is War of the World Diorama. I believe this is the first space toy as Henri Mignot, the renowned French toy soldier maker, made it in 1925. We discuss the piece quite extensively in Blast Off!
The story behind this piece is an example of a toy that was hiding in plain sight. I mentioned earlier that I use to read O'Brien's toy soldier book religiously. At the back of the 2nd Edition is a small photo of the War of the Worlds.
The photo is small and the item shown is so big (about the dimensions of a small coffee table) that it is virtually impossible to see anything in the diorama clearly. I would often get out a magnifying glass and try to get a better idea of what the details looked like.
If there was one piece that I really wanted it was this one but I had a sinking feeling that there was absolutely no way. Why? Because in my mind, the War of the Worlds was the Holy Grail of space figure collecting. I remember calling everyone I knew.
When I contacted Steve Balkin at Burlington Toys in New York he told me that he had actually handled the piece for several different buyers, but he did not know who currently had it. Since, obtaining the War of the Worlds was a pipe dream anyway I put the matter to rest (at least I thought I did).
A number of years went by and then in 1998 I made my annual trek to the OTSN show in Chicago. During one of the early days of room trading, a dealer that had known for some time started chatting with me. I asked him whether he had any space items for sale and he said, "Well, I think it's time for me to part with my War of the Worlds set."
I said, "Oh, you mean you have an Archer War of the Worlds set?" And he said, "No, I mean the Mignot set. I have had it for years." You could have knocked me over with a feather. Here was a guy that I had known for almost a decade and I had no idea that he had been secretly harboring the set.
In fact, no one else knew either. After a long series of negotiations I was finally able to obtain the set. I look at this diorama every day. It is truly a masterpiece".
Mark Young, 2002
this is a re-posting of a post from 2010