Friday, March 18, 2016

Ten Cents Times 15 Got Me...

Very recently I managed to obtain a certain toy I've been after for a while.

This is an ERTL die cast model of a tugboat named Ten Cents. Shipped to me all the way out from the UK.

Ten Cents is the protagonist (or one of the protagonists technically) of TUGS, a short lived 1980's British TV show aimed for children that used model boats.

TUGS is a show about two rival fleets of tugboats competing for various contracts and jobs in the 1920's. One fleet was called the Star Tugs who served as the good guys and that was the fleet Ten Cents belonged to. The other fleet was called the Z-Stacks and they were the villains for most of the episodes, trying to get in the Star Tugs' way. While that premise alone doesn't seem all that interesting, the adventures the tugboats all encounter and the lessons to be learned from them are what makes the show. Also the use of practical effects is especially refreshing after so many modern children's programs switching to CGI.

As some of you have probably noticed, this little boat resembles Thomas The Tank Engine, another British kids show that used models to tell stories.

That's because TUGS was made by the same people who brought you the first two seasons of Thomas The Tank Engine.

More specifically, David Mitton and Robert Cardona (and several other personnel who worked on Thomas). The late David Mitton had worked on several programs that utilized models and puppets such as Thunderbirds, primarily to handle the special effects and pyrotechnics. Robert Cardona worked on several British TV programs, usually as either a director or producer, before moving to Canada and later working on another children's show about tugboats, Theodore Tugboat. Both Mitton and Cardona were producers who worked on Thomas The Tank Engine and used their expertise and hired their talented co-workers to work on TUGS.

By children's show standards TUGS is pretty good since old school UK programming in general is good. Some of the plot lines can be a bit tricky to grasp for younger viewers (i.e. the Thomas crowd) and if you're an American you'll probably wish some of the heavy British/European accents came with subtitles, but overall it's quite enjoyable. Plus this predates CGI (or at least affordable CGI) so there's something to seeing genuine explosions and real (and controlled) mayhem - that actually happened in a giant water tank somewhere in Britain - unfold.

The show only lasted one season/13 episodes and while every episode is very good, my favorite is the episode titled Munitions. I guess the American in me really likes the explosions in this episode.

Anyway, I've been after this ERTL model of Ten Cents for a while now. ERTL die-cast models in general are some of the best die cast vehicles and toys you can find on the market. And for TUGS ERTL only made two of the characters in TUGS, Ten Cents and his best friend Sunshine.

Obviously this particular tugboat has seen better days and has been well loved. A lot of the paint has chipped off, especially on the bow, tire fenders, smokestack and hat. A little bit of Ten Cent's front has been chipped off as well.

But the key feature, the moving wheelhouse/"head," still works. And the way this toy is still in one piece (sort of) is a real testament to how well made ERTL models are.

So overall this little tuggie is in fairly good shape and I'm quite happy I got it.

I'm also happy I got it fairly cheap. It could've been the wear and tear this particular Ten Cents got, or because the auction title didn't mention that this was an ERTL TUGS character (it was just listed as "ERTL tugboat") but I won this auction on eBay for less than $1.50 (USD). In fact, I hefty price I paid was for the shipping fee that cost me 20-times as much lol.

These ERTL Ten Cents usually go for a pretty penny. Very recently another auction on another Ten Cents in even better condition went for a whopping $18-ish (USD). Combine that with the near-$20 shipping fee and for us North Americans, that amounts to quite a lot for one toy boat.

The Ten Cents auction also listed this car which has the words Ford Capri written on the chassis. It's quite a lovely toy as well and pretty much means I got two neat toys for less than a pack of Topps Series 1 (baseball card reference!), shipping fees-excluded.

Anyway, thanks for those of you who stuck around this long. I know that blogposts about toys aren't necessarily what most of you are here for but I just wanted to share something I thought was really really cool. The three main lessons I hope you all take away from this post are that practical effects are awesome, international shipping can be very expensive and that America should totally go back to British rule.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).


  1. Congrats on the pickup! Cute boat.

  2. I'd never heard of Ten Cents and his show, but boy oh boy was I all in on Thomas. To this day, I still think of Ringo Starr as Mr Conductor before I think of him as the drummer for the Beatles. I must have had more than fifty of those little die cast trains back in the day. Now the show is entirely CGI and the toys use plastic and magnets... Blah. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane that the name Ertl brings, so thank you.

    1. Ah yes, I remember those Ertl Thomas toys. I didn't have too many of them though, I was mainly into the wooden Thomas toys.
      Glad you were able to reminisce on Ertl toys.

  3. My daughter likes Thomas.

    Old toys are awesome, but I'm not sure about going back to British rule

    1. Hehe, the British rule this was merely in jest.

      Would you and your daughter be interested in some of my old Thomas toys? They're a bit "well loved" but otherwise still playable.

  4. I stuck around because blog posts about toys rule!

    1. Thanks Fuji. You'll be rewarded with a post I hope you like tonight.