Some toys are forgotten within months of their initial release; others linger in the memory banks for decades after their demise. In the latter category resides the coolest helicopter to ever hit the scene, the one-and-only VertiBird. For anyone who ever had the pleasure of piloting one of these perpetually-circling choppers, it was an experience you wouldn’t soon forget.

The VertiBird was first introduced by Mattel in 1971 and quickly became a must-have item on every boy’s Christmas list. A small helicopter, spinning blades and all, was attached by a rod to a circular base and controlled by a series of levers that allowed young pilots to control altitude, direction and speed as they set out to complete various missions and rescue operations. These missions involved using the VertiBird’s attached hook to pick up assorted plastic items that were included in the collection of themed sets – such as the “Astronaut Rescue,” “Airborne Rescue Mission” or glow-in-the-dark “Night Patrol” sets.

Many imaginative kids would experience the misfortune of assuming that the VertiBird could pick up other things besides the lightweight plastic accessories that came with the toy. But those accessories were lightweight for a reason – the ol’ VertiBird didn’t have a whole lot of power. Try to rescue GI Joe and you were likely to bend the arm connected to the base, rendering the craft inoperable. And even if one took care to not tax the VertiBird’s lifting power, many a helicopter was prematurely decommissioned from service by being left out at night, only to be grounded after being stepped on. The VertiBird was a fragile beast, truth be told, and few made it out of childhood unscathed, making a working unit a valuable collectors item today.

In the late 70s, Mattel issued a Battlestar Galactica version of the VertiBird but the toy’s days were numbered and by the next decade, the beloved VertiBird was but a mere memory. Just about every other toy company would issue their own version over the next decade (Remco even issued a Star Trek version, complete with circling USS Enterprise) but none had the everlasting charm of the original. Finally, in 2000, the Phoenix rose again when Jasman Toys introduced a replica of the original that not only fetched little plastic accessories, but also respectable prices on Ebay. An original working VertiBird, on the other hand, can be worth around $250 bucks or more, assuming it is in good condition and has all of the accessories intact.

It would seem that every child of the 70s still holds fond memories of this little helicopter that could. Long before RC vehicles would take over the market, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn your wings and soar in endless circles – just like the news helicopters of the future.

If you have fond memories of piloting a Vertibird, or if it was one of those things that you always dreamed of owning, we hope you will share all of your recollections of this unforgettable toy in our comments section.

9 Responses to “VertiBird”

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  1. Had one of these, was one of the greatest toys ever!

  2. kevin wood says:

    Best christmas morning ever!! My favourite toy of all time, brings back lots of memories this toy!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Don Haywood says:

    HAH! I just saw an ad for an RC copter and then remembered that, when I worked for Radio Shack in the 70’s, one Christmas toy they had was a helicopter. It took all of my memory skills to come up with the name “vertibird.” I seem to remember that the version we had was entirely manual – requiring you to crank the propeller with one hand and control it with the other. Serious coordination was required.(My memory may be wrong). I was the only salesman who could successfully fly it and at one of the monthly district meetings I was asked to demonstrate. The others were in awe of the flips and stuff that could be done. I remember it being a lot of fun. In fact, I played with it so hard (as an adult) in the store that I eventually wore it out – the internal cable broke. My income suffered a little because I used every spare moment to fiddle with the toy. I had no idea it is still such a desirable toy.

  4. Charles says:

    I am 47 so the Vertibird was the creme-de-la-creme toy to have in my era. I had the greatest indoor adventures of my life with my Vertibird. After tiring of saving the astronaut I created my own little rescue missions most notably rescuing the zookeepers from my Britians Zoo set (another fine toy). A Kinney shoe box served as the break room where the zookeepers hid to avoid the rampaging animals. Eventually my first Vertibird was stepped on and so ended one of the fondest memories of my childhood. Last week I bought a 1971 Vertibird on Ebay. All I can tell you is that we had to be pretty skilled kids to hook the astronaut and capsule – at least cleanly – without knocking him over or hooking him with the feet of the copter. It took me several failed attempts and a few hours to re-master the controls of the Vertibird. You need a delicate touch and patience which most kids today have very little of. I would have to say my Vertibird is the most cherished toy I ever owned – bar none.

    • Karl says:

      I didn’t have one when i was little but I saw one on a shelf at a Goodwill store and the I purchased it for $4.99 and brought it home and I was amazed it worked! Only thing is it’s missing the space capsule & astronaut with life craft but I was just thrilled that when I put batteries in it … It worked! Today I thought I would look it up on the internet and was amazed of how much it is worth and even just parts are worth, I think they should have more toys like this now a days instead of these computer games ..I’m 48 and I just loved playing with vintage toys that actually uses skills and imagination.

  5. Brian Jurkowski says:

    I had one VERY similar to this, but instead of the stationary base, it had a ‘remote control’ that looked like a flashlight handle, held two D-Cell batteries and had a button for power. I could control the helicopter by tilting the controller back and forth.
    Does ANYBODY remember this toy? I wish I could find a picture / name of it….

  6. Keith schurter says:

    I still have my astronaut rescue Verti-bird & box. Man I loved playing with it. It still works but is missing the prop & accessories. Does anyone know where a replacement prop can be bought? I’ve been using the prop of an old Cox gas motor airplane. It works, but isn’t pitched right for good height when flying.

  7. SirBayard says:

    I remember getting mine and playing on it till I fell asleep with it spinng near my head. I really miss that toy.

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