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Mercury the Messenger celluloid charm, 1930s or 1940s, Japanese, vending machine toy, gum ball prize, lucky charm

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This bright red Japanese celluloid charm depicts a figure with a winged hat and feet, so I am calling him Mercury. In Roman mythology, Mercury is a messenger, a mediator, and a swift god of trade and travel. Ovid wrote that Mercury carried Morpheus' dreams from the valley of Somnus to sleeping humans. And if that's not enough, Mercury is also a god of abundance and commercial success--who can't use a little of that?

Probably from the late 1930s or 1940s and about 1.25 inches tall, this little lucky charm is marked "JAPAN" and has a metal ring attached at the top of his head. A tiny bit of his red (almost fuchsia) paint is worn in a few spots, and I have not cleaned him.

Some people call these Cracker Jack prizes, but I think they were more likely gumball machine toys or advertising premiums. Later plastic would be used, but these early examples are celluloid. I'll be posting more little charms from time to time, so collect a few for a project. They are very cute on a necklace or bracelet, on a bookmark, as part of a framed set in a shadowbox, or my mom used to stitch little pillows and sew charms and ribbons on them to give as gifts.

A clever gift to assure good luck in business or travel!

"O God, O Venus, O Mercury, patron of thieves,
Lend me a little tobacco-shop,
or install me in any profession
Save this damn'd profession of writing,
where one needs one's brains all the time."

--Ezra Pound

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Come along on my adventures as I dig through my mom's vast collections. I'll also let you know what's new in the shop, and my Pinterest board has lots of excellent ideas for using vintage finds in your home.
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Elizabeth Loring

Mercury the Messenger celluloid charm, 1930s or 1940s, Japanese, vending machine toy, gum ball prize, lucky charm


  • Vintage item from the 1930s
  • Materials: celluloid, metal
  • Ships worldwide from United States
  • Feedback: 397 reviews
  • Favorited by: 13 people