Sunday, December 29, 2013

Collector's Corner - By Osmo Kiiha

Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master

Over this Christmas, a good friend of mine, Joseph D'Agostino, sent me a set of postage stamps depicting weightlifters. Never one to collect stamps, I really didn't know a thing about this fascinating hobby. Nevertheless this set the gears into motion, and with some research, I found out that Olympic weightlifters on stamps is a fairly recent phenomenon.

The world's first stamp portraying an Olympic weightlifter was issued by Russia in 1949; and since then, over fifty countries have come out with stamps featuring weightlifting in their designs. By 1959, six countries had issued stamps; and by 1969, a total of 34 countries had distributed sets of stamps. Some of these nations have included the U.S.S.R., China, Cuba, and the United States; and each year, more stamps continue to appear.

Today, Russia leads the pack in stamps issued, with Hungary running a close second. The United States issued a weighlifting stamp for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, but as far as I know, this is the only stamp that we have issued. As of yet, there are no great rarities among barbell stamps; therefore, it doesn't cost a fortune to garner a collection of all such existing stamps, including any new stamps that are issued in the future. This isn't to say, however, that they won't be more collectible in the years is as good a time as any to visit your local hobby shop to start this rich and rewarding hobby.


As most of you know, Globe Style Dumbbells are very hard to locate (especially the old Milo Dumbells). Not so long ago, I learned about Milo Triplex Bells which were manufactured by Calvert from around 1908 to 1919; at which time, the Duplex Bell made it's debut.

One striking difference between the Triplex and Duplex was that the Triplex was just a round ball with a split in the center. The Duplex had a rim in the center. The major difference between the bells, however, was that one half of the Triplex sphere was a hollow chamber that could be filled with shot. These hollow hemispheres would take about 30 pounds of shot per side. In the pre-1916 models, the shot loading port was in the curved side of the bell and was always obvious to view. After 1916, the port was changed to the inside flat side where it could not be seen on a fully assembled bell. Also, on both models, a brass tube was inserted though the hollow sphere so the lead shot would not fall out when bars changed.

Two styles of the dumbbell were manufactured - Large and Standard. The Large size was 9 1/2" at the rim and came with (2) twenty, (2) ten, (2) seven and a half, (2) five, and (2) two and a half pound plates. When fully loaded with the plates and shot, the bell weighed in at around 200 lbs. The Standard size was 8 1/2" at the rim and weighed 160 pounds fully loaded with (2) ten, (2) seven and a half , (2) five, and (2) two and half plates plus shot. Both styles came with a 5' barbell bar and two "U" shaped kettlebell handles with revolving wooden grips.

Triplex plates were scored to fit into notches built into the spheres. This prevented the plates from turning when the bells were lifted. The dumbbell handle was also unique. It had a square collar that fit into a corresponding square depression in the casting. This effectively kept the cast from revolving on the handle bars.

Today, the Triplex Bell can still be found, but they are excessively rare - the biggest problems being that the plates are long gone, or the handles are not original. Surely one hell of a find if you can get your hands on one...


The Milo Duplex Bell - Large Size - was patented September 23, 1919. This bell had two hollow spheres per side. The spheres were each 9 1/2" in diameter, except at the raised rim, where the diameter was 10 1/2". The bell came with (4) twenty, (4) ten, (4) five, (4) two and a half, and (4) one and a quarter pound plates. Empty the bell weighed sixty pounds - fully loaded 215 pounds.

A Standard size Duplex bell was also sold. The spheres were 8 1/2" in diameter; and once again, were an inch larger at the rim - coming in at 9 1/2". This dumbbell came with (4) ten, (4) seven and a half, (4) five, (4) two and a half, and (4) one and a quarter inch plates. The Standard weighed a svelte 45 pounds empty, and was 150 pounds loaded.

 Both dumbbells were finished in a heavy black enamel. The handles were solid steel and were nickel plated. A 5 foot bar and 2 kettlebell handles were also included with each set.

Prior to 1905, the Milo Barbell Company also sold other types of dumbbell designs. We will discuss these in future issues as more information becomes available...


Even before the days of barbells, men have used various means to test their strength. With the Scots, it was the tossing of the caber; among other things, the Basques practiced the lifting of stones. Before the majority of the world could discern a barbell from a car axle, carnival arcade machines were one way that one could measure one's physical prowess. These machines measured the amount of force one would exert while pulling/twisting upon a handle or lever. An example you might have seen would be the old arm wrestling machines that were popular across the country in the '50's. As one "arm wrestled" with a large wooden or plastic man, one's progress would be measured on a dial on the face of the machine. By wrestling and reading the dials one could find in a matter of minutes if one was a "sissy", "so-so", or "a real man" in a matter of moments...

In the late 19th century, arcade strength testers were very much in vogue in the penny arcades throughout Europe. With the lack of knowledge about training and how to really get strong, it was rare that you would find a man who could best one of these machines - one such man was Eugen Sandow.

In his early career, Sandow found himself nearly penniless and unable to find work as a strongman when stranded in Amsterdam. Although he had previously worked with the great Attilla, Amsterdam was a city that showed little interest in any sort of show that he would have to put on. In his book, "Sandow the Magnificent", David Chapman states that Sandow was unable to even find work for ten guilders per night. This didn't stop Sandow though - he had a solution...

Sneaking through the dead of the Dutch night, Sandow went around to every arcade strength tester he could find in Amsterdam and proceeded to pull the levers on the machines until they broke. Sandow did this on three separate occasions; in doing so, he managed to cause quite a furor with the Dutch press, who assumed that it was not one man who was "vandalizing" these machines, but instead some sort of gang bent upon the ruination of Amsterdam. When he was finally caught, Sandow's publicity stunt had paid off - no one could believe one man could be strong enough to destroy the arcade machines single-handedly. This led to a tremendous popularity for Sandow all over Amsterdam. The man who was once unable to make ten guilders a week found himself making twelve hundred!

Recently, Southeby's of New York put the largest collection of coin-operated penny arcade machines ever assembled up on the auction block. Among all of these wonderful machines were several strength machines, probably not a few unlike those Sandow busted as a young man.

A "Standard Grip Testing Machine" circa 1897, with a cast iron figure of a balancing man managed to bring in a whopping $107,000; a Caille cast iron "Apollo Muscle Tester" one cent amusement machine sold for $48,875.

The first thing that one realizes is that these machines are totally out of the price range for the average collector; machines are still out there, however, for the individual willing to put in some time to look for them. I was able to purchase a four way strength machine for $200, that needs a great deal of work, but when fully restored it should be worth around $1000. Also, for Christmas, my wife gave me an old amusement park grip-tester machine. Fully restored it should manage to fetch close to $1500. Who knows what these machines will be worth around twenty years from now? One word of advice though, if you do happen across an arcade machine, don't end up breaking the arms in a display of strength. Eugen Sandow isn't around to care anymore, and you'll be out a thousand dollars.


Around 1957, Howard Cantowine, former wrestler and Paul Anderson's booking agent, had some hundred dollar bills printed up. Each bill looked like the real thing, except that it was labelled as "Confederate Money", and each bill had Paul's picture printed in the lower right hand corner. These bills were used to advertise Paul's new course, "Easy Steps to Giant Strength - 68 pages plus wall charts." I have never seen these bills. Does anyone out there have one?


Most of us have heard the story of how the Cyr Dumbbell ended up in Bob Hoffmann's posession, and how it came to rest in the York Hall of Fame in York, PA*. Reading the October 1961 "Mr. America" magazine, it bluntly states that the one and only original Cyr Dumbbell reposes in Ben Weider's office in Montreal, Canada.

The article claims that all other "Cyr Dumbbells" are simply copies of the genuine article duplicated from the original pattern with Cyr's permission. It goes on to state that nearly all of these imitations are heavier than the original, due to the techniques of the different molders. They range in weight from 202 to 210.

Apparently, the original pattern was made of wood and repeated molding in damp sand caused it to warp; thus, the lamination came apart, and this is supposedly in evidence upon close examination of later castings.

Who really has the Cyr dumbbell? Is it York Barbell, or is it Ben Weider? Perhaps one of our readers has the answer.


One of the most interesting Olympic lifting series ran in Joe Weider's "Muscle Power" from January 1953 through January 1958 - 56 issues. It was during these years that Charles A. Smith was the weightlifting editor of the magazine. Charles was listed as a consulting editor of the magazine in the August 1950 issue of Muscle Power and was named the weightlifting and consulting editor in the August 1955 issue. Mr. Smith was a prolific writer about the iron game, turning out hundreds of articles during his stay with Weider. I counted 14 articles about Doug Hepburn that Charles wrote in Muscle Power. Every single issue carried page after page of lifting reports - from "how-to articles", to star profiles, to contest results. It was all there.

Actually, Muscle Power started with the Sept.-Oct. 1946 issue (Vol. 1 No. 1). The early issues carried some lifting articles, but nothing like the later ones; so if you want to add to your knowledge of Olympic lifting, try to find some old copies of Muscle Power. One thing that I do hate to add, is that Muscle Power mags are not easy to find and the cost could be from $7.00 - $12.00 per copy. Happy hunting!


January Maxie Heber
February Anthony Terlazzo
March Johnny Terpak
April Sigmund Kline/Tony Sansone
May Wilbert Scharzberger
June Woman Running on Beach - No Name
July Connie Caruccio
August Woman Playing Ball on Beach - No Name
September Man Standing With Outstretched Arms - No Name
October Barton Hovarth
November Anthony Terlazzo/Johnny Terpak
December John Grimek
January Anthony Sansone
February George Kiehl
March Jimmy Jackson
April Motter & Davis
May Emile Bonnet (French)
June John Grimek
July Elmer Farnham
August Siegmund Klein
September Ed Zebrowski
October Man Holding Olympic Bar At Sleeve - No Name
November Gord Venables
December Jesse James (Pro-Wrestler)

*Chief Moquin of Drummondville, Quebec, traded Bob Hoffman the dumbbell for a York Olympic set.

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