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Comet Model & Supply Co.

Article by
Dave Pecota

Comet Model & Supply Company/Comet Model Hobbycraft

The Comet Model & Supply Company was among the early “pillars” of the wildly popular model airplane hobby of the 1930’s and 40’s, and is still well-known to generations of model builders to this day.   Founded by Chicago teenagers Bill Bibichkow and Sam Goldenberg in 1929, Comet grew rapidly in the 1930’s despite the financial ravages of the Great Depression.  By the mid 1930’s, Comet was selling over a million wood-based airplane kits a year and had a staff of 300 employees.  Some of the most illustrious members of the model airplane industry, such as designer Carl Goldberg and Monogram Model Company founders Robert Reder and Jack Besser, worked for the Comet Company in its earlier years.

During World War 2, Comet’s contribution to the war effort included making aircraft recognition models, target gliders and kites and airborne radar reflector packages. 

However, the postwar years were not nearly as successful for the company.  With the changing interests of America’s youth and the introduction of new materials such as plastics, Comet’s fortunes began to wane.  The company name was changed to Comet Model Hobbycraft in the early 1950’s, and was changed again in the 1970’s to Comet Model Industries.   Comet was sold to the Paul K Guillow Company in 1998.  

Comet made a wide variety of diverse products over its long history, including flying “stick & tissue” kits, solid wood display kits, plastic model kits and many different types of model airplane components and supplies.  Interestingly, the company did not make a large number of ready-to-fly gliders … my flying & collecting “specialty”.  As a result, these items are particularly difficult to find today.  

“Dawn Patrol Fleet Gliders” (ca 1930’s) – After a quick glance at the photo of this nifty 5-glider set, you may be asking, “who is AMCO and why is this set in the Comet section?”  AMCO (the American Modelcraft Company) was a creation of Comet’s staff, and established to sell additional kits through the Comet dealer network under the pretense of AMCO acting as a “competing” company.  Although the AMCO kits were similar (in some cases identical) to the Comet branded kits, the customer had the impression of having a greater number of kit purchasing choices.  This allowed Comet to maintain an increased presence (“market share”) at a given store.

Looking closer at the gliders in this set, you can see the designations for military aircraft during this era … bomber, pursuit & attack … and the early circle-in- star USA military symbol.  These small gliders had wingspans of about 8 inches.  Other similar AMCO branded gliders were sold individually and had wingspans of 16, 18 and 24 inches. 

“Go-Hi” toss glider (ca 1970’s) – From the 1960’s through the 1980’s, there was a great deal of consolidation in the model airplane industry.  Interest in the hobby was declining, and many companies were forced to completely change product lines, merge or suffer buy-outs.  Unfortunately, some disappeared entirely.

If you read the glider section dedicated to the Testor Corporation, you will immediately recognize this as a Testor “Go-Hi” toss glider.  Yet, it has the printing for Comet Model Hobbycraft on the wing.  Apparently the design rights (and perhaps even the production equipment) for this version of the Go-Hi were transferred from Testor to Comet at some point ... probably in the late 1960’s.  Comet then produced and sold the glider for a short time as a Comet branded product.  However, it is not known why the Go-Hi name was not used. 

This particular example came in an unprinted, opaque brown wrapper. This is the only Comet-made Go-Hi that I have ever seen, and it came from the collection of Jim Florio (Florio Flyer Company).     

“Jet Fighter” toss glider (ca 1970’s) – This purposeful-looking glider was probably the result of Comet utilizing the design concepts, production materials and equipment it received with the purchase of North Pacific Products Company assets in the 1970’s. 

The plastic wing clip and metal nose weight are clearly similar to the ones NP used in their famous glider and ROG product line.  Further, the appearance and dimensions of the balsa fuselage, wing and tail look to be NP-derived components, as well.  Just as with the Go-Hi glider above, the Jet Fighter appeared to have a relatively short production life under the Comet banner.