I was doing some decluttering during this time of voluntary isolation – darn COVID-19 – and came across a box that had a few very special toys in it.
Some of you may know that I lived in Moscow (USSR, not Idaho) for two years. My father was in the military and he was posted to the Canadian embassy from 1977 to 1979, during the height of the Cold War. I was 9 when our family moved there.
For most of the two years, we lived at 13 Kutuzovsky Avenue, an apartment building in the shape of an “L”. The building still exists. It’s a little surreal to be able to see it after so many years.
I remember there was a toy store across the street. There are tunnels under the street for people to cross. We were often accosted by people looking to buy jeans or for gum. Apparently Russian gum was terrible. Don’t get me started on their toilet paper.
My parents would give me some rubles now and then and I spent some of them on these toys. These are industrial grade, heavy duty Russian toys. They are tough and lacking any fine details.
I found the same toys on eBay for sale. Apparently they sell for around US $25 each.
How much did these toys cost when I bought them? Well, I certainly don’t remember, but due to the weirdness of the Communist economy, I can tell you.
The trucks have ц60к stamped in the bottom of them. I thought maybe it was a model number or a builder’s mark.
I Googled “ц60к” and found this LiveJournal post (in Russian) where they talked about a stainless steel spoon that had the same mark stamped in it. It turns out that ц60к is the price.
Pricing for consumer goods was set by Gosplan, a central planning agency. It was, like Communism, a good idea in theory. Take the cost of raw material, the work effort involved in producing the finished good, and you can calculate what it “should” cost. It didn’t work well in practice – like Communism.
Anyway, that’s the price, 60 kopecks. It was manufactured to cost that much and as long as it was on the shelf, that was the price.
I don’t know the Canadian or US equivalent of that, because there was no official exchange rate between Soviet money and the rest of the world. There were “special rubles” but 9 year old me didn’t know about that.
The vehicles came in the “army green”. I painted camouflage on some of them, and I admit I painted that awful bright green seen above.
I’m not a very sentimental person but I do treasure these toys. I had fun playing with them and they remind me of a unique time in my life.