What could go wrong? An A.C. Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab set recently sold at Morphy Auctions for $7,380. Made in 1950, the set includes a Geiger counter, electroscope, cloud chamber, spinthariscope (a device used in the early 20th century to observe flashes of light caused by radioactive decay), nuclear spheres, radiation sources and radioactive ores. According to the packaging, it’s “Exciting!” and “Safe!” The set was promoted to encourage peacetime use of atomic energy. The set included a 60-page instruction manual, an educational comic book on radioactivity and a guide to prospecting for uranium with the offer of a $10,000 reward for finding deposits. Few customers took the chance—the lab set was not a commercial success and was discontinued in 1951. In 2006 Radar magazine awarded the lab set as one of the most dangerous toys of all time. But it’s likely that the toy’s original price was what kept it from selling: it cost $45.50 in 1950, equal to about $590 today.

Atomic Energy Lab Kit

Photo: Morphy Auctions


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