Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Sting-A-Ree and Gazabo

Not all of the Gayla kites had long lives like the Baby Bat and Sky Spy. In fact, most did not. The Gazabo and Sting-A-Ree are 2 such kites. I believe the Sting-A-Ree was manufactured through most of the 60's coming to an untimely death in 1974/75. From what I have found and what I remember, The Gazabo was around for maybe 3-4 years from 1974 to 1978.

The Sting-A-Ree was a diving/looping nightmare. It was nearly impossible to fly in high winds as it would take on what I referred to as looping momentum. Generally it flew making huge side to side sweeps across the sky. But in high winds, these sweeps would turn into loops, which would continue until the kite finally crashed into the ground. Unless you were lucky, it would usually split right down the tip to the keel. Later, I found that giving it slack during a looping frenzy would break it's momentum. But it was a lot work to keep in the sky and  something I was willing to take on only as a change of pace from my regular kite flying habits.

In my collection I have a 1965-1969 example and a 1974. These kites came in 2 colors, Blue with a yellow keel and yellow with a blue keel. Both of mine are yellow with a blue keel. As with the other  kites I have discussed the Hang Card was made with a 2 color (black and red) process until 1972/73 when it was switched to 4. The 1974 model I have is especially rare as it was the only year it was made using the paper reinforcement on the keel instead of the grommet. In 1976, this kite made a brief return with the addition of a 50' tail and was called the Tailey-Ho. I think this kite may have been produced for 2 or three years and then it went away as well. Both the TH and the SAR are highly collectible.

The Gazabo is a strange kite. First off, what the hell did Gazabo mean?(I didn't have access to the internet then, here!). Secondly, Why did it cost $1.50? It shared the exact same 45" wingspan outline as the Sky Spy. I wasn't sold, so I never bothered to pick one up. The closest I ever did come to owning one as a kid was a time when I noticed one stuck in one of the lower hanging power lines in our neighborhood. I was pretty sure I could get it with our telescoping pool cleaning pole. I grabbed some rubber gloves and headed out to the backyard to grab the pole. My old man about pooped his pants when I told him what I was up to. Needless to say, I never made it to the kite with the pole. I have an example of the very first year this kite was produced in my collection. It is the only one that I have seen come up for auction on the internet in the last 3 years.  I paid more for this kite than any other. However, I have bid more for other kites and not won. I think I saw an example with a post 75' hang card, but that site is no longer available. This kite was the forerunner to the Fantazma Gordo, the Flutterburt Butterwink, and eventually all of the Gayla print kites that are made today.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Sky Spy and Sky Raider

Next to the Bat Kite (or Baby Bat), Sky Raiders and Sky Spies were the most frequently seen kites back in the day. The Sky Spy, with it's big bloodshot eyes, would peer menacingly down on the schoolyards. The Sky Raider, with it's pointy nose and broad wings, would sail gloriously over our neighborhoods.
Sky Raiders and Sky Spies from l-r - 1964 SR, 65-'69 SR, 70-'71 SR, 72-'73 SR, 75-77'SR, post 81 to '91 SR,
post 81 to '91 SS, '75 SS, 3 x 73-'74 SS, 2 x '72 SS
1974 Sky Spy
1972 Sky Spy

Sky Spies

The Sky Spy was the very first kite I owned as a child. It was a little unpredictable in the sky, which made for interesting flying. I own 2 of these from 1972. One has the yellow keel and the other a blue.  I believe these were the only 2 keel colors offered during this time period. These are rhombus or diamond shaped with a 3' wingspan. They are made of the rubbery vinyl like material and have the hard plastic keel grommet. These are the rarest and, I think, the coolest of the Sky Spies. After 1973, Gayla changed the shape and material properties of these kites. They made them Delta shaped with a 45" wing span. The keel grommet and vinyl like material was replaced with the paper reinforced line attachment on the keel and a much thinner/lighter plastic. They offered them with white, yellow, and blue keels at this time.  They also changed the printing of the hang card to four color process. In 1975, Gayla made a long term change to the Hang Card.
Back of 1972 Sky Spy

This is the same card used through the early nineties.
Back of a 1975 Sky Spy
They also made a black Sky Spy around this time. I know this because I owned one. I remember seeing one in the sky and thinking "that is an odd shaped bat kite". When I realized what it was,  I immediately tracked down the pilot and asked him where he got it. He directed me to a now defunct retailer, Gemco. I raced down there and grabbed one before they were gone.  The part of the eyes that is black on the white Spies was printed silver and it had a red keel. I have yet to see one of those come up 
post '81 SS
anywhere on the internet. One last and final change was made to the kite some time after 1981. They reduced the wing span to 42". That is essentially the same Sky Spy that is produced today by Gayla. 

Sky Raiders 

I always felt that this was the most stable and easy to fly of the Gayla deltas.  From what I recall, these were the kites I purchased most often in my early days of kite flying. I can remember using a purple one to empty a spool of 12lb 900 yd mono-filament. I remember my dad telling me that I had let it out over a half a mile! It took me 8 hours of reeling to get it back down! I recall that those kites would go out of sight when they were somewhere between 1400' and 1500'.  I have
This catalog is still in the
bag of this 1964 SR
no idea how many color combos were used for these kites in the 60's. I own 4 and they are all different.  I believe the 71-'74 era kites were limited to 4 colors.  I recall owning a yellow, purple and red Raider and possibly 
Back of a 1964 Sky Raider
seeing a blue one. In '75, they changed the hang card again and kept essentially the same template through the beginning of the nineties. Just like what was done to all of the other entry level Gayla deltas, the wing span on this kite was reduced to 42" at some point after 1981. They also added a "fringe" on the bottom (see the hang card on kite that is sixth from the left in the picture at the top of the screen).  I have seen pictures in a catalog from 1984, and this fringe was on the SR at this time. Around 1992-94, the outline of the kite was changed to match the Sky Spy and printed with a skull and cross bones.

Up coming blogs will cover the Sting-a-Ree, Gazebo, Gordo and Flutterburt Butterwink !!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Baby Bat aka the Bat Kite

Growing up in the seventies, we referred to the "Baby Bat" as a Batkite. I once socked a kid in the gut for calling it a "Baby Bat", and he deserved it! The Baby Bat was not a "Baby" kite. It was great in strong winds and easy to get to tip over making roaring dive bombs. It was definitely my favorite in 25-35 mph Santa Ana winds!

My collection includes a number of these. The earliest I have is a 1964-66 gem. As far as I can tell, Gayla made just a few changes to this kite throughout the Sixties and into the seventies. The earliest ones have red sticker eyes with the pupil being shaped like a football. These were later replaced with circular eyes. The Hang Card changed as well. The top of the card on the 1964 is cut to match the outline of the printed design. On the back is the date 1964. This cutaway design is abandoned soon after as can be seen by some of the examples I have included at the bottom of the page. One more change is made to this Hang Card in 1969/1970. The words "World Altitude Record Kites 33,531'"  are written on the Hang Card from this time and later. The reason for this is that a kite flying team from Gary Indiana High used a Gayla Kite train to set the kite altitude record in 1969. This is a key in identifying manufacturing years for kites with the black and red ink Hang Cards.  This same Hang Card is used until at least 1971.

To the right is an example of a 1971-73 bat, This was the first time the "bloodshot" was added to the eye stickers.  As you can see, this one has Fluorescent yellow eyes. I recall these eyes were also printed using red ink. Year identification is possible due to the expiration date on the special offer(June 30, 1973). At this time, the kite is still manufactured using a vinyl like plastic material with a hard plastic keel  grommet for attaching the line. However, this would be the last year of this design. I don't own a sample of a bat kite made during the 1973/1974 era, but I do have some other models from that year, and they all have a paper keel reinforcement for the line attachment and use a thinner Mylar like plastic. I have seen one on ebay and it had different eyes as well. The eyes were larger than in '72, but they did not spell Gayla in the eye veins, like they do for all of the models made after 1975. This same hang card is used through the end of 1974.

From 1975 through the early 90's, the Hang Card you see to the right is used. This kite is kind of an odd ball one in that the keel sticker is marked 1973, yet the Hang Card reads 1975. My guess is that there was an overproduction of these stickers and some were used right on through 1975. Either that or Gayla Co. really didn't care that the same template was being used to print the stickers years after the date on the sticker had passed. This could also be the reason why every Hang Card  manufactured from 1975 on has the year 1975 printed on it. However, there are still some ways to tell the difference between a '75-'81 Baby Bat and one from the later years. The first way to tell is by the length of the wing span. At some point after 1981, Gayla reduced the wing span to 42" on all of the entry level Delta kites. As you can see, this one says 4 ft. Another way to help identify the year is by examining the keel sticker. The words "Baby Bat" and a year are written on the keel until at least 1977. Near the bottom of this page, I posted an example of a post 1981 keel sticker. Personally. I view these 42" wing span kites as inferior and much less desirable than the 70's and before models. These kites were made of an inferior quality, which explains why the eye sticker glue fails over time. The one cool thing that Gayla did do with these later year kites was to use a broader range of colors for the keels. The only keel colors I can recall used before '77 were yellow and white. They also used different colors for the actual kite as well.  Here is a link to an example with  yellow eyes. These were used for the production of a red Baby Bat.

I will try my best to rank Baby Bats in terms of desirability and rarity. Obviously, this is very subjective.
1. The rarest Baby Bat is the 1973 with none Gayla Eyes. I have seen just one of these pop up on ebay over the last 3 years
2. 1971 - 1973.  These are my favorites as these were the first kites I flew. I loved the loud flapping these thicker rubbery kites made in high winds.
3. Pre to 1964. Not sure how long they produced these in the packaging with the  1964 date. I have seen more than one come up for auction over the last few years.
4. 1975-1981
5. 1965-1971, with Black and Red Hang Card.
6. 1982 and later. Unless it is a non black bat, I can't see paying more than $6 for one of these.

There may have been some produced before 1964. I have seen an example of a larger version of this kite called "The Bat" which was sold in a box. That kite recently sold for $225! If you have any more information to share, please do. All of my info comes from memory and recent observations.  Thanks for reading!

My next blog will cover Sky Spies and Sky Raiders!

Post 1980 Baby Bat

Yellow Eyes, 1970-72 Baby Bat

'65-69 Bat
1970-72 Baby Bat

A Colony of Bats!

Back of  a 1975 Baby Bat

1965-69 Baby Bat

Friday, July 27, 2012


Hello, my name is Jack and I love Gayla kites. Specifically, the kites they made in the 60's through the mid 70's. From 1972 to 1977(from age 5 to 10), these kites were an obsession of mine. Since this was just before the dawn of video gaming(Atari), my days were filled with flying and fighting with them or over them. It was really all I could think about. What's crazy is that nearly 40 years later, much of the details about these kites are still etched in my brain. I am now an avid collector of these kites. 
I am hoping to use this blog to establish value and to help determine the year and relative rarity of each of these kites. I have noticed on ebay a lot of misrepresentations of these kites. Specifically the kites packaged from 1975 though the early nineties. This would include the Sky Spy, the Baby Bat, The Gordo, and The Sky Raider. I will include all the ways to date these kites in later blogs. 
Vintage Gayla Kites