You can find various types of view master reels. There are Gaf, Sawyer’s, Tru-Vu, TYCO, and others. Here, we’ll take a closer look at each type. You may also be interested in this comparison table. There’s a lot of confusion about what each type of reel is. But before we get started, let’s take a closer look at how they work.


Initially manufactured by General Aniline & Film (GAF), the first Viewmaster reels were introduced in the early 1940s. However, by the mid-1960s, the company’s focus had shifted from travelogue and scenic subjects to other film genres. As a result, it switched to using Kodachrome film stock to produce reels. GAF also introduced a talking View-Master in the 1970s. After GAF sold the company to the Arnold Thaler group, it reorganized as the Viewmaster International Group.


When Sawyer’s View-Master was first introduced, the concept of using the reel for viewing movies seemed futuristic. However, the first models didn’t resemble these futuristic models until model C came out seven years later. That model was the first to allow the viewer to insert the reel directly into the backstock. This new design allowed the viewer to see the film in 3-D using stereoscopic double vision transparency. Each spin had fourteen pairs of images. This resulted in seven 3-D images.


Initially, the company that created the first Tru-Vu view master reels was Tru-Vu Inc. It was established in 1931 in Rock Island, Illinois, and quickly expanded after the Century of Progress Exposition in 1933. The company used 35mm filmstrips with fourteen stereo views pulled through the viewer with a lever. By 1949, Tru-Vu had sold over a million reels of film. In 1950, the company introduced the color film. And by 1961, it had produced more than 400 filmstrips. The company continued to make and market these filmstrips until the 1960s.

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There are three main sets of TYCO view master reels: “A Day at the Circus,” “World of Disney Mainstreet USA,” and “Santas Workshop.” The Talking View-Master’s newest version is a new addition to the TYCO line. It uses AA-size batteries to power the continuous reel of film that moves inside the View-Master. The microchip in the viewer plays a prerecorded caption and sound effects as the film is viewed. The Talking View-Master was sold in a presentation tub and is available in the United States and Canada.

TYCO’s talking viewmaster

Tyco produced Talking View-Master 3-D in 1997. This was the third version of the View-Master to feature talking video reels. It utilized an endless loop of film inside its cartridge rather than phonograph discs. It had a chip that provided short sound clips and had six titles to choose from. Tyco acquired the company in 1996 and later received Mattel Toys. Today, there are still plenty of collector’s items with Talking View-Master reels.


GAF released a variety of different versions of its View-Master Reel. In addition, there were cartoon reel packets and many with an educational bent. Promotion material claimed that GAF produced VIEW-MASTER subjects for all interests. The Talking View-Master was released in 1969 and was 3X more extensive than its audio-free counterpart. It also featured a built-in microphone and used specially-designed photo reels, with the audio being played on a different spin. A three-reel set was sold separately.


Collectors of TYCO’s view master reels are looking for an example in mint condition and free from mold, foxing spots, or other imperfections. Reels that have scenes missing are worthless. Reels in paper blisters are worth less than a quarter of what mint reels are worth. A three-reel packet should include the three reels, the outer color envelope, and the inner story booklet. Any of these damaged components can decrease the value and price of the entire set. For these reasons, MIP (mint in package) prices are used to determine the value of a group. MIP prices are for mint in package reels so that a good-to-excellent condition. Reel will command about 85 percent of that price.

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