As Canada's plastics design exhibit drew to a close, its mascot - a historic polystyrene piggy bank - was nowhere to be found.
Officials at the Design Exchange in Toronto fear the piggy bank, injection molded in the 1950s, was stolen the weekend of Jan. 8. The colorful bank, resembling Porky Pig of cartoon fame, was perched at the entrance to the ``Plastic - The Exhibition'' display area. At under a foot tall, it would fit easily into a backpack, said Design Exchange spokeswoman Susan Rutledge.
The bank was one of hundreds of plastic articles displayed in the exhibit, designed to show the prominent role plastics have played in Canada's cultural, domestic and commercial history since 1945. Rutledge said the exhibit, which ran Sept. 22 to Feb. 6, drew an average of a few hundred viewers per week.
Rutledge said the piggy bank was provided by an undisclosed private collector. She estimated its value at about C$300 (US$243). When its loss was publicized, a replacement was supplied by the company that molded the original some 50 years ago.
The Reliable Toys division of Viceroy Rubber & Plastics Ltd. still molds a small number of the piggy banks in its Toronto plant, said Herb Samuels, administrative manager of Viceroy and the donor of the replacement piggy bank. His father, Alex, founded Reliable in 1920, when it used traditional materials before branching into the relatively new arena of plastics in the 1940s. Viceroy acquired the company in 1985.
Reliable's pioneering efforts in the early days of thermoplastics were matched by several other Canadian companies that entered the field to make war materials. When the war ended, a large pool of expertise turned its attention to making consumer goods out of plastics. Housewares, sporting goods, appliances and clothing displayed in the exhibit provide a taste of how designers chose plastics to solve design, performance and cost problems.
``[Plastics] speak to the post-war plenitude and affordability of consumer products,'' said the exhibit's curator, Michael Prokopow, in an interview at the show.
Prokopow said attendees generally fell into two camps. Some treated the display as a trip down memory lane, as they recalled owning and using many of the goods on display. More-cynical types disparaged the low cost and semi-disposability of some plastics items, he said.
And then there's the piggy bank thief, who couldn't resist the urge to steal and possess a lovable part of plastics history.