All posts by georgemcgowan

Collecting King Kong: Toys & Games

Collecting King Kong Toys & Games

When it comes to classic monster toys, King Kong wasn’t a tier-one classic monster property. While the “unholy quintet” of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Wolf Man, the Creature and the Mummy win in terms of the pure quantity or toys and merchandise, Kong is certainly in the top 10 most licensed (and unlicensed) monster toys. Collecting King Kong toys and games from the 1933 film seems like a good place to start given the impact this movie had on my becoming a Monster Kid

This post focuses on the 1933 King Kong and does not include licensed merchandise from the 1976 or 2005 remakes.  As a 1970s monster kid, most of my Kong stuff was from the Dino De Laurentiis remake, and I plan to cover merchandise from both remakes in future posts.

King Kong is one of the earliest movies to have licensed kids merchandise, and certainly the first monster movie.  Given the age of the film, high-grade examples toys from the 1933 are extremely rare and, as a result, quite valuable.

1933 RKO Jigsaw Puzzle

Collecting-king-kong-toys-RKO-puzzle
This 150 Piece jigsaw puzzle by RKO is extremely rare

This puzzle was produced as a promo piece by RKO and included in the film’s press book, which was sent to movie theaters and included lobby cards, movie posters and other ephemera theater owners could order to promote upcoming releases.  Theater managers had two options for ordering these puzzles:

1. They could purchase 100 puzzles for $6 (6 cents a piece).

2. (1) puzzle free with purchase of $1 worth of film promo merchandise.

Since this was during the Great Depression, most theater owners probably stuck to their basics and ordered posters and other tried-and-true film mercy. The rarity of this item can most likely be attributed to the simple fact that very few theater owners purchased them.  Today, this item is so rare, complete puzzles demand prices over $2,000.

This item does show up from time to time on auction sites, and there’s one on eBay US right now —  Click here for current eBay auctions for King Kong 1933 RKO puzzle

I also found a very high-grade one available at GrandOldToys.com for $2,200.

1962 Marx Wind-Up Kong

Marx 1962 Robot King Kong

As with most 1960s King Kong toys, this was part of a classic monster collection and one of the first of what would become a monster toy explosion in the 1960s.  Along with the Yeti, King Kong was a plush over a tin mechanical skeleton.

I found this video on YouTube of him in action, courtesy of leadfiremech:

1964 Palmer Monsters King Kong

Collecting-king-kong-toys-Palmer-Monsters
Complete set of Palmer Plastics Unbreakable Movie Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palmer monsters were pretty rough around the edges; many collectors feel this only adds to their charm.

This 3-inch plastic figure was part of the eight-monster set, Palmer Plastics Unbreakable Movie Monsters

  • packaged as a set on a bubble card or on a plastic bag with header card.
  • Each figure was released in multiple colors.
  • Kong included a itybitty Fay Wray, which is usually only found in packaged sets today.

These are rare to find in packaging, but loose ones aren’t hard to come by; here’s the current auctions I found on eBay

1973 AHI Rubber King Kong

Collecting-King-Kong-AHI-Jiggler
AHI King Kong Jiggler 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AHI had the Universal license in the 1970s but they also licensed King Kong from RKO and launched a couple of Kong toys as part of their monster line.

This rubber, non-posable wiggly toy was sold loose and tied to card.

Smaller version of this toy was released in 1979 by Vics.

This item isn’t hard to find loose and there; click here for current eBay auctions for this toy.

1974 AHI Bend ‘Ems King Kong  

King Kong AHI Bend Ems

Image courtesy Plaid Stallions

Standing 5″ and packaged in bubble cards, Super Monsters Bend ‘Ems were rubber toys with wire skeletons which allowed kids to pose them like action figures.

Click here for current auctions to this toy on eBay .

1976 AHI King Kong Squirt Gun

Collecting-King-Kong-toys-AHI-Squirt-gun
AHI KIng Kong Squirt Gun 1974

Technically, this toy probably counts more as merch for the Dino De Laurentis 1976 remake, but I’ll include it here with the rest of the 1970s AHI toys.

If you find this one carded, you’ve got a real gem — very few carded toys are known to exist, so time to check Uncle Steve’s, the retired ’70s rack toy distributor, attic!

Can’t find any current auctions on eBay for this one–if I do, I’ll be sure to update and add a link.  I did find one for sale (no price listed) on L&LCollectables.com.

A carded/sealed one recently sold on eBay for $263

AHI King Kong Little Walker Wind up 

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Little-Walker-Windups
AHI Little Walkers Wind-up Monsters

3″ tall hard plastic toys w/built-in keys

Shoots sparks out of the mouth as he walks

These toys have been re-released over the years, so it’s important to ensure you’re paying for what you’re getting.

These guys often show up for auction in lots with other Little Walkers on eBay and other auction sites.

 Summary

These are highlights of some of collectors’ favorites, and only a representative selection of the wide variety of King Kong toys over the years.  The variety is pretty amazing, from quirky to classic, and a testament to the timelessness of the character.  Everyone knows King Kong.  For many kids, even today, he is the first classic monster they are exposed to.  These toys, and the many others not included here, are central to many classic monster collections — like mine.

I’d love to here from other “Kong Kollectors” — what toys are your favorites?  What’s highest on your Want List?

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Collecting King Kong: Aurora Model Kits

Collecting King Kong Aurora Models & Kits

Any article about collecting King Kong 1933 merchandise has to include these influential monster models from Aurora Plastics. Collecting King Kong Aurora Models is often the highlight of any King Kong collection.

It’s hard to think of any one thing that had as great an impact on the 1960s monster mania as Aurora Plastic Corporation’s monster model kits.  The triumverate of Shock Theatre, Famous Monsters of Filmland and Aurora’s line of monster models almost certainly combined to create an entire generation of Monster Kids, who were lucky enough to be pre-teens in the early 1960s.

I didn’t come along until 1966, but I can relate to those Boomer kids, as I shared their wide-eyed wonder when I discovered the 1970 re-issues of these Aurora kits on the store shelves.  For many, collecting classic monsters starts–and in all reality, could stop– with Aurora model kits.

King Kong wasn’t in the very first set of kits released.  Kong made his debut, along with Godzilla and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, in 1963 and was an instant commercial and monster kid favorite, despite some serious scale issues (palm trees hit Kong in the ankles and Fay Wray was about knee-high).

The following is a complete listing of Aurora’s King Kong models and variations:

Collecting_Aurora-Models-Monster-Kit-Ad
1963 Aurora Magazine Ad

Catalog #468: The Original Long Box    

Collecting-King-Kong-Aurora-Models

 

 

 

Catalog #465:  Glow in the Dark Collecting-King-Kong-Aurora-Models

 

Catalog #484:  King Kong’s Thronester Collecting-King-Kong-Aurora-Models

Catalog #1623:  Luminator Neon by Revell-Monogram Collecting-King-Kong-Aurora-Models

Catalog #7507: Revell-Monogram Reissue  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended Reference Guide:

Collecting-Aurora-Models-MonstersMy go-to reference guide for all-things Aurora Model Kits is Aurora Model Kits (Schiffer Book for Collectors) by Thomas Graham.

This book is a must-have for monster model kit   collectors, and a good read for any monster kid who simply wants to learn more about these influential collectibles on the 1960s/70s monster craze.

While I’d love to see an updated edition (2nd edition was released in 2006) it has an excellent Kit Directory categorizing every kit and variation and providing useful detail to help in identifying the age / value of kits you are considering buying.  This exhaustive catalog of every make/model is useful and timeless.  For collectors, the price range to buy these kits today may be slightly dated, but the information on determining the age of the model kit is extremely useful when considering a purchase.

I’ve added this book to our Amazon store for your convenience.

Which model kit is your favorite? Share your Kong model memories with us! We love to hear them.

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Collecting King Kong 1933 Movie Memorabilia: Current eBay Auctions

Collecting King Kong 1933 Movie Memorabilia

Movie Theater ephemera are the most valuable and desired components of a King Kong 1933 collection.  While original King Kong movie posters are some of the most expensive and valuable of all vintage movie posters, other memorabilia from this film are readily available on eBay and other auction sites are more reasonable prices.

Here are some of the more interesting auctions currently on eBay for King Kong 1933 Movie Memorabilia.  I’ll keep this page updated with current auctions as well as report what ended auctions sold for.  Hope it is useful and please let me know if you win any auctions!

1. Vintage Lobby Card King Kong 1946 Re-release

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-Memorabilia

 

2. King Kong 1938 Lobby Card

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-Memorabilia

 

 3. Original 1933 Herald

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-MemorabiliaCollecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-MemorabiliaCollecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-Memorabilia

4. Original 1933 King Kong Movie Still 

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-Memorabilia

5. King Kong 1942 Re-release Lobby Card Set

Collecting-King-Kong-1933-Movie-Memorabilia

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Collecting King Kong: 1933 Movie Posters

Collecting King Kong 1933 Movie Posters

Of all collectible categories, vintage movie posters have proven to be consistently the most valuable, or expensive, depending on your point of view.  The scarcity of high-grade posters, which were made to be used for a brief period and then disposed of, combined with often spectacular artwork make vintage movie posters one of the most sought-after collectible categories.  The horror genre is well represented in any “most valuable movie posters” list and King Kong posters are some of the most highly sought after.

Movie Posters come in a wide-variety of sizes and formats and were used to promote movies in theaters.  The bigger the movie, the bigger the promotional effort and the more styles of posters produced.  King Kong was as big as a movie got in 1933 and, as a result, we have a plethora of movie posters to collect.

I’ll use this blog to compile a complete list of 1933 original movie release poster styles as well as price guide values and recent auction prices. I plan to add more detailed information about collecting vintage movie posters – different poster styles and formats, storage and display of vintage movie posters and more. In the meantime, I’ve included some useful books in our Amazon store here for you to check out.

King Kong One-Sheet Styles:

King Kong 1933 One Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 One Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 One Sheet Style B
King Kong 1933 One Sheet Style B

 

King Kong Three-Sheet Styles:

King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style B King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style B
King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style B
King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style C
King Kong 1933 Three Sheet Style C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Kong Six-Sheet Styles:

King Kong 1933 Six Sheet
King Kong 1933 Six Sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Kong 24-Sheet Styles:

King Kong 1933 24 Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 24 Sheet Style A
King Kong 1933 24 Sheet Style B
King Kong 1933 24 Sheet Style B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Kong Lobby Card Styles:

King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 1
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 1
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 2
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 2
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 3
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 3
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 4
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 4
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card 5
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card 5
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 6
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 6
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 7
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 7
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 8
King Kong 1933 Lobby Card Style 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monster Kid Memories: The Library & the Giant Ape

           My First Monster Movie Begins                    A Lifelong Love Affair

King Kong Fay Wray 1933

It was the summer of 1970.  Or maybe it was 1971.  I was 4, maybe 5, years old.  My little brother had just been born and my mom, like all parents of newborns with school-age siblings, was looking for anything and everything to get me out of the house and out of her hair.  Enter summer movies at the public library and my first exposure to monster movies.  Not just any monster movie, mind you.  That was the summer I first saw King Kong.

My Origin Story

Now for a pre-schooler with a mad love for dinosaurs, this movie had me hooked from the start — adventure on a lost island full of prehistoric beasts.  Throw a giant ape into the mix and have him fight the dinos and I was a goner! I can’t recall the other movies I saw that summer, which leads me to believe they were not monster movies.  I’m sure I enjoyed them, but King Kong sticks in my memory like it was last week.  It was exciting, full of adventure- and dinosaurs. It was a bit scary at times but it was also sad. Like every other kid, I felt bad for Kong and knew from the start he wasn’t really the bad guy.  he was scared and probably home-sick.  The bad guys were the men who captured him and exploited him to get rich.  As a kid, adults control your world–parent, teachers, babysitters…and you can relate to getting in trouble because you’re out of your comfort zone, for not fitting in, for being scared and feeling alone.

For me, Kong was personal.  I understood the plight of the monster.  It was the first, but certainly not the last, time that I found myself rooting for the ‘monster’ and being sad when he, inevitably, would lose.

From Dinosaurs to Classic Monsters

I don’t know if that was the same day I discovered that they wrote books about movie monsters, but it wasn’t long after seeing Kong on the tiny library television that I was scouring the library for any and everything I could find about the monsters of the movies.  And the 1970s were a time when kids books about classic movie monsters were plentiful.

Meeting the Classic Monsters

By the time school started that fall, I was well versed in the classics of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla and the Wolf Man.  In some cases, seeing these movies was still years away, but I checked those books out over and over again that summer–reading and re-reading the movie synopsis and memorizing every frightful picture. That was the summer I became a Monster Kid.

I’m sure my story isn’t unique for kids of the early ’70s or for generations before me.  My wife remembers seeing King Kong at her local library as well.  It must have been pretty common fare in those pre-Star Wars days of the early 1970s.  For most kids it is a fond childhood memory.  For monster kids, it changed everything and started us down the path of a lifelong love for fantastic creatures and worlds of the imagination.  The public library was the gateway, but King Kong was the drug.

Monster-Kid-Memories_King-Kong

What is your Monster Kid origin story? How did King Kong effect you and when did you first see this iconic film?

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Collecting Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker Dracula Stamps Ireland

Dracula is clearly one of the Big 5 famous monsters and considered the first of Universal Studio’s classic monster movies.  Any classic monster collector has his or her share of Count Dracula merchandise and the Bela Lugosi vs Christopher Lee conversation never gets old.

But since today is St Patrick’s Day and I’m of Irish descent, we’re continuing the conversation of Dracula as an Irish export since his modern Count Dracula was created by Irish write, Bram Stoker.  While many Dracula collectors focus on the vampire himself or the actors who have played the role over the years, what about collecting Bram Stoker?  Turns out, this is not an inexpensive option, but fascinating in it’s own right.  Dracula is one of the most famous books ever published, and it’s almost 120 years old.  Collecting antique books has never been the most affordable of hobbies and is really more like investing than collecting. Stanley Gibbons, a London collectibles company, offered up a very rare First Edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker for a mere $184,000 in late 2014.  Yep, you read that right.

Turns out this First Edition was high-grade, but more-importantly, it was signed by the author:

Signed First Edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker offered by London Auction House in 2014
Signed First Edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker offered by London Auction House in 2014

Pretty cool, but not going to be in my collection anytime soon.

I searched eBay in the Books: Antiquarian and Collectible category and turned up these current auctions of various first editions of Dracula these current auctions of various first editions of Dracula in the — variety of conditions and a wide spectrum of publishers to choose from, but all in all more affordable than the signed edition:

I quick search for Antique Vintage 19th Century Bram Stoker’s Dracula on Amazon turned up a range of antique editions of Dracula ranging in price from $89.99 to $300.

Of course, book collecting isn’t the most obvious category for collectors of classic monster merchandise — if you haven’t read Dracula by Bram Stoker, you owe it to yourself to do so — Dracula is beloved by Monster Kids of every age and the character continues to reverberate through pop culture. Just follow this link to download Bram Stoker’s Dracula to your Kindle and and settle in for a classic monster read by a great Irishman – sounds like a good St Paddy’s Day to this Irishman!

 

Movie Poster for Universal Studios 1931 Dracula
Movie Poster for Universal Studios 1931 Dracula

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Celebrate St Patrick’s Day with Classic Monsters

St Patrick’s Day Isn’t the Most Obvious Classic Monster Holiday

1906 Portrait of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula,

While Ireland and Halloween go hand-in-hand with the modern holiday’s roots tracing back to the ancient Celts harvest festival, Samhain, the connections to the patron saint of Ireland are more tenuous.  Enter Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker; Irishman and author of Dracula, one of the most famous books ever published and, arguably, the most famous of all monsters.

Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847 and it is said that he grew up on a steady diet of his Mother’s stories of the supernatural.  Ireland has a long history of fantastical and mystical creatures from leprechauns and banshees to it’s own vampire, the DeargDue.  The Celts, whose traditions never disappeared from Irish culture, had hundreds of gods and an equal number of demons and monsters.  Stoker grew up hearing these stories and they undoubtedly influenced his fascination for the macabre.

Dracula was published in May 1897 and, although it was critically well-received, it was not a bestseller.  In fact, it wasn’t until after Stoker’s death in 1912 that his book would achieve commercial success.  Stoker wrote a total of 18 books, including Lair of the White Worm, but it is his haunting tale of the vampire that has given him lasting fame.

For more about Bram Stoker, watch this video from Biography Channel (click to watch full screen)):

It’s fair to say that fans of classic monsters owe a debt of gratitude to Bram Stoker.  So, while tipping a pint at the pub today in celebration of all things Irish, raise a pint to Bram Stoker and that famous monster of his, Count Dracula.

Related:

 

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Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s Exhibit

Some of my Instagram shots from that day that will live in infamy for this Monster Kid:

Aurora Frankenstein Monster model kit 

Marx Plastic Monsters 1960s 

Heroes and Villains 

Aurora Model Kits – Batman, Wolf Man, Creature, Mummy and more

Ben Cooper Wobbler Monsters 

Mego Batman Action Figures 

Mego Spider-Man 

 

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A Monster Kid Awakens….

Monster Kid Memories

Monster-Kid-Memories
Monster Toy Exhibit at Minnesota History Center

In the summer of 2014, my family visited the Minnesota History Center in St Paul. The museum has just kicked off an exhibit that I couldn’t wait to see called Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. As we worked our way through the excellent exhibit, we arrived at the 1970s room and there– right in the center of it all — was my childhood on display. An entire section dedicated to monsters and superheroes. Aurora model kits, Mego action figures and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I was immediately transported back in time; transfixed and flooded with memories that I hadn’t consciously recalled for decades.

My family was patient — and I finally continued through the rest of the exhibit, only to find myself drifting back through the crowd to the monster display. I’d be inclined to blame it on a mid-life crisis given my age, but I’ve been an active comic book collector for most of my adult life, so my passion for childish things wasn’t new– my wife was more than aware of it when she married me. No, it was the monsters. As much as I love superheroes and comics, I had forgotten the monsters. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved monsters.

When I got home that afternoon, I tracked down the collector whose toys were featured in this exhibit, and it turns out they belong to fellow Minnesotan, Dave Barnhill. According to his bio on his website SuperMonsterCity.com, “David’s collection now includes more than 200,000 items, making this Minnesota-based collection one of the largest private toy collections in America. Containing rare and highly sought after items representing toy-makers and monster creators from across the US and several foreign countries, David co-founded SuperMonster市 City! because he is eager to share his joy in toys, monsters, superheroes and villains with the world. I highly encourage checking out his site, specifically his Monster Toy Gallery.

And that’s all it took– George the Monster Kid had risen from the grave and my love of classic monsters was alive, ALIVE!

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