Amidst all the fun new classic monster merchandise to be found at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, nothing is more exciting to me personally than the return of Mego action figures! It isn’t overstatement to say that Mego was the defining toy brand for many a 70s childhood with their lineup of super heroes, Planet of the Apes and classic monster dolls, I mean, action figures!
Mego figures are highly collectible and there are passionate communities on the internet with great expertise on these classic toys. These groups have been abuzz about the return of Mego and it’s iconoclastic founder, Marty Abrams, since Mego Meet earlier this summer.
At Comic-con, Mego revealed its Wave I line-up which will be sold exclusively at Target stores in the U.S. starting this summer. Decidedly retro in it’s lineup, the single figure that has our rapt attention is the new Bela Lugosi Dracula figure. Officially licensed by Lugosi Enterprises, this is
This figure is eight-inches and true to the original Mego stye. Sold exclusively at Target, it will retail for $14.99.
Mego Mad Monster Figures
The fact that Mego officially licensed Lugosi’s likeness is intriguing simply because Mego’s previous run at classic monster action figures, the much loved Mad Monsters lineup from 1974, were intentionally public domain versions of the classic Universal Monsters. Dreadful Dracula, The Human Wolfman, The Horrible Mummy and the Monster Frankenstein drew influence from the literary world rather than the Universal characters and were a huge hit with 70s kids then and collectors today.
While a dedicated article about Mego’s Mad Monsters is well past due on this website, there is little I could add that isn’t included in this well-done video from the Mego Museum and Plaid Stallions gang.
Watch the Mega Mad Monsters documentary:
The Mad Monster figures are tremendously collectible and can be quite expensive. A quick survey of eBay shows the several current auctions averaging around $75 for loose figures and several hundred for figures in package. Figures Toy Company re-issued these figures a few years back and they can be easily found online for $15 at EntertainmentEarth
Mego is planning a Wave 2 release this October so we have reason to hope that more classic monsters will be included in the lineup. Which monsters do you most hope to see? Do you want licensed or unlicensed figures?
Before monsters entered my world, there were dinosaurs. As I have detailed in previous posts, dinosaurs were my gateway to monsters and played an influential part in my becoming a full-fledged Monster Kid.
In reality, my favorite kind of monster movie usually includes a dinosaur or derivative thereof — atomic behemoths rampaging through modern cities, inhabiting lost worlds accidentally discovered by modern man or, in more recent incarnations, terrorizing mad scientists who recreated them using their DNA.
With Jurassic World stomping the competition at the box office this summer, I’ve been focusing on some of my favorite dinosaur-infested classic movie posters and it only makes sense to broaden the scope to dinosaur collectibles of all kinds.
In today’s post, I’ll provide a general overview of vintage dinosaur toys including companies that manufactured them over the decades and highlight some of the unique products released over the years. In the coming weeks, I’ll dig deeper into some of these companies and products included in today’s overview.
Early 20th Century
Toy dinosaurs have been around for almost since the first fossils were discovered. In a segment I wrote profiling toys from the 1933 King Kong, I highlighted a terrific jigsaw puzzle of Kong battling a T-Rex. Early examples of prehistoric animal toys include a metal Brontosaurus and Sabre-Tooth Tiger from 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. There are other examples of lead, metal and wooden dinosaur toys from the first half of the 20th Century, but it was in the 1950s that dinosaur toys really came to prominence.
1950s Rise of the Dinosaur Toys
Early dinosaur toy makers include Ajax (1950s-1960s), Marx (1955-1963; 1971-1979), MPC (1964-1970s), and Timmee (1960s-present).
Most of the dinosaur toys in the early days were no bigger than a few inches and many were originally packaged in playsets that included plastic rocks, plants, and cavemen. Since access to dinosaur information was limited back then, many of the toy makes, like Marx and MPC, imprinted the animal name on their tail or body.
Of the toys just mentioned, Marx dinosaur toys are the most detailed, best crafted, and most desired among collectors and I’ll cover them in detail in a future post.
By the late 1960s, dinosaur toys were cooling off and monsters, G I Joe and space toys were captivating kids imaginations.
Thanks to popular kids shows like Land of the Lost, dinosaurs were back in the forefront by the early 1970s and many of the companies already discussed began re-issuing and expanding the prehistoric offerings to include cave people and Ice Age mammals.
Other companies near and dear to Monster Kids were in the dino toy business as well and are worth spending some time. Aurora Model Company, in particular, was very successful with their Prehistoric Scenes collection in the 1970s, which are near to my heart because I had the entire set when I was a wee lad. Additionally, in 1976 Mego released a collection of prehistoric people and animals based on the movie One Million Years B.C.
1990s Jurassic Park
While dinosaur toys never went away, the 1980s saw a shift toward dinosaurs recast as action figures and included in play sets that are outside the scope of Collecting Classic Monsters. But the release of Jurassic Park in 1993 resulted in a boom in reissues of classic dinosaur toys as well as Kenner‘s Jurassic Park collection — all of which we will explore further in the coming weeks.
So, lots of ground to cover in the coming weeks.
But I recognize that I can’t simply publish a post that lists what I plan to write about in the future and expect you to trust me with your valuable spare reading time. So let’s wrap up with an in-depth review of an interesting and highly collectible line of dinosaur toys from the 1950s that were offered as premiums inside cans of coffee from an Austrian company.
Linde Coffee Premiums
Austrian coffee company, Linde Coffee, offered soft plastic animals as premiums in their herbal coffee substitute which had become popular during World War II when regular coffee was scarce. Among the premiums were 8 prehistoric figures that are now highly collectible and really quite impressive in their design.
One of the most desirable aspects of Linde figures is the unlimited combination of colored marbling and many of these are quite handsome in coloring. The 1950’s issued figures range in colour from pale green through, orange, brown, red, blue, grey to black. More usually they’re a mix of darker green/grey. Each figure is marked with the animal name and company name, Linde, but they are not dated.
Like the figures in the Marx “Prehistoric Times” toy sets, the Linde animals were modeled after paintings by Charles Knight and Rudolph Zallinger’s ‘Age of Reptiles’ mural now housed at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The 110-foot-long and 16-foot-high painting chronicles the evolutionary history of the planet from 362 million years ago (the Devonian Period) to 65 million years ago (the Cretaceous). First engaged when he was a Yale Fine Arts student, Zallinger took more than 4 1/2 years to complete the project. The mural represents the best available scientific knowledge of the 1940s, and won Zallinger the 1949 Pulitzer Award for Painting.
Collecting the Rondo Awards 2015 Best Toy Category – Part 7
Distinctive Dummies Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu Mego-style Figure
This week’s entry in my continuing series profiling all the nominees in the 2015 Rondo Awards takes us out of the classic horror genre and into classic adventure with Boris Karloff as the notorious Dr. Fu Manchu.
The first thing to note of this figure is it’s terrific resemblance to Boris in his role as Fu Manchu. Compare the figure above to this image of Karloff as Dr. Fu Manchu that I found for sale on Amazon:
While I would like to have this figure with the infamous doctor’s smile on his face, I can’t find any real flaws in the sculpt.
Distinctive Dummies creates numbered Limited Edition, retro styled 8″ inch action figures in the retro Mego-style. The Mego Corporation was a toy company that dominated the action figure toy market during most of the 1970s. Responsible for such great 8″ Action Figures as The Mad Monsters, World Greatest Superheroes, Wizard of Oz and Planet of the Apes to name a few. Distinctive Dummies also has a line of 12 inch figures.
Distinctive Dummies makes Mego-style figures and, just in case anyone reading this is unfamiliar with Mego or the Mego style figure, it’s time to do your homework. The first and last stop for all-things-Mego on the web is the site Megomuseum.com — here’s a link to their post on the Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu figure.
The Mego Museum Facebook page is a great place to keep up on ‘real’ Mego figures as well as companies releasing new retro-style figures in the Mego tradition.
Where to Buy Distinctive Dummies Karloff Fu Manchu Figure
I’ve never really considered Fu Manchu movies to be in the horror genre, so I’m glad this one didn’t win the Best Toy/Model/Collectible category in this year’s Rondo Awards. All three of the other figures in this collection from Distinctive Dummies are from truly classic horror films, and I could see myself voting for the Morgan figure in next year’s awards given the high quality and terrific likeness to Karloff that the previous three figures have had.
I grew up with Mego and they remain some of my favorite toys ever. I’m glad to see so much activity from current companies making retro style figures in the Mego-style. While these are clearly collectibles and not toys (I’m not giving my 8 year old son an $80 action figure anyway), the deep genre focus of these limited edition items are great for collectors of classic monsters.
Keep up the great work Distinctive Dummies and we’ll keep buying!
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!
The Digital Clubhouse for Monster Kids & Collectors of Classic Monster, Retro Science Fiction and Vintage Fantasy Memorabilia