Long before the Internet, CGI, smartphones, and other tech colored our world, we enjoyed simple pleasures – like looking through the Sears Wish Book to pick out our dream Christmas or Hanukah toys. Among the coolest toys were monsters – classics inspired by film and television. No computer-generated imagery, 200+ million movie budgets, or product tie-ins needed – just old-fashioned creativity with a healthy dose of camp. With all girls in our house, monster toys were not on our list, but as an artist, I’ve always found them visually delightful.
Here are 10 awesome monster toys from yesteryear. This is for all you late Baby Boomers who grew up watching Creature Features (if you lived in Chicago it aired on WGN and WFLD), The Munsters, Addams Family, or any other classics. Many of these toys command high prices at auction, scooped up by people like you and me trying to recreate carefree days of youth (or at least we remember them that way).
The Great Garloo – 1960
One of the greatest toymakers of all time, Louis Marx and Company was in business from 1919 to 1980. The Great Garloo, released in 1960, was a battery-operated robot that looked a little like the Incredible Hulk and Jolly Great Giant’s son. It was $17.98 according to the 1961 commercial – quite a chunk of change for that time. The remote control toy moved forward and backwards, bent over, and could pick up objects, with a little steering wheel to control direction. A near mint one in the box sold on ebay recently for about $500, while others not as pristine have sold in the $135-$200.00 range.
Universal Monsters Soaky Bubble Bath Containers – 1963
Made by Colgate-Palmolive in 1963 for 59 cents each, a mint set of Frankenstein, Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon with the original neck hang tags sold for $230 on ebay. This seems low – probably one of the many collectibles that has decreased in value over the last few years. I have a photo of my sisters and I standing with all our Soaky figurines – of 14, not a single one was a monster, but we did have Paul McCartney which brings a nice amount at auction.
Grandpa Munster – 1964
Green is certainly a favorite color for monster toys. Grandpa Munster, the character played by cigar-loving character actor Al Lewis is by Kayro Vue Remco. It measures 5 inches tall by 3 inches wide and the head wobbles a little so it’s considered a nodder or bobble head. A set of three with Grandpa, Herman, and Lily is currently listed on ebay for $995.00.
Lewis operated a restaurant in Greenwich Village from 1987 to 1993 called Grampa’s Bella Gente Italian. He also ran for governor of New York in 1998 on the Green Party ticket and garnered 52,000 votes. Another interesting bit of personal Munsters trivia. When I worked at AARP (mid-1990s to May 2001), one of my volunteers told me he dated Yvonne De Carlo in the 1940s and even sent me a photo and a few news clippings of the two of them to prove it. He asked her to marry him and she declined.
Gigantic Frankenstein – 1964
Enormous compared to their usual scale models, Aurora released this Giant Frankie for $4.95 in 1964. That was a hefty price back then – you could buy 99 candy bars at 5 cents each for that price tag! Aurora Plastics Corp. was established in March 1950 in Brooklyn, N.Y. by engineer Joseph E. Giammarino and businessman Abe Shikes. The company was sold to outside investors in 1969 after the two gentlemen retired. An ebay seller is currently listing a MINT condition Giant Frankie in the box for $999, but Moebius Models reissued the kit in 2008. In general, reissue of collectibles can drive down the price of originals.
Pop Top Horrors Monsters – 1960s
Made by MPC Multiple Toymakers in the 1960s, these 5-inch solid plastic “horror” monster figures were mainly sold two per package for a mere 29 cents. Their heads were detachable and could be popped out of their sockets. Eight different types of skinny, ugly monster figures were produced. Believe it or not, a MINT unopened package sold for $1,800 according to universalmonsterarmy.com.
Boris Karloff’s Monster Game – 1965
A true icon of horror cinema, this board game played off the fame of the British actor who played Frankenstein in 1931. Issued by Game Gems Productions in 1965, the game board, markers, and spinner feature illustrations of Karloff’s face. A game in mint condition sold at Hake’s Auctions for $460.00 including buyer’s premium in January 2008. These are scarce and rarely come up for auction.
Thingmaker Fright Factory Toy – 1966
A huge fan of Mattel Thingmakers, I remember this one being on my list, but I didn’t get it. I was the proud owner of the original Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker, Creeple Peeple, and Incredible Edibles. The latter came out the same year, so that’s likely what I got that holiday. I should have opted for Fright Factory because the Incredible Edibles candy was pretty yucky. In any case, Fright Factory came with all sorts of nifty molds including shrunken heads, skeletons, bones, scary eyes, fangs, scars, and more. A sealed one sold on ebay for $199.00 in November 2018.
Marx Nutty Mad Monster Friction Car – 1968
Another intriguing toy by Marx, the company created a series of monsters riding in tin friction cars in 1968. They measured about 4 ½ by 4 ½ inches. The vehicles were made of metal and the heads out of vinyl. You may also remember the Nutty Mads, which on occasion still crop up at church rummage sales and thrift stores. Comically grotesque and intricately detailed, these 6-inch figures were injection molded out of polymer plastic.
Monsters of the Movies – 1975
Another cool model from Aurora, the Monsters of the Movies models came out a decade after the Universal Pictures monster models. The Creature from the Black Lagoon, circa 1975 sold for $214.17 including buyer’s premium at Hake’s Auctions in November 2017. Somebody is trying to sell a nicely painted, fully assembled set of nine Aurora Monsters of the Movies on ebay for $999.99 Buy it Now, but this was already relisted since there were no takers.
Boglins – 1987
Introduced in 1987 and produced until 1994, these large, creepy flexible rubber hand puppets came in unique packaging with pulled open jail bars. Created by Tim Clarke, Maureen Trott, and Larry Mass for Mattel, the puppets were inspired by horror movies such as Critters and Gremlins. Smaller puppets were made as well as stickers, miniatures, Halloween masks, and other items. Apparently, these enjoyed more success in the U.K. than the U.S. Boglins were reintroduced in 2000, including electronic talking versions, and again in 2017 in limited edition runs. A vintage 1987 Boglins Bog-O-Bones (special Halloween edition) and Vlobb new in boxes sold for $350.00 on ebay in September 2018.
Happy Monster Hunting!