Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Any Monster Kid growing up during the first "Monster Craze" wave of the 60s could not have easily missed all the monster toys and other sideline goodies that sprung up like Matango mushrooms. Monsters could be found in just about any store, even at your local grocers (can you say, "Frankenberry"?).

For a time, it was our neighborhood S.S. Kresge's that was a Monster Mecca (The "Speedee Mart/7-11" store was probably the biggest, but that's another story). Kresge's started off as the now pretty much defunct and nostalgic "five and dime", which evolved into a "department store", then morphed into K-Mart. Whenever the family stopped there, I headed straight towards the back of the store where they had a row of wire bins that held a treasure trove of plastic figures, including WWII soldiers, the outrageous "Nutty Mads", and the best of all, monster figures!

This is the only image I could dig up of the S.S. Kresge Co store that my family shopped
at on Victory Blvd. and Platt Ave. in Canoga Park, CA back in the 1960s.
Introduced by Marx in 1964 or 1965 (my best guess), the first series of these 6" plastic figures was cast in a bright orange color. Louis and David Marx founded "Louis Marx and Company, Inc." in 1919 and their inexpensive, quality plastic toy sets were all the rage with kids (me, too!). The monster figures were only one line of many, many toys that they produced. Later, the monsters were cast in other colors, such as blue and red, and a recent "recast" set is in silver from someone claiming to have the original molds.

The Marx empire lasted until 1980, when it sold to the Quaker Oats company. Now, some of Marx's better known play sets, like Fort Apache and The Alamo, have been reproduced and sell for scads more than their original price. You can still find Marx monsters for varying prices on eBay and other auction sites.

I've still got my orange originals! They somehow made it through over 50 years of moving and dragging them from here to there in a shoe box, probably because -- like my baseball cards -- they're small and don't take up a lot of room. Plus, for what they are, the figures are really well done and in great proportion. The Frankenstein Monster is easily recognized as the Glen Strange version, The Wolf Man and The Mummy are both from the Lon Chaney, Jr. films, The Phantom of the Opera is from the version by Chaney's Dad, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Anthony Quinn, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon looks like it was sculpted directly from an often seen film still from REVENGE OF THE CREATURE. What do you think?

[NOTE: Images of the figures are from Hake's Auctions. The current bid is $110 for the set.]

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