10 Monstrously Fun Christmas Toys from Yesteryear

Monster Gumball Charms

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).

 

Great Garloo

 

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.

 

Monster Soakies

 

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 Remco Kayro-Vue

 

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.

 

Aurora Big Frankie

 

Giant Frankie

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

 

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 Karloffs Monster Game

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.

 

Fright Factory Thingmaker

 

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.

 

1968 Marx Nutty Mad Crazy Monster Tin Friction Car

 

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.

 

Aurora Creature From the Black Lagoon

 

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.

 

Soggy Boglins

 

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!

Photo sources: ebay, Engel’s Universe, Hake’s Auctions, Patti-Goop, Universal Dork, Worthpoint 

3 Comments:

  1. Hi Betsy,

    What an amazing and long story!!!! You placed so many pictures of toys and games from the 1960’s! What a lot of people do not realize is that you had totally different toys and games than we did! The ones you mentioned are totally unknown to us in Europe.

    I have always been interested in toys, and my very favorite was Corgi Toys. Those are small model cars and look like Dinky toys. Nowadays part of my work is to restore these Corgi toys for others!

    As I always try to restore with alternate material, I needed a device to melt plastic to form windows. I finally bought a new Chinese machine, which melted plastic with a heater, which is then sucked over an original part. When cooled down you make a duplicate you can use. It has a very strong engine, so therefore you need rather thick plastic. So…I searched for a device that could form thinner material also. I finally found it: the Mattel Vacuum former! A machine sold in the USA only (and briefly in Italy) around 1964, which heats up the plastic, and you suck the air out quickly by hand-pumping! I managed to buy one in the USA and had it shipped to me. I then needed a transformer to go from 110 volts (USA) to 220 (Europe), and now I can use it!

    • Bedankt voor het schrijven, Kees! This is actually one of my shorter blogs! In any case, I am well aware that you had different toys because I was married to a Dutchman and lived in the Netherlands for 2 1/2 years! My ex grew up with a fellow who had a really cool store in Rotterdam that sold old Corgi, Dinky, and Lesney Matchbox cars! My ex had quite a childhood collection himself, but his dad let his stepsister play with them when he served in the Dutch Army and she ruined many of them. We salvaged a few and I remember I tried restoring one after we moved back to Chicago. At the time, I worked at an industrial design shop and was charged with finishing and painting models. Unfortunately, I messed up this particular car and boy was he upset. So I appreciate the workmanship that goes into restoring these toy cars! Glad you found the proper device to recreate windows.

  2. One of your shorter blogs? You’re joking, right…

    Toys were meant to played with, and in a way it is weird to see an old toy which is still mint. Also, as most boxes were thrown away (thanks mum…) the boxes are sometimes worth more than the model itself!

    You can see a lot of my makings here:
    https://www.hobbydb.com/subjects/keesie25-customizer

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