Collecting JFK – Fifty Years Later

This month is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I remember that day well, as does anyone else who happened to be alive at the time.

Perhaps it’s because I was a kid – in the fourth grade when Kennedy was elected in 1960 – that I remember his presidency better than those of many that have come after him. A lot happened in the less than three years that he was president, including the earliest manned space flights, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, which was probably the scariest two-week period of my then short life.

I also remember the lighter side such as Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the refurbished White House and his famous press conferences which pre-empted the TV shows I was watching after school. At the time they called it “charisma,” and he certainly had it.

I had the opportunity to visit the Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum outside of Boston a couple of months ago. It’s a good place to go to get a feel for the history and also the style of the Kennedy White House through the numerous objects on display. I particularly enjoyed the “campaign” section.

So much has been written about JFK, from endless conspiracy theories about his assassination to the sometimes questionable conduct of his personal life, that time does not seem to have taken away our fascination of him. It’s hard to believe that he would be 96 years old if he were still alive today! One may also wonder what would have happened had he lived.

It’s no surprise that Kennedy is popular with collectors of political memorabilia. Here are some items that were available during his 1960 campaign and presidency.

Campaign buttons

Convention hat

 

Broadside advertising rally & coffee cup

 

Assorted figurines of Jackie, Caroline, and John-John plus  bottle stopper and salf & pepper set


Halloween masks of JFK & Jackie

Personalized autographed photo

 

Please NOTE: JFK was notorious for using secretaries and an “auto-pen” for autographs.

After studying samples of his handwriting at great length, I believe this to be a genuine autograph.

Posted in 1960's, Americana, Historical, Jim, Political | Leave a comment

Mortimer Ichabod Marker from Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages

A few years ago, for some reason, I got slightly obsessed with Bill Cosby. America’s number one funnyman and TV dad has to be one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, and while he occasionally says something controversial once in a while, for the most part, he’s beloved the world over. Also, doing impressions of him is one of our nation’s favorite pastimes. Zippy zop zop doo bee bop Jello-O pudding.

Cosby’s career spans for decades, and the number of different roles he’s played over the years is seconded only by the number of different sweaters he must own. Depending on when you grew up, Bill Cosby was either a secret agent on I Spy, a wildly successful stand-up comedian, Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, or a ubiquitous pitchman for Jell-O, Kodak, Coca-Cola, Texas Instruments, or any one of a number of companies that paid to have Cosby as their spokesman.

But there’s a lesser known part of Bill Cosby’s career that has developed a rather passionate fan base (and no, I’m not talking about Leonard: Part 6…how dare you even think that). In the early 1980s, Cosby took over the hosting duties of a program called Picture Pages. The program began as a children’s television show on a local Pittsburgh affiliate before being assimilated into the Captain Kangaroo program. The show was based on the idea that children would have workbooks with images that matched what was being shown on the screen, and the host would walk the children through these segments to teach them simple lessons about the differences between inside and outside, shapes and sizes, colors, animals, and a bunch of other lessons aimed at a very, very young and impressionable audience.

During Cosby’s time as host, Picture Pages was shown in the very, very early days of Nickelodeon on Pinwheel, which ran until 1989. Nickelodeon also used short segments from the show as filler in between their programs, and so segments of Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages were being shown into the early 1990s. In other words, there is at least an entire decade where Picture Pages was shown on Nickelodeon for a nationwide audience, and it coincided perfectly with Cosby’s tenure on his self-titled NBC sitcom, despite the fact that they were not being taped simultaneously.

As an adult, looking back on Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages has been rather interesting. Obviously, the show was done on the cheap side. Cosby has made it clear time and time again that believes in the importance of educating the youth of America, but in this show, rather than go about it with the kind of unbridled enthusiasm seen in most children’s programming, Cosby appears sleepy and possibly drunk most of the time, slurring his way through dialogue with the excitement of watching bananas rot. If you caught episodes in their entirety, he would do improvised transitions, most of which seemed to result in Cosby getting progressively more annoyed at an unseen gaggle of children imploring him to provide them with more Picture Pages. Also, I know it’s a show aimed at children, but you have to question the educational value of drawing lines from one thing to another. It’s the kind of mindless busy work given to nursery school and kindergarten students while the teacher grabs a smoke or quick glances at the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, not something that can be broadcast on national television for 22 minutes at a time.

I think a combination of vague but positive childhood memories of Picture Pages coupled with nostalgia buffs like myself who look for subversive, unintentionally hilarious vintage programming are responsible for a cult-like following of Picture Pages today. When you mention it to someone between the ages of 25 and 40, either you’re met with a look of utter confusion and no concept of what the show is like or a juiced up enthusiasm from someone who truly understands the nature of Picture Pages.

Now, not surprisingly, there is not a whole lot to collect if you want to start a Picture Pages collection. I discovered the program by stumbling upon VHS tapes at various thrift stores in the area, and you shouldn’t plan on paying more than a couple of bucks at most for each one. If you’re lucky, you might find one of the workbooks tucked in with the VHS tape. This is crucial if you’re hoping to follow to follow along with the program, especially when Cosby asks you to flip to page J-5 or something like that. The show works without the workbook and essentially because participatory in the same way something like Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues does, but Cosby references the book and the use of a writing utensil just enough to seem confusing to anyone that doesn’t realize a workbook is required.

However, one piece of merchandise in particular is very, desirable, and that’s a fun little character named Mortimer Ichabod Marker. Mortimer Ichabod (or MI for short) is an anthropomorphic bee or insect-like creature that acts as a gatekeeper between universes: our own world, and that of Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages. While crayons and pencils will serve just fine for drawing lines from object to object, MI was blessed with special powers. Specifically, he was able to make what has been described as a “doodly doo” sound, an ascending or descending scale of beeps and boops as the line was drawn.  To children of the 1980s and early 1990s, this sound was like the voice of an angel, soothing, familiar, gentle.

A company called Kusan was called upon to recreate Picture Pages’ closest thing to a mascot. In doing so, they created an object that is highly prized among collectors of everything 1980s.

Mortimer Ichabod Marker

This is the official Mortimer Ichabod Marker. If it seems big an unwieldy, that’s because sometimes, you have to make certain sacrifices to get things perfect, especially if it was the early 1980s and electronics were involved. MI takes one 9-volt battery, and then you insert your own pen, pencil, marker, or crayon into the tip. Press it down to a piece of paper, and the descending “doodly doo” noise will follow. So simple, yet so elegant in its execution.

I’m not the first person to document the rarity and the desirability of this little guy. One just sold on eBay a couple of weeks ago for $163, and that one had condition issues (although it did work). I’ve seen them sell for as high as $290 in nice shape, so clearly, this is a valuable item with a track record of high sales for what is essentially an electronic attachment for a pencil-shaped object. I think so few were saved because the show is meant for a preschool audience, and so once you are too old for picture pages, why save it? So how are you supposed to stumble upon one outside of something like eBay?

I guess you get lucky like I did recently. Very, VERY lucky.

I was checking out a neighborhood yard sale in South Jersey. Since I finished up earlier than expected, I decided to drive about 20 minutes to a local flea market. On the way there, I noticed that a mini flea market/community yard sale was being held by the Knights of Columbus. Since it was only a slight detour, I decided to pop on by.

My, my, that's quite a lot of Picture Pages videos!

The first thing I noticed at the first table I checked was a box of seven of the VHS tapes with the original sleeve that was clearly designed for them. As I alluded to earlier, I collect the VHS tapes when I find them cheap. I asked how much the set of tapes were, and the seller said two bucks. I said, “Sold.”

These Picture Pages workbooks are worth it just for the Coz's various insane expressions on the covers!

I found a few other things, and as the seller was getting ready to bag them, I noticed that they had a pile of the Picture Pages workbooks behind them. They said they would throw those in with the two bucks I already spent. Again, I don’t consider these to be terribly valuable, but it’s nice to have them.

So I asked them if they had “the pen” (I didn’t want to look like too much of an obsessive Picture Pages fan), and they said they didn’t think so. Just as I was about to leave to look around at the other tables, the seller said, “Hey, look what I found!” And sure enough, there was Mortimer Ichabod Marker, in fantastic shape, in the original clear plastic sleeve he had been shipped in so many years ago. The battery cover was intact, and when I got home, he worked perfectly.

The box that brought everything together

After I got home, I noticed that the VHS tapes, the workbooks, and Mortimer all fit in rather snugly in the seemingly random cardboard box the seller had given me. That’s because it turns out it was in the original mail away box, complete with an image of Mortimer Ichabod on the shipping label (ah, the effort companies used to put into packages for kids), and in the bottom of the box was a mail away form with Bill Cosby’s visage on it if you wanted even more Picture Pages tapes. Sadly, the former owner did not ever use it, but instead, they left me with a piece of ephemera that I’m pretty sure is not all that easy to find.

One of the most interesting details about this box is that it was shipped in 1992. While Picture Pages was still being shown, I’m a little shocked that the mail-in offer was still valid that late into Picture Pages history. Then again, The Cosby Show was still on, so why not continue to capitalize on the rather fortuitous association? While it’s shocking, I did find advertisements that said the Picture Pages tapes were still available in 1994.

In other words, Mortimer Ichabod is clearly not easy to find, but he also seems to have been available for several years, so with enough persistence, patience, or just plain ol’ dumb luck like what I had, you may be fortunate enough to add one to your own collection, and when you do, it will truly be time to let Bill Cosby do a Picture Page with you.

Posted in 1980's, Art, Ben, Humor, Toys | 2 Comments

Happy Halloween! A Nostalgic Snapshot of a 1960′s Yogi Bear Trick or Treater

Sometime in the early 1960's, two trick or treaters stopped in front of the news-stand to pose for this Halloween snapshot.

 

What a great photo!  It combines two things I love – old magazines and Halloween.  Anyone over forty will probably admit to going out on Halloween wearing one of those lame, out-of-the-box costumes at least once during their trick-or-treating years.  It was so easy for parents.  I know I had a Minnie Mouse costume, and Jim was Donald Duck more than once. They were made of a silky, synthetic fabric that I believe was flammable.  The plastic masks were held on with thin elastic bands, but at least they were easy to flip up on top of your head for better vision when walking from house to house.

By the early sixties, Hanna-Barbera was on a roll.  Huckleberry Hound was introduced in 1958, and Yogi Bear became a break-out star in 1961.  The older kid on the right has the cool Yogi costume; his/her younger sibling appears to be wearing a more generic clown costume.

Of course, what really makes this photo for me are all of the magazines on display behind the kids.  It looks like Fidel Castro is on the cover of the “Look” magazine.  This could very well be from Halloween 1962, in which case the Cuban Missile Crisis had, literally, just ended.  The kids, however, probably don’t care.  They just want to load up on those nice, full-size candy bars that everyone got back then – and avoid the apples at all cost!

 

 

Posted in 1960's, Americana, Carol, Comic Characters, Costumes, Ephemera, Halloween, Holiday, Humor, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spaghetti-O’s Monster in my Pocket Display: One Monster That Won’t Fit In Your Pocket…

When most people start collecting little rubber and plastic figures, part of their reasoning for buying tiny toys often stems from the fact that these collections don’t take up a lot of space. You can fit hundreds of tiny figures in a shoe box if you want to, and they don’t take up a lot of shelf space if you choose to display them (and why wouldn’t you!). Beyond their ability to occupy very little space, most little figure toy lines have dozens if not hundreds of designs to collect, as well as tons of color variations. They also tend to come in all sorts of wacky and wonderful character designs, which make little rubber figure collecting very popular with both kids and adults.

One of the more popular little rubber figure lines from my childhood was Monster in my Pocket. They came out in 1990, and found success all over the world. The line consisted of a bunch of small, solid colored rubber monsters based on popular monsters from international folklore and popular culture. Everything from Frankenstein’s Monster to Baba Yaga are represented in the line. If you don’t remember Monster in my Pocket yourself or you want to know more, here is a quick pictorial crash course on the line.

A Sampling of Series 1 Monster in my Pockets.

A Sampling of Series 2 Monster in my Pockets

A Sampling of Super Scary Monster in my Pockets

U.K. Kellogg’s Sports Monsters in my Pocket

A Sampling of Monster in My Pocket Wrestlers

Now that you have met some of the Monster in my Pocket gang, I can get to the main focus of this article. Clearly I have spent a little bit of time collecting Monster in my Pocket. The photos above represent a small fraction of my collection. Monster in my Pocket were made by Matchbox and were sold in retail stores everywhere in the country. They were popular and cheap to produce, so they naturally found their way into promotional tie-ins with restaurants and food products. Most of the Monster in my Pocket figures that were produced for product tie-ins were Series 1 figures cast in different colors than the red, green, yellow, and purple seen above. Many were produced in Series 2 neon colors, with occasional oddities in slightly different shades of bright colors, or a dark forest green color.

Monsters in strange colors.  These Monster in my Pockets were packaged with food tie-ins and other Monster in My Pocket products other than the main figure lines.

Monster in my Pocket had an American cereal tie in with Nabisco Frosted Wheat Squares. They also had a promotion with Bob’s Big Boy.

The tie in that is really the point of this article is a promotion run with Spaghetti-O’s. Every kid loves Spaghetti-O’s, and what could be better than getting a free toy with your purchase? Of course they didn’t put a Monster in my Pocket in the actual can of Spaghetti-O’s. That would make a mess. You had to mail away to get them. Since kids are impatient, and Spaghetti-O’s needed to get you excited to have to wait to receive your toys, they had to find a big way to get kids attention. Behold the inflatable Spaghetti-O’s Monster that is the size of an actual child!

This inflatable display is based on a Series 2 monster design, Dryad. I wouldn’t call this figure the obvious character choice that kids could relate to, but it kind of looks like it could be made out of spaghetti when you color it red-orange like this, so I am going to go along with Spaghetti-O’s decision making process on this one.

When this 4ft tall pile of inflatable awesomeness found its way onto eBay several years ago I made it my mission to make him mine. In a collection that could otherwise fit in a shoe box, he is certainly a stand out. I have always liked store displays, and when I can find a display based on something I specifically collect it becomes a must own for my collection. I only wish that my local super market had had one of these guys on display when I was a kid. I am pretty sure a Monster in my Pocket taller than I was would have made my day. It sure made my day when I found one as an adult.

Posted in 1990's, Action Figures, Amy, Comic Characters, Food, Foreign, Halloween, Humor, Kitchen, Monsters, Toys, Weird | Leave a comment

Halloween Cats

It seems fitting that cats are associated with Halloween. We especially think of witches and their black cats. Often thought to be “familiars” to witches or malevolent assistants who could assist in the witch’s magic spells, being a black cat in Medieval Europe could lead to the loss of all nine lives in a hurry. The Pilgrims in early America weren’t too fond of them either. Owning a black cat in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600’s didn’t help if you wanted to avoid going to the witch trials.

Of course both witches and cats can be scary at times and both can be diabolical in their own ways. Why is it that a cat can enter a room full of people and always give the greatest affection to the person who hates cats the most? Coincidence? I think not. Why will the cat then go to the center of the room and start licking their butt in full view of everyone and look up with that “you gotta a problem with this” look. Attitude – cats are full of it.

These soft, cuddly creatures that we give unlimited access to our homes also happen to be carnivorous killing machines with sharp talons and fangs. My father used to say that if they were bigger than us they would eat us. I don’t doubt it for a second! Yet, I am a cat person. We share our home with two of them and I grew up with cats. They can show real affection on their own terms. They know where the litter box is and they are also self- cleaning. They can be a little annoying when they are hungry which is just about any time they aren’t sleeping, but who among us doesn’t enjoy eating and sleeping?

I’m just glad we’re bigger than they are.

Please enjoy these pictures of some of our cat Halloween decorations. Most are German and made in the early twentieth century. Our cats have sniffed them and approve!

A combination of candy containers, flat cardboard decorations, a Steiff black cat, celuloid roly poly, and ceramic cat.

Some more elaborate black cat candy containers (and a red cat).

Embossed cardboard fighting cats with moon.

This lovely lady wouldn’t fit on the scanner, but the main goal is for you to see her beautiful black cat friend in all of his glory.

Let’s be honest, cats don’t like to smile.  This is a more realistic interpretation of a typical cat expression.

Cardboard black cat door hanger.

Don’t try this at home with a real cat.


Posted in 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, Americana, Ephemera, Halloween, Holiday, Humor, Jim, Monsters, Toys, Weird | Leave a comment

Satyr Masters From Abyss: Watchful Owlamo and Beranino

 

Don’t scoff at Chinatown knockoffs. One day, you’ll be paying through the nose to get them.

For as long as toys have been popular, some lame, almost-certainly-sweatshop-like factory has been churning out toys that vaguely resemble the ones you genuinely love/want. But while very successful toy companies would map out a detailed release plan each year for their most successful lines and distribute catalogs to make sure every child knew every product that was or would eventually become available, these smaller, rather unscrupulous companies would churn out chunks of plastic vaguely resembling much more popular toys and get them out to market as quickly as possible. They weren’t thinking of longevity. They were looking for every dollar they could scrape up before the toy they were copying wasn’t popular anymore, thereby rendering their similar product completely obsolete.

In recent years, some of the best collectors have gone absolutely nuts for these toy lines. They were so ubiquitous that it was almost inevitable a couple of knockoffs would have ended up among your Masters of the Universe collection when you were a kid. Because of an utter lack of documentation and wildly uneven geographic distribution, collectors love the challenge associated with knockoffs. Besides that, many of the best, craziest knockoffs have designs that are so childish, garish, and disproportionate, that collectors can’t help but fall in love with them. It’s like watching a bad movie like The Room on purpose. You know it’s horrible, you know it’s not constructed properly, and that’s what makes it more enjoyable than something that was done right.

This is very much one of those cases. Behold: WATCHFUL OWLAMO and BERANINO from SATYR MASTERS FROM ABYSS!

Satyr Masters From Abyss! SATYR MASTERS FROM ABYSS!!!

I know, I know, you probably have never heard any of those names/words spoken in succession, and therefore, I may have accidentally just opened a gate to another dimension just by typing them out. Sorry ‘bout that, time-space continuum!

I made it my mission to find these very, very, VERY strange bootleg/knockoff toys when I read about them on Evan Dorkin’s blog. Evan has a nice if strange history behind the line, and thank goodness he had the foresight to preserve the cardback so that we know a.) what the heck this toy line is called, and b.) the ridiculous names for the characters.

Examples of horrible “Engrish” are well-documented all over the Internet, and it’s easy to think that with crazy names like “Cheeky Mummiah” and “Silly Cocky” that it’s entirely possible that these figures had similar Eastern Asian origins. Not surprisingly, the cards are dated 1990, so these were undoubtedly meant to capitalize on the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The name also sort of brings forth the “evil” connotations associated with the Ninja Turtles phenomenon. This video shows just how Christian groups rallied against the “false gospel” of the Ninja Turtles. When the name of your toy line includes the words “satyr” (mythical creatures depicted in Greek and Roman mythology that loved wine, women, and any type of physical pleasure) and “abyss” (in philosophy, and endless chasm that leads to the underworld or hell), it’s as though the nameless company that forged these figures through black magic wanted the same kind of publicity for these oddball figures, probably assuming that any publicity would be good publicity.

A better look at Beranino. Better is of course a relative term.

The construction is everything you’d want in a crappy, Chinatown ripoff. The mold lines are not only clear, but they don’t seem to have been sanded off properly. The two figures essentially feature the same body and are only distinguished by their heads. The paint applications leave a lot to be desired, and while it’s obvious these figures are not in mint condition, I tend to think that even in their current state, they don’t look much different than they would have appeared 23 years ago.

I do like how these are clearly inspired by sort of tough-guy stereotypes. If the card art is to be believed, these figures were armed with knives, baseball bats, and machine guns. It’s as though the toy line’s designers (I use the term loosely) played Double Dragon a couple of times and said “LIKE THIS BUT ANIMALS.” Watchful Owlamo even has a baseball cap turned sideways! He’s dope like that!

Watchful Owlamo hopes that his cool sideways cap distracts from his otherwise terrible construction as an action figure.

These showed up online labeled as “animal head wrestler action figures.” I don’t expect every toy collector to know what Satyr Masters From Abyss are off the top of their heads (until they read this article of course), but I certainly knew them from following Evan’s blog, so even mislabeled, I knew exactly what I was looking at online. Will I be able to amass the full set of 12? Will anybody ever? Has anybody tried? Does anyone want to bother to try? These questions will probably yield answers that are as mysterious as the Satyr Masters From Abyss themselves.

 

Posted in 1990's, Action Figures, Ben, Humor, Monsters, Toys, Weird | Leave a comment

Meet the Ugglies!

I love monsters.  I always have ever since I was a kid.  They are colorful, creative, weird, and interesting.  The great thing about growing up in the 80′s and 90′s is that there were all sorts of cool monster toys not only in toy stores, but floating all over the flea markets and yard sales just waiting to come home with me.  “Gross” and controversial monster toys found a market during my childhood in the form of Mad Balls, Weird Balls, Savage Mondo Blitzers, and all sorts of other smaller toy lines that caused a stir with concerned parents, but kids couldn’t get enough of.  I was lucky enough to have parents who didn’t see the problem with ugly and disgusting monster toys, so I had many of them.

When I walk down the toy aisle of my local departments stores I have to say that I find myself a little bit disappointed.  It is great to see some of the classic toy lines of my youth still thriving and exciting kids today, but there is hardly anything new and interesting happening in the mainstream toy world.  Small toy companies hardly exist as the giants buy up as many licenses as possible to cut out the little guy.  No one wants to take a chance on the next big idea when they can just re-market the same things year after year and make money at it.  I grew up in an era where everyone wanted to find the next big thing, and they would throw out any idea that sounded interesting to see if it stuck.  Then the small companies would make weird copycat toys to capitalize on those popular lines, and it was awesome.  Creativity was everywhere, and whatever you were into as a kid, there were plenty of toy lines capitalizing on your interests.

Recently some dealer friends of mine asked me to identify a toy line.  They are very knowledgeable on 80′s toys, so I was surprised that there might be something I knew about that they didn’t.  I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert on the 80′s, but they knew I liked weird stuff so they thought I might have come across this toy line before.  I hadn’t.  I was just as stumped as they were.  We showed the toys to a few other very knowledgeable dealers in the room, and no one knew what they were.  This is a very rare occurrence as even a lot of the obscure and weird toy lines from the 1980′s are fairly well documented and researched among the collector community.  All I knew after seeing these bizarre plastic figures was that I wanted them for my collection. I needed to own these things.

The only information we had to work from was a toy company name and a date on the bottom of each figure.  They were marked “Creata 1986″.  If you haven’t heard of Creata, it is because they were a very small company that didn’t make much.  They capitalized on other successful toy companies by making knock offs to fool grandmothers and weird aunts who had no idea what the kids in their lives were really looking for.  Mostly what you will find if you do a Google search on Creata is a Gem doll knock off that they made.  Now, hopefully, since I am writing this article you will be able to find this incredibly weird toy line that they created called “Ugglies”.

Is this a full set of ” Ugglies”?  As far as I can tell, it is not. According to the card back for the Ugglies, there are twelve in the set. Since these are the first I am seeing, I cannot tell you for sure whether or not every single figure was made, but if they were it will most likely be a long a tedious task for me to try and hunt the rest of the set down. The carded examples I am showing below were sent to me by another fan of the toy line. The figure examples they show are all among the figures that I bought, so until I see examples of the other six in the set I can’t be completely sure. It is not uncommon for toy companies to show toys on the back of a blister card that were never made. If anyone has any of the other figures I would love to share them with the world, and if you ever want to part with them I know a good loving home you can send them to.

Here are some individual shots with names so you can get better acquainted with the Ugglies that I was able to obtain.

Ol’ Blue Eyes

Ol’ Blue Eyes is one of my favorites, though it is very hard to pick a favorite. I think with the overalls he is wearing that Creata might be trying to make Ol’ Blue Eyes out to be a child? What a weird and wacky toy!  Also, he has a bolt in the back of his head.  I just wanted to make sure you noticed that.

James Gag-Me

I think the name of this figure simply comes from the fact that the creators felt very clever for coming up with the name “James Gag-Me”. I love the eye in the back of his head. It kind of makes the figure for me. Also the fact that he has one giant foot.  These things are great!

Fly Speck

This figure is a little more basic and a little less gross than the first two, even though it is eating bugs and has worms for hair. You know a toy line is weird when one of the “less gross” figures is eating bugs and has worms for hair.

This is another one of my favorites. I go back and forth over which one is my favorite. Clearly I can’t choose. I am pretty sure Reject will haunt your nightmares. That poor cat.


Split Head

This one is most gross in concept, yet most simplistic in execution. For a second I thought all of these were supposed to be children, maybe knocking off of Garbage Pail Kids more specifically, but this one is wearing a business suit. Maybe I am over thinking the Ugglies a little bit…

Phoul Pharoah

You might be thinking I spelled “pharaoh” wrong in the name there. Well, Creata spelled it wrong on the package. Maybe they did that on purpose, but I doubt it. A mummy isn’t exactly a creative concept compared to the other figures in the line, but I think this guy has a great design.


Creata managed to reference all sorts of great gross-out and monster images in these weird toys.  They are a little bit Garbage Pail Kids, a little bit Mad Balls, a little bit Weirdos, and a little bit of a whole bunch of other interesting monster ideas from the 1980′s and the few decades prior.  I think these things are so cool and I am so lucky to have been able to obtain such a large group in one shot.  Now that I have met the Ugglies I am definitely obsessed with them. Now that you have met the Ugglies, you are probably at least a little bit obsessed with them, too.

 

Posted in 1980's, Action Figures, Amy, Humor, Monsters, Toys, Weird | 1 Comment

Boogers from the Planet Nose – An Actual (and Very Disgusting) Toy Line

The toy aisle used to be a very disgusting place. And I mean that as the greatest compliment possible.

In the mid-1980s, a trend started where toys weren’t just based on heroic adventurers or transforming robots or military strongmen or ninjas or what have you. Instead, many smaller companies found success in producing shocking toys that often featured grotesque appearances, silly names, blood and guts, decayed skin, and a bunch of other things that almost seemed market-tested to offend parents in the worst way possible.

The best and most successful example of this trend is the Madballs line by Amtoy, but there were many other successes in its wake. The Weird Ball series spawned a line of non-poseable figures, poseable action figures, M.U.S.C.L.E.-like wrestlers, and additional minifigures. The Garbage Pail Kids went from wildly successful trading cards to “cheap toys” sold with “crappy candy.” The Mad Scientist toy line had you literally dissecting an alien and pulling out his innards.

While some larger toy companies got into the disgusting toys game – such as Kenner and their line Savage Mondo Blitzers from the early 1990s – many of these toys were released by fly-by-night companies as an inexpensive cash grab. As such, many of these are highly prized today. Collectors remember this bygone era fondly, as it is very doubtful we will see toys like these hitting stores again anytime soon.

Toys like these were hilariously parodied by Ren and Stimpy. The childlike Stimpson J. Cat collected a line of…toys?…called Magic Nose Goblins. They were obviously his boogers, which he stuck under benches, tables, and other various surfaces. “I picked them myself!” What was funny about it was that no one would actually make those toys…OR WOULD THEY?!?!?!

One toy line I became fascinated with was one I never remember existing as a kid, despite being the perfect age to appreciate it. The line was called “Boogers from the Planet Nose,” which literally sounds like a Mad Libs title for a B-movie created by a 6-year-old obsessed with humor related to bodily functions. My friend, knowing I specialized in obscure toys, asked me if I had ever seen or heard of these figures, and I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. Even thorough searches on the internet proved utterly boogerless. A saved search on eBay that would alert me anytime someone put one up for sale yielded nothing for years. The fingers of research came up dry when reaching into the nostrils of collective toy knowledge. What the hell were Boogers from the Planet Nose?!?

I look at rare toys as a challenge. My knowledge of toys far exceeds the actual budget I have to spend on them, so my hope is always to turn up something very, very unusual at a flea market or show because no one else is looking for it or even knows what it is. What made this search especially challenging is that I genuinely had no idea what I was looking for.

Then, out of nowhere, a local auction house that regularly holds live auctions dedicated to modern toys had one for sale. It was the first time I had ever seen an image of this mysterious, gooey toyline. Though you could leave a bid online, I figured it was better if I went in person to bid on the first Boogers from the Planet Nose I had ever seen. I had dug for gold and came away with a finger full of fun!

Truly a "pick" of the week: Boogers from the Planet Nose!

Since then, I’ve gotten four of the six characters, and as far as I know, this is the first time pictures of them are being made available online. I am literally showing you the used tissue holding the fruits of my labor. Behold one of the weirdest toy lines ever manufactured.

Here is the wonderfully silly story behind Boogers from the Planet Nose:

Boogers are aliens from the planet Nose. Nose has a terrible environment (toxic waste and slime everywhere). So the Boogers decide to “blow” out of town in their Nose Cones in search of greener (their favourite colour) pastures.

Made of a grotesque, sticky material, these little wonders are sure to delight, amuse, and gross out! A periodic bath in warm water will clean the Boogers and keep them sticky.

Within two paragraphs, we’ve been given a guilty message about aliens leaving their home planet because of pollution, they have spaceships shaped like noses, and if you want them to live, you’d better give them a warm bath every once in a while. It’s exactly the kind of details I want on a toy line called Boogers from the Planet Nose.

I tend to collect loose toys, but I feel like if you want to collect this line, you almost have to find them carded. The reason for this is that the rubbery, sticky material they’re made of is prone to having dust and dirt latch onto them like crazy. I remember this being a problem when I had Tacky Stretchoid Warriors as a kid. I had fun for a couple of days with them, then they got dirty, and then I never wanted to touch them again. Chances are, once these things got dirty, they were tossed, unless you properly stored them in their “nose cones,” which have a suction cup on their back so you can stick them on the fridge and annoy your parents by keeping them in plain view. I think they were not meant to last, and that’s why they’re so incredibly difficult to find.

The back of the card introduces you to the six lovable Boogers characters!

Unfortunately, because all of my examples are carded, it’s going to be a little difficult to tell what the sculpts look like. The back of the card gives you some idea that these are all slimy creatures. For our benefit, each one has a little backstory.

Snotley Grue

Snotly Grue: The most famous rap star on Nose, he is very rich. Unfortunately for him, bacteria are not money on planet Earth.

Mukomoto

Mukomoto: From the Far Eastern part of Nose and thoroughly versed in all the nostil arts; “Muke” is the leader.


Sputo-jock: Sputo-ball is the most popular sport on Nose and this athlete is the best sputum pitcher on the planet.

Clem and Phlegm

Clem and Phlegm: Twin brothers, these jaundiced looking weaklings could really use a good infection to fatten up.

So there you go. You have a “rap star,” a martial artist, an athlete, and crazy twins…except they’re all boogers. Also, let’s face it, the color choice is a little disgusting. I understand that if they were all green that we wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, and sometimes, your sputum can come out in all different colors, but two of these characters are red. I don’t think that’s something you should be proud of in your toy line. You don’t want some impressionable youth to say to his or her parents, “Look! I made my boogies the same color as Sputo-jock!”

Boogers from the Planet Nose is a line that is almost too crazy to possibly exist, so of course it does. It is there to remind us that no matter how crazy a toy line aimed at children got, there was always a line that much weirder.

As some of you astute readers have probably already noticed, these toys are all on Canadian cards with text in both English and French. A collector friend of mine was able to find two on American cards, where instead of Grand Toys (a company that only releases toys in Canada), the toys were released by THQ, a company more known for video games. However, I almost feel like these toys were only sold in the Northern part of the United States. The friend who told me about them remembers them being sold in Spencer’s Gifts in the early 1990s. Since they used to carry awesome and oddball toys like this, that doesn’t surprise me.

So far, I’ve obtained four of the six. The last two I need are Gobby and Clotto. If you have carded examples of these figures, please let me know, as I would very much like to add them to my collection and share them with my readers. You might have to dig deep into your collection, but you may end up pulling out something very special…albeit very, very disgusting!

Posted in 1990's, Action Figures, Ben, Humor, Monsters, Toys, Weird | Leave a comment

Mr. Clean & Friends – Grown Men in Costume

 

It’s October, the month when grown men do crazy things like this.  This vintage photo, most likely from the 1960′s, is from my collection.  It’s hard to say why these men are in costume, but let’s assume it’s a Halloween party at the local American Legion or men’s club.  The guy who’s supposed to be Mr. Clean REALLY looks like Mr. Clean.  My favorite is the “house frau” on the right.  Note that the youngest guy has the lamest costume.  One of the best parts of getting older is not caring what others think.  By that measure, I’ll bet the man in the coconut bra is the oldest!

Get your costume on.  Halloween is coming!

Posted in 1960's, Advertising, Americana, Carol, Costumes, Halloween, Humor, Photography | Leave a comment

A Whale of a Tale – Our Yard Sale Whale Vertebrae

It has been said many times before in our blog and will probably be said many times in the future. When you collect to the extent we do, you never know what you’ll be bringing home after any given “hunt.”

Case in point: Our recent purchase of two whale vertebrae at a yard sale.

Priced at one dollar each, we weren’t about to leave them behind. They are beautifully sculptural and they just may be the oldest items in our collection – by a couple million years or more!

Of course, when you buy something outside your usual comfort zone, you don’t really know what you’re getting. We were told by the person selling them that they had been found at different times on the beaches near Wildwood, New Jersey about forty or fifty years ago.

I’ve photographed them next to an egg so that you have some idea of the size. The larger one is about ten inches high by 20 inches at the widest point. It’s surprisingly light for its size. The smaller one is about five inches high by fourteen inches at its widest point. It’s actually heavier than the bigger one.

Doing some quick internet research, I believe we have two whale vertebrae fossils. Apparently, fossilized whale bones turn up along the shores of the mid-Atlantic region, and the southern New Jersey coast falls into that realm. One site mentioned that the fossils are often light in weight. One site mentioned that mid-Atlantic ones are often a dark gray in color. Each of these bones fits one part of that description. The smaller one appears almost complete. The larger one, though more impressive, has one side broken off.

As for age, if they are, indeed, fossils, they could be two to five million years old! The Pliocene and Miocene periods are the ones I see mentioned.

Now that’s a whale of an antique!

Posted in Carol, Uncategorized, Weird | 3 Comments