19th March 2008

Daily Mego Adoration: Counter Display Boxes!

Here is our Daily Mego Adoration for Wednesday, March 19, 2008. Daily Mego Adoration
This is one of my favorite Mego subjects, so strap in, and let’s talk about Mego’s awesome Counter Display Boxes!

Mego Catalog Mego first promoted the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line with a late addition to their 1972 Toy Fair catalog.

Mego staffers inserted a photographic one-sheet (shown at right) into leftover copies of the original, bound ‘72 catalog. The page features the actual prototype Superman figure (see page 17 of the book for a detailed view of the Superman prototype).

Given the impressive WGSH sales generated by Mego’s ‘test marketing’ (conducted at stores operated by retailer E.J. Korvette during Christmas 1972), it’s not surprising Mego scrambled to promote their sizzling new line as quickly as possible… even if it meant manually inserting a one-sheet into each catalog distributed throughout the year (after Toy Fair, which was held each February).

From the outset — before the other three original figures were developed, even — the one-sheet reveals that Mego planned to: 1) sell figures in individual Solid boxes (i.e. no acetate window) and; 2) ship each case of 24 boxed figures inside an “Overall Printed Counter Merchandizer” (AKA the “Counter Display Box”).

By the time the next Toy Fair rolled around in February 1973, Mego’s WGSH line had already proven to be tremendously successful, and the company was finally able to show the entire range of four characters (shown below), which included Batman, Robin and Aquaman, in addition to the Superman figure depicted in 1972 (note the earliest costume variations, including the Large ‘S’ Superman emblem, ‘Skinny’ boots, Robin’s cloth belt and the removable masks for Batman and Robin):

Mego Catalog

Mego was also able to show the revised Counter Display Box. The prototype Counter Display Box depicted in the post-1972 Toy Fair catalog (shown below left) includes just eight individual boxed figures, while the 1973 catalog (below right) boasts a fully-loaded Counter Display. Interestingly, Mego modified the die-cut opening between 1972 and 1973, as demonstrated in the comparison below.

Mego Catalog

Just look at all those Solid Boxes! Like, Zoiks, Scoob!

Mego’s 1973 WGSH Assortment Number (1310) was identical to 1972, as was the case-pack assortment:

(9) Superman
(9) Batman
(4) Robin
(2) Aquaman

Now you know why Aquaman is the rarest of the early Mego Super-Heroes!

By Toy Fair in 1974, Mego had expanded the super-hero offering to include four new characters: Captain America, Tarzan, Spider-Man and Shazam. Mego granted this 2nd Wave of Mego Heroes a new Assortment Number, 1311.

Mego Catalog

Mego also modified the Counter Display graphics, to accommodate all eight heroes:

Mego Catalog

Above: the 1974 1310/1311 Counter Display box, as depicted in the 1974 Mego catalog (left) includes a strange assortment of boxed figures, including 2nd Wave heroes Captain America, Spider-Man, Shazam and Tarzan, along with three of the four Super-Foes wave (no Joker) and one Batman. The same Counter Display from my personal collection (right) is filled with a slightly more appropriate combination of 1310 and 1311 figures.

The 1974 Assortment Numbers are as follows:

Asst. 1310:
(4) Superman
(10) Batman
(6) Robin
(4) Aquaman

Note that the quantity of Superman figures dropped from nine to four… in just one year! Until the “Superman” movies started appearing, the Mego Superman figure just was not as popular as collectors once assumed.

Asst. 1311:
(4) Captain America
(4) Tarzan
(12) Spider-Man
(4) Shazam

Note the confidence Mego had in Spider-Man (half of the entire assortment!), not to mention the ambivalence Mego suffered in guessing the other three characters’ potential popularity. “4… and 4 and, ummm… 4? Yeah, that sounds good.”

Mego’s 1974 “1310/1311″ Counter Display Box looks great either open or closed (below):

Counter Display Box

1974 also marked the first year Mego promoted their new Super-Gals and Super-Foes lines.

In 1974, Mego offered retailers the option of receiving Super-Gals packaged in 1st Issue blister cards or window boxes, the latter of which included a wonderful Counter Display Box:

Mego Catalog

The 1974 boxed Gals Assortment (1340) included the following case-pack quantities:

(7) Wonder Woman
(3) Supergirl
(7) Batgirl
(7) Catwoman

Now you know why Supergirl is the rarest of the four Gals!

That year, Mego offered retailers the same packaging options for the Super-Foes:

Mego Catalog

The 1974 boxed Foes Assortment (1358) included the following case-pack quantities:

(8) Penguin
(8) Joker
(4) Riddler
(4) Mr. Mxyzptlk

Oh, if only Mego had predicted kids’ distaste for Mr. Mxyzptlk. Riddler might not be so rare today!

Sidebar The Counter Displays for both the Gals and Foes waves are extremely rare: an example of the Super-Gals Counter Display, auctioned on eBay on February 9, 2008, sold for $7,100; an example of the Super-Foes Counter Display, auctioned on eBay two days earlier, sold for a whopping $9,600.

I really adore the Mego Counter Display Boxes. Adding one to my collection was a significant moment in my life as a toy collector. I discuss Mego “Shipping and Counter Display Boxes” in World’s Greatest Toys.

Here’s a snippet from the book (page 233, for those reading along), with a scan of the cited page:

World's Greatest Toys!With each case of 24 boxed figures, Mego shipped a graphical Counter Display box, designed to help retailers merchandise the figures. To prepare the box for display, retailers took the following three steps: 1) Remove and discard the perforated portion (see photo 1); 2) Fold the exposed front and top flaps together (see photo 2) and; 3) Tuck the front flap behind the figures, allowing the top flap to stand upright, becoming a display header card (see photo 3).

All very scarce, there are at least eight* different Counter Display boxes:

1] 1972/73 1st Wave (#1310)
2] 1974 1st and 2nd Wave (#1310 and #1311)
3] 1974-76 Gals (#1340/51340)
4] 1974-76 Foes (#1358/51358)
5] 1975/76 DC Assortment #1 (#51310)
6] 1975/76 Marvel Assortment #2 (#51311)
7] 1975/76 Marvel Assortment #3 (#51312)
8] 1976 Assortment #4 (#51313)

Most boxes are white. 1975/76 Marvel Assortment #2 (Spider-Man, Captain America, Lizard and Green Goblin) boxes are reportedly orange, while 1975/76 Marvel Assortment #3 (Hulk, Tarzan, Falcon and Iron Man) boxes are sky blue. 1976 Marvel Assortment #4 (the entire 4th Wave), boxes are tan.

*If one differentiates boxes with “old” versus “new” Mego logos, there are likely eleven variations. It is unknown whether Mego created Counter Display boxes for the 1975/76 Fist-Fighters (#51601); if so, there is likely only one such version, with the “old” Mego logo.

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $49.95

Perhaps it’s the cool graphics on each Counter Display Box. Perhaps it’s the scarcity of surviving specimens. Or maybe it’s just the fact that these utilitarian packages were intended for retailers to merchandise the products… not for kids (or adults) to covet and collect.

Regardless of the reasoning behind their desirability, Counter Display Boxes are very special. And I just love ‘em all.

Now if I could just Collect ‘Em All.

Benjamin

Blog Credits and legal stuff: Images published by Benjamin Holcomb and TwoMorrows Publications. All rights reserved. Images may not be reprinted or published without prior written consent from the publishers.

posted in Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Book Production, Captain America, Catwoman, Counter Display Boxes, Daily Mego Adoration, Joker, Mego Corporation, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Penguin, Riddler, Robin, Shazam!, Spider-Man, Super-Foes, Super-Gals, Supergirl, Superman, Tarzan, Wonder Woman, World's Greatest Toys | 6 Comments

19th May 2006

1973: Black and White and In Color

The book World’s Greatest Toys: Mego 8″ Super-Heroes will be a chronological history of Mego Super-Heroes. After two years of diligent research and study, I concluded I had enough information to commence production of the book. I decided to create the book in the same order Mego produced the toys, beginning with 1972 (the year the Super-Heroes were introduced).

Doing this has given me a profound appreciation for the explosive growth the small company experienced. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the Super-Heroes that made the company successful. In fact, it wasn’t even Action Jackson that “made” the company (another commonly-held belief). Numerous inside sources credit the company’s meteoric rise to Maddie Mod, Mego’s line of fashion dolls and outfits. But I will expand on this subject in the book, as I’m already getting off-topic.

The book includes myriad high-resolution scans, to support the original photography. There are Christmas catalogs, product catalogs, store circulars, foreign advertisements… there is no shortage of Mego marketing material to cover.

Astronaut
Mego was founded in 1952. For some 30 years, the company stagnantly distributed cheap, imported toys. Founder D. David Abrams was an old-school salesman. Good at closing the deal, the patriarch was not apt to create the deal. When eldest son Marty graduated from NYU with a Marketing degree, everything started to change. Everything.

This evolution became very clear to me as I painted a picture of the “Birth of the Line” (chapter 2 of the book). With very little interest in the non-proprietary “88¢ promotions” that defined the company before Marty graduated, I pick up the story just before the arrival of the Prodigal Son.

It occurs to me that Marty’s arrival was not unlike Dorothy’s arrival in the Land of Oz.

From the outset, Mego was mired in black-and-white. They sold a respectable number of plastic “Greyhound Bus” and “Walking Astronaut” (shown at right, from the 1971 Mego catalog) toys. The late, amazing Neal Kublan (who went on to become vice president of Research and Development), joined Mego in 1960 as a paste-up artist for newspaper ads.

Black-and-white newspaper ads.

During these years, the margins were microscopic, the costs troubling. Mego struggled to find success in discount bins and the checkout racks designed to relieve exasperated moms shopping with bored, miserable children.

Color

Oh, joy! This pitiful header appears in the 1970 Mego catalog… page after page of cheap, grey products. Seriously, it’s all a bunch of crap. Utter crap.But then Marty arrived. And Marty took over. Paradigms didn’t shift, they were shattered. Mego made a killing with Maddie Mod. Mego entered the Boys’ Toys market with Fighting Yank. Mego put the industry on notice with Action Jackson.

Then Mego created the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes.

WGSH

And just like that, Mego was basking in the illumination of business magnificence. Bright lights and technicolor glory. It wasn’t only evident in the marketing materials. It was international respect and admiration. It was bounteous profits. It was staggering license acquisition. It was flashy Toy Fair exhibitions. And success. Mind-boggling success.The industry dominance had begun.

But Marty was not Dorothy. And Mego was not Oz. However, in that moment in time — shortly after Marty’s arrival — the story becomes very reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz… at least Dorothy’s arrival in the fantasical Oz.

Three years after the Super-Heroes took off, Mego cashed in on a license to produce Wizard of Oz toys. I find that success to be very appropriate.

Perhaps even more fitting is the way both stories end. It was a magical, wonderful ride for Dorothy and for Mego. But when it was over, people questioned what had actually occurred.

I hope this book helps people appreciate the significance and importance of the Mego corporation.

Viva Mego!
______________

posted in Counter Display Boxes, Mego Catalogs, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mego's Glory Days, Wizard of Oz | Comments Off

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