26th March 2008

Instant ID: Mailer Box eBay Auction

There is an auction on eBay right now, for an unidentified “Mego Mailer Box,” which ends on April 2, 2008.

eBay Item

While the seller is unfamiliar with its origins, you might like to know that Mego produced this box for Canadian (note the “C” before the Mego Item Number 51500/6) distributors to sell Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch figures.

It’s not rare, but it is cool, especially if you collect Mego Wizard of Oz items.
Benjamin

Link: eBay Auction

posted in Mailer Boxes, Wizard of Oz, eBay Auctions | 2 Comments

5th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular! (Part 3: 1975)

Having covered 1973 and 1974 in previous Blogs that begin to reveal Mike Armes’ wondrous family photos, we skip forward yet another year. 1975 was a stellar year for Mego.

In World’s Greatest Toys! I discuss the success Mego experienced that year, and the impact it had on the company. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 145, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Along with the new Fist-Fighters, Mego introduced two new vehicles during 1975: the Mobile Bat Lab and the Joker Mobile. According to Sol Harrison, then Vice President of DC Comics, the Joker Mobile was developed in the pages of Batman comics with an eye toward toys and merchandising. “I’ve been able to talk to the editors and get them to think in terms of products for merchandise using our characters,” said Harrison in a January 1976 interview. “The Joker Van was created and Mego Toys [sic] made a vehicle similar to it.” Mego sold the Joker Mobile for three consecutive years before cancelling it in 1977 and reintroducing it in 1979 (see price sheet, below right). “We are now working on a Wayne Foundation building, which could become a playset,” Harrison concluded. Later that year, his prediction came true; the Wayne Foundation was first available on December 16, 1976, and nationally solicited at Toy Fair in February 1977.

According to Mego warehouse manager Ray Demato, 1975 was the year that the WGSH exploded. If 1974 was lucrative (it was the first year the revamped Mego was in the black), 1975 was colossal. Mego’s third quarter net earnings vaulted from $1.9 million (in 1974) to $4.5 million by the same period in 1975. Mego, publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange (AmEx), sold at 3¾ per share at the beginning of 1975. By February 1976, the price jumped to 14 ⅝.

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $32.97 (save 34%)

World's Greatest Toys!

Mego’s tremendous success is largely attributable to families like the Armes. Today, Mike is an avid monster/horror fan. I think his choice of Halloween costume that year provides a little insight into his adult tastes, so let’s get this picture party started in October 1975:

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike (right), dressed as the monstrous shark, JAWS, while Mike’s little brother (left) makes cool like coooool, as Fonzie from Happy Days)

By the time Christmas rolled around, Mike had evidently compiled a massive Wish List for Santa… who delivered. Big time.

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike cracks a minty fresh, Mego Star Trek Spock from its Mego Mailer Box)

Mike Armes

(Above: Needing a play environment for his new Spock figure, Mike cracks a crisp Mego Star Trek Enterprise playset from its Mego Mailer Box, which is visible in the lower right corner)

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike with his little brother, father and grandfather, enjoying some quality time with the freshly opened Mego Star Trek Enterprise playset. Is that Cookie Monster chillin’ on the couch?)

Mike Armes

(Above: Later that Christmas morning, Mike mugs for the camera with his Planet of the Apes mask and generic Tommy Gun.)

The incredible photo above reveals all kinds of Mego goodness, including:

Mike Armes

(Above: Details of Mike’s MIB Shazam, MIB Mad Monster Castle, loose Mobile Bat Lab and loose Joker figure)

Mike and I laughed at the fact that, just like his MIB Robin from Christmas 1974, the Shazam box insert is already missing! We were also intrigued that Shazam has a Mego mini-catalog stuffed into the front of the box. Commenting to Mike that I have never seen that particular packaging variation (the 5-digit/Old Logo) with a Mego mini-catalog, Mike theorized that his father may have taken the mini-catalog included in the Mad Monster Castle playset, and tucked it into the Shazam box. It’s interesting to note, regardless. And you’ve gotta love that poor Joker figure, just slammed face-first into the righteous, ’70s earth-toned shag rug!

Even more Mego goodness from 1975:

Mike Armes

(Above: Presents all opened, the Armes boys dig into the spoils of the season)

This final picture from 1975 is incredible. It’s a shame that it’s torn, but closer inspection reveals some wonderful visual treats, including:

Mike Armes

(Above: Mike prepares his Mego Batman and Robin for adventures in the Mego Mobile Bat Lab)

Mike Armes

(Above: Now we know what happened to Shazam’s blue box insert. At this point, the insert hadn’t been discarded… but it was well on its way to a trash bag)

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future, including at least one more “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular” entry. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

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

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Status, Christmas Memories, Mailer Boxes, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos, Window Boxes, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

4th March 2008

Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular!

In the spirit of yesterday’s Blog about Christmas catalogs and Mailer Boxes, I have a wonderful opportunity to continue discussing Christmas memories. Back in the 1970s, Christmas was a rare opportunity for most kids to finally get the toys they’d been pining over — and begging for — all year long.

I devoted an entire chapter of World’s Greatest Toys! to Christmas catalogs, this wondrous time of year, and the joys-’n-toys the season brought. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 54, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

Mego World’s Greatest Super-Heroes toys appeared in a variety of Christmas catalogs between 1973 and 1981. 1976 marked the last time a retailer promoted new characters; Montgomery Ward added Green Goblin and Lizard from the 3rd Wave, but passed on any of the 4th Wave heroes, including Thor, Conan and the Fantastic Four. Introducing Isis as a “special” in 1976, Montgomery Ward opted against promoting the Teen Titans in 1977. While no American retailers promoted the line past 1980, the Canadian arm of Sears featured four of the remaining characters in their 1981 catalog.

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $32.97 (save 34%)

Christmas Catalogs

I think it’s safe to say that all Mego-heads have vivid memories of Mego and Christmas. However, few of us actually have childhood photos to supplement our recollections and collections. Mego super-collector Mike Armes is incredibly fortunate to have both memories and pictures! As you will see in the forthcoming series of Photo Blogs, Mike enjoyed a particularly Mego-centric childhood. When Mego implored consumers to “Collect ‘em all,” Mike’s parents really took it to heart!

Without further ado, I present Part 1 in a series (woo-hoo!) I am calling:

Mike Armes

The Mego book includes three photos from Mike’s family photo album, including this shot of Mike holding his RC Batman on Christmas morning in 1973:

Mike Armes

Here’s a detail of Mike’s Mego goodness:

Mike Armes

What the book didn’t include is a picture from the night before this picture was taken… Christmas Eve 1973. Mike’s parent allowed him to open one toy that night. Mike chose wisely, but before going to bed, he put the toy back in its original packaging and placed it under the tree, to enjoy on Christmas morning:

Mike Armes

Dig that vintage Speedaway sled! Here’s a detail of the Mego goodness underneath the Christmas tree, an RC Batman in the 2nd Version box (issued shortly after the original Solid box, which Mego revised to add an acetate window):

Mike Armes

I want to thank Mike for sharing these incredible mementos with us.

Mike and I were intrigued by the large, yellow price sticker afixed to the box front. Mike’s father told him the toy was likely purchased at either “Weston’s” or “Jamesway” in upstate New York. I have no memories of either retailer, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future, including more “Mike Armes’ ’70s Christmas Spectacular” entries. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

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

posted in Acknowledgements, Book Production, Christmas Memories, Mailer Boxes, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Mike Armes, Vintage Toy Photos, Window Boxes, World's Greatest Toys | 0 Comments

3rd March 2008

Mego Mailer Boxes: 1975 JC Penney Super-Gals

Among the different packaging styles Mego produced, I have a strange, particular fondness for the plain brown Mailer Boxes utilized by annual Christmas catalogs that retailers distributed throughout the 1970s.

Lacking graphics (beyond boring legal text and item numbers), these utilitarian boxes — designed for direct-to-consumer shipping — were typically discarded, rendering many of them rare and fascinating today. Mego’s factories wrapped each figure in a ‘wrinkly-crinkly’ plastic bag, and the bag is often more scarce than the shipping box itself.

I discuss these ephemeral, vintage collectibles in World’s Greatest Toys! Here’s a snippet from the book (page 52, for those reading along), followed by a scan of the cited page-spread:

In the years before online stores and shopping malls — before many stores maintained year-round toy aisles, even — mail order was a vital tool for manufacturers and retailers to reach consumers. Each year, stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward offered giant, product-filled Christmas catalogs, a source of tremendous joy for children of the 1970s; Kids spent countless hours poring through each catalog’s toy section, circling items on dog-eared pages and compiling a Wish List for Santa.

Mego did a lot of business with catalog-producing retailers, called “catalog houses” by Mego staff. The business was cutthroat, each seeking an exclusive Mego item, such as the Secret Identities and Isis, to differentiate them from the competition.

Linda McNett, administrative assistant to Mego vice president Neal Kublan, recalled the push-and-pull of negotiating catalog placement. “The catalog houses liked their special items, because they were more profitable than a non-special item,” she explained. “Mego could offer them a ‘different’ product with a different stock number, [allowing the retailer to] avoid the legal problems of offering special deals on the same item to select customers.”

Want to read more? Buy Mego 8″ Super-Heroes: World’s Greatest Toys! Just $32.97 (save 34%)

World's Greatest Toys!

While staple characters like Superman, Batman, Robin and Spider-Man benefited from consistent Christmas catalog inclusion (1973-1981), the four Super-Gals (Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman) were less fortunate in garnering the massive exposure these Christmas catalogs provided.

For example, Supergirl was never once offered in any major U.S. retailer’s Christmas catalog! It’s unlikely Supergirl was offered in catalogs other than Heroes World and the “Captain Company” mail-order ads that appear within the pages of Warren Publishing’s Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and related magazines.

The other three Super-Gals fared nominally better. Wonder Woman was available through JC Penney (in 1974 and 1975), Aldens (in 1974) and Montgomery Ward (in 1975). Catwoman was available through JC Penney (in 1974 and 1975), Sears Canada (in 1974) and Montgomery Ward (in 1974). Batgirl was granted slightly more exposure than the others, as JC Penney offered the figure in 1974, 1975 and 1976, while Aldens also offered the figure in 1974 (incidentally, a prototype Batgirl figure is depicted in that particular catalog).

1975 was a banner year for Mego and the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. The line was at its peak in popularity, and retailers fell over themselves promoting the line.

JC Penney

(Above: 1975 JC Penney Mego Super-Heroes Christmas catalog page)

In this magic moment (1975), some retailers willingly promoted new, unproven Mego offerings such as the “Fist-Fighters” and two of the six “3rd Wave” Heroes (Hulk and Falcon). Even the Super-Gals got the attention they deserve. Well, most of ‘em, anyway:

JC Penney

(Above: detail of 1975 JC Penney Mego Super-Heroes Christmas catalog page)

The figures look so immaculate in catalogs! Every once in a while, these gems appear on the market, and a handful of collectors, like myself, beat each other up trying to acquire them… gems like the Super-Gals figures pictured below — all from the aforementioned 1975 JC Penney catalog — that were auctioned on eBay (Catwoman in 2005, Wonder Woman and Batgirl in 2006).

Super-Gals

Oh, I miss childhood!

I love this packaging style because it is tied to such vivid, happy memories of my youth. If you have any Mego Mailer Boxes you wish to sell, please Email me. I’m always looking to buy, and I pay top dollar.

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

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 Aldens, Batgirl, Captain Company/Warren Publications, Catwoman, Heroes World, JC Penney, Mailer Boxes, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Packaging, Mego Retailers, Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Super-Gals, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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