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 â€” designed for direct-to-consumer shipping â€” 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 â€” before many stores maintained year-round toy aisles, even â€” 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 â€˜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.”
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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.
(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:
(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 themâ€¦ gems like the Super-Gals figures pictured below â€” all from the aforementioned 1975 JC Penney catalog â€” that were auctioned on eBay (Catwoman in 2005, Wonder Woman and Batgirl in 2006).
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 youâ€™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, Iâ€™ll see you on the boards!
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.