Monday, December 21, 2009

1975 Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog

Christmas greetings again! Well, I do believe my holiday shopping is done, except for food, but I'm waiting so it doesn't go bad before Friday. Cards are in the mail... better late than never, but hopefully they will arrive in time.

Last blog I mentioned Megos, which are my favorite toys ever, but I then realized that everyone may not know what they are, so a brief explanation. Mego was actually the name of the most successful toy company in the 1970s. They released a full-range of items, from baby dolls to electronic games to board games like the delightful Ball Buster detailed last blog. But if you hear a collector referring to "Megos" they are talking about one thing, their line of 8" action figures. Designed to compete with GI Joe and Barbie, Mego created smaller dolls... smaller = cheaper. They created lines based on all manner of themes, but Mego was one of the first companies to license outside concepts upon which to create toys. Most toys, such as GI Joe and Barbie, were original concepts, created simply to be toys. Mego made toys based on outside licenses like Star Trek and Planet of the Apes and scored huge! It's weird because nowadays, every blockbuster movie or cartoon has its own toy line, but prior to the mid-seventies, this was a novelty!

The most popular and highly sought after Mego line was The World's Greatest Super Heroes!
I don't know if was just because these were the first toys I remember, but they are still my favorites ever. Like I said, they were 8" tall, super-jointed and wore real fabric costumes. Looking at some of the earlier releases, they DO have kind of a cartoony, dopey look on their faces. And the four original females look almost kewpie doll-ish. But I love them! And so do many, many others, making this one of the most collected lines around. It helps that they came out so long ago that it is incredibly rare to find them in mint condition, much less still packaged. I think Batgirl is the rarest and she sells for about $500+ on the card.

My dad bought me Robin as a reward for when I learned to tie my shoes... my Super Friends shoes! Eventually, his leg broke in half and my mom told me to pretend he'd been in an accident in the Batmobile.

As you can see, there are dozens of characters, but as a kid, I only ever saw a handful in stores; Superman, Batman, Robin, "Shazam," Spider-Man and The Hulk. Supposedly, certain characters like Aquaman and all of the females were poor sellers, but I'd have killed for ANY of those! I just kept getting those same six characters over and over. (I'd inevitably lose or break them... I wish I could go back in time and smack myself. It's not child abuse if it's self-inflicted, right?)

But anyway, you are now up to speed, so without any further ado, the 1975 Montgomery Ward catalog: (Well... part of it...)
Archie toys?! I would have LOVED those! Did I mention that after Mego's success, a bunch of companies tried ripping them off? The most popular knock-off is coming up, actually. But anyway, I really liked Archie comics and would have loved toys like these. They look dead-on like the drawings. I'd have been upset that there was no Reggie doll, though. The outfits are silly... WHAT is that Jughead is wearing?! And I'd have put Bettie in that Daisy Dukes/halter, not snooty Veronica!

What is that monstrosity at the bottom of the page?! Dusty?! Looks more like cripsy fried, bleached out Lindsay Lohan... well, except not as scrawny. In picture 11, it looks like she's attacking herself. And picture 15 looks like a bunch of zombies on the prowl! Ugh! Moving on...
Another pic of Mego's Wizard of Oz line. Both this ad and the one in last blog's Sears catalog mention traveling to Oz... they're not traveling to Oz, they're already IN Oz. They're traveling to the Emerald City. I guess fact checking wasn't invented until the '80s.

Also a closer look at the HORRIFYING Sunshine Family! GAH!!! They didn't look this freaky in the Sears catalog! (Still digging that covered tandem bike, though!)

I don't know if you can read the descriptions or not, but the one for L reads: "Van With Piggyback Shack (tm)- Now, you can help the Sunshine Family make crafts and display them at a pretend fair. Shack removes from van for use as sales and display booth. Makings for tiny belts, purses, flowerpot incl. Plus idea book; banner base."

... That is a VERY specific, VERY elaborate, VERY narrow concept. This toy was planned to a T. Wow. I'm not even sure how to react. I am dumbstruck, Sunshine Family.
YOW!!! That Young Mod's skirt is slit way up PAST there! Hoochie! She was the original J. Lo! That hillbilly doll on the left is pretty trashy looking too!
Oh man, I want that Batman and Robin alarm clock! How freakin' large is Robin's head there?! And who's driving if Robin is in the passenger's seat and Batman is out jogging? Maybe that's now my Robin doll lost that leg.

The Batman clock's expression, "It's time to wake our friend, Robin!" is cute, but look how polite the Raggedy Ann clock is, "Please get up." Yeah, I'd NEVER have gotten up, if this was my alarm clock. Way too passive. "Please get up... no? Okay." Waaaah-waaaaaaaah!
"Merry fuckin' Christmas. Here, I got you a typewriter." Ahem, I got the blue one. Not kidding.
I posted this as a comment, but I thought I'd repeat it, in case you missed it. See picture 10, the two inflatable chairs on the middle left? Okay, when I was like 2ish or 3ish, I saw an ad for a similar product, except they had animal heads. I think there were three or four shown, including a pink girl cat chair, which I HAD to have. Except when it arrived, it was a stupid yellow BOY cat! AW HEEEEELLLLLLL NAW!!! I pitched a FIT!!! Like one of those leg kicking, yowling, flailing fits kids throw in Walmart! Long story short, the PROPER pink girl cat chair arrived a few weeks later. Did my parents really think I was going to stand for those shenanigans? That was some BULLSHIT, that's what that was!

Looking back, they pulled the same exact stunt also when I was about two, when these two stretch toys came out, kinda like Stretch Armstrong. There was Ollie the Stretch Octopus (blue) and Olivia (pink). I remember she had a bow on her bald head and long eyelashes. I had to have Olivia! We were at... maybe Montgomery Ward, possibly Sears, but they were both RIGHT in front of me and I CLEARLY made my point that I wanted Olivia, but my asshole parents refused and bought me Ollie. I don't remember the circumstances, but obviously some sort of protest took place, as I later got Olivia and was placated. Ironically, I was too young and weak to actually make either stretch. Still... victory was mine.
Three items appeared in EVERY catalog I ever saw as a child I and I desperately wanted them. Here are all three on one page! A rock tumbler, a pottery wheel and a spin art maker. I HAVE NO IDEA WHY! A rock tumbler?! What would I do with shiny rocks?! A pottery wheel?! To make ashtrays for my family of non-smokers?! And a spin art kit was just a ruined carpet waiting to happen. Even so, every time I saw them in a catalog, I felt like I needed these three things.
Here are Mego's least-action-oriented "action" figures ever... The Waltons. And their "play" set farm house. To quote Neicy Nash, "WHAT THE HELL?!" Mego scored major sales with some of their licensed products, Super Heroes, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz... but what were they smoking when they released The Waltons? This, sadly, wasn't the end of the terrible toy lines... they also released a Love Boat series (with boat playset) and designed a line based on Dallas that was never released. To put that in a modern context, Dallas toys would have been like a Brothers & Sisters toy line. Woo hoo. "Let's act out the part where Justin relapses and later finds out Rebecca is pregnant. Oh, and nap time's at two."

Oh, remember what I said about other toy companies imitating Mego? The Monsters in the middle LOOK like Megos, but they were actually made by Remco. Still, they are the one line that is most commonly mistaken by modern collectors as a Mego line. It didn't help that Remco went so far as to rip-off Mego's packaging design for the Monsters, until Mego filed suit.
Yay! Megos again! Interesting marketing strategy, using comic style artwork to sell the line. Also, hands down, the Joker's VW bus style Jokermobile is widely considered one of the best Mego items in the entire collection. And check out The Joker's dialogue at the top, to Wonder Woman, "They should have never given you the right to vote!" Jigga what?! Who knew that in addition to being a murderous psychopath, The Joker was also a chauvinist pig?

Also, you can see how sad the Mego Wonder Woman looked. Both she and Tarzan were given pathetic flesh-tone bodysuits to cover their bare skin. Later releases like Conan the Barbarian simply left those areas bare, but I guess the early '70s were a more conservative time.
A bigger pic of the Star Trek line. Check out those likenesses! Kirk TOTALLY looks like William Shatner and McCoy is a dead ringer for DeForest Kelly! Odd that MODERN toys don't even look as much like the real actors as these vintage toys.

But maaaaaan, The Waltons are bad, but who the hell wants a set of Founding Father action figures? "ONLY at Montgomery Ward?" Really?! Who'd you have to fight to get that exclusive deal?! "Hey, let's see who can win in a fight... The Incredible Hulk or Ben Franklin! Watch out for that kite string, Hulk!" Also, most action figures in this catalog are $3 and change. These poor souls are $1.99 and STILL Wards is offering 20% off (that's more than 10%!) if you buy any three. ANY three! "C'mon... 20% off... don't you want George Washington and Andrew Jackson and... wait, how about 50% if you buy two?! Wait, wait, don't walk away, how about I buy you lunch if you just take one. Here, you can have him! PLEASE!" Too bad Montgomery Ward went out of business, because I'm pretty sure if they were still around, you could walk in today and STILL find these things hanging around on super duper clearance.

Once again, pics courtesy of:


  1. People complain about our economy today. But when you look at the prices of these children's toys and compare it to the wages earned in that time period, things are so much more affordable today.

    Ok. So I know folks will complain and say, "Yeah. But it's all made in China." And my reply is, "Oh fine. I can see how you would be distraught. I am sure you'd like to work in a factory for 8 hours a day, assembling 8 inch high Captain Kirk dolls for $1 more than minimum wage."