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Inventory of American Wild West Playset Figures, Structures, and Accessories
Manufactured by the Marx Toy Company, 1951 to 1980
Introduction - Information on the Marx Toy Company
and Its Wild West Playset Figures
web site was created in late 2007. It consists of six web pages:
this introductory page, three pages on The Marx Toy Company's
figures of cowboys, Indians, and other figures included in its wild west
playsets; a page on forts, structures, and buildings in those playsets;
and a page on animals in the playsets. Eventually, I expect to
add another page on playset accessories. I will continue
to update these pages as I obtain more information and
photos. If you have anything
to add to this page or suggestions to make it
better, please e-mail me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be glad to
attribute contributions to you.
rather significant changes have been made to this web site recently.
If you find problems -- such as links that do not work -- please
let me know by e-mailing me at email@example.com. Thank you!
Most recent significant updates to this web site:
12-20-08 As you know if you are reading this, the
web site has moved to http://marxwildwest.com. At the same time,
several new photos have been added to the Horses, Cattle, and Other
Added a new page this web site, featuring animals that were
included in Marx wild west playsets. You may go to this new page
by clicking here
or by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page. Links to
related horses are also included in each group of figures. Also
added photos of Bernardo and Don Diego in the Zorro character figure
group on Page 2 and photos of two additional 3-inch figures on Page 3.
10-29-08 Added 16 photos of cowboy and Indian figures made in Great Britain on Page 3.
10-18-08 Added photos and information to 45mm rodeo cowboys near end of Page 3.
10-1-08 Added several photos of figures and
accessories purchased from OTSN last week. These include the
original Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson from the 60mm Famous Americans, a
photo showing exceptional detail on the 54mm Zorro Don Alejandro, the
original 54mm Johnny Ringo (figure provided by Rick Eber), and the complete plastic John Wayne Alamo
Marx information news briefs:
attended the big Chicago Toy Soldier Show for the third straight year
and found it to be as busy and enjoyable as always, even with the major
renovation going on at the hotel. Having been seriously in the hobby
now for six years, I am starting to know several sellers and other
collectors and always enjoy seeing what they have to sell this year.
As well as just seeing them again and saying "hi", of course.
I purchased a several small items, a few to go on this web site
(see 10-1-08 entry above), but stayed right on my $222 budget ($22
saved in pennies, nickles, and dimes)...until I saw Ron Barzso's new
Daniel Boone Playset. I had not purchased an entire playset since
the mid-1950s when I was a kid. Having concentrated my collecting
primarily in the American wild west, I simply could not resist this
one. I purchased both the playset and the separate fort that goes
along with it. As always, Ron's work is downright spectacular,
and it feels good to own such a beautiful playset, even if I did exceed
my budget by about $500!
the second straight year, I
attended the Marx Convention at the Krueger Toy and Train Museum in
Wheeling, West Virginia. If you are a Marx playset fan, I cannot
think that there is a better show. Held on June 20 and 21, this
was the museum's 10th annual convention. There were a huge
variety of Marx figures and playsets for sale, and I found prices to be
more reasonable that most Ebay auctions over the past few months.
For example, I purchased the four 6-inch stage coach figures
shown below for $2 each, several 35mm figures in great shape for $2 or
$3 each, and a beautifully-marbled hill with cave for $15 (now shown on
my Wild West Structures and Terrain Pieces web page). While
there, I also spent some money at Francis Turner's sale Friday evening,
salivating over a nice Daniel Boone Wilderness playset priced at $975
and a Blue and Gray playset whose price now escapes me.
on This Web Site
web site provides photos and general information on Marx' wild west
playset figures, for the most part organized by
initial sale. It includes this and three other web pages, which
can be reached by links at the top of bottom of this page. There
is an additional web page on the company's wild west buildings and
terrain pieces, and a link is at the bottom of this page to access it,
as well as a few other web pages on my collection and a bit on other
aspects of my life (if you care to see what we look like!).
Wherever possible, each group of figures is identified by
"PL" number. This
number designates the mold that Marx used to manufacture the
to make this inventory as complete and
accurate as possible.
However, I cannot guarantee that all my information is
accurate or that I am aware of all figures that exist. I
any information that might add to or correct information on this web
figures in the photos on these web pages are not all in
pristine condition. Some have small scuffs, bite marks,
nicks, discoloring, or flashing from the molding process. If
serious collector, I am sure you have seen it all. In
few of the photos are of re-issued figures or copies, and are
as such. However, to
the best of my knowledge, the figures in the photos have no
missing parts, unless noted, and the photos provide a good
what the figures should look like. I will be updating photos
obtain better and missing figures. At the same time, I
welcome similar photos
from you of figures I do not have and will be glad to give you credit
most part, the information
on this web page is not original. I have drawn on numerous
sources to obtain the
information. These include issues of
the former magazine "Plastic Figure and Playset Collector" (PFPC)
edited by Tom Terry, "Playset Magazine" edited by Rusty and Kathy
Kern, Great Britain's "Plastic Warrior" magazine edited by Paul
Morehead, the Guide for Non-Metallic
Toy Soldiers of the U.S. by Tim Geppert, Richard O'Brien's
book Collecting American-Made Toy Soldiers, and Jay Horowitz' book The Authorized Guide to
Marx Western Playsets.
I have also received much information through discussions and
correspondence with many toy soldier collectors, including such experts
as Kent Sprecher, Francis Turner, Bob Jones, Rich Egan, Rick Eber, Paul
Stadinger, Dan McClean, Bob Wilson, Steve Smith, Mike Handley, Bob
Lancellotti, Rob Colwell, and
several of these persons have web sites that have also given me much
information and many points to ponder. For a more complete list of sources,
see my links page.
A special thanks goes to Kent Sprecher for
providing a list of PL numbers for most of the molds with brief
information on each of them, as well as for the incredible amount of information on his exceptional web site.
Please contact me if you find errors on
page, have photos to share which are not included here,
or have information that might be appropriate to add.
e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and my telephone is 714-996-6229.
A Quick History
of Louis Marx and Louis Marx & Co., Inc.
(aka The Marx Toy Company)
Louis Marx started his toy
company in 1921 -- coincidentally the same year my father was born --
brother David, using equipment purchased from his former employer, the
Ferdinand Strauss Toy Company. The company grew through the
1940s, with the bulk of its sales being mass-produced tin lithograhed
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Marx
toy companies introduced toy playsets that included figures, buildings,
and related accessories such as animals, trees, wagons, and
furniture. These toys were manufactured with new injection
molding techniques developed during World War II. Each
was created around a theme, such as a farm, an airport, a gas station,
or a military base. One of the earliest and most popular
was the American wild west. The popularity of these playsets
among children resulted in a "playset era" that continued into the
Figures in the earliest playsets were
molded in a
rubber-like vinyl and were crudely sculpted with little detail.
Within a few years, Marx changed to a soft plastic material,
allowed much more realistic figures. Buildings were generally
made of pressed steel (though commonly called tin) and accessories of
hard plastic. Some accessories were made of soft plastic.
Figures in playsets were not
painted; they were the color of the material used to produce them.
Marx mixed the material into many shades of yellow, brown,
blue, red, gray, and
other colors, including an off-white that Marx referred to as ivory.
Marx did sell some similar figures -- or in some
cases the same figures -- that were painted, but except for a few miniature sets, these were not
included in playsets.
With the playsets as their backbone,
the Marx Toy
Company became the largest toy company in the world by the 1950s.
maintained his offices in New York City, but the company's factories
were located in both the U.S. and overseas. He became known
"The Toy King," appeared on the cover of "Time Magazine," and was a
close friend of President Dwight Eisenhower.
Mr. Marx sold the company to the Quaker
Company in 1972. Unfortunately, many key Marx employees left
company at that same time, and Quaker Oats was unable to maintain Marx'
extraordinary toy empire. In 1975, the company was sold to
Richard Beecham of the toy conglomerate Dunbee-Combex of England, which
ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 1980. Liquidation of the
remaining Marx Toy Company assets began in 1980 and was completed by
Chemical Bank, the company's primary creditor, two years later.
Marx toy assets were purchased by Jay Horowitz and his
American Plastic Equipment, Inc. Subsequently, most playset
action figure prototypes were sold to Chuck Saults (several thousands),
while a smaller amount went to Gene Scala (a few hundred).
Saults has since passed away, and his incredible collection
was auctioned off on eBay over a period of more than a year.
Since that time, many people --
including Mr. Marx' son -- have used some of the old Marx molds to
manufacture figures. However, these re-issued figures are
(but not always) easily distinguishable from the original figures, and
collectors are quick to point out that they do not meet the quality of
original Marx figures.
Mr. Marx died in 1982 at age 85.
The Authorized Guide to
Marx Western Playsets
by Jay Horowitz contains excellent chapters on the life of Mr. Marx and
on the evolution of Louis Marx & Co, Inc. Similar
information, much of it based on interviews with former Marx employees,
is included in a series of "Inside Marx" articles written by Rusty
Kern, which appeared in
"Plastic Figure and Playset Collector" magazine.
Background on Marx Playset Figures
Marx produced figures in
many sizes, and information on this web site indicates the generally-accepted scale for each group of
figures. The most
common scales that Marx used for its wild west figures are 45mm, 54mm,
and 60mm. These
numbers represent the
approximate scale height of a 6-foot tall
in 45mm scale, this person would be about 1-3/4
inches tall, in 54mm scale 2-1/8 inches tall, and in 60mm
scale 2-3/8 inches. Some references show these inch
measurements slightly different, but if you put a ruler with
next to one with inches, that is how they come out.
While those are the most common scales
wild west figures, they also produced figures as small as HO-scale
and as large as 6-inch. Interestingly, Marx employees
did not use these scales, but rather saw the
figures simply as large, small, etc. Collectors have assigned
scales to the groups. Photos on this web site do not show figures
actual size, but for the most part I have tried to show figures in the
same relative size when compared to others. Exceptions to this
- Figures that are 5-inch scale and larger,
- Figures that are smaller than 45mm,
- Some photos that include more than one figure, and
- Some photos that have been provided by others.
In addition, I have included a section of
Marx fence behind the figures in most photos. This
fence is approximately 1-1/2 inches tall at the top of
the top rail, and the back of each figure is very close to the fence,
generally within 1/4 inch.
The company used two materials to
playset figures. In the early 1950s, it used vinyl,
a rubber-like material. In the mid-1950s, the company changed
a soft plastic. To verify whether a figure is vinyl or soft
plastic, place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks, it is
if it floats it is plastic. In addition, vinyl has a
smell. Place a figure that you know is vinyl near your nose
you will see what I mean. It's not a pleasant smell, but for
those of us who had vinyl figures as children, it's a familiar and
Marx used hard plastic for many of its
accessories such as furniture and trees, but did not use hard plastic
for figures, except for a very few, which are
pointed out in the narrative below. None of these were included in a traditional Marx playset. Otherwise, figures that you find made
of hard plastic -- including those
using Marx molds after the company went bankrupt -- are not original Marx figures. Of course, there are degrees
and hard. I do not understand the chemistry of plastic, but I
know that Marx' early soft plastic figures are more soft than those
made later. And some hard plastic is less hard than other
plastic. Personally, I find it sometimes very difficult or
impossible to tell the difference between the more hard soft plastic of
original Marx figures and the more soft hard plastic of some post-Marx
figures. If you feel confused, welcome to the world of
Marx used a wide variety of colors for
west figures, such as yellow and brown. And for each
figures exist in a number of shades, such as powder blue, royal blue,
and metallic blue. I find it very difficult to pick up a
and state what color and shade it is, and sometimes am uncertain even
what color it is. This may sound odd, but I know that some
collectors experience the same problem. Placing a figure
side-by-side with a
figure of another color sometimes helps. But I would go so far as to say that
this point in my collecting, I am befuddled in my frustrating attempt
to understand Marx' use of colors.
To the best of my knowledge, the basic colors used
by Marx for wild
were ivory (called cream by collectors today), brown, tan, yellow,
gray, silver, blue, and red. The only exceptions that I am
frontiersman figures made in a fuzzy green color for its Fort Comanche
playset and a bright orange for the Indians in a late Fort Apache
While I refer to those green frontiersmen as fuzzy because
color tends to hide the figure details, Marx simply called them green,
some collectors call them pea
green, and others call them lime green. This name
more than one name for the same color -- is another
reason that I remain confused. Figures
used in many different playsets were often manufactured in many
different colors, though only in one or two colors per group of figures
for each playset.
Others that were not manufactured in such great numbers --
as "character figures" of actual persons or recognized fictional
characters -- were only made in one or two
colors. Almost all of the "character figures" (i.e., Roy Rogers,
the Lone Ranger, Wyatt Earp, etc.) were produced almost exclusively in
While a general rule is that you should clean the
dirt off your figures (to see what color they really are), dirt is not
always a bad thing. I have several time hesitated or decided not
to clean a figure because the small amount of grime on it enhances the
color and adds depth to the figure. Never under-estimate
the power of dirt. It is hard to
explain this, so I can only use the old cliche and say, "You'll know it
when you see it." Take a look at the 5-inch stagecoach group for
an example of such figures.
Many Marx figures have been re-issued
copied. A re-issue (or recast) figure is one that has been
from the same mold that Marx used to make the original figure.
Many original molds have been purchased or leased by many
companies since the company went bankrupt. For serious
would be nice to have a list of what molds still exist, where they have
been since Marx closed, what figures have been re-issued, and where
they are now. I do not have the
knowledge to create such a list, though I do know that Hobby Bunker
acquired a large inventory of them in 2007 and has been re-issuing many
figures and accessories since then. Classic Toy Soldiers has
re-issued several different groups of wild west figures for many years,
and the hordes of lesser quality re-issued and copied figures from
Mexico seem unending.
A copy is a figure that has
been made to look
the same as a Marx figure, but has been manufacured using a mold
created by someone other than The Marx Toy Company. Even
Marx was in its heyday, competing companies
such as MPC were creating figures based on the Marx figure
though with some experience it generally is
not difficult to tell them apart. Often, original figures are
used to create a mold to make a copy. If so, the copy
slightly smaller than the Marx original figure, perhaps two or three millimeters.
Often -- but
not always -- re-issues and copies are made in a hard plastic never
used by Marx. Often -- but not always -- re-issues and copies
made in colors never used by Marx. For example, if you have a
figure that is bright green, black, purple, or true pink, it is not original Marx.
Some re-issues and
copies are easy to spot; others are better made and are difficult to
identify except by experienced collectors. A few are so close
originals that it is almost impossible for anyone to tell the
between them and the Marx originals.
All prices noted on this web site are for
purposes only and should not serve as a price guide. The
given are simply what I have observed, and I have not
calculate any accurate average prices for figures. I am sure
you will find the figures selling for more and for less than those
cite. There are many factors that affect prices, including
condition of a figure, color, the estimated number of figures
originally made, the perceived supply still available, the reputation
of the seller, and how much the guy
in Montana is willing to pay for exactly the same figure you want,
happens to be the only figure that he needs to complete his
five-thousand dollar Marx playset. Of course, the sad fact is
that it is common to pay more for a single figure today that it
originally cost for an entire playset fifty years ago. If you are
new to the hobby, that's something you just have to get used to if you
want to collect anything more than the most common figure.
Finally, a personal observation based on my
collecting experience since I began taking this hobby seriously in
2002. There are Marx figures...and then there are Marx figures.
You will see a figure that you deem excellent, and then you will
see another identical figure that just blows you away. You will
see a near mint figure that looks nice, and then see the
same figure that clearly is not mint, but looks
more attractive than the mint one.
There are several reasons for this. Color is
one. Another is the material used for a particular figure, with
even separate batches of vinyl or plastic not being exactly the same.
Perhaps another is the expertise and care of the workers that
participated in manufacturing a specific figure or group of figures.
However, I believe a very key reason is that molds used in making
figures wear down as they are used over and over. As they do so,
they are cleaned, washed, and repaired. I imagine that these processes extend the life of the mold, but cannot return it to
its original pristine condition. As a result, you will find
some original Marx
figures with fine, sharp details and other original Marx figures that have slightly
more blurred and softened details.
So there are some extremely fine examples of Marx
playset figures out there that most likely were manufactured when a
mold was still new, the color was right, and the batch of vinyl or plastic mixed well.
When you see these, you cannot help but say, "Wow!" There
are also figures in good condition on which the details are less
vibrant; these cause you to perhaps say, "That's a nice figure," or, "I
have one of those already." There is absolutely nothing wrong
with that second category of figures, but just something that is wise
to keep in mind.
I hope you enjoy both this web site and hobby!
Vicki and Eric Johns' Home Page