Marx Lane

An Inventory of Marx Playset Figures and Accessories
Manufactured from 1951 to 1979


Appendix K-2  Accessories of the Middle Ages
(Including Robin Hood and Vikings)
Contents of this web site may not be reproduced or duplicated for use on the Internet or for commercial purposes without permission by Eric Johns.



Medieval Playset Accessories
 

Table of Contents

                       (click on topic to move to section)
This Page
Castles
Small Accessories
Catapult
Terrain
     
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After my research on Marx Medieval playsets -- I did not own any when I was a kid -- I must say that overall, the company failed to create an exciting collection of accessories for its Medieval sets.  Compared to a set like Captain Gallant, it is downright pitiful.  However, the central accessory of any Medieval set must be its castle, and the company certainly created some downright beautiful tin litho castles.  As a result, about half of this page is devoted to the four versions of castles that Marx produced.  The evolution of these castles during the Golden Age of Playsets in the 1950s and 1960s is rather interesting in itself.  Due to my limited knowledge of this playset theme, I am sure that the discussion and photos of the castles below is incomplete.  Additional information can be found in various playset magazines and other publications, as well as from many veteran playset collectors.  These sources include articles on the Marx playsets in Playset Magazine Issues 13 and 35 and Playset Figure and Playset Collector magazines Issues 1 (content listing of Marx Medieval Castle Fort #4710 only), 25, and 34.

Castles
As most of the playset buildings made by Marx, the company's castles were made of pressed steel.  The steel was plated with tin and colorfully lithographed with appropriate images.  Adding more color to the castles were hard plastic tower turrets, doorways, gates, cannons, and pennants.  

Marx made four versions of its castle, as shown below.  Since I have none, I have included two photos of each version, one from each of two collectors gracious enough to share they collections, Allan Ford and Billy Hill.  Various flags and pennants came with the castles for display on the towers and turrets, but I am not yet familiar enough with them to include them in the photos below, except for those in the castle photos.

Medieval Castle - 60mm playset
Playset Magazine Issue 35 reports that the Marx castle in early Medieval playsets was "short and dumpy," with two long walls and four short walls.  In the photo below, the short walls are in the front and back, and the longer ones on the sides.  It is rather boxy compared to the later three versions, but I would say that the walls certainly seem to have attractive lithography.  In addition, this castle is the only one to have 1) three plastic doorways on its keep (the back structure) and 2) cannons mounted on the walls (which do fire).  

As shown in the photos, the rather silly-looking, round, red plastic cannons are mounted atop the walls on either side of the gate.  This castle did not have the spires and pennants included on later castles.
Original Marx Medieval Castle
Photo courtesy Allan Ford, Ebay 610allanf
Original Marx Medieval Castle
Photo courtesy of collector Billy Hill

Short wall (both sides shown)
4 inches wide, 1-3/4 inches high, 3/4 inches deep

Long wall (both sides shown)
10-1/2 inches wide, 1-3/4 inches high, 3/4 inches deep

Corner tower (all four sides shown)
5-5/8 inches tall to top of red plastic insert, sides are each 1-1/2 inches wide

Front structure with draw bridge (both sides shown)
12 inches wide, 6-1/4 inches tall to top of red plastic insert, 1-1/2 inches deep

Drawbridge chain Cannon Sprue of cannon shells

Back structure (both sides shown)
12 inches wide, 8 inches to top of red plastic insert, both side sections 2-1/2 inches deep and middle section 4 inches deep


Robin Hood Castle - 54mm playset
In 1956, Marx introduced what has become known as the Robin Hood Castle.  The gate and keep were enlarged, eight spires and eight pennants added colorful decoration (pennants not shown in the photo below), and the wall count was changed to four long and two short.  Plastic pieces are red and gray.  This made for an attractive 30-inch wide structure.
Robin Hood Castle
Photo courtesy of collector Billy Hill
Robin Hood Castle
Missing two red plastic turrets over the gate
Photo courtesy of Bill West, Ebay ID dadumpsterdiver66

Sleeping Beauty Castle - 54mm playset
In 1959, Marx reversed the improvements, undoubtedly in an effort to reduce costs, with a smaller keep, the old square plastic tower tops, and a width of about 22 inches with just two long walls and four short.  The castle has a pennant and spires only atop the keep.  This castle was reportedly made for a Sleeping Beauty playset that was never produced, but is still identified as the Sleeping Beauty Castle.  The castle continued to appear in Medieval playsets into the 1970s.  This is the castle that came in one playset with a large vacuum form moats.  That fragile piece is hard to find today and very much coveted by serious collectors.
Sleeping Beauty Castle
Photo courtesy Allan Ford, Ebay 610allanf
Sleeping Beauty Castle
Photo courtesy of collector Billy Hill

Short wall (both sides shown)
4 inches wide, 1-3/4 inches high, 3/4 inches deep

Long wall (both sides shown)
10-1/2 inches wide, 1-3/4 inches high, 3/4 inches deep

Corner tower (all four sides shown)
5-5/8 inches tall to top of red plastic insert, sides are each 1-1/2 inches wide


Front structure with draw bridge (both sides shown)
12 inches wide, 5-3/4 inches tall to top of red plastic insert, 1-1/2 inches deep

Back structure (both sides shown)
12 inches wide, 11 inches to top of middle spire, 1-1/2 inches deep


High Walled Castle - 54mm
Similar to the Sleeping Beauty Castle and also first produced in 1959, this castle has high walls with raised relief surfaces.  It is perhaps the most attractive castle.  Unfortunately, it was included in few playsets and is hard to find today.  

Playset Magazine Issue 35 shows the castle a bit differently than the photos below, reporting that the red turrets in the first photo below are blue and have no flags.  
High-walled Castle
Photo courtesy of Allan Ford, Ebay 610allanf
High-walled Castle
Photo courtesy of collector Billy Hill

Collector Billy Hill provided the photos above, comparing towers and turret tops (on left) and high and low walls (on right).


Castle with Moat

One other castle that Marx released has parts re-arranged from the castles shown above, but the castle was protected by a thin plastic moat which could be filled with water.  It was a late release with the final version of knight figures, but I would think that the moat added quite a bit of new angles in play battles.

The photo at right is of a castle which Bennett Willey of War and Peace Toys sold at the 2015 West Coaster,











Carry-All Structures

In addition to the four large castles, Marx manufactured one more version in its Carry-All Fighting Knight Set.  The Carry-All set -- one of many similar sets Marx made in various themes -- came in a metal box that held all the set's pieces and folded out to form a playset base, in this case a castle.  The Knight Set included a plastic gate and two towers that attached to the castle's walls (which were formed by the box sides).

The plastic gate and towers have been used in several re-issue sets, and re-issues are plentiful in today's market.
Photo not available at this time Photo not available at this time
Gate and towers
Photo courtesy of Kent Sprecher
Advertisement for Carry-All set
Photo courtesy of Kent Sprecher




Small Accessories     (PL-784)
All but the earliest and the latest Medieval playsets came with a rather simple set of accessories, as shown below.  Playset Magazine Issue 35 states that they came in either metallic green or light brown.  I have found that they are rather difficult to obtain outside of a complete or partial playset.  Most of those shown below are Hobby Bunker re-issues in a light tan.

The banquet table is one of my favorite accessory pieces.  Unlike most Marx tables, it is nicely stocked with dishes and food.  When surrounded with two of the throne-like chairs and four benches, the table looks very good, though of course sets came with one chair and two benches.

By the way, the Hobby Bunker re-issues are nice, but the light tan color I got is a little too light, and flashing is just enough to see, but little enough to be hard to remove.  It costs a lot less than the real thing!
Photo not available at this time Photo not available at this time
Archery target
Two inches tall.  Holes in target allow arrows to be inserted.
Target with arrows inserted
Note hole with no arrow.  Did some targets have three holes and some four?
Sprue of arrows
Arrows are about one inch long.
Quiver, long bow, and cross bow
Long bow is a bit taller than the target at left

Photo not available at this time
Cooking fire
Item comes in two pieces and is a bit more than an inch tall.
Two pieces of cooking fire
Item is similar to, but not the same as the cooking fire in Wild West sets.
Wine keg on stand and lantern
Both are 3/4 of an inch tall.

Photo not available at this time
Banquet table
Four inches long, one inch tall.

Photo not available at this time
Throne/chair with arms
About 2 inches tall.
Bench
About 2 inches long.
Photo not available at this time Photo not available at this time
Battering ram
About 2-3/4 inches long.
Ladder and quarter staff
Both are 2-3/4 inches long.

Horn and harp
Harp is about 1-3/8 inches tall.
Treasure chest
Chest is one inch wide, does not open.

In some later playsets, Marx drastically reduced the number of these accessories in playsets, providing only an archery target, sprue of six arrows, ladder, battering ram, quiver, and campfire.  The campfire was not the same cooking fire as in the original group (I like this one better).  According to veteran collector and seller Kent Sprecher, the size of the quiver was also reduced.
Photo not available at this time
Campfire
About two inches long.
Re-issue item shown.




Catapults     (PL-799)
The fire power for the Marx Medival sets were a pair of dark brown, hard plastic catapults, about 3-3/4 inches long, each with a sprue of 24 tiny round balls of ammunition made in the same mold.  Once pulled from the sprue, I am sure that most of these tiny "rocks" were quickly lost.  One-piece yellow plastic wheels and axles-- black in at least one playset version, as shown in the photos below -- snapped onto the bottom of the catapults.

Catapults were rubber band-powered, and Playset Magazine Issue 35 reports that those included in the sets were "#14 rubber bands."  To fire the catapult, the cup on the firing arm is pushed down so that tab on the back of the cup is held fast by the vertical projection at the rear of the catapult.  After loading a rock into the cup, pull the projection slightly backwards, and the firing arm is yanked quickly forward by the rubber band, shooting the rock forward.  

I believe -- but am not positive -- that the photos below show the correct way that the rubber band should connect to the catapult.  If not, let me know!  By holding the rubber band so that it is pulled into a straight line, each end is threaded through one of the U-shaped tabs on the firing arm.  These ends are then stretched forward and attached to the two hooks on the front of the catapult.  I suppose the rubber bands could be pulled over the top of the front piece and down to the hooks, but that does not seem right to me...or is it?  Anyone know for sure?

I have been able to get the catapult as shown to fire a rock about four feet, though I am using a #16 rubber band instead of a #14.  With the rubber bands stretched over the front piece, the rock goes faster and a couple of feet further.  In both cases, the rock's trajectory was very low, much lower than the arcing catapult lobs seen at the movies.  Fortunately, Marx castle walls are pretty low, so I figure the rocks must go high enough to knock off a castle occupant or two!

Molded stacks of catapult balls, as shown below, came with one Medieval set released after Marx sold the company to Quaker Oats in 1972.

Photo not available at this time
Catapult
Actual brown color is slightly darker than shown.  Rubber band is not original.
Catapult
Re-issue

Catapult loaded and ready to fire Catapult, already fired

Photo not available at this time
The four pieces of the catapult
Item shown is a re-issue.
Sprue of 24 rocks
A few of the rocks shown are unattached, but positioned properly.
Stack of catapult rocks
About 1-1/4 inches tall.
Re-issue shown.




Terrain

     Trees
Marx' medieval playsets included few terrain items, but generally had a tree.  This could be any of what I would call the company's four "regular" trees, in that they are somewhat generic deciduous trees.  In an article that appeared in PFPC 22, Tim Geppert labels these trees as the full tree, scraggly tree, delta tree, and stand of trees.
 
The full tree (often called the oak tree by collectors) is 5-3/4 inches tall and noticeably larger than the other trees; the scraggly and delta trees are 5 inches tall.  The delta tree is so called because it is roughly in the triangular shape of the Greek letter delta.  It also is referred to as an "A" tree.  
Marx made these trees in both soft and hard plastic and in various shades of green.
Full tree or Oak tree
(PL-131)
Scraggly tree
(PL-131)
Delta tree or A tree
(PL-524)

The fourth "regular" tree is actually four connected trees.  Tim calls it the stand of trees.  This stand of trees can be broken in half at a scored line in the middle of the piece (see photo).  This produced two sections of two trees each:  1) one section that had one tree with a forked trunk and one with a single trunk and 2) a second section that had two single trunked trees.  So Tim called these the "forked" and "nonforked."  The trees are slightly shorter than Marx' single trees, about 4 inches tall and 8-3/4 inches wide.

In today's market, you can find these pieces that have not been separated and remain a stand of four trees, as well as ones that have been separated into the forked and nonforked sections.  Made in soft plastic, the base of the long section of trees tends to warp, sometimes so much that it is hard to keep the piece standing.
Stand of trees (not separated) - Unforked section on left, Forked section on right

     Rock Formations and Pond   (PL-1018)
According to Playset Magazine Issue 13, at least a couple of medieval playsets came with four hard plastic terain items that had earlier been found in pre-historic and Wild West playsets.  I am not aware of any official names for these pieces, but I call two of them the mesa rock and the cliff rock, because that is what they resemble.  There is also a rock formation with a cave entrance cutinto it and a hill with a small waterfall and pond.

All are about the same size.  The so-called mesa and cliff are, of course, much too small to actually be a mesa or cliff in playset scales.  The mesa rock is 7-3/4 inches wide and about 2 inches high.  The cliff version is 6-1/2 inches and about 2-1/2 inches, and the cave rock is 7 inches and 2-1/2 inches.  The pond is a bit wider.
Small mesa rock Small cliff rock
Notice the nice marbling in the plastic.

Rock formation with cave
Again, notice the nice marbling in the plastic.
Hill with pond

     Rock walls
At least one medieval set (the Carry-All Fighting Knights Set) included low, plastic rock walls that were also found in several other Marx playsets.  The walls are only 3/4 of an inch high and deep, but nearly 8-1/2 inches wide.  Re-issues exist.  




Contents of this web site may not be reproduced or duplicated for use on the Internet or for commercial purposes without permission by Eric Johns.