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

Appendix I - Religion
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.

Table of Contents

(click on name to move to section)
Nativity Set
Jesus and His Apostles
Other 60mm Figures
Miniature Playsets
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Nativity Set  (PL-689)

The Marx Nativity Set was featured in Plastic Figure and Playset Collector (PFPC) Issue 4 and Playset Magazine Issue 60.  The set is a typical miniature creche scene made in the 1950s.  Playset Magazine reports it was released in 1957.  It contains the usual creche occupants: the Holy Family, shepherds, the wisemen, an angel, a few animals, and an attractive stable building.  

According to the articles, the sets came 1) with unpainted or painted figures and 2) lighted or with no lighting.  The lighting is a standard 1950s Christmas bulb, inserted through the top of the back wall.  One version of the set included a Swiss-made windup music box that attached to the back of the stable and played the Christmas carol "Silent Night."

Playset Magazine reports yet another version that was sold in a plain brown box in 1958, distributed by the toy company Elastolin.  Figures in that version were "...painted unusually well."  And finally, a carded set of figures was sold in England, with the card folding into a stable scene.

The set's figures were 60mm scale, white, hard plastic, imported from the company's overseas operations, including Hong Kong, Germany, and -- as in the set shown below -- Swansea, Great Britain.  These exceptional photos were provided by Denys Rylev from Russia, whose photos appear on many pages of this web site.  Most of the nativity figures were not used in any other playset, though the camel also appeared in Captain Gallant and the cow in farm sets.  


Several of the figures have fragile parts that are easily broken and are hard to find intact.  These include halos on the Holy Family and the angel, as well as the staff held by the shepherd.
All photos below courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev
1.  Baby Jesus
figure and manger are separate pieces
2.  Mary 3.  Joseph

4.  Angel 5.  Shepherd, kneeling 6.  Shepherd, standing

7.  Wiseman, kneeling 8.  Wiseman, standing with urn 9.  Wiseman, standing with chest
All photos above courtesy of Russian collector
 Denis Rylev


Photos below courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev
1.  Cow
2.  Goat
3.  Sheep
4.  Donkey
5.  Camel


The set included a 3-sided stable that -- like most Marx' playset structures -- was shaped from pressed steel, coated with tin, and attractively lithographed.  Several animals in pens are lithographed at the back of the interior, and two holes at the front peak of the stable allow a wire to hold the angel overhead.

Interestingly, the stable used the same stamping as the Sons of Liberty Tavern that was in the company's American Revolutionary War play sets, with only the lithography changed.  Someone must have used his imagination to come up with that money-saver!  The PFPC article mentions that the stable would make "...a great outbuilding on the Rifleman Ranch."  I'll have to admit that I never thought of that one!

Photo courtesy of David Schafer.

Jesus and His Apostles  (PL-663 and -664)

Louis Marx was a religious man, and in 1955 his company released a set of Jesus and His Apostles in the same pedestal style that they made U.S. presidents, generals, and Wild West heroes.  This set of 15 figures was featured in Playset Magazine Issue 60.  Fifteen, you ask?  Yes, Jesus had only 12 apostles, plus himself, which makes 13.  However, the Marx set includes 1) Matthias, who replaced Judas, and 2) Paul.

The 60mm scale, hard plastic figures were initially sold in boxed, complete sets.  They were later sold individually, painted in the company's Hong Kong facilities.  Playset Magazine also has a photo of a smaller scale, painted set of the figures from Hong Kong  that came in a box with each figure appearing in an arched window.

The disciples are all just about 70mm high -- including the 5mm base -- except for Jesus, who measures 73mm.  The Paul and Simon figures  are also slightly taller, due to 1) Paul's hand position and 2) Simon's staff.

The most notable figure from this set is the left-handed Jesus.  When the set was first released, Jesus had his left hand raised.  When Louis Marx saw that, he proclaimed that Jesus was right-handed and insisted that the mold be changed.  It was, but some left-handed versions were sold, and a few still exist.

1.  Jesus
2.  Jesus
Photo courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev
3.  Andrew 4.  Bartholomew

5.  James the Greater 6.  James the Lesser 7.  Judas 8.  John

9.  Jude 10.  Matthew 11.  Matthias 12.  Paul

13.  Peter 14.  Philip 15.  Simon 16.  Thomas

Other Religious Figures

Marx made a small number of other religious figures in 60mm scale and a sitting Buddha, as shown below.  "Small number" means both 1) few poses and 2) only a few copies of each pose.

The Moses figure below was discussed in PFPC Issue 75 after a collector stumbled on one at a flea market.  As of December 2001, according to the article, "less than six" of the figures were known to exist.  The article states they were made in a cream hard plastic with a Star of David imprinted on the bottom of the pedastal.  
In 2003, Playset Magazine Issue 9 included photos of Moses figures in both cream and ivory colors, one with and one without the star.  Based on the scarcity of the figure, it obviously was never released for sale.  Fortunately for us collectors, very nice re-issues are plentiful now and can be had for a few dollars, though looking at the two figures shown below, it is hard for me to believe that they were made from the same mold.  Perhaps it is just the camera angle?

Playset Magazine editor Rusty Kern discusses the Buddha figure below in PFPC Issue 56.  It is a somewhat facetious figure, because it was made with the face of Louis Marx.  But otherwise, it appears to be a standard representation of Buddha.  Rusty points out that for many years collectors were skeptical of its existence, because it was often discussed, but never seen.  It is one of the most rare Marx figures.  Rusty's article has photos of three such figures - the same figures as those below -- one in jade green, one in ivory, and one in sterling silver.  They are in the collection of Mark Hegeman.  Having seen them myself, I can tell you that these 4-inch figures are awesomely beautiful.  Though made of plastic, it is almost impossible -- or perhaps just plain impossible -- to tell that they are not actually made in jade, ivory, and a chrome-plated metal.

Pope Pious XII
Photo courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev
Pope Pious XII
Pope Paul VI
Photo courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev
Cardinal Spellman
Photo courtesy of Russian collector Denis Rylev

Photo not available - we welcome yours!

Buddha - silver
My apologies for the camera reflection!
Buddha - green Buddha - ivory
All photos of Buddha courtesy of Mark Hegeman

Miniature Play Sets

     Noah's Ark Accessories

The Noah's Ark Playset is often seen up for auction on Ebay, but has received little coverage in PFPC magazine or Playset Magazine.  
According to an article on Marx miniature playsets in PFPC Issue 18, the set came in a large and small version.  The smaller version, according to PFPC, came with more than 100 pieces, including 40 pairs of animals and six members of Noah's family.  The magazine article includes a few photos of the ark and figures.  We would welcome more information and/or photos of the sets.
Box for Noah's Ark Playset

     The Ten Commandments

I have never seen this playset, and it is likely that neither you nor I ever will.  However, if you continue to read, you will see that such surprises are still out there to be had!

Playset Magazine Issue 2 has a brief article about the set, including a few small photos.  PFPC Issue 18 has a description of the set and several photos, as well as a list of contents on page 29.  I have no idea if the contents shown are complete or how accurate the contents list is.  However, Playset Magazine reports that the set has 90 pieces, and the contents list includes approximately 90 items.

According to the Playset Magazine article, it was available from the 1971 Montgomery Wards catalog, long after The Ten Commandments movie, which might have spurred sales.  Rusty Kern of Playset Magazine reported in the article that the only complete set he has seen is owned by playset guru Jim McGough; the PFPC article states that photos in it are from a set owned by Mike McDermott.  The set includes Israelites, the Pharaoh's Army, chariots, pyramids, a foot-long mountain, the Golden Calf, and even the burning bush.  Photos also show a colorful playmat depicting the Red Sea.

As luck would have it for all of us, collector Mick Weitzel recently contacted me with photos of the set, which he had purchased at a flea market for...$2!  Based on the photos, I'm not sure that it is a complete set, but it could be.  Mick has wisely chosen to leave the pieces in the unopened bags, so they are difficult to see in the photos.  The number of Egyptian soldiers seems small, but overall the set certainly has a large number of pieces and bags appear to have the original staples.  The box is marked Montgomery Wards and is plain, unlike the artistically-decorated Noah's Ark box shown above.

The two tents seem to be the same style used in Civil War and Boys Camp playsets!

This was a pretty incredible find!
All photos below courtesy of collector Mick Weitzel

Parts from the Ten Commandments box
Note what appears to be the burning bush at right and unassembled cardboard pyramids upper left.
End of box and Montgomery Ward logo on box
Bag of Jewish figures
Note Moses on top in red cloak with hand outstretched

Second bag of Jewish figures
Bag of Egyptian figures
Close-up of mountain, rocks, and unassembled cardboard pyramids Close-up of golden calf and third bag of Jewish figures

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.