September 4, 2020
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m old. In fact, I am old enough to have begun my toy-collecting life as an adult in the time before there was such a thing as “The Internet.”
Back in those days, toy collectors got their news from magazines. There were several on the stands back in the early 90s: Jim Main’s Collectible Toys & Values, Lee’s Action Figure News and Toy Review, Tomart’s Action Figure Digest, Kalmbach’s Classic Toys, Toy Shop. I’m probably leaving out a few, but those were the leaders in the field.
Some of these magazines offered detailed, in-depth articles, printed on cheap newsprint, while others presented high-quality photographs of rare toys on expensive slick paper. They all filled a reference niche that the book market hadn’t quite caught up with yet. This was how you learned the history of the various toy companies and kept up with the hobby.
Then the internet happened and eventually they all went out of business.
Those classic toy magazines peddled nostalgia, and now those of us who were old enough to read them have nostalgia for them.
Happily, the nostalgia-merchants at Plaid Stallions.com (which is really Brian Heiler of MEGO Museum fame–Hi, Brian!) have created a new toy magazine, Toy-Ventures, and after a harrowing experience in crowdfunding, it is available and it’s an absolute treat.
Brian has a passion for the toys of his youth, particularly the lesser lights that don’t get that much attention from the average toy collector. Over seven years ago I raved about Brian’s book, Rack Toys, which looked at the cheap and cheesy toys sold in grocery stores and pharmacies.
This first issue of Toy-Ventures is devoted to Azrak-Hamway International, a little company that scooped up some terrific licenses and earned a spot in the hearts and fuzzy memories of millions of children of the 70s.
Azrak Hamway also scooped up Remco Toys along the way, and AHI, as they became know, produced a line of action figures that managed to ride the coattails of MEGO by snatching up one of the few major licenses that MEGO didn’t managed to get their hands on–The Universal Monsters.
The bulk of this first issue, printed on high-quality, thick paper with great photography and high production values, is devoted to AHI’s “Official World Famous Super Monsters Line” of figures, with full-color photos of the actualy toys, in and out of the package, the many package variants and knockoffs that came out over the years, and detailed notes. It’s pretty much the definitive guide to these figures.
However, there’s more AHI goodness in this issue. We get photos of rare, bizarre and sometimes cheesy rack toys that AHI made for Star Trek, Space: 1999 and Planet Of The Apes. There’s also a pretty entertaining piece on AHI’s parachute figures, and a great piece on one collector’s long hunt for AHI’s KISS wireless microphone. This is just a very well-produced magazine, with great production and graphics and terrific writing.
We even get a few pages that offer us a glimpse at other AHI product lines.
This first issue of Toy-Ventures is not only an entertaining read, but it’s also an impeccable work of reference. Kudos to Brian for hitting it out of the park with such a great theme for his first issue.
To get your own copy of Toy-Ventures, visit the MegoMuseum/Plaid Stallions/Odeon Toys store (where you can find some other pretty cool things to order) or check eBay. At the moment, it’s going to run you about sixteen bucks shipped to the US, and it’s well worth it if you have any interest in cool toys of the 1970s.
While you’re at it, check out MEGOMuseum. They just posted all sorts of huge news items about MEGO this week.
Radio Free Charleston Marathon
Longtime readers of PopCult probably remember that during Labor Day Weekend 1989, Radio Free Charleston made its debut on WVNS radio. Since RFC is now back in its original form as a radio program on The AIR, every Labor Day Weekend we do something to commemorate this. You can tune in to The AIR website, or just park your browser on this page and listen to this embedded radio player…
This weekend, starting at 5 PM, The AIR will run all of our 2020 episodes of the new, three-hour, Radio Free Charleston. This will take us well into next Tuesday, since we have to pause Sunday at Midnight for our overnight marathon of The Swing Shift. Right after this marathon concludes, the first twenty of these episodes will go into storage because they eat up so much server space.
If you want to listen to a great mix of music, with more than one-third of it being local, you know where you can find us.
That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features.