Marx plastic figures and playsetsBy Mark Chervenka
Marx plastic figures and playsets
reissues and new look-alikes
From the late 1940s to 1976, Marx Toys produced a series of large elaborate playsets. Each set was designed with a particular historical theme or tied into a popular movie or television series. Some typical examples are the American Civil War, Cape Canaveral, Davy Crockett, Zorro, Ben Hur, The Untouchables, and Wagon Train. Over several hundred different sets and variations were made.
These sets contained highly detailed plastic figures in historically accurate poses and uniforms plus large numbers of accessories and usually one or more metal buildings. Original boxed sets with all the figures now sell on average for $400-$600 with rare sets priced from $1,000 to $4,000.
The original Marx company was sold to Quaker Oats in 1972 which in turn sold it to a European company, Dunbee-Comex, which went bankrupt in 1980. At that time, many molds were bought by American Plastics which has since then sold or leased the original molds to a number of U.S. and foreign manufacturers. In addition to the problem of reissued figures from original molds, there are also plastic figures made in entirely new molds that appear very similar to Marx figures. First, we'll look at the Marx reissues then discuss look-alike pieces.
Reissues from Marx molds
The good news about reissues is that most are a different type of plastic and in different colors than originals. For example, the reissue Davy Crockett statue in Fig. 2 is soft plastic (flexible rifle) but the original is hard plastic. Unfortunately there is no book or list of originals from which to make comparisons. Marx collectors and dealers pick this knowledge up through experience and sharing their information with each other.
For beginners and general line dealers, the book that contains the most information on original Marx figures is Collecting Toy Soldiers by Richard O'Brien, Krause Publishing. O'Brien's book has 20+ pages on Marx figures with over 100 photos including brief descriptions and market prices. You should be at least able to correctly identify a figure and that will make asking about colors that much easier.
Under no circumstances should you rely on marks for estimating the age of Marx figures and accessories. Many figures, old and reissues, are marked with dates from the 1960s in Roman numerals. Companies reusing original molds have the option to use the original mark (if any), alter or modify the original mark or entirely remove the mark.
Although we cannot offer a positive way of identifying all the reissues at this time, we wanted to alert readers to their existence.
You can't judge age from marks. Marks with dates from the 1960s appear on many new reissues. These marks are found on both old and new pieces.
List of Marx reissues
(Partial list only)
Wagon Train-240 pcs. cowboys-Indians-cavalry
US Civil War (Gettysburg)- 230 pcs. cavalry-Indians
Indian Pass-180 pcs. cavalry-Indians
Revolutionary War- 200 pcs. British troops-colonists
Ben Hur-211 pcs. gladiators-chariots-backgrounds
Groups of figures & accessories
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: Union infantry, Confederate infantry, cavalry, long coat cavalry, cannon, mortar, hospital wagon, Southern mansion, falling horse and rider.
AMERICAN WEST: 54mm Indians, 50mm cavalry, covered wagons w/horses or oxen, 4 poses of horses, Boonesboro pioneers
ALAMO: Mexican infantry shako hat, Mexican infantry round hat, fort accessories
REVOLUTIONARY WAR: British soldiers, colonists, cannon
WW II: German tanks, troop carrier, motorcycle; 54mm GIs, Russian infantry, French infantry, Japanese infantry, 4 planes
Pat Bradie, Dale Evans, Bullet, various Davy Crockett figures
New Marx look-alike figures
Several manufacturers now offer new figures designed to be used with Marx playsets such as the Civil War and Alamo figures shown here. Although these figures are now individually marked "China", importers could legally mark only the packaging with the country of origin and stop marking the pieces themselves. Current marks are very small and difficult to see if figures are in bags or boxes. Be alert for these pieces being added to an original playsets to increase the value. Generally, Marx figures, both reissue and old, have more detail. Colors of the look-alikes are also different but color can be confusing because of new Marx reissue colors. Look-alikes average 10 cents to $1.