My friend Brian Heiler (of Plaid Stallions and Mego Museum fame) has written a an amazing book called Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings. It is a 144 page examination of those cheap, breakable toys your mom might buy you from the pegs at the grocery store, or the drug store, or the five and ten. Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings has hundreds of color pictures of rack toys from the 1950s through the 1990s.
What sets rack toys apart from the more expensive ones is their creativity and the freewheeling and often bizarre license/product pairings. Most of the toys in the book were made before the strict style guides restricted what licensors could do, and Brian uncovered some hilarious and inexplicable toys including this Trapper John medical kit and this Love Boat Barber Shop.
However, the book isn’t limited to just goofy toys from TV shows; it’s full of great pictures of vintage rack goodness including superheroes, monsters, science fiction, TV and movie stars, cartoon characters, generic toys, and unlicensed knockoffs… the stuff you had as a kid or the stuff you wanted to have. There’s something for everyone here.
For the Superman fans reading this site, there are only a few pages of Superman goodies, largely because Superman just didn’t get the cheap rack toy love like a gadget-heavy hero like Batman does. My favorite Superman item in the book is a knockoff Superman parachute figure from Italy whose card features a colorful, somewhat psychedelic design and which simply reads “BONG!” (Please sell it to me when you are tired of it, Brian!)
Flipping through the book, I am struck by how many of the toys I recognize and remember, but there are also many, many toys I never knew existed. Because of the Rack Toys‘ broad scope, it’s a both nostalgic journey and a learning experience, and, thanks to Brian’s comedic gifts, often flat-out hilarious. I highly recommend it.
Brian’s web site has some sample pages for viewing here.
Read an interview with Brian about his book at Collector’s Weekly.
To order a copy of Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings, visit the Plaid Stallions store. It’s also available on Amazon, but you should order directly from Brian because he’ll throw in some neat extras like Plaid Stallions promo cards.