The Marx Playset Monograph Part 2 Begins Here
The Marx Playset Monograph Part One (1955-1969) Can Be Found Here
Marx Dinosaurs and Dinosaur Playsets 1955 to 1980-
Marx Mold Dinosaurs post 1980
By Joe DeMarco and Mike Fredericks
Marx dinosaurs and playsets 1970 to 1980:
By 1969, Marx Toys was a division of the Quaker Oats Company and had not produced a prehistoric themed playset for half a dozen years. While the classic years of Marx playsets had passed, new versions of the still popular toy sets were still being produced at the Glen Dale, West Virginia factory and it was at this time that Marx decided dinosaurs could be a good seller again.
In 1970, Marx re-issued their Prehistoric set #3398, originally released in 1961. The large box that contained the contents featured a photograph of the toys on the lid; apparently a prototype, as the photo doesn’t exactly match the contents in color or in figures provided. The set included the same three piece mountain in hard plastic minus any marbling of the plastic that the 1961 version had and a set of palm trees and ferns. A booklet was again included along with the same cavemen figures but now in a dark tan colored plastic. The dinosaurs were green and gray, now in the waxy-colored plastic that Marx was using for easier mold release.
Figures in this later style of plastic are sometimes called the Heritage version as Marx first starting using this plastic exclusively with their Heritage series of playsets in the late 1960s. It should be noted the grays and greens used in this production were very consistent and really showed no variation as most Marx originals did, even in individual color. In other words, the 1970’s green was always identical in look style and feel. Most collectors refer to it as “mint” green in color. Likewise the gray was a very consistent light pale gray color.
In the mid seventies, Marx produced a new idea for a prehistoric playset involving a huge mountain. First, in 1974, came “One Million B.C. #3421. The large box portrayed the playset in fine litho artwork. The hard plastic terrain piece was made up of a river base and two large mountains with connecting bridges of wood and of stone. It’s an impressive array. Two plastic boulders were included for dropping on the heads of unwary dinosaurs below. (Using similar mountains, Marx also released a western playset and a “Guns of Navarone” playset at about the same time.)
In 1975, a different version of this playset came out now titled, “Prehistoric Mountain #3414.” The new box’s packaging showed a photograph of the playset instead of litho art. In 1977, the prehistoric mountain set came out again as “Giant Prehistoric Mountain #4304. The prehistoric mountain playsets included the green, gray and red-brown colored prehistoric animal figures as seen in the 1970 #3398 set. The hard plastic mountain is a yellow-brown color.
In 1978, Marx again released a version of this playset #4208. The box top again showed a photograph of the contents set up in a diorama scene. The three piece terrain mountain was now cast in a gray plastic. The remaining contents were similar; cavemen, palm trees and ferns, a booklet plus now a vinyl play mat was included. The biggest difference was that the first series dinosaurs were now cast in a ghastly cobalt blue and bright banana yellow plastic. The second series prehistoric animals were produced in a reddish brown plastic.
Gone from this set was the Plateosaurus, Cynognathus, Sphenacodon, broad-horned Triceratops and first issue Dimetrodon.
Even in more recent recast sets, these Marx figures are absent. Perhaps this mold was lost or damaged beyond repair. But a more believable rumor is the small mold went with the Flintstones molds, as it had been used when they were making those sets. Once separated, the mold has not been re-located.
That's why it wasn't around when the other dino molds were sold.
It was then lost (or at least not used). Gone too by this time in Marx sets were the Pot Bellied T-Rex, Kronosaurus and original version Brontosaurus, but these figures have been seen more recently as recasts.
A version of this #4208 set, called #4209 was available for catalog sales from stores like Sears. The contents were jammed into a much smaller box with green litho artwork on the side. It read, “Prehistoric Dinosaur Play Set” and “© 1979 Louis Marx & Co. Glen Dale, W. Va.”
In 1979, the very last of the Marx playsets appeared in a cereal box-sized Storage Box playset named “The World of Dinosaurs” #4130. It featured a large 18” x 24” scenic vinyl plastic terrain play sheet, cavemen, palms and ferns, a new vacuum-formed rock formation and an informative sheet of paper describing the different animal figures.
There were fourteen prehistoric animal figures inside, again in the yellow and blue plastic as seen before. The colorful box had a full color photo of the set on one side and a very nice painting of a prehistoric scene on the other side (which had little to do with the actual figures included inside).
After this, the golden age of Marx playsets was totally over. This small set was a far cry from the large sets of the 50s and 60s and most collectors would agree that Marx’s heyday had been over long before this last set was produced.
Marx Dinosaur Mold production post 1980
Although it seems most avid dinosaur collectors would cherish, relish and prefer “original” Marx mold dinosaurs and playsets, there is an interesting history and addendum to the Marx saga, as the demise of the Marx Toy Company did not usher in an end to the Marx dinosaur existence.
Since Marx went defunct in the late 1970’s, the Marx dinosaur molds have had an interesting history of transference. The ownership has been varied and the production consistent, if not sketchy. The following companies have produced Marx dinosaurs since 1980 to the best recollection of most collectors:
1982—Spaulding Dinosaurs Company
1993-1995—Dapol of England
1998—ReMarx—Marx of Miami
In the early 1980’s the Spaulding Dinosaur Company, more commonly known in collecting circles as SDC produced a series of carded dinosaur sets directly from Marx molds.
The interesting aspect of this production is their carded sets consisted of two distinct series of Marx mold pieces and two distinct series of MPC mold pieces.
Each card contained four dinosaurs and the Marx sector was directly molded from the Marx revised mold PL-077 only.
No original issuance Marx molds were ever owned by SDC.
The Marx revised mold dates to about 1960 and contained eight classic Marx pieces referred to earlier in this chapter which featured the skinny (Sleek) T-Rex.
The cards were broken down with the Trachodon, Dimetrodon, Triceratops and T-Rex on one card and the Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Anklyosaurus and Allosaurus on another. Additionally, the other SDC cards were taken directly from the so-called larger MPC molds (Megatherium, Parasaurolophus, Wooly Mammoth, Macrauchenia, Styracosaurus). Specifics to these molds are fully described in the MPC article in this publication.
SDC dinosaurs are very well made. The plastic is clean and crisp but they are distinguishable from original Marx via texture and color.
They have the original Marx markings regarding dinosaur name imprint and size but SDC are often a pastel color. They did make many standard Marx colors but the dinosaur plastic texture is somewhat waxy in texture, a bit glossy and overtly clean in detail. The gray pieces, however, are very hard to tell apart from 1950’s issuance.
SDC produced their products for sale mainly via Sinclair gas station outlets and the dinosaurs were produced for a short two year time period.
In 1984 a gentleman named Chuck Saults from Texas purchased the SDC Marx and MPC molds and to all knowledge is still in possession of them. Revised Marx mold pieces have not been produced to most accounts since the SDC series.
A favorite Marx production of many is the dinosaur pieces manufactured by Superior Toy Company from Chicago circa 1986-1988.
The Superior pieces are in brightly swirled and marbled colors of green, gray and brown and are simply a dynamic presentation of the Marx product in a more brittle soft plastic. Superior owned three original Marx molds (large, medium and second series) therefore they produced seventeen different Marx dinosaurs.
As was referred to earlier, the small Marx mold was either lost or damaged along the Marx lines and has never been recast by any company. Superior also manufactured the Marx cavemen and the Marx foliage pieces in their playsets. Superiors were not sold separately and could only be purchased via three distinct “Rulers of the Earth” Playsets.
The sets came in small, medium and large sizes and contained varied dinosaur presentations along with cavemen and trees and rock formations. The rock formations were Superior’s main unique addition to the sets. The sets came in consistent orange colored boxes depicting a ferocious T-Rex face in the upper right corner looking over a prehistoric scene below.
There’s a small square insert with the real life contents pictured within. The largest of the playsets contained all seventeen dinosaurs, two sets of brick red cavemen, all the trees and fronds as well as the giant mountain section from the One Million BC Marx playset and a booklet.
It’s a beautiful and comprehensive set. The smaller sets had varied pieces from five to eleven dinosaurs with accompanying accessories in smaller numbers.
The Superior trees are noted for having a beautiful black trunk as opposed to Marx’s original browns. The color combination of dinosaurs differed in every set however so the quest among collectors is to find all seventeen in each marbled color. In today’s market this is a challenge indeed.
Perhaps the least known, least circulated, but overall best Marx dinosaur mold production was created by Whitehall Games of Newton, Massachusetts.
Whitehall, like Superior, owned three of the Marx molds and produced the pieces in distinct and memorable colors; reddish brown, deep rich green, butterscotch, burgundy and tan.
The quality control of Whitehall pieces is impeccable and they are perhaps, crisper, better renditions than even Marx playset originals. The Whitehall pieces have no mold sprues, no excess plastic, and no flaws.
They are perfectly molded and are virgin like in presentation. The colors are distinct and the only true giveaway as to the production company as they are different than any other Marx production color.
The Whitehall pieces were sold loosely and regionally on the east coast mainly through museum shops.
But a lucky few may own the Whitehall “Dinosaur World” playset which included Marx and MPC recast dinosaurs and a very unique volcanic playset base.
It’s an uncommonly rare item in today’s collecting realm.
From the late 80’s to the early 90’s Toystreet Inc., of Caldwell New Jersey released a bevy of differing playsets under the title, “Land of the Dinosaurs.”
Many were released in plain brown mailing cartons and sold via Sears and J.C. Penney outlets but many came in colorful picture boxes depicting the dinosaurs on the cover akin to old Marx sets from the 1970’s.
In an obvious effort to be as true to older Marx sets as possible, Toystreet attempted to include the entire gamut of Marx mold dinosaurs.
Because the Marx small mold was no longer accessible, however, this task was impossible.
But Toystreet did the next best thing by somehow obtaining the MPC small mold and including those small pieces in with the other three standard Marx molds.
Therefore, original Toystreet sets have the Marx large and medium mold pieces as well as the second series. They also include the MPC small mold pieces of Cynognathus, Dimetrodon, Plateosaurus and Pteranodon giving the playset an older fashioned feel to it and a sense of completion in that it lacks only the Triceratops and Sphenacoden in regards to contents. Because of this duality of set pieces, the playsets came with both a Marx and MPC version of the Pterandon and all originals contain at least twenty-one total dinosaur pieces and some versions were released with multiples of the small MPC mold group.
Unfortunately the Toystreet moldings are an inferior plastic blend and generally a harder plastic production.
The dinosaurs tend to look cheap and washed out and in an effort to appeal to a youthful audience they most often colored the dinosaurs in wildly gaudy colors; many of them deep rich pastels. Many times the dinosaurs came in the playset still on sprues so they had ungainly mold connecting marks when unhinged. The set also contained a cheaper plastic version of the Marx interlocking lack mountain system (usually bright orange in color) from the #3398 playsets as well as two sets of the Marx cavemen, Marx and MPC trees and fronds, a booklet and play mat.
It was a comprehensive playset and a throw back to the golden years unfortunately Toystreet quickly began cutting down components and sets got increasingly sparser with each release. Subsequent sets did not contain the Second series mold monsters and mammals, then even later releases replaced the plastic mountain set with a cheesy cardboard pictorial mountain.
The original Land of the Dinosaurs set is difficult to find these days but the revised cheaper editions are quite common in today’s market.
DAPOL of England
Dapol Ltd are a Welsh company which designs and manufacturers model railway products at its factory near Chirk in Wales close to the border with England.
The Dapol trading name is known throughout the World for its model railway products having purchased the molds and designs from Airfix and also the former Hornby Dublo range from G & R Wrenn.
It is not known whether the dinosaur productions from Dapol were intended as accessories to the train production or not, but for a few years in the mid 1990’s Dapol manufactured the Marx dinosaurs in small bagged sets called “Mesozoic Monsters.” Dapols are very much in demand today and could be the rarest and most highly sought after of all the recast series.
They released the same complement of seventeen figures using the three existing Marx molds.
Dapol also used the small MPC mold in manufacture as well. Dapols are easily distinguishable from most Marx mold production simply by color.
They were released in two versions; coffee colored and black (actually a very dark gray).
The black presentation is very dynamic.
Like the Toystreet dinosaurs, Dapol were done in a harder plastic style and are usually if not always matte finished.
It was during the Dapol run, however, that the Megatherium mold was believed to be damaged.
For that reason, Dapol Megatheriums exist in less quantity than most other models from their set and all subsequent Marx mold productions do not include the Megatherium.
Dapols are very rare in American markets and even so, nowadays, overseas.
Marx of Miami—ReMarx
Capitalizing on the success of "Jurassic Park", Marx of Miami released a “Jurassic Isle of Terror Playset” in and around 1996.
It is believed this company set about to recapture, en masse, many of the older Marx molds (even non dinosaur) which had been strewn across the planet after the Marx Company demise in 1979. Included in the recapture were the three Marx molds which presumably were purchased from Dapol.
The “Jurassic Village--Isle of Terror” playset is a giant conglomeration of playset toys and accessories based on the theory of the armed services fighting off a dinosaur invasion. The set includes a bevy of army men with jeeps, helicopter and fighting vehicles.
The set also includes a playmat, trees and fronds, houses, a booklet and varied other playset accessories including sixteen Marx recast dinosaurs of equal complement to other re-issues minus the Megatherium plus the prehistoric mountain piece.
Although it’s a nifty presentation, the dinosaurs are mainly colored in base coffee brown and cobalt blue.
The blue is a ghastly shade for dinosaurs and it’s the one true drawback to the set. The box is huge and a space eater as well.
The dinosaurs were never sold separately by the Re-Marx Company and are only accessible through this particular playset.
Marx of Mexico—post 2000
The main three Marx molds are currently under the ownership of Marx of Mexico.
Although not technically the name of the company, Marx of Mexico offers a bevy of former Marx figures and playsets in recast form.
All in all the product is nice quality and the dinosaurs come in nice earthy shades, particularly a nice brick red color. Many of the Mexico issue were sold through dollar stores across America in so called “Bags of Fun.” Which also contained Nabisco and Sinclair recasts.
The following is a list of known playset releases by the Marx Company. Missing numbers appear on some inventory records but there is no known existence of sets other than the numbers listed below:
#3390—Prehistoric Times Playset 1957
P-1029 --Prehistoric Animals and cavemen 1957 Polka Dot Box
#3389-- Prehistoric Playset—Series 500 1957 Plain brown Box
#3389—Prehistoric Playset—series 500 1957 Litho Drawing Cover
#3391—Prehistoric Playset 1958
#3388-- Prehistoric Times Playset 1958
#3393-- Prehistoric Playset 1959
#3394—Prehistoric Playset 1959
#3397-- Prehistoric Times Playset 1960*
#2650-- Prehistoric Playset—rare small set 1961
#3392-- Prehistoric Times Playset 1961
#0645-- Prehistoric Playset 1962
#3375-- Prehistoric Playset 1962*
#3398-- Prehistoric Times Playset 1963
#3398-- Prehistoric Times Playset Revised Edition 1970
#3241—One Million B.C 1974
#3414—Prehistoric Mountain 1975
#4304—Giant Prehistoric Mountain 1977
#4208—Prehistoric Dinosaur 1978
#4209—Prehistoric Dinosaur 1978
#4130—World of Dinosaurs 1979
*Exist in Marx inventory records but there are no known physical existences of this set.
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