Archive for August, 2006

LEGO Birkenhead Point Keychains

The Keys to Successful Collecting

Promotional items are amongst the most sought after and valuable pieces in any line of toy collectables. From store displays such as Kenner’s Star Wars to salesman samples and awards such as Mattel’s Hot Wheels we all love having items in our collections that are outside the standard production stuff that was available to everyone.

As you may recall from my last post I’m a bit of a LEGO nut, so imagine my delight to find this promotional keyring in a lot of 80’s LEGO items I bought the other day.

Not only is it a promo item, it’s an Australian exclusive – and you know how I feel about those! I love finding stuff like this, it’s often a challenge to track down info about them. In this case I knew I had the vast resources of the web’s extraordinarily comprehensive LEGO collector’s sites such as Peeron, Lugnet and BrickLink. It was the latter who came to my aid with pics of a few of the little Elephant’s buddies from the long gone Birkenhead Point LEGO Centre in Sydney.

After a bit more digging I discovered that the Sydney LEGO Centre was apparently the only one outside Denmark, and that it closed down in the mid 1990’s. The keyring is probably from 1985, but I don’t know if they were giveaways or could be purchased as souvenirs or the like.
If you grew up in Sydney and remember the centre let me know, I’d love to share some memories of it.

Cheers All!


08 2006

Kenbrite Pocket People / Playmobil

Kenbrite Pocket People

As a kid who loved Lego in the 70’s I recall being a little sceptical when my brother bought home a Playmobil set one day. The figure (a fireman) was kind of clunky, his articulation was pretty limited and he was an odd scale – somewhere between my little Lego dudes and the bad boys of Kenner’s Star Wars. On the plus side he did have a maniacal grin on his face, and he was accessorised to the hilt with stuff like ladders, hoses and even a fire hydrant.

A few weeks later he brought home a bigger set, it had a bunch of fireman with red hats, a chief with a shiny gold hat, and best of all one of those handheld trampoline things that fireman hold out (rather optimistically I think!) at multi-story building fires. I was hooked!

My childhood figures went the way of the dinosaurs sometime during the last couple of decades, but when I began accumulating 70’s toys around 15 years ago I was delighted to add the set below to my collection.

I hadn’t thought much of it until I unearthed it again recently and went searching on the web for information on Playmobil. There are a bunch of great sites out there today, notably Collectibil , PlaymoBoard and the Playmo Database. I learnt a lot about Playmobil, but most importantly I found out that Playmobil was distributed in Australia in the 70’s (Probably 1974-78) by Kenbrite, who like Toltoys acted as a local distributer of successful international toybrands.

Through the sole Playmobil collector’s guide available Playmobil Collector I was able to see some great shots of the very first Kenbrite sets and figures, many of which were produced to Kenbrite’s specifications and include unique blister card sets (as opposed to the rest of the world’s boxed sets). What the guide didn’t mention (at least in the first edition) was that the Kenbrite Corporation at some point decided that “Playmobil” as a name just would not do for Aussie kids. Never mind that the first few years of product had used “Playmobil” on all the packaging and probably advertising (email me if you have any!), the brains trust sat up all night and came up with “Pocket People”. It’s not a bad name, but judging by the fact that I was a consumer of their toys in the late 70’s and had never heard of it I would say that it was either quickly abandoned or just spectacularly unsuccessful.

I haven’t been able to find out much about The Kenbrite Corporation, but by comparing the little “Pocket People” sticker on the Fort Union set (1976) box with the uniquely designed earlier sets I would say that sales of Playmobil in Australia didn’t live up to their expectations.

Kenbrite did have other lines to spend their time and money on, namely TYCO Trainsets and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, but unless someone can dig up some company info for me 🙂 we may never know the full story of the mysterious “Pocket People”.



08 2006

Toltoys Mr Potato Head

Idaho or Tasmania?

The Potato. Or, if you spell like Dan Quayle, Potatoe. Either way you’ve got to admit that it is one hell of a popular vegie. In fact you could say that they are the shrimps of the vegetable world. You can boil them, dice them, fry them, dip them, chip them and crisp them. They are so versatile in fact that it was almost inevitable that one day someone would decide that they would make a great toy. In went some pins (and other small objects) and out came Mr. Potato Head!

The very properly monikered Potato burst on to the seen more than 50 years ago, and according to Potato Heads has been going strong ever since. If you’ve learnt nothing else from me about Toltoys yet (and I suspect that may be the case) it’s that they knew a winner when they saw it. Not long after the Hassenfeld Brothers’ little spud conquered the Land of the Free the very busy Alex Tolmer & Assoc. aka Toltoys had a local version pumping out of South Melbourne to keep all the little spudophiles in Australia as happy as can be. As with many Toltoys licensed items one can only presume that Hasbro sent out some of the original artwork for the box and instructions for our local boys to customise. We added a few roo’s and the little buggers sold like cold beers in the outback!

So when the pig in Toy Story cheers on his buddy Mr. Potato Head with “Way to go, Idaho!” all I could think of was how crap that would sound had the Pixar boys originated down under – “Way to go, Tasmania!”



08 2006