20th Century Toy Collector

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Toy ads from the 1980′s (Part 3) – He-Man

Hi and welcome back for another post where I will delve into the wondrous world of Dutch 1980′s toy store catalogs. In the past two posts I have concentrated mainly on Transformers, because (obviously) they rock. However, the 1980′s were a veritable gold mine of cool (and less cool) toy lines, which you could probably spend life times exploring and collecting. The one toy line that immediately springs to my mind right behind Transformers is none other than Masters of the Universe! Let’s have a look.

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“By the Power of Grayskull!”

I don’t know exactly when Masters of the Universe came into my life, but I know it was there right before Transformers. I remember that the cartoon started airing on Sky Channel somewhere during 1985. Sky Channel was a pan-European satellite channel that used to broadcast over large parts of Europe in the 1980′s. Mattel, the maker of the Masters of the Universe toy line, was believed to have been frustrated with the lack of Saturday morning cartoons in Europe and subsequent possibilities of airing commercials for their product. In the mid-1980′s the concept of  Saturday morning kids TV was still alien to most European countries, where the status quo was still mostly controlled by government owned broadcasters.

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Sky Channel logo (1984-1989)

This changed in July of 1985 when Sky Channel launched a 4-hour kids programming block called Fun Factory. Mattel is regarded as one of the catalysts behind this new concept as it immediately signed a contract with Sky Channel for a whole year’s worth of commercials during the Fun Factory program. The Masters of the Universe cartoon could be seen as part of Fun Factory every weekend and the commercial breaks were filled with many commercials from Mattel pimping the eponymous toy line. Good times! I still fondly remember buying my first MOTU action figure in 1985 in my local toy store. I convinced my mom to pay 18.95 Guilders for Skeletor. Later on I would also get He-Man and I also had a Dragon Blaster Skeletor a few years later.

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Masters of the Universe – V&D (November 1985)

Above you see the oldest Masters of the Universe ad I was available to find, which is from Vendorama #13 from November 1985. Vendorama was a monthly publication from Dutch department store Vroom & Dreesmann. Back in the 1980′s department stores in the Netherlands often had very respectable toy sections. In this ad we can see Castle Grayskull and a couple of action figures including He-Man, Orko, Evil-Lyn and Fisto. I love the creativity that goes into these scenes. I’m not sure if this is stock photography that was supplied by Mattel Europe or whether this was work done specifically for this V&D catalog, but it looks great. What kid could resist?

“I Have the Power!!”

I’m still not sure when the Masters of the Universe toy line actually hit the Netherlands. I think it was 1984, but it was definitely not before the cartoon started airing on Sky Channel that the popularity of the line started to mushroom. The only thing that managed to trump the Masters of the Universe toy line popularity wise was the Transformers, which started to gain traction after its premiere on Sky Channel in November 1985. But let’s get back on track! Here’s another late 1985 catalog, which might seem familiar, because part of it was featured in an earlier post.

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Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The Transformers shown on this catalog page were discussed in this post, but today it’s the Masters of the Universe stuff we’re interested in! At the top of the page we see a nice diorama, with both Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain, Panthor and Battle Cat and a host of action figures. Let’s have a closer look at that.

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Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The thing that strikes me the most is that Snake Mountain is so much more expensive as Castle Grayskull. Now, I know that Snake Mountain has the added bonus of electronics inside in the form of a microphone that you could talk into, which would alter your voice to create a “scary” effect. But still, it’s almost twice as expensive as Castle Grayskull! I don’t know how the price of both castles compared in the U.S., but I do know that Castle Grayskull was released in 1982 as part of the toy line’s introduction and that Snake Mountain did not see a release until the third wave in 1984. Maybe Castle Grayskull was available in the Netherlands earlier than Snake Mountain as well, which could also account for the big price difference.

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Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1985)

The lower half of the page is shown above. You can see He-Man on top of Stridor and a basic price list beneath. Action figures seemed to cost 17.95 Guilders a piece at V&D, while I remember they were 18,95 at Intertoys in my home town.

“By the Power of the Discount!”

Below is a photo of the Masters of the Universe page from the November 1986 Bart Smit catalog. As you can see some of the stuff from the year(s) before was being discounted. Castle Grayskull has dropped in price from 89.50 to 79 Guilders. Also, the He-Man and Battle Cat combo was dropped from 49.95 to 37.95! Boy, if only I could find a mint-in-box specimen for that price today!

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Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1986)

But the action figures still remained the same at 17.95 and even worse, the new 1986 “Horde” action figures are priced at 19.95!! Damn. For your reference, that would be about 20 euros today in 2012. I also cannot believe how friggin’ expensive Spydor was! 89.50 Guilders! On the other hand, there was some ancillary stuff available as well on the cheap, like this Masters of the Universe “Flashlite”:

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Masters of the Universe Flashlite – Bart Smit (November 1986)

And how about the awesone Weapons Pak shown in the photo below for just 7.95 Guilders? LOL. I happen to have this Weapon Pak, but the photo below is one of the U.S. version. The European version has two logos on the card (an English and French logo). The funny thing is that I think I paid more than double for this Weapon Pak in 2011 compared to the price shown below. That’s vintage toy collecting for ya… ;-)

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Masters of the Universe – Bart Smit (November 1986)

“By the Power of the Recommended Retail Price!”

So here’s another toy catalog from late 1986, this time from Vedes. What strikes me is that the prices shown here for Snake Mountain and Spydor are identical to those at Bart Smit. I guess Mattel was good at convincing the retailers not to compete too much in price in late 1986.

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Masters of the Universe – Vedes (Sinterklaas 1986)

Another cool looking diorama from Vedes though, who were also repsonsible for a cool looking Transformers diorama that I showed in my previous posting here.

“Princess of Power”

Although it probably had been available earlier in the U.S., in September of 1986 a Masters of the Universe spin-off toy line was launched in the Netherlands by Mattel, called She-ra: The Princess of Power. She-ra was meant to be an action-fantasy toy line that would appeal to girls. It was supported by a cartoon series made by Filmation, just like He-Man.

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She-Ra: Princess of Power – Bart Smit (November 1986)

Although I did not dig the toy line, I do admit to watching the cartoon on Sky Channel’s Fun Factory and even enjoying it (though not as much as He-man of course).

“One More Thing….”

Before I leave you today I would like to draw your attention to an obscure little toy line that I found inside the Bart Smit November 1985 catalog on the page right next to the Masters of the Universe page. It is called “Defenders of the Planets” and it does not seem to make an effort to pretend not to be a straight Masters of the Universe rip off. I mean… have a look at this:

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Defenders of the Planets – Bart Smit (November 1985)

Not convinced? Have a look at this dude right here on the three-wheeler, called Orion:

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Defenders of the Planets – Bart Smit (November 1985)

If this is not a straight He-Man rip-off I don’t know what is. They even ripped of He-Man’s awful medieval hair cut and managed to make it worse by throwing in a 1970′s vibe to his coiffure! But I have to admit, I’m a real sucker for obscure toy lines like these. If I ever come across some Defenders of the Planets stuff inside its original packaging, I will be sure to pick it up! :-)

“To Be Continued”

Loads more of 1980′s toy ads to come in the next couple of weeks whenever I have an afternoon to myself, so stay tuned!

posted by 20th Century Toy Collector in He-Man,Toy Store Catalogs and has Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Toy ads from the 1980′s (Part 3) – He-Man”

  1. Arkvander says:

    These are great, the dioramas are so much more intricate than the Transformer ones. I guess Greyskull and Snake Mountain probably lend themselves to rocky outcroppings better. Looking forward to more!

  2. Another amazing post!
    I love the 80s He-Man diaramas and also the “box art” for the toys, it just gives them so much feel and once more bring back warm fuzzy feelings. Of course all these awesomeness can’t save He-Man from his awful medieval hair cut!

    • 20th Century Toy Collector says:

      Thx guys! And agree completely regarding MOTU box art! The box art paintings for vintage MOTU are just so amazing. It was so different from the Filmation cartoon and held a promise of a savage and mystical/magical world. I still get that same feeling of amazement and wonder when I see MOTU box art.

  3. Marc says:

    I’m also a big fan of the MOTU box-art and really would love to own some of the original art drawings. But I guess they’re pretty hard to find. I can also remember the Defenders toyline and I even owned 1 or 2 figures (the one with the helmet for cerrtain). But even then these figures were evry unpopulair among me and my friends. I guess we were all very brand-oriented at a young age because we had the same attitude towards the Go-Bots :P.

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