KNOCK IT OFF! a.k.a. The Wonderful World of Unlicensed Toys

This piece was originally published August 12th, 2013.

tumblr_mzta9fviFZ1qm348ao1_400For years I have been obsessed with knock off, unlicensed merchandise—famous brands, or characters, that are designed and sold with a seemingly complete disregard for anything, other than to cash in on something that has been proved to be a commercial success.

Or, as they are technically termed, Counterfeit Consumer Goods.

While the spectrum of pirated or unlicensed items can reach far into the areas of cigarettes, wine, fashion (fake Coach handbags), electronics (fake iPads) and all types of entertainment media (like that pile of DVD’s on the table at a flea market which has films just released to the theater!) it is for toys that I have a particular fondness. When you research counterfeit food and cigarettes, believe me, it gets scary.

Given any chance, I will happily scoop one up should I see a bogus toy for sale somewhere. Seeking out phony Godzillas has always been a dream knock-off toy for me, and I have collected some good ones of the great monster over the years.

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Knock-off Godzilla, sans fins, is still pretty cool.

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With many of these toys, attention to details are usually thrown out the window, as is any semblance of keeping the individual universes separate. Long before crossovers in comic book storylines, fake toys were mixing it up in gigantic, head-scratching way.

Here then, are some of the goofier finds that you, dear reader, can seek out and add to your collection.
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HUGO, MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES

This piece was originally published March 26th, 2012.

Hugo Post TemplateHere at Mystery Box H.Q. I was pondering a few column ideas as I often do, and one that I’d wanted to cover for some time was a fave toy from the ’70s called Hugo, Man Of A Thousand Faces.

I have been spending a few days up in the beautiful green of New Hampshire, and one night after laying in bed wondering if indeed this Hugo toy would make for a good column subject, I got up and made my way to splash some water on my face.

There staring back at me from one of the bathroom shelves was none other than a hand and body lotion named HUGO. 

If ever there would be a sign from the retro toy heavens telling me to write about something, then surely, this was it…


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Hey Menko! A Look at Japan’s Colorful Little Card Wonders

This piece was originally published April 20th, 2009 Menko Man IconMenko is two things: first, a card game that has been played by kids in Japan since Japan’s Edo period (1603 to 1868 a.k.a. the pre modern isolationist Shogunate era of Japan, usually the period where most bad ass Samurai films take place) and is surprisingly still around today, and second, the name for the actual cards themselves. Menko as a game is similar to marbles and with much respect to this actual game, which is ingrained in a multitude of Japanese childhood memories to this day, you probably won’t be playing Menko anytime soon, nor will I, but oh boy, a piece of cardboard with a colorful printed image on one side has rarely been as visually appealing and fun as the glorious Menko. The Menko card reflects Japan’s cultural history, pop history and team sports history. Being a close relative to the trading card, or even a Pokemon card, kids have collected them, traded them and probably sneaked a few into their pockets at the corner store…uhh, forgetting to pay at the register.

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