Sign up to follow this blog:
If you are looking to see how much your melmac is worth, read this post.
Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Plasco Plastic Art Corporation Toys, Play Plastic Tea Set, Welcome to 1940

Plasco Toy Tea Set
The front of a box, or an advertising signs, with colorful graphics for sale at RetroChalet. 

In the 1940's. the PlasCo name was synonymous with great toy kits for kids.  Little girls could obtain a plastic tea set or dinnerware set just like Mommy's china ones!  They can still sometimes be found in the original boxes which were colorful lithographic designs of the 40s and 50s.  Often lithographed with bright vibrant colors, these sets were just lovely for collection and display. Some had matching forks, knives, and even napkins!  Not all pieces were properly marked but once you familiarize yourself with a few mint in box sets, then you can surely recognize it. 

PlasCo Tea Set from Ebay
Inside of the tea set box, from Geraldine's Toys, this set for sale on Ebay. 

Surely a must have for the little girls of the 1940's, who would spend hours playing tea with dolls and bears.  They even made a lot of dollhouse furniture, I am unsure if each piece was marked properly, so some may be hard to tell, but it is out there, and you can search for it. 

A Plasco Dollhouse furniture backstamp courtesy of GamGlamVintage on Etsy.

Plasco Dollhouse Furniture

For boys there were western sets, farm animals, toy soldiers and more.  Most of the information that I have found about this company comes from the Toy Soldier HQ, which you can peruse here:    TOY SOLDIER HQ INC <P> REL PLASTICS TOY SOLDIERS AND FIGURES FOR SALE (   who has a great history on PlasCo and many little boy toys for your perusal, a quite comprehensive list.  This will be helpful next time you are out thrifting or estate sale junking, you will know what to look for.  

The Name, So Confusing!

In fact, the name PlasCo wasn't really the name of the company per se.  It was the Plastic Art Corporation, a subsidiary of REL plastics molding that was created just for the manufacturing of a toy division.  So the name PlasCo was somehow obtained from the Plastic Art Corporation (how, I do not know because they left the Art word out completely, just sayin'.) 

The company thrived in the hey dey making towns for twenty solid years from the 40's to the 60's but later things slowed down and according to Toy Soldier HQ, they were defunct in the 1980's.  

A tea set in the original box is still appealing to plastics collectors who collect tea sets, plastic dishes, melamine dinnerware, or doll and bear themed collections. Mint condition can go from $30-$80 depending on piece count, style and rarity.  Many of the soldier and military collectibles are still popular among male collectors today, and are cute and detailed for small plastic toys. 

How cool it must have been to have toy set like this to play with your dolls and bears in a time before technology of today existed. Life was so simple then. 

Thanks for reading. Support my blog by perusing my shop:  RETROCHALET

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Stetson Marcrest Melmac Plastic Dinnerware

Stetson Melmac
This set, for sale has all the pieces from Etsy seller EddyEtcetera

In the 1940's every housewife wanted a new China dinnerware set, for her family or for entertaining, ceramic was pricey and often kept in the corner china closet for special dinners.  By the 1950's, melmac was the rage.  At first, companies selling plastic had to do some hefty marketing to compete with china, can you imagine the fact that their claim to fame was that it was "unbreakable" or would be replaced if broken or stained (coming from the person who worked at Meladur, she was in the replacement division, and had so many coffee cups weekly that were stained by coffee to replace.)  

Now, keep in mind melmac wasn't exactly cheaper than china dinnerware in a fancy department store, in fact, some lines were downright pricey at the time and would be on display at Macy's or Hecht's and a set for four or six would be just as costly as a high end ceramic set. Some housewives had to save for weeks just to afford a set of dinnerware.  

I have to give kudos to the marketing alliance that would make plastic dishes as expensive as ceramic, and make the housewives want them.  This however wasn't so easy on the china dinnerware manufacturers. It was direct competition to them and at first there was a whole ceramic dinnerware manufacturer alliance that plotted and planned on how to boycott the melmac and reinforce the fact their dishes were better. 

Marcrest Melmac
Note the tabbed sugar bowl in the Marcrest line is almost identical to the Stetson line. 

By the mid to late 1960's the smart manufacturers like Stetson decided to have melmac dinnerware molded for them (by a plastics molder) and add their name to it. It was an appendage of their regular lines, so in fact if you opened a department store catalog, you would see their ceramic dinnerware plus their plastic lines too.   Smart companies like Oneida, Stetson, Russel Wright's designs, will be found both in ceramic and melamine.  Others simply refused to jump on the plastic bandwagon, and this was their loss of profits in my opinion.  At first in the 1980's when I was collecting plastic, most dinnerware collectors scoffed at collecting the plastic lines, because they thought they were junk in comparison to ceramic.  However, over time, it was realized that even the designers who designed the plastic lines put great effort into making them.  From the details and designs on the dishes to the box, marketing and promotional material. 

Stetson stems from it's owners Louis B. Stetson who started the china company in 1919 and was located in Lincoln Illinois.  It was a family business and his nephew worked there too.   It is said that early production included other companies "blanks" along the way, and an article on Worthpoint indicates Stetson manufactured both melmac dinneware and pottery dinnerware.  Now, no discredit to the author but I am unsure if this was true.  If Stetson manufactured their own plastic line (they would have had to have a moulding facility just for plastics)  in their factory, but perhaps they were like many companies who contracted another moulding company to do so . Either way, the history on it is minimal and one day I will delve through my plastics encyclopedias's and debunk this one way of the other, but today I do not have the time. 

History indicates that Marcrest products would buy them out, and this makes a lot of sense because later examples of Stetson melmac and Marcrest Melmac look similar in design.  Marcrest had a great marketing mindset, and would sell a lot of melmac premiums from grocery stores to magazine mail order and relatively affordable at that.   You can see the similarities in the covered tabbed sugar bowls and the funky S design divided round serving bowls. 

Stetson Melmac

Even after Stetson was "out of business" Marcrest continued the solicitations and selling of the Stetson melmac products.  By 1963 the classic 1950's patterns were reworked into a new "Contour Line" which was super cool and hard this day to find.  Melmac collectors may scoff at the 1960's wheat and brown leafy designs but what's truly exquisite is the shape of the coffee cups.  They look like something out of the Jetson's. I personally call them cat eye cups. How fun it would be to have a set of just the cups and saucers in a 1950's kitchen! 

I have several sets of Marcrest and Stetson tucked away.  I always thought they were the perfect weight and design.  The 1950's pink Stetson sets will hold the most value if you are collecting them.  Everyone loves 1950's pink, and if you decided to collect only Marcrest or Stetson, you would be surprised just how many designs there are, many will remain unidentified unless you are lucky enough to search old magazines and find their official names. 

Collecting is fun, and keeps the items out of the landfill and at use in the home. 

Thanks for reading, if you like this article, share. Sponsored by: Retro Chalet Etsy

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hong Kong's Spinning Tops Gumball Machine Plastics Fantastic Era of Love

Hong Kong Spinning Tops
Rare color variants in spinning tops toys from Hong Kong find them at RetroChalet

I think my favorite vintage plastics are the tiny toy sized miniature creations that stemmed out of Hong Kong.  Most of these novelty gifts were just being phased out when I was growing up in the 70's. Hong Kong was big into making toys for the USA in the 60s and 70s, but by the 80's production shifted to China and seemingly, never turned back.  According to this article by Alisa Chau, she claims that Hong Kong was the largest toy exporter of the 70's. That must be true, because I remember seeing so many of these type toys growing up. 

Much like you see some of the manual gumball machines today, these things were everywhere. My parents could not go into a store, restaurant or mall without me seeing the brightly colored vintage gumball machines.  There were usually rows of them, the higher priced (25 cents) in the back and the cheapie ones in the front for only 5 cents or 10 cents.  The ones in the back usually had those plastic football helmets with peelable stickers on them.  For being a quarter, they were very detailed, stickers well-made and fun for you to put together. 

vintage spinning tops retrochalet

The toys were colorful and the size of acorns. I thought they were molded well. RetroChalet

I however, liked to spend my money wisely, and I could obtain five 5 cents gumball machine toys for the price of that one helmet.  So, I had a bunch of little novelty items come out.  Sometimes it was a pencil eraser, a mini plastic car, or a small replica of King Kong, (or sometimes I just wanted the Spree candies) however once in awhile I got lucky with a great quality molded plastic toy much like these, a plastic spinning top. 

hong kong plastic toys

I thought I did quite well for a quarter back in the day... Find them at RetroChalet on sale now.

Most , if you looked closely enough, had the tiny words "HONG KONG" printed on them.   For the rest of you who were not even a thought when I was growing up, I hope you can see the cuteness that I see in these toys.  They were molded quite well for "el cheapo" toys and some have even lasted all this time. 

I would imagine some will still be floating around much after the kids of my era are long gone. Plastic is fantastic, and less and less of it will be in existence one day.  It's nice to think of the story of the item rather than just collecting it.  What are your favorite toy memories? 

This post sponsored by Vikings in Maine, and Living a Vintage Life Podcast.