The origins of the German toymaker we know today as Playmobil can be traced to 1876, when a locksmith named Andreas Brandstätter opened a metal shop. By 1908, his son, Georg, took over the company from his father and renamed it after himself. Throughout the 1930s, the younger Brandstätter’s firm, renamed again as Geobra, made mostly telephones and cash registers, but it also produced some sheet-metal items for toy stores.

Plastic toys were added to the company’s line in the late 1950s, and in 1958 a molded race car was created as the first Playmobil prototype. But it would take more than a dozen years for the Playmobil look to coalesce, and the man credited with creating what would become a serious competitor to LEGO was Hans Beck, Geobra’s director of development.

One of the motivators behind Beck’s designs for Playmobil was the rising price of oil in the 1970s, which was pushing up the cost of plastic. In Playmobil, Beck created a world of toys for children that would be fun to play with despite their small size. In fact, their handheld size would be a key to their success.

Unlike LEGO, for whom figures were an afterthought to the building bricks themselves, Playmobil figures were an integral part of the toy from the start. Beck spent a lot of time on the figures, designing them after the look of children’s drawings, which are marked by exaggerated features and a liberal attitude when it comes to physical proportions. Thus the heads of Playmobil figures, which some fans called Klickies for the sound they would make when played with, lacked noses and were proportionally larger than the bodies they were attached to.

The first Playmobil system debuted at the Nurnberg Toy Fair in 1974. By all accounts, the reception was not overly enthusiastic, but an order from a Dutch wholesaler kept production going for a year. The initial systems featured medieval knights and horses in green boxes, construction workers with a pickup truck on a job site in blue boxes, and “Indians,” complete with feather caps for the braves, a canoe, and a teepee, in red boxes.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Playmobil Geobra 1970s 1980s Vintage Dollhouse Toys Furniture People LotNew Playmobil Set Lot 3772, 3225, 3506, 3794, 3715 - 1992 & 19931962 Deluxe Reading Topper Playmobile Dashboard With Box Playmobil Green Model T Truck 5640 Victorian Mansion Geobra Dollhouse Mib NewPlaymobil Furniture Lot Victorian Western Modern Dollhouse Playmobil 5300 Victorian Dollhouse Mansion Doll House Playmobil 5581 Royal Guard Victorian Mansion Geobra Dollhouse Misb New Klicky Playmobil X 10 Roman Brown Spears Accessories Figure Custom New Rare Lot 2015Very Rare Nisb Playmobil 5323 Victorian Mansion Garden Patio SetPlaymobil Rescue Ambulance, New Never Been Opened.Playmobil Custom Samurai Leader Warrior Knight Castle Lot Bid Now Playmobil Forest Woods Raccoon Badger Moose Buffalo Reindeer Rabbits Bears LotPlaymobil 6099 Limited Edition - Martin LutherPlaymobil Roman Legionnaire Warrior Guard Figures Custom Centurion Soldier LotPlaymobil 4577 Royal Guards X 6 Hats Figures Rare Lot Custom Toys Play Bid Mixed Lot Of Playmobil Family Figures, Furniture & Accessories JcPlaymobil Fao Schwarz 150th Anniversary 5955 Victorian City Life House CarriagePlaymobil Photographer 5401 Victorian Mansion New Geobra Dollhouse Klicky MisbVintage Playmobil: Cavalry HeadquartersPlaymobil Victorian Mansion Replacement Lot~ Walls~doors~windowsPlaymobil Lady In Black Dress Woman Old Times Playmobil FigurePlaymobil Western Indians Cowboys Tribe Figures Custom New Rare Geobra AgePlaymobil Organ Grinder 5550 Victorian Mansion Geobra Dollhouse Misb New KlickyHuge Medieval Playmobil Lot 100 + Knights, Weapons, Swords, Horses, Catapult,Vintage Playmobil 3465 Antarctic Igloo Eskimo Parts 20pc LotPlaymobil Black Knights Figures Axes Castle Lot New Rare Accessories BidPlaymobil Castle 6229 British Soldiers Redcoats Add-ons Custom Lot NewPlaymobil Falcon Knight's Castle - 48663 Playmobil Pirate Ships Plus Accessories. Hundreds Of Pieces. 3050 5238 5778Playmobil Vintage Space Station # 3536 With Astronauts & Other AcessoriesPlaymobil~#4820~fire Truck~with BoxPlaymobil Knights Stand Add On #7855 - All Pieces - Gently UsedPlaymobil 4961 Bandito Gnome Nib 2001 Age 4+Massive Lot Of Playmobil Medieval Castle Parts And PiecesPlaymobil 5316. Victorian Dining Room Set. Not Complete. Missing Apron,shoes.Playmobil 3 Samurai Soldiers Warrior Asain Knight Figure Katana Shield New LotPlaymobil Horned Helmet Lot Of 9 - Figures Firemen Gold Helmet Plus AccessoriesPlaymobil, Set Of 5 Custom Helmets Lion Crest, Roman, Figures, Rare, Knight, NewPlaymobil Martin Luther Special Rare Rare Rare Rar New / Sealed XxxxVery Rare 1984 Playmobil 9768 Animal Series By Mattel Complete Set With ExtrasVintage Playmobil Steam Engine & Passenger Set & Camper With Horse TrailerPlaymobil Western Building Saloon 3461 Retired From 1976, Cowboys, Horse, Table Playmobil Pirate Ship With Figures And Accessories 5778Lot Of 16 Playmobil Geobra & 123 Figures, Zoo / Safari Animals, JeepMixed Lot Of Playmobil Kids Figures People Playmobil Eskimo Alaska Seals Polar Bear Artic Dog Sled LotPlaymobil Sports Basketball Tennis Hockey Sledding Snowboard Ice Skating LotPlaymobil Carry / Take Along House Figures Furniture 4145 / 5763Playmobil Large Castle 3666 - Almost CompletePlaymobil Egyptian Pyramid #4240 With Box And Instructions Complete Mix Lot 5 The Black Series Nickelodeon Playmobil Misc Childrens Kids Toys 242358Playmobil Safari Adventure Set 5759Playmobil Sailor Boy Girl Pumpkin 5402 Victorian Mansion Geobra Dollhouse MisbPlaymobil Ambulance, Police Van And Helicopter With PeoplePlaymobil ~ Mixed Lot Of 4 Vintage Sets Pirates 3127 Christmas In The Park 4152Playmobil Skeletons Figures New Pirate Ship Swords Custom 2015 Cool Toys PlayPlaymobil Wolves Wolf Pack Animal Huge Lot Of 18Lot Of Playmobil Figures & Accessories - Vintage Pirates Knights Playset Parts 2 Civil War Plastic Cannons Toy Soldiers 1988 Playmobil Spring Loaded Army MenPlaymobil 4862 Speed Boat