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 Victorian Mansion House 5300 Fully Furnished Dolls HousePlaymobil Large School 4324 Fully Furnished With ExtrasPlaymobil Victorian Mansion #5300 Not Complete W/lots Of Extra Pcs 0ver 400 Pcs!Large Job Lot Of Mixed Playmobil Knights.Playmobil Victorian / Modern Farmers / Street Market Stall Figures & More18lb Lot Of Playmobil Castle Framework Parts & PiecesPlaymobil Victorian Mansion 5300, 5317 Kitchen,5318 Bath,people,furniture PartsLot Of 6 Playmobil Knight FiguresPlaymobil Seal Pool 3135 Complete - Zoo Sea Life Sets - Animals / FiguresPlaymobile Mid-evil Castle Set 3666Lot Of 6 Playmobil Guardsman FiguresPlaymobil 5401 Victorian Photographer 1990 New In BoxVictorian Sherlock Holmes Gentleman Mansion Figure Special 4501 Rare PlaymobilPlaymobil 5360 5340 Victorian Mansion 5300 Dollhouse Park Street Lamp Light PostPlaymobil Fort Glory 3806 Tracker 3397 + Indians Western Soldier Carriage LotPlaymobil Off-road Race Truck Set #4420Playmobile - Animal LotPlaymobil 20 Adult Figures For House / Farm / Airport / City Life / SchoolPlaymobile 3440Playmobil 4050 Lgb Diesel EngineLot Of 12 Playmobil FiguresPlaymobil School, House Lot, Furniture, People,victorian,skaters,animals,partsPlaymobile - Farm Animals LotFrench Soldier Figures, Maid, Table & Bench - Victorian Pirate Guards PlaymobilPlaymobil Butchers Shop 4412 ~ City Life / Shop Rare ++Playmobil 5803 Take Along Castle Play Set + Xtra Figures Weapons Instruction LotEnglish Soldiers With Cannon Victorian Guard / Pirate People Figures PlaymobilHuge Playmobil Princess Castle Fairy Lot Unicorn,king,mermaid,horses,furnitureLgb Playmobil Train X Cross Brass Track 1300 L.g.b. G Gauge ScalePlaymobil Bundle Figures Horse Trailer Bike Etc Playmobil Vintage #3449 Medival Knight MuseumVintage Playmobil Pirate Ship #32861981 Playmobil Geobra #3781 Lg Size Firetruck W/fireman Chief Tools & PolicemanLot Of 6 Playmobil Pirate FiguresPlaymobile Castle *rare* 3666Playmobil Mixed Lot Incl. Police Station, 27 Playmobil Figures, Animals Etc.Playmobile - Landscapes And Tree's LotHuge Lot Playmobil Toy Construction Figure Figures Accessories Truck Signs Pipes1989 Vintage Victorian Playmobil Piano Player #5551 Excellent Condition CompletePlaymobil Furnished School House # 5923 491 Pcs & Grocery Checkout # 4327 Vintage Playmobil 1980 Geobra 3536 Playmospace Space Station With AstronautsPlaymobil Set X10 Knights Figures ..f952.. L@@k !!!Vintage Playmobil 3730 - Circus Horses With Tent (boxed)Playmobil Wedding Church PlaceHuge Lot Playmobil Castle Knights Horse Etc... 3888 Robin Hood ?Little Red Riding Hood & Wolf Special Forest Medieval Magic 4562 Playmobil RareLot Playmobil Geobra Western Indian Village Teepee Horses Ponies Playset Toys Country Bavarian Family With Goats For Medieval Farm House Figures PlaymobilLot Of 4 Playmobil Native American FiguresPlaymobil Pirate Ship #3055 Rare Large Victorian Naval Clipper Unused Complete Playmobil Egyptian Pyramid Lot Of 15 Figures & Animals Plus PartsPlaymobil Set #5811 Gray Passenger Plane W/pilot Airplane Jumbo Jet Cargo *mint*Playmobil 123 Lot, People,animals, Race Car, Truck, Fence,dinosaur, Sofa,partsPlaymobil Hospital Operating Room Set 3459Vintage Playmobil Western Silver Ranch 3768 With Extras 1970'sPlaymobil Victorian Flower Vender With StickerVintage Playmobil Clowns - Set Of 6 - Excellent ConditionPlaymobil 5327 Victorian Dollhouse Living Room & 5318 Grande Mansion Bathroom Playmobil Christmas Santa Holiday Figures Accessories Lot Reindeer Sled GiftsNib Playmobil 3980 System X Hospital Room Doctor 1997 Factory Sealed Box