Beyond the realm of individual action figures lies the land of the playsets. These boxed toy packages include buildings, landscapes, figurines, and accessories to recreate entire worlds in miniature. Playsets range from general themed environments like battlegrounds, farms, or jungles, to places with specific character and pop-culture references, like Roy Rodgers’ Rodeo Ranch or Masters of the Universe’s Eternia.

The undisputed leader of playset manufacturing was the American toy company Marx, which was famous for its model trains. Anticipating the need for metal conservation during World War II, Marx began developing a new plastics department at its factory in the 1930s. Plastic toys could be produced much more cheaply than their metal predecessors. Indeed, some of Marx’s original sets include hundreds of individual pieces.

Building on the popularity of toy soldier and battle-scene sets, Marx eventually expanded the genre to include every historical or fictional setting imaginable, although the playset's "plot" usually still involved two groups in conflict, like cowboys and Indians or the Confederate and Union armies. Some of the rarest Marx sets are its Prehistoric Playsets, which were produced in 1961 and included plastic dinosaurs, cavemen, trees, and rocks.

Typically, playsets incorporated an architectural centerpiece like a castle or fort, which provided the backdrop for the miniature environment. Despite the widespread use of plastic in the 1950s and '60s, these buildings tended to be made of lithographed tin to add realistic detailing to the setting, while the small figures and accessories were often made of unpainted, colored plastic. Often there was a huge variety of characters and accessories in each set, usually with figures in highly dramatic poses.

Accompanying the growing infatuation with space travel, companies released massive plastic sets featuring spacecraft, astronauts, and otherworldly locales. The popular Major Matt Mason series was created by Mattel, which modeled its parts on NASA space-travel vehicles and equipment.

The popularity of generically themed playsets declined steadily during the 1970s, even as Star Wars branded sets sold millions. In 1972, Marx was sold to the Quaker Oats Company and soon stopped producing its signature line of playset toys altogether. In the 1990s, though, as Baby Boomers raised with childhood playsets grew nostalgic for their favorite toys, companies like Conte revived the industry and started producing highly detailed toy sets for a new adult market.


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]

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gi Joe Adventure Team Vintage Toy Lot - Hq Playset, Vehicle, Gun, AccessoriesMarx 1950s Raytheon Missile Test Center Tin Litho -- Nice ConditionVintage Marx Walt Disney "davy Crockett At The Alamo" Firing Black Cannon #34pcs Peppa Pig Family Peppa George Daddy Mummy Figure Playset Toy Kids Gift DollVintage Marx Walt Disney "davy Crockett At The Alamo" Firing Black Cannon #2Vintage Marx Walt Disney "davy Crockett At The Alamo" Firing Black Cannon #1Vintage California Dream Barbie Surf 'n Shop Playset 1987Vintage Marx Ranch House Tin Plate Playset 99.9% Comeplete Accessories Excellent26 Marx Fort Apache Playset Ladders Star Wars Afa 85 Early Bird Display Stand Loose Playset - Vintage Just GradedConte Stamford Bridge Marx Style Playset Mib Star Wars Afa 80 Esb Dagobah Playset Red Logo On Side - Vintage Just GradedVintage 1960s Mpc Thunderbirds Fireball Xl-5 Rocket & Space City Playset Big Lot1968 Marx Munchieville Plantation Miniature Playset Never Opened Org Parts BagsStar Wars Vintage Kenner Jabba The Hutt Misb Playset Afa 5020 Fetch Lands Ktk Khans Of Tarkir Playsets Of 4x Each Nm/m Near Mint/minterinoMarx Robin Hood Castle Play Set Box#4723Vintage~1977~1978~1979~kenner~star~wars~blue~snaggletooth~sears~cantina~playset~Fisher Price Mcdonalds Drive Through Playset 75+ Food Access Apron/visor 1989Rare Vintage Marx Wagon Train Rustic Red Covered Wagon Canopy-l@@k!!!Big Lot Of 40 Bluebird Polly Pocket Playsets Dolls Cases Vintage 1984 J.i. Case 2390 Farm Set With Deluxe Barn Rare! 274 New Old StockVintage Marx Wagon Train Blue WagonVintage Sears Marx Farm Set #6006 Tin Litho Barn W/ Two Silos Equipment & ExtrasVintage Marx Wagon Train Red WagonT.cohn U.s. Naval Base Playset No.888Vintage Roy Rogers Rodeo Ranch Play Set W/ Other Collectible Toys & FigurinesVintage Marx Wagon Train/custer's Last Stand Tan Covered Wagon CanopyMarx Wagon Train Light Blue Covered Wagon Canopy W/ 4 Tabs For Fort Apache 54mmVintage 70's Ideal Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle Playset W/ Original BoxMarx Toyland Farm Products (tin Toy 1931)Star Wars Ep1/episode 1 Naboo Royal Starship Playset Misb 1999 Sealed BoxVintage Kenner 1983 Star Wars The Jabba The Hutt Dungeon Action Playset SealedPallet Shipping - Assorted Kids Toys - Playsets - Figures - Activities & More3x Playset Dark Magical Circle Super Cheap!Marx Wagon Train Play Set Dark Blue WagonVintage 1960s Marx Battleground Army Playset Lot Tanks Terrain Germans MoreMarx Playset Acw Civil War Union Army Cannon And Caisson Wshell Sprue OriginalMarx Imagination Doll House In Box-mostly Complete-a Few Broken BitsMxs Motocross Dirt Bike Race Track Playset - Jakks Pacific - See DescriptionMarx Toys Navarone And Assorted Plastic Soldiers, Vehicles, Equipment, Etc.Conte Vikings / Saxons / 1066 / 1/32 Scale Stamford Bridge Diorama Piece1983 Kenner Star Wars Return Of The Jedi-ewok Village Action Playset-boxed-look!1979 Kenner Star Wars Creature Cantina Action Playset-boxed-nice-look!Power Rangers Power Dome Playset Lot 2290 1994 Mighty Morphin W/extra Figs Movie1960's Marx Playset Miniature Western Cowboys Indians Troopers Horses Teepee's5 Vintage Polly Pocket Compact Playsets+figures/animals~bluebird~27 Pieces~lqqk!Poly Pocket Wizard Of Oz Playset ~ Very Nice ~ Figures Works ~ 2001 Mattel BluebVintage 1960s Marx Miniature Disney On Parade Circus Playset Lot Super CircusDisney Infinity Lot -- Xbox 360 3.0 Game Disc, 32 Characters, 6 Playsets & MoreMarx Alamo Partial Play Set Conte Stamford Bridge / Warlord / 22 54mm Vikings In All 22 Poses !! Vintage Marx Happi Time Farm Plastic Elevator ImplementVintage Original 1977 Kenner Star Wars Creature Cantina Action Playset LotMarx Playset Pan Am Aairlines Revell Aurora Model Kits Tin Litho Friction ToyMarx 3614 Fort Apache / Complete 60mm Buckboard W/horse & Harness / Exc Cond !!1955 Marx Walt Disney's Davy Crockett At The Alamo Play Set #3544 BoxedMarx Playset 54mm Revolutionary War Gold Cannon Wramrod Shell Stack BucketFort Apache 60mm Indians By Marx Circa 1950'sMarx 3614 Fort Apache / Complete Set Of 8 60mm " Camp Poses" Indians