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]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Walt Disney World Parks Retired Haunted Mansion Monorail Light Up Playset ToyDisney Parks Disneyland Retired Haunted Mansion Monorail Light Up Playset ToyAmazing 1960"s Louis Marx Giant Blue & Gray Playset Play Set Near CompleteWalt Disney World Parks Retired Donald Daisy Mad Tea Party Monorail Playset ToyVintage Original Eternia Playset He-man Masters Of The Universe Motu CompleteOriginal Marx Wyatt Earp & Custom Tombstone Playset Western Town Cowboys 54mm1950's Complete Mint In Box Marx Sears Allstate Turnpike Service Center No 59181982 Kenner Indiana Jones Well Of Souls Playset - Nrfb - Amazing Shape1961 "the Untouchables" Marx Playset No. 4676Marx 1950's Roy Rogers Mineral City Tin Litho Western Town Hotel Great Shape Marx 54 Mm Jim HardieVintage 100 Marx, Mpc Blue Gray Civil War Play Set Figures & AccessHuge Monster High Lot Of 30 Dolls High School Vanity Cafe Cars Playsets Plush+++Custom The Dig Playset French Foreign Legion Conte Marx 54mm 1/32 Airfix Marx Ben Hur Playset Reissue From 19991950's Official Kfs Jungle Jim Play Set Marx Series 1000 #3706 W/original BoxVintage 1950's Marx Western Town Playset Tin 2652Marx Ben Hur Series 2000 Official Playset W/ Original Box - Extremely Rare1960s Topper Toy Motorized Monster Maker Playset Mint In Box Ogre Figure ThingMarx Fort Apache Playset With Wagon, Instructions & Much MoreVintage Marx Western Buckboard Wagon Blue Roy Rogers Lone Ranger Playset (nice)Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Lion - Scarce - All OriginalVintage Polly Pocket Lot (1989-1995) 5 Playsets, 14 Dolls - Bluebird, Not MattelSchoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Tiger - Uncommon - All Original1977 Sears Creature Cantina Playset Vintage Star Wars With Blue Snaggletooth!Vintage Star Wars Micro Millennium Falcon Set W/box 1982 KennerVtg Marx Toy Battleground Play Set 4756 World War Ii 2 Military Motu He Man Eternia Playset 99.9 % Complete With He Man Figure LotPeppa Pig Classroom Playset Loose (all Figures And Teacher Included) Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus Bactrian Camel - Uncommon - All OriginalAntique Vintage Circa 1911 Bliss Lithographed Stable #101 With Two HorsesCustom Building Ruins Store Playset Diorama Gi Joe Star Wars 1:18 3.75in. #20Vintage Mattel Hot Wheels Railroad Freight Yard Train Playset #200Marx Blue & Grey Civil War Playset Vintage 1960s Exploding Bunker Rare FiguresPlaymobil #5301 Grand Mansion Victorian House Playset & Staircase #7775Marx Wild West Tin Downsized Cabin For Johnny Ringo Rifleman Wagon Train Etc90-marx Confederate(43) & Union(47) Soldiers- Vintage Toy Lot Plastic Marx Miniature Playset Us & Japanese Army Men Soldiers Iwo Jima? Vehicles, More Marx Play Set Saddles & ReinsVintage Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache Playset - Louis Marx & Co. - New York - 1955,6Star Wars Vintage Creature Cantina Action Playset By Kenner 1977Marx Fort Apache BlockhouseMarx Davey Crockett Alamo And Zorro Original Playsets1983 Hasbro G. I. Joe Headquarters Command Center In Box Mint Y Complete Nr !!!Thundercats 1980s Cats Lair Playset With Box!Marx Fix-all Hard Top Convertible Car With Tools Vintage With Box1970's Fisher Price Play Family Sesame Street Clubhouse In The BoxVintage Mego The Love Boat Playset With Box - Large Plastic ToyStar Wars Vintage - Kenner Ewok Village Action PlaysetVintage Family Tree House Tots Kenner 1975 Playset Nice Box Elevator WorksMattel Major Matt Mason Space Station Playset Boxed 1960s Vintage Marx O Scale Cape Canaveral Nike Missile Launcher Playset TrainLot Of Marx And Other Cowboy HorsesVtg Marx Toy Disney Davy Crockett At The Alamo Play Set W/ Box Tin Litho Marx Captain Gallant Playset 1955Mego Star Trek Bridge Playset In Original Box, Six Complete Figures! No Reserve!Rare Smurf Conveyor Playset # 10 Smurfs Toy With Original BoxPlaymobil Train Station Terminal Playset Diarama 4305 Geobra 1986 Vintage Voltron Castle Of Lions PlaysetMarx Plastic Figures, Dinosaurs, Knights, Farm Animals, Army And More