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    

Kenner 1980 Star Wars Esb Turret & Probot Playset Vintage Boxed Vintage 1950s Marx Cities Metal Service Station Set Box Complete 3453 Toy 1000The Muppets Backstage Playset Palisades Back Stage Muppet ShowLtd Toy Stamp & 1950s Multiple Toys Mpc Beetle Bailey Camp Swampy Playset In BoxKenner 1980 Star Wars Esb Hoth Ice Planet Playset Vintage Boxed Custom Bunker Landing Platform Playset Diorama Gi Joe Star Wars 1:18 3.75" #28Backyard Discovery Montego Bay All Cedar Swingset Playset, BronzeCustom Imperial Landing Platform Playset Diorama Star Wars Gi Joe 1:18 3.75" #2Ltd Toy Stamp & 1950s Marx The Flintstones Playset In Box Excellent Condition!Kenner 1983 Star Wars Rotj Jabba The Hutt Dungeon Playset Vintage Boxed Disney Monorail Haunted Mansion Light Up Attraction Playset Accessory Figure SetDisney Monorail Haunted Mansion Light Up Attraction Playset Accessory Figure SetMarx Wyatt Earp Western Town# 4228 Box , Instructions Plus More1960's Playset Marx Ww2 German Soldiers Tanks Army Battleground UnboxedCustom Watchtower Guard Tower 2 Part Playset Diorama Gi Joe Star Wars 1:18 3.75"Nib 1982 Vintage Star Wars Kenner Micro Collection Hoth World Action PlaysetMarx Farm Grey Roofed Platform Tin Barn Set With Tools Dual Silos Litter Carrier23-piece Vintage Marx Freight Terminal Station Accessories Lot Kegs & CratesStar Wars Vintage 1983 Kenner Rotj Ewok Village Endor Playset Complete W/box Vintage 1974 Mego Planet Of The Apes Playset 3 Action FiguresKenner M.a.s.k. Action Figure And Vehicle Lot With Boulder Hill PlaysetJunk Drawer Lot Of 76 Vintage Army Men 1950's/60's Marx Mpc Tim-mee AjaxClint Eastwood, "man W/ No Name" Cowboy Tssd 54mm Marx Playset Character1950s Marx Western Play Set Tin Litho White Sided Cabin With PorchMadame Alexander 8" Wendy Loves Being Loved Playset In Box Character DollMarx Vintage Oxen Covered WagonLot Of 70 Star Wars Micro Machines Toys Ships Figures Playsets Original TrilogyPeppa Pig Dolls House With All 4 Figures & Furniture, Playset, Toy.Monster High High School Castle Toy Playset Doll House High School 1950-60s Marx Gas Station Play Set 4 Inch Plastic Take A Part CarNib Star Wars Bespin World Playset Micro Kenner Vintage 1982 Bespin1950s Bachmann Old Woman In A Shoe Storytown Usa Plasticville Model Box UnusedVintage Marx Mar Toys Army Training Center Halftrack W/soldiersPeppa Pig School Classroom Playset & All 9 Figures, Toys, Characters.Original Light Blue Top Cover For Covered Wagon Train Marx Play Set Parts1960's Playset Marx American Airlines Airport Tin Hangers Planes Jets RecordStar Wars Action Fleet Micro Machines Hoth Playset Millenium Falcom X-wing LotDisney Monorail Dumbo The Flying Elephant Playset With Characters.Original 5 Blue Accessories For Covered Wagon Train Marx Play Set Parts Rare1960's Playset Superior Tin Fort Davy Crockett Cowboys Indians Tin Wagon Marx1950s Humpty Dumpty Bachmann Storytown Usa Plasticville Model In Box Unused!!Vintage Marx Prehistoric Play Set Metalic Green Dinosaurs T-rex Brontosaurus1960's Playset Marx Armed Forces Training Center Jets Missles Soldiers Jeep Marx Battleground Playset - 54mm Soldiers & Marines In TanJohn Wayne El Dorado Cowboy Tssd 54mm Tombstone Marx Playset Character1960's Playset Tim Mee Toys Jeeps Tanks Truck Guns Soldiers Aa Jeep MarxMoore Collectibles Buffy The Vampire Slayer Library Playset, 5 Figures LooseOriginal Driver Figure With Whip For Covered Wagon Train Marx Play Set PartsMarx Toys Playset Bravo Squad 1977 In Original Box .99 No Reserve Auction1960's Playset Boxed Marx Tin Space Rocket Combat Missle Target Set InstructionsVintage Polly Pocket Compact House Playset Bundle + Figures : Bluebird Toys1972 Marx Navarone Army Play Set Plastic Play MatThe Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror - Homer And Aliens Playset Action FiguresBnib Peppa Pig's Classroom Playset With Figures With Damaged Box Marx Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache 1950's W/ Tan & Light Blue Figures 60 MOriginal 16 Cream Indians Marx Play Set Wagon Train Parts Pieces Accessories Marx Alaska Playset Miners & Trapers With Bag Or Sack Set Of 16Vintage 1978 Marx World War Ii Battlegriund Playset Complete In Original Box 1965-a.c.gilbert Erector-ride-on-vehicle Set-un-built-nos-vintage Mint Toy-w BoxBen & Holly's Little Kingdom Magical Elf Tree Playset, Figures & Wand.