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    

Hamilton's Invaders Playset The Battle Of Horrible Hamilton Complete In BoxBig Lot Of Old Play Set FiguresVintage Marx Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache Playset W/box Baggies & Instructions #3627Mpc Glow Monsters In Dragon Crest Medieval Fantasy Playset By Miner 1980s ToyDesert Fox Play Set By Marx In Box-instructions, Soldiers, Vehicles, AccessoriesVintage Marx Western Town Jail Side Building Tin PlaysetWalt Disney World Parks Haunted Mansion Playset Monorail Mib Nib SealedTmnt Sewer Playset Sealed Afa 85 Ninja Turtles Rare 1988 Holy GrailMarx Alaska Play Set Tin LithoMarx Vintage Toy Fort Apache Stockade Play Set-48 PiecesVintage Marx Dinosaurs Prehistoric Times Animals Playset Orig Square "pizza" BoxWalt Disney World Retired Spaceship Earth Epcot Monorail Toy Accessory PlaysetVintage Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache Playing Toy Set Louis Marx & Co. Inc.- IobPalisades Toys The Muppets Swedish Chef Kitchen PlaysetVtg Star Wars Droid Factory Playset Iob Original Box W/ R2d2 Action Figure Lot Marx Battle Of The Blue And The Gray Civil War Playset With Figures Boxed Sharp!Marx Guns Of Navarone Playset1960s Marx Blue & Gray Civil War Set Union Confederate Soldier Lincoln Grant LeeVintage Marx Toys Prehistoric Times Set Dinosaurs Molded Terrain Trees Orig Box Three Marx Playset Tin Buildings Rare! Moon Base Play Set By Louis Marx & Company In Box, Loaded, # 4654Marx Gunsmoke Wyatt Earp Stagecoach (nice)Vintage Star Wars Ewok Village Playset 100% Complete 1983 Nice!Marx Vtg Goldmine Riverbed Gunsmoke Doc Oxen Yoke Steer Cactus Lot 10 Marx 3717 Daktari Jungle Playset Tin Litho Trading Post Building Nice 1967Vintage Kenner Star Wars Anh Death Star Space Station Playset Box OnlyMarx Strategic Air Command PlaysetLot Vintage Mixed Makers Western Frontier Play Set Cowboy Indians Animals WagonsMarx Powder Blue Cavalry (mint Condition) From Fort ApacheDisneyland Haunted Mansion Playset... Retired1991 Gi Joe Eco Warriors Toxo-lab Bi-level Laboratory Headquarters Playset + BoxStar Wars Vintage Esb Turret And Probot Playset In Original Box!Vintage 1950's Marx Super Tin Circus Playset W/animals, Rings, Character FiguresVintage Polly Pocket Case Lot Compact Collection Early Bluebird Toys No Dolls 12Vintage Star Wars Lot Of 4 Micro Collection Playsets No ReserveLarge Lot Of Vintage 1980s Gi Joe Action Figures Vehicles, Playsets, Accessories2 Vintage 1950's Keystone Gas Station Playset Cars W/hosesVintage Toy Our Gang Clubhouse Mego Little Rascals Boxed! CompleteMarx American Airlines Astrojet PlaysetPalisades Muppet Playset: Stage With Zoot, Animal, Floyd, Janice, & Dr. TeethMicro Machines Huge Lot Train, Boat, Plane, Playset, StorageVintage Boxed Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Dagobah Action Playset3 Americas Breyer Bull & Rider Wild Mustangs Cowboy Western 1:12 Scale PlaysetsFrom Factory '51 Beton Bergen Hard Plastic Clowns, Animals, Huge Set Circus Vintage Marx Alamo Playset Tin Litho Chapel-walls-gate-rampartsVintage 1977 Kenner Star Wars Death Star Playset W/ 4 Action FiguresTreated Wood Playset, Swingset, Play House, Club HouseMarx Fort Apache Playset - Tin CabinVintage Marx Revolutionary War Gold Firing Cannon Marx Alamo Civil War Blue Gray Fort Apache 'cannon Shells' (©1957-62) ExcellentVintage Star Wars Ewok Village Playset 1983 - Nice! (missing 1 Fire Pit Piece)Star Wars Vintage Loose Playset - Ewok Village - Good For Parts - IncompleteVintage Marx Revolutionary War Gold Firing Cannon With ShellsVintage 1979 Kenner Star Wars Esb Turret & Probot Playset W/ 4 Action Figures Vintage Marx Super Circus Playset Tin Big Top Tent And Original Box3 Vintage Mattel Hot Wheels Playsets: City (1) And Service Center (2)Vintage Mpc/multiple Plastic Co. Pirates And Ship Toy Soldier LotBackyard Discovery Oakmont All Cedar Wood Playset1983 Star Wars Rotj Jabba The Hutt Playset Complete (in Great Condition)Hot Wheels Redline Era Action City Playset Case