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    

The Untouchables Play Set By Marx 1961Old Lot Sto And & Go Hot Wheels City Garage Playset Plus Vintage Cars,1980 Vintage 1951 Marx Original Farm Cottage / House Tin Litho Building Louis Marx Battleground Vintage 1960's Original Playset Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse Playset Dream House Vintage Hot Wheels City Sto & Go Playset Mattel 1979 Sto N Go Blackwalls EraVintage Boxed Star Wars Death Star Space Station Playset Kenner 1977 Potf Fox Tmnt Sewer Lair Playset Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Figures LotVintage Hot Wheels Service Center Car Wash Sto & Go Playset Mattel Vintage 1965 Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea Playset Remco Lot Rare Seaview Disney Frozen Magical Lights Ice Palace Castle W/ Elsa & Olaf Movie Doll PlaysetSchoenhut Antique 1900-1930 Wooden Collectors Toys - Three Elephants Plus My Little Pony 9 Playsets, 19 Ponies, & Lots Of Accessories Huge Lot! HasbroMarx Moon Base Playset #46521961 Buddy L Texaco Gas Station Playset No 5301-w Box-1/24-gas & Oil Vintage ToyVintage Marx Disneykin See & Play Castle W/base,box,map,figures,flags PlaysetVintage Hot Wheels City Sto & Go Playset Mattel 1979 Blackwalls EraMammoth Brand Kitchen Playset Barbie Dollhouse Furniture Kenmore AppliancesSchleich World Of Knights Castle 40191 W/people & Dragon ~ritterburg Playset Vintage Marx Gunsmoke Rifleman Playset Tin Litho Western Town 1960-1961Star Wars Vintage Sealed Jabba The Hutt Action Playset - Afa Ready - 1984 - RotjPeppa Pig School Classroom Playset & All 9 Figures, Toys, Characters.Vintage Marx Fort Apache Loose Playset Lot - Parts Stockage Figures AccessoriesMarx Wells Fargo Ranch Play Set W/ Jim Hardee - Rare Tan WagonVintage Marx Gunsmoke Playset 10 Cowboys Horses & Deer FiguresLouis Marx Battle Of The Blue & Gray - Original 60's Civil War Playset - ScarceVintage Marx Gunsmoke Playset 13 Miners, Trappers & Cowboy Figures 1960-1961Marx Train Stream Line Electric #8994 1950's In Box Old Toy Vintage Look RareStar Wars Vintage Lot First 21 Han Card Playset Parts Droids Fett Luke Vader +++Vintage 1978 Tomy Fashion PlatesLqqk! 1955 Issue Captain Space Solar Port #7018 Playset By Marx!Marx Heritage Alamo PlaysetVintage/retired Walt Disney World Resort Monorail Playset Theme Park Train SetSchoenhut Circus Antique 1900-1930 Wooden Toys - Chinaman, Negro Dude And HoboSchoenhut Circus Antique 1900-1930 Wooden Toys Collectors Item - ClownsDisney Frozen Castle & Ice Palace PlaysetAntique/ Vintage Wolverine Toy Kitchen Canister Set Strawberry Litho Set Of 4Schoenhut Antique 1900-1930 Wooden Collectors Toys - Lion, Tiger And Leopard 1960's Marx Prehistoric Monsters Dinosaurs 8 On Original Card Nice!Vintage Hot Wheels City Sto & Go Playset Mattel 1970sCalico Critters Playset Playhouse & Baby Amusement ParkLot Of 140+ Mixed Funrise & Micro Machines & Other Brands! Mixed Lot PlaysetsSchoenhut Antique 1900-1930 Wooden Collectors Toys - Camel, Giraffe And ZebraLewis Marx & Co. Cities Services Station & Cities Service Promotional Items LotVintage Star Wars Return Of The Jedi Rotj Ewok Village Playset + Box Kenner 1983Retired Mc Donalds Drive-thru Playset - All Sounds Work! !- Playfood Included!Vintage 1978 Tomy "fashion Plates" Kit + More Fashion Plates Designer SetsMarx Tin Litho Construction Camp Quonset Hut1985 Vintage Gi Joe Uss Flagg Aircraft Carrier Playset-great Gift For Christmas!Tarzan & Cheetah Chimp 54mm Soft Plastic Jungle Playset Marx Linde Bum PechMarx Captain Gallant Play SetMemory Lane Santa's Castle Playset Loaded With Figures Needs Tlc ChristmasTwo Original Soft Plastic Marx Playset Wagon DriversLittlest Pet Shop Huge 215 Piece Lot Pets Playsets Carrying Case + AccessoriesDisney Little Einstein Pat Pat Rocket Playset 4 Figures Leo Annie June QuincyVintage Masters Of The Universe Boxed Castle Grayskull Playset! No Reserve!Huge Vtg Gi Joe Lot 1980s Action Figures Accessories Playsets Vehicles +++ Marx / Allstate # 6006 Farm Set - Barn, Silos, Vehicles, Animals, Tools And BoxFisher Price Little People Noah's Ark Playset With 30 Figures Animals Huge LotRare Antique - Schoenhut Circus Glass Eyed Kangaroo