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    

Vintage Palitoy 1977 Star Wars Death Star Playset Original & CompleteMarx Giant Blue And Gray Civil War Battle Set In Original BoxVintage Gi Joe Terror Drome Playset With Firebat In BoxMattel, Motu/ Motuc He-man Classics, Castle Grayskull Playset With MapMarx Flintstone Hunting Party Dinosaur SetMarx Super Circus Boxed 50s Set✩ My Little Pony ✩ G1 Euro Waterfall Playset Pony Cascade! Gorgeous!Vintage 1967 Marx 54mm Aqua Blue General Custer Figure1950's Tin Wards Marx Modern Service Station #3473 Cars - Figures Original BoxMarx Hess 1964 B-mack Rare Travelers Tanker TruckVintage Prewar Lionel O Gauge Red Passenger Car Set 605 & 605 & 606Vintage Marx Prehistoric Monsters & Cavemen Dinosaurs Playset Moc MintMarx Flintstones Playset Complete Set #4672Deluxe Reading Battlewagon ShipGi Joe Uss Flagg Aircraft Carrier PlaysetVintage Marx Battleground Playset Box # 4756 Full Wwii Stuff Marx Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch With Chubby Figures, Fence, Horses, And MoreVintage Kenner Star Wars 1978 Death Star Space Station Playset1958 Marx Wagon Train Playset Tin Cabin With Chimney18 Assorted Marx Playset Western Saddle Horses 54mm1960s Marx Sears All-state American Patrol Play Set #6058 Boxed!Complete Vintage 1974 Fisher Price Little People Play Family Castle 993 PlaysetVintage Marx Happi Time Farm Play Set Tin Litho Lot W/ Original Box Toy Tractor 2001 Polly Pocket Turner Wizard Of Oz Playset TestedMarx Farm Set Series 2000Star Wars Vintage 1978 Death Star Space Station Figure Playset For Parts LotOrig. Old Marx Yellow 54mm Wagon For Wagon Train Playsets EtcMarx Navarone PlaysetMarx Roy Rogers Rodeo Ranch Playset / Box Star Trek Uss Enterprise Action Playset W/ Kirk,spock,scottie, With Origin BoxBluebird Polly Pocket PlaysetsVintage Rare Marx Prehistoric Dinosaur Playset No. 0645 W Box Nr10 Marx Battle Ground Vehicles Imaginext Batman Vs Superman Playset Dc Super Friends Cycle Action Figures Lot1955 Marx Figures: Lassie, Gramps, And Jeff (robert Maxwell Associates)Marx Robin Hood Castle Play Set / Set Of 2 60mm Knight's HorsesPlaymobil 5120 Farm House & Market Playset Ages 4+1960's Marx Playset Army Battleground German Tanks Usa Soldiers Pillbox WeaponsMarx Battleground Playset - German Armor4 Marx Prince Valiant Medieval Castle Playset Figures Aleta Gawain Black KnightVintage Marx Cattle Drive Playset Box 3983 Long Town BuildingDisney Infinity Xbox 360, Game, Base, Playsets, Characters, Discs1950s Marx Western Horse & Saddle Set Pair For Play Set Boxed! Unused Minty!Mattel He-man Masters Of The Universe Castle Grayskull Playset 1981 Vintage Vintage 1925 Wayne Doll House Tootsietoy Sears In Box Original Home Decor Toy AsVintage Marx Civil War Playset Southern Tin Litho Mansion & Portico Front+Gi Joe Compatible Playset Headquarters Us Army Command Center Complete Clean1982-90 Gi Joe & Cobra Vehicle Playset Parts / Accessories / Weapons LotVintage Ideal Anzio Invader Play Set Tank Destroyer Helicopter Original Box ToyVintage Smurfs Deluxe Playset Moon Explorer Applause W/ BoxParker Brothers Vintage Sea Diver Toy With Box. Never Used. Rare8 Marx Flags Poles And Bases1981 Dfc Dragon Riders Of The Styx PlaysetBritain's Hospital WardLot Of 50+ Vintage Micro Machines Toys Cars Accessories + Combat City PlaysetMarx Western Playset Light Gray Wagon & Horse TeamVintage 1960's 60's Ideal Battle Action Combat Play Set Pieces Lot Bridge EtcVintage Star Wars Micro Collection Playset Lot With 20 Diecast Action FiguresVintage Marx Wagon Train 'cover & Barrel' Only (1950's) Rare ColorMarx Heritage Alamo Playset