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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Top 10 vintage Batman toys, for your inner Boy Wonder

Today we have a special treat for you here on the Hero Complex. We've been impressed with the serious fanboy obsessiveness of the Bat Blog, a colorful corner of the Internet devoted to the Caped Crusader and the mountain of collectibles that bear his pointy-eared visage. So today we venture into the Batcave and turn the Complex over to collector expert Tommy from Bat-Blog, for a guest column: The 10 coolest vintage Batman toys. It's a great list -- although we're not quite sure what's going with that water gun...

Toy 10 - Batman Water Gun10. 1960s Batman Figure Water Gun

This vintage Batman toy is a total blast. It's a 1966 Batman plastic toy water gun, released the same year that Adam West debuted in Batman's cape and cowl on television and also hit theaters with the tie-in film.

This item was created in a way more innocent time and I bet they never gave any thought at all about where they had placed the trigger for this toy. For that matter, they probably didn't even care about where the water plug was either.

As you can imagine, Batman collectors really love this item for its kitsch appeal and because it's really Toy 9 - Friction Tin Batmobile funny.

9. Battery-Operated Bump-N-Go Batmobile

It would be totally impossible to do any Batman toy list without mentioning the super-famous Batmobile. I mean, come on, that's one of the coolest pieces of bat-gear.

This toy was one of those battery-operated Bump-N-Go Cars. You flip the switch and this thing went nuts! It had sound effects and lights that blinked ... kids loved it.

Toy 8 - Bat-Projector
Today, it's a really great display piece and a fave of Batman collectors.

8. Chad Valley Give-A-Show Bat-Projector

You might remember these Give-A-Show toys from your childhood. I recall as a little kid having the one with Popeye, and I really loved it.

But this one was produced in Great Britain and is extremely hard to find here in the U.S. Heck, it's even hard to find in the U.K.!

I also included it on the list because the vintage-style graphics are so distinctive and eye-catching.

Toy 7 - Bicycle Ornament 7. Batman Bicycle Ornament

This is the 1966 official Batman bicycle ornament.

It was a hollow plastic figure of Batman that clamped on to your handlebars, and it had a spring that made the caped crusader go berserk as you cruised your neighborhood.

You know, there's something I've always loved about toys from this era and it goes beyond the actual product. At the time, the box-art often showed children using the product and really, really grinning.

I mean, this kid looks pretty darn happy with the product right here.

6. Japanese Tin Toy Batmobile

Toy 6 - Japanese Tin Toy BatmobileAnother Batmobile makes the list!

This one is a Japanese friction-driven tin toy.

Now, why is this Batmobile "more cool" than the previous one? Well, from a toy collector's point-of-view, it's a lot harder to find because it was "Sold Only in Japan."

Toy 5 - Captain Action Plus, it's a unique variation. And OK, it's a sports car!

5 - Captain Action Doll Batman Costume

In 1966, to compete with Hasbro's G.I. JOE, the Ideal Toy Company created CAPTAIN ACTION.

The accessorized approach was very similar, but instead of being a military man, this captain could do his heroic duty in the costumes of various crime fighters and adventure stars.

There was Superman, Aquaman, Captain America, Flash Gordon, the Phantom and many more. Of course, our favorite Caped Crusader was the most popular!

Toy 4 - Marx Friction Cars 4. Batman and Robin Friction Toy Cars by MARX

These wonderful toys from the past were made by the MARX Toy Co.

The cars are made of tin litho and the heads of Batman and Robin are vinyl rubber.

Nobody really knows why this pair is so extremely rare but expect to pay a few hundred dollars for them.

That is, if you can find them!

Toy 3 - Japanese Ray Gun 3. Japanese Batman Ray Gun

OK, I really don't need to explain why this item is so awesome ... just check out the picture.

First, it's a tin toy ray gun, which is always cool. Second, the graphics have Japanese lettering, very beautiful.

Plus, did I mention Japan?

Japan was among many countries that got caught up in the whole Batman TV show craze. In fact, there's an entire sub-culture of the toy collecting community that is totally devoted to these treasures.

And now the final two...

Toy 2 - Ideal Justice League of America Playset 2 - Batman & The Justice League of America Play Set by Ideal

In the 1960s Ideal made two Batman play sets, but this version made the list because it's much more rare.

Why? Well, Ideal added a few more superhero figures to this set and called it "The Justice League of America."

For that reason, it's a lot harder to find than the regular "Batman Set." Plus, visually, it's just such a great piece for display.

If you could find a mint-condition example like this one, you got something special. One sold at auction recently for $7,300 and there's a lot of buzz in collector circles about this grand pop-culture artifact.

Toy 1 - Ideal Utility Belt 1 - Batman Utility Belt Play Set by Ideal

Here it is, the No. 1 Batman item. This is the 1966 Ideal Batman utility belt, a "Complete Set of Crime Fighting Equipment" -- it says so right on the box.

The Bat-belt came with accessories that included a plastic dart gun (yes, "You'll put someone's eye out!"), a "real-working" flashlight, a pair of Bat-cuffs, a rope with grapple hook (to climb Gotham City skyscrapers!) and, of course, the coolest weapon in the world,the Bat-a-rang.

This classic is what toy collectors call a "museum piece." To find this rare play set complete with all its parts is virtually impossible, let alone with the original window box! About a year or so ago, one of these babies in mint shape was auctioned for $16,000, a price that would impress even millionaire Bruce Wayne.