Monday, October 15, 2012

Japanese Tin Toy Vehicles, Part 5

The Marx "Untouchables" Playset. Those cars were
made by Line Mar, Marx's Japanese subsidiary.
I've been spending the last few months researching the subject of postwar Japanese tin toy vehicles for a talk my father volunteered me for. I've documented some of my research adventures in the Collecting -- and Collecting Information series.

I gave my presentation before the Capital Miniature Auto Collectors Club. The talk provided a background for the toys, made between 1949 and 1963, along with examples from my surviving childhood toys. Also on display was the Straco Express layout, which showcased smaller Japanese toy cars from the period.

Part 1 features the final version of the talk in written form, subsequent parts include galleries of the toys actually discussed.
Line Mar
Line Mar was an import subsidiary of Louis Marx & Co. and was founded in the 1950’s. It continued as a separate entity until 1968, when Marx absorbed the operation into the parent company. Line Mar products were manufactured in Japan, and were sold under their own brand. Because the logo was (deliberately) so close to Marx’s, Line Mar toys are frequently misidentified on eBay as being Marx.

Line Mar made this tractor trailer for the Washington, DC-
based Giant Food chain.
The tractor trailers I had on display were Line Mar products. Line Mar produced several variations of these trucks, usually for different companies. The Giant Food truck, for example, was sold only in Giant Food grocery stores, at an original price of around two dollars. The Allied Van Lines was purchased, but some of the moving van toys were given away to customer's children. Often these toys were given to business clients as well, or used for other types of promotion.(click on images to enlarge)

Heidi was the Giant Food house brand for baked goods. Note the
Line Mar logo on the door. Line Mar was one of the few companies
to brand their toys.
The Line Mar Allied Van Lines truck. Probably produced for Allied.
The rear door opened, so you could load your own cargo for moving
(for me it was mostly alphabet blocks). Note the logo on the door.
The two cars in the back came from a Marx "Untouchables"
playset. The convertible in the foreground was offered
for separate sale by Line Mar.
The “Cadillac” cars are interesting pieces. The sedan version and closed roof convertible were included in Marx’s “Untouchables” Playset. This same basic model was also available as an “Old Fashioned Rolls Royce” in brown and also green. As such, it was sold under the Line Mar brand.

The "Untouchables" cars were marked Rolls Royce. The Line Mar
convertible was marked Cadillac. Neither is correct, of course.
The Marx "Untouchables" Rolls Royce.

The "Untouchables" Rolls Royce sedan. Unlike the convertibles,
this car has no interior detail, leaving the friction motor
What is the origin of this 3"-long penny toy from Line Mar?
We may never know.
Another unusual Line Mar piece is the Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) truck. The color is similar to that of real Pepco trucks of the late 1950's. It’s an inexpensive piece, probably costing only a few cents to make and sold for less than a dollar. But it seems odd that if it was just a toy for general sale throughout the country that it didn’t bear a more generic name like “Power Company.”

Was it produced for Pepco as a premium? A giveaway? I have no idea, although one suggestion offered at the meeting was that a photo of a power company truck -- which just happened to have the Pepco livery -- was used as a design guide for this general-purpose toy. 

Part 1: The Golden Age of Japanese Tin Toy Vehicles 1949-1963

Part 2: Bandai

Part 3: Haji and Masudaya

Part 4:  Cragstan and Shioji

Part 6: Nomura and others (Marusan, Yonezawa, Alps, Ichico, ATC)


  1. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I am not a toy collector but I tried to buy the Giant Food truck like the one in this picture at a local auction in MD. My father drove a tractor trailer for them for 40 years and thought it would be nice to get for him/me....

    I was sure shocked when it sold at the price it did. At least now I know why. I should have bid more.

    1. Mom bought mine at Giant Foods (we also lived in the Washington DC area). In a local auction, you probably had two different types of collectors bidding. The first were interested in local products, so the Giant Food livery made it desirable. The second were toy collectors -- of which there are several camps. It's possible you had Japanese toy collectors bidding against toy truck collectors bidding against Louis Marx/Lin Mar collectors.

  2. Anonymous4:58 PM

    I think that is exactly what happened because the bidding was very fast with several people.

    If I ever see another one I will be better prepared.

  3. Well, since I already have mine, I wish you the best of luck!

  4. Anonymous2:14 AM

    Hello in Mexico in, there are copies of the plastimarx set de untouchables, the price in Mexico is around $400 pesos, around $30 dollars,