Do you remember Playmobil?

When I was growing up, my favourite-of-all-time toys was Playmobil.

The roadbuilding crew – diligently constructing roads across the dangerous mountain passes

I remember being ecstatically excited whenever I was given a new set for Christmas or my birthday, and spending hours and hours, and yet more hours and hours, playing contentedly on my own, in my room, in the lounge, in the garden, with the little men and women of the Playmobil tribe.

They gave me so much pleasure.

The brave firemen – ready to extinguish any blaze and to rescue people in danger

I loved opening the boxes, and checking that all the tiny bits and pieces illustrated on the cover were actually there: all the cups and plates, buckets and spades, swords and halberds, knives and guns, the ladders and tools, the chairs and tables.

Every country town in the Wild West needs a store (though perhaps ‘drug store’ is not the right term in the 21st century, where it means something quite different)

I loved assembling a set for the very first time, and making it look exactly like it looked on the picture, which was on the front of the box. The Wild West Store was just awesome – you could climb up onto the roof to see into the distance, in case the baddies gallopped into town, and their shelves stocked everything from shovels, picks and buckets, to guns and revolvers, with whiskey barrels and a set of tools on display too.

When the knights and ladies get ready for a medieval banquet, the silver plates and wine goblets are taken out of the treasure chest and set out on the table

I loved putting the cowboy hats, the protective hats, the feather headdresses, or the shiny silver helmets on the people, and  giving them things to hold and carry, and putting them on the horses or sitting them on the bicycles. They always had a task to do – no sitting around and twiddling their thumbs.

The American Indians/Native Americans were my first set – and the one I loved the most: sooo many exciting and dangerous adventures took place in the Wild West! Someone was always gallopping off on the horses, or paddling by in a canoe…

I loved the crisp and bright colours of the people’s clothes, the silver tunics of the knights, the feathered headdresses of the Indians, the gunbelts of the cowboys, the swords and trumpets of the knights.

The shepherd, assisted by his two loyal dogs, looks after his flock of sheep, and makes sure that they get enough food and water during the day, and that they are safely inside the fence at night

I loved the satisfying click sound they made, when you gave a little Playmobil man something to hold in his hand. The fences came in sections, which you could click together, to create a paddock or a field. That ‘click’ made them feel solid and real, almost as though they could spring to life in your hands. And of course, they did, in a way. The imagination was all one needed to enter an entirely different world.

I must have gotten this set of telephone and postbox during the days when I was a prolific writer of letters, having suddenly discovered the joys of writing letters and making cards for my family up in Swakopmund

I loved the animals – there were small white and brown sheep, and black dogs, and roaring lions, and cattle, and of course horses – oh, the horses! Particularly the horses! There were black ones and brown ones, and one single white one, who was my favourite, because the Lone Ranger and his horse Silver used to gallop onto our television screens in those days! 🙂

I got this set when I was a little older, and began to watch programmes on the telly; we got our first TV towards the end of the ’70s, a few years after television first came to South Africa (in 1976)

I was just mad about horses, and really put these ones through their paces: they had to walk and trot, and gallop and leap over hurdles and fences, and they had to be brave and intelligent and rescue their owners when they got into trouble with the baddies, whether they were cowboys or Indians or medieval knights.

The cowboys were always having to herd cattle across the vast plains of the Wild West, protecting them against bad cowboys and rogue Indians – but fortunately, my Indians were always ready to help them. 🙂

Whenever there was a gymkhana or show jumping championship happening in the real world, and with the dust and smell of the horses and the arena still in my nose and my clothes, I would re-enact it at home afterwards – building jumps with sticks shoved through cardboard toilet rolls, and keeping score properly, but always making sure that my favourite horse and rider won in the end. 😀

After my first trip to the circus (very memorable for ALL the wrong reasons, as my Mom still likes to remind me 🙂 ), I just had to have the lion tamer with his lions! I thought he was ever so brave and dashing…

Sigh…

Such happy memories.

The medieval Knights, like the Cowboys and the Indians, were my favourites – probably because they all rode horses!

Mom and I have been clearing out her garage this week. It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for years. Two weeks ago or so, the shelves in the cupboard collapsed, and all her old music notes (piano and recorder) ended up in a chaotic pile. Hubby managed to put in new shelves, but we figured that it was A Sign To Clear Out The Cupboard, and to Throw Away What We No Longer Need.

The lure of traveling by caravan, stopping wherever you want and carrying everything you need with you, is still strong. The practicalities of traveling like this are a different matter altogether. But the inner longing still remains.

For a compulsive hoarder, it is hard to let go.

Very hard.

Not physically, no. But emotionally.

Each item brings back a flood of memories, some happy, some sad, it doesn’t matter. So it takes time to pick up something for a final time, to hold it lovingly in your hand, to thank it for the memories, and to let it go.

I loved this little girl on her tricycle.

About 15 years ago, I decided that it was time to sell my Playmobil sets. So I took them out of the cupboard and cleaned them up, and made sure that everything was still there, and I even went so far as to place an advert in the local paper.

This little boy likes to take his cart down to the sea, where he plays on the beach for hours.

When a man actually phoned and said he wanted them, I suddenly panicked! The thought of giving my dearest childhood companions away to a total stranger was just too much to bear.

I quickly told him I wouldn’t be selling them after all, and I tucked them all away safely into the garage cupboard once more. And that is where they have been languishing all this time.

The boy and girl with their two ponies participated in sooo many make-believe gymkhanas and show jumping competitions, that they would have been famous in real life!

But now it is time for me to let them go, and to find them a new home, where they will be loved and cherished by some little girl or boy who will adore them as much as I did.

These two cyclists loved going on adventurous trips. The bicycles – like the horses – represented independence and the freedom to go exploring anywhere in the world.

So, if you would like to buy some Playmobil sets for your children, or if you know of anyone who would, PLEASE let me know. (And it would help if you live in South Africa, but I’m open to suggestions. :-))

24 thoughts on “Do you remember Playmobil?

  1. Last year my son (now 12) sold his Playmobil, he got quite a lot of money for it – and it was not old complete sets in original boxes. That would have made him RICH here – they are collectors items!! I guess it must be the same in South Africa?
    The only toys we have kept here in my house from our 3 children is the VERY BEST!!!: ALL our LEGO(and Duplo) – it is in big boxes – all mixed up (but we have all the assemble-manuals) – a great challenge for guests or possible grandchildren in the future….

    • LOL… Playmobil came out in 1975, and I was just the perfect age to start playing with it. I confess that I played with it a LOOOOONG time, until way into my teens (one is ‘supposed to’ grow out of them by the age of 12, I think?). I thought they were the most fantastic toys EVER made. Even now, having taken them out of the cupboard and looking at them right now, this flood of memories comes rushing back. I feel very ambivalent about letting them go.

  2. My wife used to collect when she was young and now our kids play with hers, so I would like to buy some. Please give me shout if you want to sell them.
    I am keen to buy more.

    Regards
    Christo

    • Hello Christo,
      unfortunately, I have already sold all my Playmobil. I was very sad to let them go, because they were my absolute favourite childhood toys (more like friends, actually) but it was time. Best of luck to you with your search!

  3. Hi! It´s been curious to me as a basque who has culturaly very few with you, an anglosaxon, reading that you did the same things I did… trying to copy the exactly pose as it appeared in the front of the package, the feeling of opening a box (that marvelous smell of the poliespan) and see all the pieces right in their place… But for me it´s absolutely unthinkeable selling them!!! I have all my playmobils (famobils as we know them in the Basque Country) an they are many, in perfect conditions with their boxes, they are no selling things as a table or a cup, they have a soul couse everyone of them has it´s own history, I gave them names and personalities, they are the unical non-living things that make me remember of my childhood… It´s funny but sometimes I think of their fate when I pass by as I don´t want to have descendence… As far as I know their plastic it´s one of the finest done by BASF enterprises especially for playmobil, so as if they were Dorian Gray, they will see me (all of us) getting older while they are as they were when I started collecting them in 1976. Is possible that a day will come and I could not stand watching them?. Perhaps it´s not so bad idea getting ride of all things that make us remember because they became painfull when you are old and the only things you have are remenberings. But what I´m doing???… I´m getting sad speaking of playmobils???… No way!!!… let´s think of the glorious days of our childhood and of how they made them brighter with their only presence… We didn´t have Playstation and we had the double of fun as today´s kids… Thanks Playmobil!!! Jostailu arrigarriak izan genebanez!!!

  4. Waouh!

    Thanks for that, a lot of remember coming out…. I played a lot of days and night with playmobil when i was jung.

    Sorry for my English i’m french, but Playmobil speek universal child language

    • Hello Michel, I’m glad that I awakened some happy childhood memories in you. Without a doubt, my Playmobil were my favourite childhood toys… or rather companions… ‘toys’ sounds too child-like. They were my trusted companions, my best friends, and my most loyal playmates. I am still very sad that I had to give them away.

  5. Hello, I was just browsing the web looking for Playmobil for my son when I came across your post. I understand exactly what you went through as my childhood memmories are only of Playmobil.
    I too was so thrilled when Birthdays and Christmas came around and couldnt wait to open my new Playmobil sets.

    I have been looking for my son for a long time now but as South Africa has reintroduced PlaymobilI was ather sad to see how rediculous the price was.

    If you still have your sets and would be brave enough to sell them to me I would be happy to take them for my son.
    We are living in the Cape.
    thanks for the great post.

    • Hello Linda – how wonderful to find another lover of Playmobil. 🙂 Unfortunately, I sold my sets last year (have a look at the post I wrote about it here). It was such a hard decision. 😦 Best wishes to you and your son.

  6. Hi Reggie,

    In my humble opinion I can say that I owe one of the largest vintage ‘mint in box’ (unplayed and unopened) Playmobil collections. Besides the German boxes I collect the foreign licences like famobil (Spain), Schaper (USA), Playpeople (Marx-Toys UK), Trol (Brazil), Kenbrite (Australia) and the rare Japanese licences (Epoch, Meiji and Yonezawa) too. I was quite surprised to see your blog and the wonderful pictures you posted. I am quite a historian with regard to Playmobil, so I know that it was exported to South Africa in the seventies, but so far I had been unable to find them. I have lived 3 years in Cape Town (Oude Westhof, Northern Suburbs) and enjoyed my great time in this wonderful town and country, but I was not able to find any vintage sets. If you know someone who still has boxes than I would very much appreciate it if you could let me know. I figure Elvinco and Prima Toys were the official South African licencees for Playmobil in South Africa ? Do you remember any blisterpacks or do you only remember boxes sets. The first German sets were released as blisterpacks/blistercards and I was wondering if they were for sale in South Africa as well. Any info about Playmobil in South Africa would be more than welcome.

    Regards,

    Eddy (edberst@hotmail.com)

    • Hello Eddy –

      I am always amazed at how many people know about and love Playmobil! I had always thought I was alone in my love and appreciation for them…

      I have never seen blisterpacks here in South Africa, only box sets; initially, all the figures and their various bits and pieces were packed neatly into cut-out styrofoam boxes, but the later packs were just jumbled all together in, I think, little plastic bags, inside the boxes. Everything was soo neatly packaged, I loved that!

      I don’t know anything about the history of Playmobil here, nor do I know who imported them; you can probably see on the covers that the first boxes were called ‘Playmobil’ or ‘Playmobil System’, and that the next set of boxes had a label of ‘Play People’ stuck over them. I think that was when Elvinco was the licensee.

      On recent visits to the larger toy stores, I have seen Playmobil sets for sale, but I haven’t looked at them more closely. Perhaps I should take my camera along the next time!

  7. Despite quite a bit of purging this past year, I still have some of my toys from childhood as well. I absolutely love toys and as a part-time preschool teacher, I get to play with them more than most adults. We have just one Playmobil set at the preschool – they’re quite expensive here in Canada. I’m sure you’ll find a lovely new home for them in SA. For all its negative qualities, plastic certainly has allowed some toys to endure long enough to bring delight to generations of children.

  8. i remember the days of playmobil… us two, we used to spend hours and hours in the school sandpit ” riding” the horses or building mountains to put the castles on… I still have all my playmobil too – you have given me a good idea, i should try and sell it.

  9. Thanks for liking all my research posts on hiking in the Dolomites. Getting prepared. Great post. I know how hard it is to give up prized possessions that were parts of your childhood. All of my toys and dolls and Nancy Drew books were stored in my family’s basement. There was occasional water problems in the basement, and I was sorry to discover that my most beautiful Madame Alexander doll and all my Nancy Drew were damaged beyond salvage. However, the Barbies survived.

    • You’re very welcome, Rosemarie; I’ve learned so much from reading your posts about your upcoming hike – the legends and histories of these places are particularly enchanting. I wish you well with your hike, as it sounds quite strenuous too!

      Aww, how terrible that your books and toys were so badly damaged… – Barbies are luckily very resilient! 😉 But I would be devastated to lose my books and such. A friend of mine recently lent me her Nancy Drew books, and I had such fun re-reading them! Happy memories!

  10. After so many years I thought I would give it another try. Is there anyone out there who could sell me one boxed Elvinco set from South Africa ? It could just be an empty box too. From every foreign license I know of I have a Playmobil set, but Elvinco (although it’s just a Playpeople (Marx-Toys) sticker with the text by Elvinco on it) is still missing. Any offers would be more than welcome. I even have been in contact with the owner of Elvinco who resides in Vancouver now, but sadly he did not have any catalogs or other documents anymore. So I am also very interested in any Elvinco Playmobil catalogs if they ever existed (according to Mr. Flemming Elvin-Jensen they existed) or any vintage ads from Playmobil in South Africa.

    Kind regards,

    Eddy Berst (edberst@hotmail.com or edberst@t-online.de)

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