Deluxe Reading Toys
© Homation Systems 2014


De Luxe was one of the first toy companies to utilize the new medium of television for advertising.  Much credit is due to Mattel for pioneering TV advertising, and they deserve credit for early successes.  In an interview, Elliott Handler, co-founder of Mattel said "Reaching the kiddies directly with TV had far- reaching implications. Previously most toys were purchased by adults who would ask the retailer: 'What do you have for a 5 year old?' Three or four products were offered as possibilities and the selection made. Neither the toy nor the manufacturer was identified in the mind of the adult or the child. With television both brand name and product could be sold directly to the consumer. It was the beginning of a marketing revolution."1 Mattel later expanded the idea by sponsoring the "Beany and Cecil Show" and selling the related toys, creating the "tie-in". Deluxe went in a slightly different direction.  They created short commercials with lots of action.  The commercials usually showed the toys performing the most incredible feats, and typically used a jingle set to well known (public domain) tunes like "The Farmer in the Dell", or "My Merry Oldsmobile".  The song in the commercial for Operation X-500 (Man in Space) is a good example.  Loosly to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" De Luxe Man-in-Space complete with Missile Base with Astronaut and Satellite you send them into flight 3-2-1 Fire De Luxe Man in Space Click Here to See the Man In Space Commercial De Luxe also pioneered the toy display and toy box as advertisement.  Since initially most of thieir toys were  sold in supermarkets, the flashy toy display was a primary advertising vehicle.  The toy displays showed the toys fully assembled, shined and polished, and covered with superlatives like "The Most Exciting Toy Ever Made", or "The Most Beautiful Bridal Gown In The World", or "The Most Fantastic Doll Ever".  Of course, the display also said "Supply is Limited, Place Deposit NOW!"


Perhaps the most well known aspect of the De Luxe Reading company in the 60's is the sales process.  Toys were sold exclusively in Grocery Stores in the 50's and early 60's.  In fact, most older De Luxe toys are often called "Grocery Store Toys" for this reason.  In the late 40's small Grocery Stores were rapidly evolving into larger self-service Supermarkets. Dedicated toy stores such as Toys R Us and Kay Bee would not come into being for another 20 years.  By picking the new supermarket, De Luxe found the one place that parents were apt to be every week without fail.  If the children tagged along, so much the better.  I can personally remember the excitement around trips to the supermarket in the early 60's.  In October, the displays would go up (over the frozen food coolers in our local store).  We would look longingly at the toys for the next 11 weeks, counting the days until Christmas.  De Luxe meanwhile placed a small toy Order Box in the store office (see photos at left) and allowed parents to purchase these wonderful toys for $1.00 down, and $1.00 per week.  The average De Luxe toy sold for $8- $13.00 at that time.  A big advantage of this process was that De Luxe knew exactly how many toys to produce, and had some part of the payment up front.  Once the orders were locked in, all they had to do was get the toys built and delivered to the stores by Christmas Eve. Although regular boxed toys could be picked up, the displays were a different story.  The orders to the store were: “Please do not deliver this display or any other De Luxe toy display item until Christmas; All displays should be sold for delivery December 24th”. This meant that one lucky buyer per store would get not only the toy, but the fancy display box too!  One of my sisters received her Bonnie Bride in the display box, but unfortunately it is long gone. In the mid-60's after Deluxe Reading was re-purchased by Henry Orenstein, the company was renamed Deluxe Topper and later just Topper.  At that time, toy sales began in traditional retail stores.  Topper Toys were a big hit, and several toys from the mid-60's are highly sought as collectables today. A quick look at "E-Bay" will generally find 30-40 toys from this era up for auction at any given time. 1  "Toys of the Sixties": Bruegman, William R. III, 1992
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