Deluxe Reading Toys
© Homation Systems 2014


The first thing you noticed about De Luxe toys was that they were BIG.  Some of the best known toys such as the Tiger Tank, Jimmy Jet, Playmobile, and Crusader 101 were 2-3 feet long (huge by today's standards).  The cost of plastic was low, most of the toys were designed to be molded as hollow shells, and since they were sold by order in supermarkets, you didn't have to worry about shelf space in a toy store. Here is a picture from Christmas 1965 at our house.  Take a look at the size of the Crusader 101 box (almost 4 ft long), and the two Bonnie Bride dolls (one in display box).  The second thing you noticed is that they were fully assembled, highly detailed, had lots of chrome plating, and had lots of accessories.  The Dream Kitchen was a prime example.  The entire set contained 176 parts including the appliances, ice cube trays, boxed food, prepared food, silverware, dishes, and even a sponge and towel.  Today's choking restrictions would not allow such a detailed set to be sold today. The third thing that you noticed was that the toys were generally only detailed on one side.  Most toys have a "Beauty side", and then a "Back side" that was either plain, cardboard, or open entirely. I had the tremendous opportunity to discuss design with a former engineer from De Luxe.  This provided a better insight into some of the design principles of the toys produced in the 60's. Web: Who designed the Deluxe toys? Engineer: Sid Tepper was VP of Engineering.  The internal De Luxe engineers did the electro- mechanical design of the plastic toys. The "styling" of the items was done by Felix Gilbert.  Felix later became VP of R&D. He was a former World War 2 fighter pilot who was killed while taking part in an air show in Canada. He was taking the place of a friend of his who became sick at the last minute. He was admired by everyone in the company and his death shocked all of us. Web: Many of the toys were huge, was molding/assembly done in-house? Engineer: In the late 50's, all assembly was done at the Summer Ave plant in Newark, NJ. All plastic molding was done by outside vendors.  A man named Sol Blitz, who owned Tyco Plastics in Brooklyn, NY did most of the molding and when over loaded gave the rest to his friends in the industry. It was not until a few years after the plant in Elizabeth was opened that in-plant molding started and even then a lot was given out. As I recall Al Hammer (Company VP) took charge of selecting the outside molders.   Web: How were these toys able to be produced so inexpensively? Engineer: If you look closely at the items sold in the super markets you will see that only the visible parts (front / sides) had the "glitz" while the parts that could not be seen were bare and even had open areas to save on plastic. This practice ended when the company's products entered the regular toy stores.  Henry Orenstein would always remind the Engineering Department of two things....."A penny saved on a million toys is $10,000.00" and "Toys are made for kids, not engineers". He had signs printed and hung all over the engineering dept. Detailed Design These examples show some of the attention to detail typical of Deluxe Toys. These are close up shots of the Crusader 101 dashboard, and the Dream Kitchen sink.
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