Now that San Francisco has banned the inclusion of free toys with most children's meals, we thought it might be time to take a look at the collectibles market for fast food toys.
Most pieces, especially those from industry giants like McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC, are worth no more than a dollar or two, even in MIP (mint in package) condition, simply because there are so many of them. Less-than-mint condition is generally reason enough to relegate a piece to a yard sale "Free" box.
Rare indeed is the situation that would prompt a collector to pay the equivalent of $420 for a single McDonald's 101 Dalmatians figure, but some toys do generate enough interest through their cross-collectible appeal and product quality that they are able to command prices that, though much more modest, are still relatively substantial.
Prime examples are the two series of Wizard of Oz dolls released by McDonald's in 2007 and 2008. The first group of eight dolls proved so popular that the company decided to release an expanded series the following year. The 12 figures, again by the Madame Alexander Doll Company, stood 4.5" tall and possessed movable limbs and eyes that could open and close. Today, individual figures often sell for $8 to $15, the 2007 sets for up to $50+, and the 2008 series for around $100. At a recent online auction, bidding on a mint-in-packages 2008 set closed at $129.99.
Toys from regional franchises sometimes receive an additional boost in the secondary markets simply because they are not as ubiquitous as those from the big chains. As an example, Hardees, found primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, issued a set of six Balto toys in 1995. Even though the 1995 animated film was considered only a modest success, the story (based on actual events) has engendered a coterie of fans who are not only willing to pay up to $100 for MIP sets, but are even bidding on pieces that are missing their original packaging.
Another example is Del Taco, a regional chain that has slowly been expanding beyond its California base. For Christmas 2003, Del Taco issued four plush toys honoring the 1970 stop-motion animation classic Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. At a recent online auction, the MIP set - Santa Claus, Topper the Penguin, the Burgermeister and Winter Warlock - fetched $120.
You know, maybe it wouldn't hurt to search through those 25-cent tables or "Free" boxes at yard and rummage sales after all. A Dorothy here and a Balto there could add up to a nice little return on your investment.
Would you like to discover more about collectible fast food toys? Check out the resources listed below, and
The Encyclopedia of Fast Food Toys: Arby's to Ihop (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)
The Encyclopedia of Fast Food Toys: Jack in the Box to White Castle (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Fast Food Figures (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Fast Food Toys (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)
McDonald's Pre-Happy Meal Toys: From the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Fast Food World: The Hamburger Comes of Age - Link to article - Article outlines the development of the fast food industry - interesting!
Happy Meal Ban: McDonald's Outsmarts San Francisco - Link to blog post - Great piece by Joe Eskenazi for SF Weekly.
Kathy's Fast Food Toys - Link to website - Check out the lists of McDonald's catalogs and fast food chains.
McDonald's Collectors Club - Link to website - Organization hosts annual convention, publishes quarterly newsletter, more. Check site for info and pics of past toys.