OLD STUFF: Vintage Dime Store Toy Art

The latest edition of Anorak celebrates ART – an opportune time to chat about the glorious art of Dime Store toys!

The Dime Store (or 99p Store, Five & Dime, Variety Store or $2 Shop) has long been the wonderland of cheaply-made bagged toys. The stapled-on header cards, especially in the 50s and 60s, were mini works of art with kooky typefaces and bright colours, that promised thrills and fun times. The graphic designers had a tough job, turning mass-produced injection-moulded plastic into must-haves, but they had a few tricks up their sleeves:

The art of the shocked face

Magic tricks and 'fun provokers' (plastic butter, fake dog poo, severed fingers) were tricked up with illustrations of people in various states of surprise and horror, usually with vivid cheeks and radiating shock lines. Who could resist the promise of that much excitement?!

The art of the bootleg licensed character

Check out the Two Little Pigs, 'Bugs Bunny' having tea with 'Mickey Mouse' and an authentic Davy Crockett wrist watch (the must-have accessory for any 1800s frontiersman).

The art of make-believe

Trinkets like bracelets, 'diamond' rings, motorbikes, tea sets and police badges were your way into a world of glamour and excitement (glamour and excitement not included). The kids in the illustrations were having the time of their lives - what further proof did you need that this was pocket money well spent!  

These Dime Store toys are from my own collection. For a mind-blowing trip down memory lane head straight to Kirk Demarais' fab collection of Dime Store header cards or the Vintage Dime Store Toy Archive on Tumblr. 

By Saskia Ericson