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Charmore Company (Revised version of 03-10-2013)

History

This article describes the interesting history of the Charmore Company. One reason the company is quite interesting is that it was the basis for the figures of the Donetsk Toy Factory (Donetskij Zavod Igrushek, or "DZI") in the USSR and Heimo in Germany, which were created later. The new molds for Indians, cowboys, pirates and Romans were made during the existence of the Charmore company.

Now, let's start from the beginning.
After the end of WWII "Louis Marx & Company" registered a new subsidiary, "Charmore Company", named in honor of David Marx's wife Charlene.
There are a few different explanations offered for the reason for its creation:
  1. It was done for "tax reasons" and retail buyer-level advantages;
  2. Creation of employment for Charlene;
  3. Reduction of production costs by using workers with lower wages;
  4. It was part of the program for restoring Germany after World War II. The famous American master collector Rick Koch tells us:
"Charmore was a German company, which was part of the program on restoration of Germany after World War II that the US carried out. Louis Marx offered help in this process by copying from his molds."

From "TIME Magazine" (Dec. 12 1955, "The Little King"):
"... Air Command's General Curtis LeMay, General Omar Bradley, now a Bulova top executive, and General George Catlett Marshall. Even after they leaped into the headlines in wartime, Marx says, he was sure that the generals would be "forgotten like Bliss and Pershing," worried about the generals' financial future. In 1946, when he formed a cosmetic company called Charmore, Marx decided to help out some of his military friends by selling them shares in the profitable company at a nominal price."

David Marx (Louis Marx's brother) was a good friend of Eisenhower. After World War II, David Marx was appointed as the Adviser for Light Industry in Germany based on Eisenhower's recommendation. Possibly, David's appointment was intended to be part of the Marshall Plan.

Wikipedia says:
"The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the American program to aid Europe, in which the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild a war-devastated region, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again. The initiative was named after Secretary of State George Marshall.
The reconstruction plan, developed at a meeting of the participating European states, was established on June 5, 1947. During the four years that the plan was operational, U.S. $13 billion in economic and technical assistance was given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. This $13 billion was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $13 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Plan that is counted separately from the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was replaced by the Mutual Security Plan at the end of 1951."

In 1948 the Charmore Company, together with the Marx Company, acquired the licensing rights for production of the toy known as the "Yo-Yo" by Donald F. Duncan. The following is listed in the official court paperwork, claim Ļ 343 F.2d 655: "On July 23, 1948, plaintiff's predecessor (a co-partnership) entered into an agreement with Louis Marx & Company, Inc. and Charmore Company, whereby the licensor granted them a license to use the trademark 'Yo-Yo'."

Charmore's early production was issued under its own name, with the following address marked on the boxes: "200 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK 10, NEW YORK" (or "NEW YORK 10, NEW YORK").
Here are two little pots of lipstick in cardboard bases:

Gold plated pocket perfume flacon:

Chapter 1. Pirates

There was also a second address: "126 MARKET ST., PATTERSON, N. J." (or "PATTERSON, N. J.") where the toy boxes were marked.
Here is an example of one of the early boxed sets of pirates:


The first series of early releases of Charmore pirates, at a scale of 60mm, saw the light of day in 1956. The earliest pirates were made out of a salmon-colored rubber and painted at the factory. The overall quality of the painting of the Charmore figures was not very good - this can be verified by numerous examples. The early Charmore pirates were released using Marx molds of US pirates "Marx Miniature Sculptured Figures" series. In 1956, Marx started to shrink the scale of the figures. In the transition period, which lasted a few months, the 60mm figures were replaced with the new 54mm ones, and the some 60mm molds were transferred to a Charmore factory in Germany.
Here is photo of one of early pirates:


This figure is from the first series of early releases of pirates produced by Charmore. These pirates did not undergo the changes of the early American releases. On the base we see small rounded cavities. These cavities are traces of the pushers. In the first series of early releases the pushers were saved in their original form, but for the release of the first series of late releases one of the pushers was modified. It was increased in diameter and now was adorned with the name of the manufacturing country, which in earlier releases was applied with an ink stamp:

Such a modification undoubtedly required some alterations to the side of the mold in order to increase the size of the hole. What is more, this is the first known case of stamping the logo (in this case an inscription) to the base of Marx figures.
The first series of Charmore pirates were sold individually or in 8-piece boxes under the "Hand Painted Masterpieces" series.

In 1958, the molds of the first series of pirates were sent to Marx's "Swansea" factory, located in South Wales in the Great Britain, and in Germany their younger brothers were born. Completely new molds were prepared for them. These were updated versions of the previous eight figures. The poses were absolutely identical, but the scale was smaller. These usually had a scale of 54mm, but this is a very approximate figure. The new version of the pirates came out in two variants: in white, hard, unpainted plastic, and in hard factory painted plastic flesh color. One of the pushers had the mark "Germany". It was a second series.
Let's look at the photos:


These pirates in particular became the direct ancestors of the "DZI" pirates. Their molds, taking the complicated journey through several Marx factories and various countries and even continents, ultimately was bought by the Soviet government in 1976 and transferred into production in the Donetsk Toy Factory.

Finally, one more time, let's look at the variants of pirates released by the Charmore company, for example the captain with a peg leg:

All releases were painted by the same standard. There were minor deviations.

The full history of the pirate molds:

FIRST
SERIES
USA
"Marx Miniature
Sculptured Figures"
(1953–1955)
Canada
(1955–1956)
"Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1958)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1958–1960)
"Plastimarx"
Mexico
(1960)
  Mexico Mexico
(present day)
SECOND
SERIES
      "Charmore"
Germany
(1958–1960)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1960–1962)
Hong Kong
"WOW"
(1962–1965)
"DZI"
USSR
(1977–1995)
"ARK model"
Russia
(present day)

Chapter 2. Indians

Unlike the pirates, Charmore Indians were never created from the U.S. molds. Three new sets of molds were made for them.
The first set (we'll call it "first series") consisted of 8 unmounted poses, created based on the figures of the early American sets: "Indian camp" and "Skinny indians".
The second set (we'll call it "second series") also consisted of 8 unmounted poses. The figures were practically identical to the first, but looking carefully at them, they differed in small details and proportions.
The third set (third series) of molds consisted of 4 mounted figures and 2 horses.
One of the pushers from the beginning imprinted the trademark, but the distinguishing feature was the fact that there were two types of marking: "Germany" and "Holland"

The figures of all three sets of molds were released in a few types:
1) 8 unmounted and 4 mounted in hard, unpainted white plastic with the marking "Germany" or "Holland";
2) 8 unmounted and 4 mounted in hard, reddish-brown plastic, painted in the factory with the marking "Germany". The unmounted ones sometimes have the price ".10" stamped in ink on their base;
3) 3) 8 unmounted in hard, reddish-brown plastic, painted at the factory, marked "Holland" and were sold in boxed sets in series "Hand Painted Masterpieces" with 8 pieces per box.
4 *) 8 unmounted in hard reddish-brown plastic, painted at the factory and marked "Germany". These were sold in boxes of 8 with a transparent front cover. Later this same packaging was used by the Heimo company.
5 *) 8 unmounted in soft, unpainted polyethylene. The colors that I know about are yellow, red, and green. They were marked "Germany".
* Used only the second series mold. It's possible, by this time, that the first set of molds had been passed to the "Swansea" factory in Great Britain.

You can rarely come across figures made out of rubber, painted at the factory and with the mark "Germany".

The approximate release period of these figures was from 1956 to 1960.

The first and only known playset in history containing Charmore figures was "SILVER CITY WESTERN TOWN" #4268, released in 1956. In issue 49 of the "Playset Magazine" from January 2010, an article about this set was published by Gary Carlington with comments by Mark Hegeman. In the article, Gary details his recollections about the purchase of this new set, provides detailed photos of the box, figures, and accessories, and also mentions the price which he paid for the set in 1959, 5 dollars and 44 cents. In November 2009 Garry sold his set on Ebay for more than two thousand dollars.
In March 2011 one more of such rare sets was sold on Ebay by the well-known American collector Jim McGough, who gave detailed photos and descriptions of all figurines. This set included the figures of mounted and unmounted Indians and cowboys. All of the figures were made from hard, painted plastic and marked "Germany". It is noteworthy, that the boxed set was marked "LOUIS MARX & CO INC" with the address "200 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK 10, NEW YORK". Apparently, this set was the last product released from this address. All later products were marked with the address "PATTERSON, N.J."

Now we return to the first series.

Here are two photos of "Hand Painted Masterpieces" boxed set courtesy of Mark Hegeman:

Here are the figures of the "dancing chief", made in two different variants:


The base is branded "Holland".
And this variant of the same chief, with the mark "Germany":

Let's consider the Chief of the second series in comparison with the Chief of the first series:


As is apparent in comparison - the figures have small differences of appearance and minor details, but the main difference is the location of the pushers.

The third series. Riders. Two figures were created based on the early American figures from the sets "Stockade Indians" and "Skinny Indians", and the other two were created with a completely new design. The horses resemble the early American ones, but they have saddle cloths. One more important detail - all the horses of Charmore were hollow and branded with one of two different marks: "Germany" or "Holland".
Let's consider the riders. Here are three of the four:

A group of unmounted Indians in various types of material:

A couple of rubber figures:

There was never a standard for painting the Indians and the quality of painting was terrible.

Indians of the first series were the direct ancestors of the Indians of "DZI". Their mold, going through a multiyear journey across several Marx factories and various countries and even continents, in the end was purchased by the Soviet government in 1976 and transferred into production in the Donetsk Toy Factory.
The mold of the second series of unmounted figures and the mold of the riders and horses were sold to the German toy factory "Heimo".

The full history of the Indian molds:

  USA
"Camp Indians"
(1953–1956)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1956–1958)
Mexico        
  USA
"Skinny Indians"
(1954–1956)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1956–1958)
Mexico?
Canada?
       
FIRST
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1960)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1960–1962)
Hong Kong
"WOW"
(1962–1965)
Taiwan
"WOW"
(1965–1967)
"DZI"
USSR
(1977–1997)
"ARK model"
Russia
(present day)
SECOND
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1963)
"Heimo"
Germany
     
THIRD
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1963)
"Heimo"
Germany
     

Chapter 3. Cowboys

The history of the cowboys is almost exactly the same as the history of the Indians. The cowboys of Charmore were never created from US molds. Three new molds were made for them.
The first set (we'll call it "first series") consisted of 8 unmounted poses, created based on the figures of the early American sets: "Roy Rogers, Ranch Cowboys" and "Roy Rogers, Town Cowboys".
The second set (we'll call it "second series") also consisted of 8 unmounted poses. The figures were practically identical to the first, but looking carefully at them, they differed in small details and proportions.
The third set (third series) of molds consisted of 4 mounted figures and 2 horses.

The cowboys of all three sets of molds were released in a few types:
1) 8 unmounted in hard, brown plastic with flat paint. With two pushers (small and big) and no markings. They were sold in boxed sets under the series "Hand Painted Masterpieces". Some of them had "Holland", "Made in Holland", or the price ".10" stamped in ink on their base;
2) 4 mounted in hard, brown plastic with flat paint, with the mark "Germany" or "Holland";
3) 8 unmounted in hard plastic, ivory color in flat paint and the mark "Germany". The price ".10" was stamped on some of them;
4) 8 unmounted and 4 riders on horses in hard plastic with matte paint or in unpainted white plastic. They had the mark "Germany" or "Holland". Some of the unmounted figures had the price ".10" stamped on their base;
5 *) 8 unmounted in soft, unpainted polyethylene. The colors that I know about are yellow, red, and green. They were no marking on the base and had only one (smaller) round cavity (pusher).
6 *) 8 unmounted in hard plastic with glossy paint or, more rarely, unpainted white plastic. They had one small pusher without markings. The painted figures were sold in boxed sets of 8 pcs with a transparent front cover. Later this same packaging was used by the Heimo company;
7 *) 4 riders in hard white plastic with glossy paint. They were sold in boxed sets of 8 with a transparent front cover, and were marked "Germany".
* Used only the second series mold. It's possible, by this time, the first set of molds had been transferred to the "Swansea" factory in Great Britain.

The approximate release period of these figures was from 1956 to 1960.

The first and only known playset in history containing Charmore cowboys was "SILVER CITY WESTERN TOWN" #4268, released in 1956. It is described in Chapter 2. Indians.

Now we return to the first series.

Here are two photos of "Hand Painted Masterpieces" boxed set courtesy of Mark Hegeman:

Here is a cowboy from the first series compared to a cowboy from the second series:


As is apparent in comparison - the figures have small differences of appearance and minor details, but the main difference is the location of the pushers.

Here are figurines from the second series, made in two different variants:


The base is branded with the mark "Holland".
And here is a variant of the same cowboy marked "Germany":

The third series. Riders. Two figures were created based on the early American figures from the set "Roy Rogers, Town Cowboys", the third was almost identical to the rider with the hat from the set "Roy Rogers, Ranch Cowboys", and the fourth was created with a completely new design. The horses resemble the early American ones. All the horses were hollow and branded with one of two different marks: "Germany" or "Holland".
Let's look at the mounted figures:

A group photo of cowboys of various variants and materials:

There was never a standard for painting the cowboys and the quality of painting was terrible.

Cowboys of the first series became the direct ancestors of the cowboys of "DZI". Their mold was bought by the Soviet government in 1976 and transferred into production at the Donetsk Toy Factory.
The molds of the second series of unmounted figures and the molds of the riders and horses were sold to the German Heimo toy factory.

The full history of the cowboy molds:

  USA
"Roy Rogers Town Cowboys"
(1953–1956)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1956–1958)
Mexico      
FIRST
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1960)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1960–1962)
Hong Kong
"WOW"
(1962–1965)
"DZI"
USSR
(1977–1997)
"ARK model"
Russia
(present day)
SECOND
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1963)
"Heimo"
Germany
   
THIRD
SERIES
  "Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1963)
"Heimo"
Germany
   

Chapter 4. The Romans

The Romans closely repeated the history of the pirates. The first series of Charmore Romans was released using Marx molds from the US. These molds safely made their way to Donetsk.
One important characteristic of the first series was the fact that the inside of the big pusher a small, barely noticeable circle was imprinted. This was certainly a defect in the milling. What's more, this characteristic is unique to the Roman figurines from the first series. This circle existed in the earliest American releases and remained on all subsequent figurines which were released from various Marx factories.


1. "Marx Miniature Sculptured Figures" USA
2. First series "Charmore" Germany

And more:



1. "Swansea" Gt. Britain
2. Pre-"WOW" Hong Kong

Also, a second set of molds was prepared for the second series of Charmore Romans. The figures of the second series had a multitude of differences from the first.
Another important point is that the Charmore Romans of both series were not branded with the logos that we are already familiar with, "Germany" and "Holland". It's not completely clear why this happened. Perhaps it was because they were not intended for retail sale, but instead were collected under a common boxed set of eight figures in a box with a transparent front cover and the logo "MARX TOYS". Subsequently, the packages were used by the Heimo company and the logo, accordingly, was changed.
The Charmore Romans were constructed out of hard salmon-colored plastic, or in rare cases, white and painted during manufacturing. Sometimes Romans of the first series are found made from painted rubber. Like all the rest of the Charmore figures, the quality of the coloring was far from perfect. There was also no single standard for coloring.

Now I suggest we look at them a little closer.
Figures of the first and second series in comparison:


As you can see, the figures are significantly different. On the big pusher of the first series of Romans was the aforementioned small circle.

The difficult to find Romans, in hard white painted plastic and painted rubber:

And an even rarer one in hard white unpainted plastic:

That's the entire history. The circulation of the Charmore Romans was not large. There weren't any large differences in versions.

The mold of the first series of Romans, after a long journey across countries and continents, was sold to the USSR and used at the Donetsk Toy Factory. Molds of the second series were sold to the German company "Heimo".

The full history of the Roman molds:

FIRST
SERIES
USA
"Marx Miniature
Sculptured Figures"
(1956)
"Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1958)
"Swansea"
Gt. Britain
(1958–1962)
Hong Kong
"WOW"
(1962–1965)
Taiwan
"WOW"
(1965–1967)
"DZI"
USSR
(1977–1994)
"ARK model"
Russia
(present day)
SECOND
SERIES
    "Charmore"
Germany
(1958–1963)
"Heimo"
Germany
   

Chapter 5. Vikings

The history of the Vikings is more modest in comparison with the above heroes. There is still no accurate data confirming the existence of second molds, as well as no data confirming the existence of Heimo Viking production.
The manufacture of the Charmore Vikings was established around 1956. Thatís when the American Marx manufacturing began to transition to the smaller scale figures. In the transition period, which took a few months, 60mm figures were changed for new ones of a smaller size - 54mm, and part of the molds were sent to the Charmore factory in Germany. The Vikings were released with Marx molds from the US. The Charmore Vikings also, like the Romans, were not branded with the logos "Germany" or "Holland". Possibly because they also were not sold at retail, but were collected under a common boxed set of eight figures in a box with a transparent front cover and the logo "MARX TOYS".
The Charmore Vikings were constructed out of hard salmon-colored plastic, or, in rare cases, white with factory painting, or, in rare cases, white with factory painting. There were releases in painted rubber. Like all the other Charmore figures - the quality of the painting wasnít great, but it was definitely interesting. A single standard of painting didn't exist.

Here are some photographs of the Vikings. Left to right: hard plastic, rubber:

Rare Vikings out of hard white painted and unpainted plastic:

The circulation of the Charmore Vikings was not widespread.

The Viking mold managed to survive until the Soviet government bought it with the other molds from the English company "Dunbee-Combex-Marx". Close to 1977, the release of Vikings from the Donetsk Toy Factory (DZI) began.

The full history of the Viking molds:

USA
"Marx Miniature Sculptured Figures"
(1956)
"Charmore"
Germany
(1956–1958)
"Plastimarx"
Mexico
(1958–1962)
Hong Kong
"WOW"
(1962–1965)
Taiwan
"WOW"
(1965–1967)
"DZI"
USSR
(1977–1997)
"ARK model"
Russia
(present day)

Summary

To finish this article I would like to summarize everything.

The assortment of Charmore was remarkably wide and was not limited only by figures. Today on Internet auction sites you will periodically come across assembly models and mechanical walking toys made by Charmore, certainly, in the early period of its existence. There is a theory that after 1956 the Charmore manufacturing was fully reoriented towards toy figures (soldiers).

We will try to summarize the information about which sets of figures were released by Charmore.
Follow the links to view the photos of these sets:

PREHISTORIC

ANCIENT and MEDIEVAL ERA

PIRATES

WILD WEST

AFRICA

MILITARY

CIVILIANS

CARTOONS and COMICS

SQUARE BASED

And more some very interesting photos below are courtesy of Mark Hegeman:



The early soft plastic 54mm knights were made by Marx USA. This box is the exact dimensions and the same design like the Charmore boxes:

The Inaugural set is very rare. Mark tells, that he do not knows of anyone with another set.


Large factory boxes:

Store displays:

It's possible, that this was because in Europe plastic and its manufacture in these years was cheaper. It's completely obvious, that to organize a small production in a country, which had just repaired its economy and having in this country a serious administrative resource wouldn't be no problem for a person like Louis Marx.
Most likely the early Charmore productions were targeted for American market. You can judge this based on the boxed-set designs, where were all printed in English. The boxes up until 1956 were marked with Charmore and the American logo Marx at the same time. For later productions a German version of the logo was created and they started to make boxes in German.

It's possible that the Charmore company lasted a very short time. The year of its liquidation could be 1960. That was when Marx sold the second set of molds and associated equipment to Heimo, thus leaving them in Germany, and the first set traveled to the Swansea factory in Great Britain.



Photo from Disneyana

Another theory points to 1963. It's possible that after 1963 Charmore was renamed to "LOUIS MARX & CO. G.M.B.H." with the address "Hamburg 36. Kaiser-Wilhelm-Str. 89". This could be connected to the fact that, starting in 1963, Marx rebranded his logo, bringing all production to a single style, not dependent on the country where the product was manufactured. The well-known Japanese branch Linemar suffered the exact same fate, while producing mechanical toys.

P. S. Very often, people mistakenly call the Charmore figures Heimo, which is totally wrong. Heimo is a completely independent German company, founded by Mr. Heitmann in the early 60s. A few molds, as well as equipment, were bought by him from Charmore. Often you can find figures with the mark "Germany" packed into boxes with the brand Heimo. This is explained by the fact that during the transfer (sale) of all of the assets and production facilities, a large number of unsold finished products had accumulated in the Charmore warehouses. Accordingly, Heimo sold the remainder under its own brand. Nevertheless, this production should be classified as Charmore. A little bit later, when the legacy stocks were running low, Heimo began to produce their own products. The figures of Heimo manufacturing differed from Charmore. All of them were created from rubber and painted in a brighter color. At the same time, a thick layer of paint was applied, and the paint itself was glossy. The bases, in most cases, were marked with their own brand.

In the late 70's the sales of Heimo were stopped. The descendants of Mr. Heitmann unfortunately can't remember the reason for the suspension of production. The reasons could be bankruptcy or license termination.

I would like to express my thanks to the Russian forum "Wild Wild West" for help with the preparation of this article.

Thanks to Mark Hegeman for his very useful photos.

My special thanks to Jason Kielpinski for the translation.


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