How Galoob Took The Checkered Flag From The Big Boys!
We live in a society obsessed with size. And, nowhere was this more prevalent than in the toy isles of the 1980s.
From musclebound heroes to mega-scale playsets, this was a decade that genuinely believed bigger was better – and that the only way to truly defeat the forces of evil was with biceps so big, they blocked out the sun!
However in 1986, amidst a marketplace dominated by names like He-Man and Hulk Hogan, a little company named Galoob sat poised and ready to show the world it wasn’t the size that mattered. It was how many sales you could take away from such big-name brands as Hot Wheels and Matchbox.
This is the History of Micro Machines!
Start Your Engines!
An original concept first conceived by Wisconsin-based toy inventor Clem V. Hedeen Jr., Micro Machines was a series of scaled-down miniature vehicles that unexpectedly took the toy world by storm well into the 1990s.
Slightly larger than N scale in size, each vehicle bolstered an average length of just 1.5-inches long and were pitched as a new and affordable toy car line that could easily go head to head with some of the biggest names on the market at the time. Prototypes were sent out to Galoob following a meeting at New York Toy Fair, and the company quickly fell in love with the idea.
A contract was signed, and the team set to work.
And They’re Off!
Saul Jodell and David Galoob were put in charge of bringing Micro Machines to market. Their vision for the brand, which included an immensely popular advertising campaign featuring actor and world record fast talker John Moschitta Jr., quickly resulted in the tiny toys becoming a massive success.
Micro Machines quickly became one of the hottest holiday gifts of the year, sharing shopping list space alongside the likes of the Tyco Turbo R/C cars, the Fisher-Price PXL 2000 Camcorder, Koosh Balls, and Cabbage Patch dolls among others. As such, they constantly and unapologetically gave the big guys a serious run for their money at the toy store! And, by extension, the cash register!
In fact, during the first few years that the line was on shelves, Galoob’s Micro Machines assortment was the largest selling toy car line in the United States – with total dollar sales exceeding the combined amounts of Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Majorette respectively!
Many different styles of Micro Machines, also known simply as The Micros in other parts of the world, were made. These included all of the popular car and truck models of the time, as well as numerous different kinds of trains, motorcycles, boats, planes, helicopters, and more! And as the line’s popularity continued to grow, Galoob expanded the assortment to include many more new and exciting additional vehicles.
These included such memorable series as Tuff Trax, which featured models of the most popular TNT Motorsports Monster Trucks of the era, such as Bigfoot and Grave Digger. Star Trek and Star Wars models would also follow soon after, along with offerings from such iconic pop culture franchises as Aliens, Babylon 5, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Men In Black, Power Rangers, and Predator to name a few.
As demand for new products increased, Galoob would also expand the series by releasing several larger-scale Micro Machines playsets heading into the 1990s. Many of these playsets could transform and would feature some sort of an interactive component that worked in conjunction with the main line of miniaturized vehicles.
While the playsets, which transformed into everything from service stations to racetracks, sold quite well, the most popular of these was the fold-out Super Van City that first hit retailers in 1991. Featuring a small-scale metropolis hidden inside the body of a coolly customized Super Van, that particular playset continued to stay in circulation for close to a decade!
As if this wasn’t enough, the individual vehicles themselves would go on to eventually include such special features as functioning lights, color-changing capabilities, rubber tires, and opening doors and hoods.
Needless to say, many Micro Machines models would go on to become quite sought after amongst both fans and collectors during the brand’s heyday.
The specialty Presidential Limousine series released in 1989 quickly became a fan favorite, as did the immensely popular Insider series. These featured an even smaller vehicle inside the standard size Micro Machine, which could be viewed by lifting the body of the larger car away from its chassis via a hinge.
Heading into the 1990s, such offerings as the Private Eye series, the limited edition Corvette Collector series, and a selection of miniaturized boats that could actually float on the water would become the hot button items of the day.
There were even solid gold miniatures of the U.S.S. Enterprise and an Imperial TIE Fighter that were given away as prizes in contests at the height of the Micro Machines craze!
Yes, when it came to Micro Machines, it seemed as though Galoob could do no wrong! With its wide variety of small-scale sports cars and teeny tiny trucks, Galoob had shown the world that bigger wasn’t always best.
Flying off of store shelves, and even expanding on to the home console market with their own brand of fast-paced racing video games, the Micro Machines brand was a huge hit that had dared buck against the status quo and emerged a winner!
Yet, things were about to change.
Out Of Gas!
In the Fall of 1998, American toy giant Hasbro would purchase Galoob for an impressive $220-Million. Would the company that had hit their stride the previous decade with the likes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony continue to find success with Micro Machines?
Sadly, not as much as fans had hoped.
In fact, with the dawn of a new millennium, the basic Micro Machines line was largely discontinued. Yes, Hasbro did try to revive the brand in response to the popularity of the Playmates Speedeez brand in 2003.
They also released a selection of themed sets in conjunction with NASCAR, G.I. Joe, and both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. However, despite these efforts, those revivals didn’t take off with fans as hoped and only lasted a few years at best.
In the end, the Micro Machines name would be used to simply grace the packaging of the popular Star Wars and Transformers Titanium Series range.
Yet, this story is far from over!
The Next Generation!
In the years since their inception, interest in collecting Micro Machines has grown. Early 1986 through 1989 model Galoob Micro Machines cars have become increasingly valuable and collectible, while lines like Tuff Trax and more desirable car models such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Porsche have continued to climb in value here in 2021.
In this new age of cyber shopping, some rare Star Trek sets are now fetching upwards of $400 online. At the same time, many of the more difficult-to-find packages of cars are netting upwards of $150 from collectors eager to reclaim a small piece of their childhood. Licensed character playsets, often sold as fold-open heads, are also highly sought after.
SVO Mustangs, the 1999 CE3R Collector Corvette, several of the Micro Machines military vehicles, and many of the licensed sets from Aliens and Star Wars are also remarkably valuable. In fact, a 24k solid gold Micro Machines Millennium Falcon that was given away as the top prize in a trivia contest held by Star Wars Insider Magazine back in 1996 is said to now be worth over $5,000.00!
Granted, interest in collecting Micro Machines has not reached the level of interest of brands like Hot Wheels. Yet, this in no way means that the tiny toys have lost their appeal within the collecting community. And, this interest has only continued to climb thanks to a recent revival of these mighty miniatures thanks to the folks at Jazwares and Wicked Cool Toys!
Yes, Micro Machines are back! First returning to store shelves in the Fall of 2020, the newly revived brand once again offers a wide range of styles that include everything from Muscle Cars to Off-Road Vehicles – and even an updated version of the popular Super Van City playset!
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A Victory Lap!
Like their vintage counterparts, this new assortment offers an extensive array of colorful, highly detailed models.
Adults who grew up with the originals are now not only quite eager to snap them up off of store shelves but to also share them with their own children – thus passing that passion on to a new generation of fans who look to embrace the miniatures as their parents had all those years ago!
And, while there is no way to really tell what the future holds for Micro Machines here in the 21st Century, it sure is great to see this beloved brand back in stores once more.
After far too long an absence, an entirely new generation of kids is finally able to experience what it means to think big, and play small!
All because one man dared to dream big, and show the world that sometimes something small could be truly sensational!