October 18, 2007

DIME STORE HALLOWEEN #1

Let's gaze upon a handful of products that share the same glorious triad of characteristics— they are plastic, vintage, and spooky.

The Coffin Bank is a bone fide classic that ranks right up there with Groucho Glasses and X-Ray Spex in my opinion. It has stocked the shelves of novelty shops for decades (at least since the 50s) and its design has been knocked off many times over (Though I admit I have no idea who the originator was. Anyone?) On the older models the box was made of tin and the grabbing arm was concealed with a piece of cloth, but by my day it had evolved into a curved plastic hood.

Note that the side of the bank says "Mysterious — Hilarious Party-Stopper." I like to imagine that at least once in the history of the world this item has literally stopped a party. Preferably a black tie affair. In my dream scenario some unruly mid-century party-goer places a Coffin Bank next to the hors d'œuvres with a glimmer in his eye. He triggers it with a penny and the entire room full of mingling society types freeze mid-sentence and instantly rubberneck in the direction of the device. The mirthmaker demonstrates once again but this time the attentive crowd responds with howls of laughter and even a smattering of gloved applause.


Another casket themed container is the more obscure Coffin Cigarette Dispenser. I find it interesting that unlike the bank which is essentially a toy, this item was made with adults in mind. Its primary consumers were probably gag gift buyers, but I bet it was a great find for the men who had wet bars in their wood-paneled basements. It must have looked marvelous between the ceramic wino with the light up nose and the mug full of swizzle sticks. This little number was sure to muster a chuckle from the mooching neighbor asking to bum a smoke.


Amusing, yes? No? Well take a look at my pocket. Ah, a genuine skeleton seems to be emerging!
No sir, it's just another strategically placed novelty item...

The Peeping Skeleton is another timeless example of plastic whimsy. Since the days when Baby boomers were still babies, fleets of ships have been transporting these fleeting playings to America. Some variations consist only of the arms while luxury models (like the one in the photo) include a skull. Truly absurd and all too common are versions that are molded in colors other than white. Once an item worthy of its own package and logo, today this enduring trinket has been reduced to piñata filler and dentist office treasure chests.

The Spook Hand also belongs to the family of toys based on an illusion created by displaying only a portion of a given entity. According to the directions on the blister card, the best way to fool a man is to involve a car, however the woman is prone to multiple locations provided they are in the confines of the home where she'll inevitably encounter it during her continual rounds of dusting. Furthermore, when placed on an end table or door the woman will grow terrified, yet placing it on the back of a chair will only yield a sense of bemusement more akin to a man discovering the hand coming out of his trunk.

Ever think about the attributes of "the perfect joke?" Naturally you could hang it anywhere and it would possess an almost life-like quality. But don't get me wrong, it wouldn't cause any harm to the victim, in fact it could be described as "harmless." And the absolute perfect joke would be glittering, that's for sure. Well, guess what...


And finally, a couple of wearable items. The first one is so ridiculous it's magnificent...


The second is so magnificent it's ridiculous...

8 comments:

Max the drunken severed head said...

Oooooo, did that ever jolt the memory cells!

Sparkle Plenty said...

Cool beans! All of this halloween archaeology is reminding me of when I first saw an Aurora monster kit. It was the Bride of Frankenstein, and the box picture fascinated me.

Flashfink! said...

I used to leave my Coffin Bank in the living room when I knew my parents would be having friends over. It never actually stopped the party, but it would often pause it for a minute or two while one of the grown ups tried it out and made me a nickel or dime richer.

Steven A. said...

You find the coolest stuff! I wonder how many different Wear A Weirdos were in the series? I could never wear too many weirdos!

The Restless Mouse said...

The coffin banks from the top picture are available here;

http://www.thatrestlessmouse.com/product/BL2126/Retro_Coffin_Bank.html

Even in death, the rich get richer.

Monster-Maniac said...

I've been enlightened! I have a ton of those peeping skulls! Never knew how they were really meant to be displayed. And that cigarette box is truly nifty.

Kirk D. said...

Glad to hear it max!

Sparkle- yeah, those Aurora's are so great you could dedicate a whole blog just to them. (I'm sure someone has)
I love my repros.

flashfink- Very cool! I take great enjoyment in trying to visualize your moment. Come to think of it, I think I got my first coffin bank as a gift from one of my folks grown up friends.

steven- I've seen the King Kong and the Werewolf too. Any kid wearing all three would be unstoppable. The powers of the animal kingdom, the moon, and modern medicine would all belong to him! (wish I would have thought of that for the post)

restless mouse- Hey, I've actually been to your site. Very neat! And might I say your banks are actually very reasonably priced.

monster maniac- all in a days work.

Mark said...

I'll bet that life-like rubber skull wouldn't be considered harmless today... all it would take is for one kid to choke on it and the lawsuits would fly!