Growing up with Hong Kong Plastic figures, Jamboree Bags and Woolies
If you have an interest in toy figures and grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s it’s fairly likely that at some time in your life (for most people during the very formative years, it has to be said) you were given and played with, plastic figures or toys from Hong Kong. These days they may say China but as you will find out later in this post the HK connection hasnt gone away.
Comic and Jamboree Bag – Weekend Treat Circa 1970
It may be that as a child you were given these colourful and cheap versions of more expensive American and European figures or you used some pocket-money at Woolies (Woolworth’s to our non UK friends) or purchased a jamboree bag (a secret contents bag you could get for a few pence at your local newsagent in the 1960 and early 70’s that contained sweets, cards and plastic figures or toys) perhaps purchased with your favourite comic to find the contents included a plastic Indian, cowboy or knight.
Hong Kong Rules
Before “Made in China” became the byword for cheap play figures designed to be played with and recycled it was the former British Colony that led the way in its heyday primarily in the 1970s. Over time these figures have now become collectable themselves and what is good if that’s your thing is that they are still relatively cheap to pick up. In reality HK was more than just cheapo copies, it was a major toy production centre with the 70’s and 80’s seeing many of the major figure companies such as Britain’s shift its production to the colony to reduce the cost of production. Even today although much of the actual production has shifted to mainland China, many of the companies that produce the figures are either run from or owned by HK Chinese with expertise built up over 40 odd years. HK was returned to the Chinese in 1997.
The quality of HK figures is an area of extremes. At the top end some figures are almost direct copies of very collectable and well sculptured plastic figures such as Herald or Marx. The only difference being the lack of the makers mark and the once dreaded “Made in HK” on the base of the figure. Some figures are fairly nasty it has to be said and to enjoy them you need to have a deep-rooted need for plastic and the culture of the time period !