Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sammy Steel: The Lost Brother of Mighty Max

The following is a guest post by Mike MacDee of

In the early '90s Polly Pocket started an amazing toy trend: playsets the size of drink coasters, with figures tiny enough to inhabit them. It was invented by a clever and loving man who built a dollhouse for his daughter out of a discarded makeup compact so she could take it anywhere. This begat what I believe to be the most brilliantly designed toy of all time: Mighty Max, the short-lived “Polly Pocket for boys,” which really kicked off the “mini playset” trend of the '90s. Suddenly every licensed toy line was doing it: Power Rangers, Tarzan, Star Wars, Pokemon, Micro Machines, even Goosebumps.

These days, Max is reliving his adventures via night terrors in an asylum somewhere in Massachusetts, blissfully unaware that he has a brother who went on similar adventures: a boy named Sammy Steel.

Okay, all pretensions aside, Sammy Steel vs The Micro Mob was a dollar store knock-off of a popular toy: Warlord to Max’s He-Man. But the fact that this toy existed was amazing to my little child mind, being such a young fan of odd knock-off toys already.

But Sammy Steel wasn’t just a handful of inferior dollar store knock-offs: like Max, it ran for three different series, and each one featured a comic strip on the back of its card. It tried so hard to emulate the source that it’s hard not to admire it a little bit. Every year when I went to the dollar store toy aisle and found another new lineup of Sammy Steels it blew my mind. Stranger still, I discovered official UK variants many years later.

Nowadays the toys are unicorn rare, and really not worth anything, nor are they in demand. But that just makes collecting them all the more fun. I get a rush of excitement whenever I find a new Sammy Steel listing, and I’ve hoarded an impressive collection of the things. I’m pretty sure my site, MikesToyBox, is the only source of info on these forgotten toys anymore.

One major stylistic difference between Max and Sammy is that Sammy never abandoned the cute design motif of Max Series 1, opting for Hanna-Barbara while Max took the Lovecraft and Hammer Horror route. They also lacked the ingenious designs of Mighty Max: the playsets weren’t configured for everything to fit in exactly the right place so the compact could close without trouble. You basically pack Sammy away by jangling the figures around inside until the lid finally closed.

Sammy Steel Series 1 was four sets: Vicious Volcano, Face Mountain, Dome of Doom, and Sinister Saucer. These are the most easily found on eBay and elsewhere, particularly Face Mountain. Sinister Saucer is the best because of its inorganic environment where everything seems to serve a purpose, while the other three were mostly set in the wilderness. The compacts were shaped like mountains or cute flying saucers.

Things get more interesting with Series 2. Club Dread is a water park overrun by terrorists, robots, and giant octopodes. Hurtin’ Safari is set around a Minecraft-like jungle tree fort. Prehistoric Peril takes Sammy to Forbidden Valley to fight Gwangi and other Harryhausen delights. The series climaxes with Star Trap, an adorable moon base that would better suit Polly Pocket than Mighty Max, if she ever went to space. The compacts for these are wonderful, because two are “disguised” as Walkman cassette players, and the other two as Game Boys. I wish they were all the latter, because the screens of the Game Boy compacts are made to resemble LCD games depicting the action inside - an unbearably cool touch. They went nuts with the accessories, too: look at all the stuff you got! Look at that dinosaur with the saddle-crane!

Things end weak as a baby fart with Series 3, which only featured three toys instead of the usual four: Submarine Sandwich, the laughable Tomb of Terror, and Chasing the Mob’s Missile. These playsets came with built-in sound effects, at the expense of figures, detail, and anything else more interesting. A depressing end for a fun little knockoff toy that shelled out more effort than most dollar store ripoffs…in the beginning, anyway.

I occasionally find other Max/Polly knockoffs I never heard of, and it’s always a treat for some nerdy reason. I continue browsing the Mighty Max listings in the hope of finding Sammy Steel stuff. Maybe someday I’ll find someone selling a carded lot, or a piece I’m missing. Or maybe I’ll start collecting Polly Pocket knockoffs next. I still need to buy a house for Max to retire in.

For more Sammy Steel information and photos of additional playsets, packaging and more, visit!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mono Minis of the Day: 10/29/17 to 11/29/17

Here are the latest batches of Mono Minis of the Day--as posted daily on the Little Weirdos Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. The lineup in the photo is as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Monster from Halloween Coffin Surprise
2. Cat from Target Halloween pencil toppers
3. Bat from Target Halloween erasers
4. Apollo from Neclos Fortress
5. Monster from Merry Monsters
6. Dinosaur keshi
7. Destoroyah from Godzilla keshi
8. Gundam SD keshi
9. Medusa from Age of Mythology
10. Man-e-Faces from Panrico Masters of the Universe premiums
11. Ninja from Toysmith Ninjas
12. Pebbles Flintstone pencil topper
13. Adventure Island keshi
14. Alien from Alien MUSCLE
15. Brontosaurus from Matutano dinosaurs
16. Monster from Monstruos Mutantes
17. Ninja/warrior bootleg figure
18. MUSCLE/Kinnikuman bootleg figure
19. Ultraman SD figure
20. Robot from Ninjas vs. Robots
21. Zoids bootleg capsule figure 
22. #187 from MUSCLE
23. Parachute robot capsule figure
24. Mega Man from Mega Man MUSCLE
25. Centaur from Neclos Fortress
26. Kung fu man capsule figure
27. Four-Eyed Ghost from The Real Ghostbusters
28. Monster from Merry Monsters
29. Spoilet from Mini Boglins
30. Ultraman kaiju magnetic keshi
31. Rubber dragon pencil topper
32. Omega Virus board game figure

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mono Minis of the Day: 9/27/17 to 10/28/17

Here are the latest batches of Mono Minis of the Day--as posted daily on the Little Weirdos Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. The lineup in the photo is as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Horanken from Neclos Fortress
2. Yarn from Mini Boglins 
3. Kaiju from Ultraman keshi
4. Bison from Tehnolog Zveronics
5. Dinosaur from Target Dino Figures jar
6. #106 from MUSCLE
7. Outer Space Men knockoff mini
8. Lakitu from Super Mario Bros. keshi     
9. Space Ace figure
10. Monster finger puppet
11. Fantasy animal warrior pencil topper
12. Runnin' Ralph from Weird Ball Collectums
13. Red King from Ultraman kaiju bootleg set  
14. Dromei from Neclos Fortress      
15. Warriors of the Galaxy playset figure
16. Invincible Army Men figure
17. Dunk from Mini Boglins
18. X-2 from The Worst MUSCLE
19. Ultraman kaiju keshi
20. Vampiress from Juguete Halloween (Peru Monster in My Pocket)
21. Ecto-Plazm nose ghost from The Real Ghostbusters  
22. Probe robot from Omega Virus board game
23. Luttor from Cosmix
24. Allosaurus from Topps Dino Toys
25. Zora from Legend of Zelda keshi
26. Moldy Moxie from SLUG Zombies
27. Rick from Kirby Dreamland keshi
28. Ghost from Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures micro figures
29. Yu-Gi-Oh figure
30. Semi Colin from Garbage Pail Kids Minikins
31. Kaiju from Ultraman keshi
32. #165 from MUSCLE

Friday, October 27, 2017

Mono Minis of the Day: 9/11/17 to 9/26/17

Here are the latest batches of Mono Minis of the Day--as posted daily on the Little Weirdos Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. The lineup in the photo is as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Kuulvo from Meteorite Aliens
2. Goblin from Neclos Fortress
3. Kinnikuman from Popy mini kinkeshi
4. Kaiju from Canfull of Monsters
5. Psycops from Gorelords
6. Trap Jaw from Masters of the Universe MUSCLE
7. Scout Dink from Mini Boglins  
8. Mercuror from Cosmix
9. Gavadon from Ultraman "Great Monster the 30" set
10. Merry Monsters capsule figure
11. Kane in Spacesuit from Alien MUSCLE
12. Pelikan ghost figure
13. Werewolf from Juguete Halloween (Peru Monster in My Pocket)
14. King Guts from SLUG Zombies
15. Wrestler from Musclemania bootlegs
16. Army ant from Kombattini / Termitors (foreign Army Ants)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thundercats mini figures from Mexico (LJN miniatures bootlegs)

I have a weakness for bootleg toys, especially when they're from the '80s and fantasy-related. So when the opportunity came up to grab these Thundercats bootleg mini figures, I had to pounce on it like a musclebound cat-humanoid taking on evildoers.

These apparently originated in Mexico. They are monochromatic copies of the official LJN Thundercats Miniatures released by LJN in 1986. I don't own any of the originals, but below are some pics I yoinked from eBay as a reference.

I'm admittedly not a Thundercats expert, but I think the characters I have as bootlegs are Lion-O, Cheetara, Tygra, Tuska, Jackalman and Ratar-O.

These figures are a little over 2 inches tall. The bootlegs are made of a flexible rubber, and as you'd expect for cheapo bootlegs, have imperfections. But they're awesome, and they even come with weapons they can hold! Well, that some of them can hold. If you spend 10 minutes positioning them just right so they don't fall out...

It looks like there were around 15 different minis in the official LJN line. I'm not sure if every single one of them was bootlegged for this Mexico set, but you can see several others as part of the fantastic collection of fantasy minis over at the Fantasy Toy Soldiers blog.

And here's a shot of the backs of these figures, just for posterity.

And that's pretty much all I know about these things! If anyone else owns any, I'd love to see photos or find out any additional information you can share about them.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mono Minis of the Day: 8/26/17 to 9/10/17

Here are the latest batches of Mono Minis of the Day--as posted daily on the Little Weirdos Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. The lineup in the photo is as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Mini Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  
2. Monster from Merry Monsters
3. SD Gundam keshi
4. #25 from MUSCLE
5. Transformed King from Super Mario keshi
6. Oriental Trading Co. skeleton warrior
7. Vandalus from Cosmix
8. Dimetrodon eraser  
9. Wrestler from Musclemania
10. Kamen Rider keshi
11. He-Man from Panrico Masters of the Universe premiums
12. Diddy Kong from Donkey Kong Country keshi
13. Mummy from Monster in My Pocket
14. Tuska Warrior from Thundercats bootleg minis
15. Dinosaur figure from unknown set
16. Dragon from World of Warcraft board game

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mono Minis of the Day: 8/10/17 to 8/25/17

Here are the latest batches of Mono Minis of the Day--as posted daily on the Little Weirdos Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. The lineup in the photo is as follows, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. # 145 from MUSCLE
2. Medetain from Muteking keshi
3. Monster from Arco Mad Scientist playset
4. Triton from Peru Monster in My Pocket (Juguete Halloween version)
5. Boba Fett from Star Wars Fighter Pods
6. Golden Horn Head from Mini Madballs
7. Robot from Ninjas vs. Robots set
8. Gregor from Fistful of Power   
9. Ultraman kaiju keshi
10. Barbarian from DFC fantasy set
11. Riris from Neclos Fortress
12. Crocodile from Tehnolog Zveronics
13. Iwao from Popy mini Kinnikuman keshi
14. Flak from Mini Boglins
15. Triceratops/monster from Matutano Dinosaurs
16. Kaiju from Ultraman "Great Monster the 30" set