Thursday, April 14, 2011

Richard Scarry's Puzzletown


When i was a young kid I was very fond of Richard Scarry's Puzzletown toys. Having a daughter of my own now, I wanted to share them with her. The task proved more difficult than I originally thought. There are two big problems that I quickly ran into when collecting the toys for her. The first a lack of information on the Internet, people just don't remember these toys. The second people often combine sets or collect what they can find and sell them in partial lots. I will try to address the first problem with this post.

Richard Scarry was a prolific author and illustrator of children's books whom was active in the 50's, 60's and 70's. One of his larger projects was something called Busytown. This was a town that feature anthropomorphic animals. The setting was adapted by PlaySkool company in 1976 to become the Puzzletown line of toys. Basically they were a competing product to the Little People line of toys by Fischer Price, but included a construction element that was popular in 70's toys. The product line only seemed to last two years which may account for few who remember these toys, and the cost of sets on ebay.

While the toys were sold in many configurations most people seem to have been aware of the five larger sets. These were lettered a through E and featured large tiles cardboard wall pieces, some number of vehicles and three figures. Until recently I was only aware of the five sets. In my efforts to collect I have become aware of several other toys. Three smaller vehicle, figure and building were sold, most of these reference 1977 as their year of trademark. Also a few figure and vehicle products were sold. I will go into further detail later in this post. Just weeks ago I became aware of an ebay listing for a single carded figure. This was of "Nurse Nellie" I do not know if figures outside of the five large sets were sold in this individual format.



The first of large sets is labelled "Set A: Dr. Lion's Medical Center." This is probably the most common of the sets you are going to see. It includes the pieces to build the medical center, a bed, ambulance, Dr. Lion, Nurse Nellie and Abby the rabbit patient.

The second is "Set B: Hucklecat's Cottage" This includes the cottage set, huckle cat, momma cat and grocer cat. Some interesting points were the windows in the building walls and the full sized green plastic floor bit. There was also a car. This is usually considered a rare set.

Set C: is "Farmer Alfalfa's Farm". This is another common set you will see a lot of. it includes the barn and silo. As well as a truck, trailer, cow, the farmer and his wife.

Set D is "Mayor Fox's town Center" The third of the common sets. This is a nice set as it includes several buildings and gives you much to play with. This is the second of the sets with the full sized floor piece, All others use half floor pieces. You get a car and motorcycle in this set. Mayor Fox, Officer Dog and his wife are the figures that come with this set.

Finally Set E is "Lowly Worms rail and roadway" This is a more interesting set as its both rare and includes a rail road for the town. The rail pieces are reversible and convert to roadway. You get a two piece Tran and a car in this set. A water tower is an interesting addition as it uses wall pieces in an X configuration, sitting on top. Lowly worm, a bulldog engineer and fox conductor are included in this set.

For the smaller sets I have very little idea with regard to how they were sold. You are going to see reference to McDonald's Richard Scarry cars. These are a different line of happy meal toys sold in the 90's that are similar to but different than the Puzzletown toys. There was also a Brio set in the 90's that adds confusion. There are three puzzletown car and building sets. I do not know their official names and generally find them reference by description of the car. Therefor they are Egg Car, Apple Car, and Doughnut Car.

The Egg Car set includes the car, and farmer Alfalfa's wife. Also included is a single quarter sized floor piece and a few small roof tiles. The build pieces include eggs and a milk jugs shaped stand. A fun part of the quarter floor pieces is they are designed for upward building with special grooves to sit a top wall pieces.

The Apple car is the sole set I do not own, LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO SELL. It includes the apple car and lowly worm. As will all these sets there is a quarter floor and small roof pieces. I believe it creates a fruit and veggie stand.

The doughnut car includes the car and huckle cat. The build is a doughnut stand and i has a few large doughnut cardboard/"woodboard" pieces.

I have two of the car and figures that i was able to get new from England. I don't know how they have wrapped toys over there, they seems new or in new wrapping. There is a rabbit in normal close unlike Abby the bunny patient and carrot car. Also a pig and pickle car. There way be more but I have not seen further figures.

UPDATE: I recently found an ad from 1977 for PlaySkool toys. It appears the cars and figures were called "Puzzletown People and Cars Assortment" while the car, figure and building sets were called "Puzzletown People, Cars and Places Assortment" There was also a banana car that came with a gorilla figure.

A second post on puzzletown can be found HERE

I just wrote up a third post on puzzletown and you can find it HERE

There is also a brand new post here.

If you have any more information i would love to know. Please comment or email me at jameslrickel@gmail.com

2 comments:

Esther Sparhawk said...

When I was in high school, I spent my babysitting earnings on Puzzletown sets. Because I brought them with me to watch kids, I was the most popular babysitter in town.

I often regret that I sold them. They were a ton of fun to play with!

On Oct. 11th, I'm running a blog post about this very subject. I think I'll link to your blog as well. I hope you don't mind.

Check out my blog post at chellywood.com after the 11th.

Eric Stettmeier said...

Glad I found this post - I have wondered about a donut car I had as a kid for a long time - I knew it was Richard Scary but never knew the Puzzletown angle until now. New Richard Scary toys in the toy stores reminded me of it and so I did a search and now I know!