Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've posted about the line of Playtown toys before, but I recently found some more items. This line of miniature shops and accessories was made by the Playtown Products Co. of New York from the late 1940s-1950s. Sets in the range included a bakery, general store, grocery, supermarket, luncheonette, and meat market. Each little shop averaged about 7 inches tall, just the right size for dollhouse dolls of the time. Besides the shops themselves, Playtown also sold accessory packs of goodies to stock the shelves. Here are three: one for the bakery, one for the butcher shop, and one for a dollhouse. Each little card is about 4 5/8 inches long, and the tiny items are made of painted plaster.

A braided bread loaf, cake, and donuts in the bakery package.

Hot dogs, a roast chicken, and a steak in the butcher shop.

Jello, cabbage, and eggs in the dollhouse kitchen set.

Here's the complete Playtown Meat Market, with a couple of Flagg dollhouse dolls doing their shopping:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1972 Milton Bradley Ice Cube Game

Recently acquired: the holy grail of vintage board games! The now oh-so-rare-and-insanely-pricey Ice Cube was made by Milton Bradley in 1972, and is one of the most sought and most expensive vintage board games in existence. How expensive? Well, a mint example recently sold for as much as a brand-new if you spot one at a yard sale, snap it up!

Inside the box.

Here's what happens: basically, players take turns torturing ice cube men (made of real ice) with devices like "The Salt Mine," "Warm Shower," "Hot Head," and "Bucket of Warm Water." The last ice cube man to melt wins the game, although this is a short-lived victory at best.

The game has elaborate prep: first, the tray of specially molded ice men (called "Meltin' Miltons") has to be filled with water and put into the freezer. It takes a couple of hours for the ice men to solidify, and, speaking from experience, you'll be sorry if you try to rush it. If the player's interest hasn't waned by the time the ice men are ready, they are popped out of their tray and...oh, look! They have cute little faces! They're even smiling at us! How adorable! Of course, the cheery, trusting faces of the ice men make their ensuing tortures even more horrible to behold.

Turns out taking a photograph of an ice cube's facial features isn't easy. If you look very closely, you may be able to make out an ear on each side, a big nose, 2 eyes, and a smiling mouth. It's a little clearer in the box illustration:

The newly molded ice men are inserted into little stands, which enable the players to move them around the board. The stands consist of a pair of plastic feet and a dapper little hat with a bow. A spike attached to the feet slides through a hole in the center of each ice man and sticks out the top of the hat, holding the assembly together and providing a handle for each player to grasp.

Each ice man is placed at his starting position on the board, then it's just a matter of spinning the wheel o' tortures to see which fate will befall each one. Will he have to stand under the hot shower? Take a bath in a tub of warm water? Be doused with a sprinkling of salt? Have a bucket of water dumped upon him? Or perhaps the most dreaded fate awaits him: the "Hot Head," in which a heated metal washer is placed atop the ice man! The game instructions cheerily call these possible spin outcomes "mission events."

The wheel o' tortures with icicle spinner.

The Salt Mine sprinkling.  

The Hot Shower.
The infamous Hot Head torture. Poor ice cube man...he's melting fast!

Whichever he spins, the ice man remains there, slowly melting away, until either his next turn or until another player spins that fate. If he's very lucky, he'll spin "enter Deep Freeze," which gives him a brief respite in a chamber of comforting crushed ice. The tortures continue until only one ice man is left standing.

Ice Cube is, as you may imagine, an incredibly messy game. Melted water, crusty salt, and flaky rust from the heated metal washer eventually coat everything if not carefully cleaned off after each game, and, if not dried thoroughly before packing away, the result is stinky mold. Countless spring-cleaning mothers tossed these games out in disgust. Consequently, Ice Cube is hard to find today, especially in good, complete condition, and when found, it commands high prices. Sure, you could buy an iPad for what you'll pay for an Ice Cube game...but would you have as much fun? I don't think so.

Vintage Space Lady

From the same toy dealer who found last month's vintage space lady, here's another one! The four inch tall figure is from the 1950s, and would have been sold in the dime stores of the day. She has a slot in her hand which probably originally held a ray gun, and features lovely silver gilt trim. She appears to march confidently into the future.