Starting life as a print cartoon in The New Yorker, the Addams Family redefined what it meant to be family

Though probably best known for the television series, animated series, and feature films, The Addams Family began life as a collection of 150 single panel cartoons which ran in The New Yorker from 1938 to 1988. Created by cartoonist Charles Addams, these one-off humor shorts took the idea of what it meant to be an American family at that time and flipped the concept celebrating the bizarre, the creepy, and the frightening. A huge success, Addams’ creation went on to be featured on television, both in a live action black and white series (for two seasons, 64 episodes) and an animated series (which ran for three years.) The Addams Family has since spawned films, video games, and even a musical along with a long history of related collectibles.

Today, I felt like celebrating this wonderful family’s history with six collectibles that I love from their long history!

The Thing Battery Operated Bank

Released by Filmways TV Productions, Inc. in 1964

When I was in my preteen years, I took an interest in mechanical banks. Reading up on their design, I devoured books on the topic for the better part of a year (until my focus shifted to other things.) First manufactured in the late 1800s, they remain marvelous little feats of creative wizardry and this bank based on The Thing was one I actually owned during that period. Long ago lost in a move or garage sale, just seeing that little hand grabbing the coin in this image brought back a flood of memories and a period of mild obsession that I hadn’t considered in years.

The Addams Family Haunted House Model Kit

Released by Aurora in 1964

The only thing more iconic than the family may have been the house in which they lived. I absolutely love this plastic model kit (complete with ghosts of course) from Aurora. Would you believe that this little beauty originally sold for just $1.98? This kit was HO gauge (a National Model Railroad Association standard) which made it perfect for model railroad setups of the time. Here, a simple lever system moved 3D ghosts behind some of the empty windows while the other windows were covered by 2D Addams Family characters. I love everything about this collectible!

Uncle Fester’s Mystery Light Bulb

Released by Poynter Products Inc. in 1967

Released right here in Cincinnati (the home of CompleteSet) from Don Poynter’s own Poynter Products, this little Light Bulb is pretty iconic when it comes to Addams Family toys. Powered by one AA size battery, it would light when an electrical connection was made between the bottom and the side. This could be done by wearing a special ring (included), aluminum foil, or in your mouth as perfected by Uncle Fester himself. Sadly, the bulb itself wasn’t threaded any differently from a normal bulb, which meant it could be screwed into a standard socket leading to fires or electrocution. We can only assume the Gomez and Morticia would approve of Don’s invention and the mayhem which most certainly followed in its wake.

The Addams Family Game

Released by Ideal Toy Company in 1964

If for no other reason than the box cover art along, this board game is a must have collectible. Designed for 2-6 players, The Addams Family Game featured seven different paths along the game board through which players could move to win. It’s a spinner based game common to the time and the game board spots call for cards to be drawn resulting in good or bad outcomes. It may have been luck based over skill, but it still sounded like a great take on the show.

The Addams Family Lunchbox

Released by King-Seeley Thermos Co. in 1974

Though I wasn’t around for the original run of the television series, the much celebrated Hanna-Barbera animated series was perfectly timed to be part of my Saturday Morning Television cereal gobbling experience while growing up. I loved this version of the characters and what better way to show that love than to cart them to school with this classic lunch box. Kid tested, mother approved!

The Addams Family Pinball Machine

Released by Midway in March 1992

Just to prove that not all collectibles have to be vintage to still be utterly awesome, I present the Addams Family Pinball Machine! Released in March 1992, this little beauty is the best selling pinball machine of all time. Based on the first film, this machine featured custom speech tidbits by the stars of the film, Raul Julia, and Anjelica Huston. It remains a celebrated machine among pinball enthusiasts even today.

Parting thoughts!

Personally, I love everything about The Addams Family. Putting it up against a series like the Munsters, which ran concurrently on television at the time, The Addams Family just had more of an edge to the humor that I deeply respected. Where the Munsters were cuddly and often playfully acceptable, the Addams Family were sometimes more off-putting and had a meatier feel. That said, the characters always seemed grounded in a devotion to each other that consistently found love and family at its core. I liked that a lot and I think that is what really resonated with me. Characters like  Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandmama, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Thing were names I grew up loving and I still cherish (and collect tidbits from their history) even today.

Categories: Stories