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Famous Monsters Buttons
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Famous Monsters Buttons

Extracts from the Headpress book
TRASHFIEND
Disposible Horror Fare of the 1960s & 1970s Vol 1

by Scott A. Stine

ALTHOUGH MOVIES, comics and magazines take up a large part of any young horror fan’s life, we all had our share of toys and games, novelties and accoutrements with which to indulge our many macabre interests. On the pages that follow is a modest potpourri of nifty monster related memorabilia from the sixties and seventies, some of which you may have had, or coveted having seen advertisements. If this proves to be your introduction, even better.


Image famous monsters button the phantom Image famous monsters dracula
Above left and right: Pinbacks (circa 1960s)
Elwar, Ltd.
 
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Full set of Famous Monsters Buttons
(1963) Elwar, Ltd. #9143
From the collection of Michael von Sacher-Masoch

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Vending machine label for
Famous Monsters Buttons

Famous Monsters buttons (1963)
Elwar, Ltd #9143 [New York, NY, USA]
Pinback dimensions: 1" x 1" (6 pieces)
Label dimensions: 4" x 4¾"

What self respecting Universal Monster fan could resist such groovy pinbacks? Originally sold through-you guessed right-the Captain Company adverts in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland, these metal buttons could also be obtained from gumball style vending machines. Each bears a desaturated painted image of Universal's more popular monsters against a red or yellow backdrop, namely Lon Chaney's The Phantom (of the Opera), Lon Chaney Jr's The Mummy and Wolfman, Bela Lugosi's Dracula, Glenn Strange's Frankenstein (Monster), and The Creature (from the Black Lagoon).

I have yet to determine who was responsible for the painted artwork that appears on these pinbacks. It doesn't appear to be the handiwork of Various header designs for Monsters, Ghouls & Assorted Creeps Stationary Pad (1965) Paula #ASP-108 either Basil Gogos or Robert Nuetzell, who were the two primary cover artists for Famous Monsters of Filmland prior to the release of these pinbacks. In fact, the only Warren cover image that actually bears a resemblance to one of the pinbacks is the painting of The Phantom of the Opera displayed on issue #102, which is credited to publisher Jim Warren. Although close, it is not an exact match, so both paintings may instead have been based on the same photographic source.

Also available through Captain Company were their three inch full color counterparts, which are superior to the two tone half size cards, and far more difficult to come by due to their limited distribution. (I've included a reproduction of the only one of these I currently own for comparison.) The one inch pinbacks often go for about five to ten dollars, and full sets are not as uncommon as one might think. The three inch pinbacks often sell for upwards of ten dollars, and full sets rarely show up. Be wary, though; as with many of these older, more collectible pinbacks, there is no shortage of bootlegs making the rounds, and many are difficult to distinguish from the originals unless side by side comparisons are made. (Since the originals are bound to have tarnishing to some degree, be wary of any that have unblemished and highly reflective backs and pins.)

In addition to the pinbacks themselves, there was also a full color label used to dress vending machines. Although originals are nigh impossible to find, unauthorized reproductions have been circulating on and off eBay for some time now, and can be had fairly cheap. (If the seller doesn't gouge you for shipping, which is often the case.)

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Trashfiend: Disposable Horror Culture of the 1960s and 1970s by Scott Stine. Over two glorious decades the horror film waged war on good taste, exploiting every taboo and bursting every envelope along the way. Buy the book»

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