History of the most important Argentinean toy factories
The toy industry in Argentina flourished only after the Second World War, until then kids
used to play with foreign toys.
Since 1948 and because of the military disaster caused by the war, European and Japanese
military-theme toys were copied by the local industry, especially because they began to lack of appeal and entertainment qualities
once the war began, so they stopped producing them.
The very low production cost of these toys for the Argentinean industry translated into
a wider market, to which much more consumers could access; therefore because of the war we can witness the birth of Argentinean
mass-production warfare-toy industry. Also many companies began to include this kind of action figures and vehicles, related
to war, in their catalogs. As an example, we can find the Birmania company -owned by Alejandro Beltramino- produced
soldiers as well as their complements, such as camouflage boats, trenches, bags’ parapets, and barbed wire fences. Talin
- Natalio Avondoglio’s company- was the commercial house of the very famous Mambrú action figures that copied,
form the British company Timpo, the matrix of the American troops who fight on the Second W.W., showing a superior quality
than the original one because of the quality of the paint used on the figure. Together with these, the company produced heavy
marching soldiers and horseback riding grenadiers –about 90 mm.- translating the European military theme to our patriotic
The nationalization occurred on the warlike toy industry, rapidly spread out towards all
the other branches. EGToys ( Ezio Guggiari’s company) entered the market with the La Granja de Don Fabián
–Don Fabián´s Farmhouse- with Talin matrixes. So, the scenery was no longer the battle filed but the typical
Argentinean style Countryside with ranches, a mud volcano, the Asado, Gauchos as well as chickens.
Hence we witness not only the nationalization of production, but also the nationalization
of the themes.
The North American Jeep Loco –Crazy Jeep-, was copied and “Argentinized”
by the Vispa Company. The original one showed a funny and clumsy cowboy riding a jeep; the Argentinean version changed
the cowboy for a local farmer –Estanciero- switching the Texas hat for a chamberguito pampeano –local
type of hats-.
Initially these toys were made out of tin, later on, with the industrial progress, they
were made out of plastic, including the famous lead soldiers that had been forbidden because of the material’s toxicity.
For a long time, toys were not designed in the country; when possible, the original foreign
matrixes were adapted to national images by Argentinean toy companies.
Grafil, owned by Francisco Grasso, copied the
models of the British company Britans; specializing on circus figures, adding to the British production a Lilliputian
couple, he had a frac, a silk hat, and a cane; she wore an evening gown and a capelina.
The Vispa and the Halcon –specialized on child vehicles-
companies merged to produce toy airplanes: the Mirage, the Piper and the Boeing 707 where the most famous
ones. They also re-launched the carzy jeep, changing the rider: the Estanciero, Pepe the soldier or Tony the clown,
depending on the version. By 1954, this company creates the first Argentinean toy rail train: Expreso Andino. Later
on the Tren Loco, El Monorriel argentino and many wind up toy animals; all of them were made out of tin.
The Azcárate Hnos. & Escoda had the Sulky-Ciclo, which
manufactured the sulky named after it, a pedal vehicle that showing on the front one or two ponies –depending on the
version. These were made out of leather, underneath which an iron structure was covered with papier
maché. Also with a pedal system they created a red tractor with a coupled cart, the Canciller. They also created
a racecar very similar to the Masseratti model; bought by the mega Fifth Avenue toy store FAO Schwartz, this toy was
included in their 1957 catalogue.
From 1921 to 1957, the Matarazzo company- lead in the food industry-
developed many tin toys; among the most famous ones: the wind up cuatrimotor DC-4, a typical bus from Buenos Aires
City, a firemen truck and a First World war tank.
The Bubby Company –1957 to 1992- produced scale toy cars
such as Estanciera IKA and the Cross Country Rambler; at a much smaller extent they also produced other kind
of toy vehicles.
Also on toy-car production the Gorgo Hnos., latter Gorgo S.A.,
developed friction cars much better and faster than the wind up ones.
During the 1950s’ –soon after Barbie’s appearance-
we find the Argentinean version of the prefect woman’s doll: Marilú. The company that gave her birth shared the
doll’s name. This doll had a very deep impact on Argentinean girls, who where astonished because of the variety and
detail of their new girlfriend: the big-size model or a smaller one; artificial or natural hair, and –of course- the
most huge wardrobe a girl could dream of.
Other very important industrial toy firms were: San Mauricio,
Saxo that produced battery toys; Galgo, Arturito, manufacturing metal and wooden spinning tops; Rodeo,
specialized on toy guns imitating the Colt Frontier; Ideal, that used a one-of-a-kind metallic plastic;
Bambi, Chivi, which produced the first Argentinean plastic Bat Mobil; Duravit, that produced unbreakable
rubber cars; Hércules, (likewise Birmania) specialized on amphibian
vehicles. Terry (between 1935 and 1937) Carlos Rodríguez Zamboni’s Company, Austradia from 1953 and Roche
between 1963 y 1975, both owned by Fernando Chedel, were very important national toy companies.
Nevertheless the important toy variety the Argentinean industry produced,
boy’s most favorite toy was for a very long time: soldiers, either lead
or plastic ones. In this field, the most originality came of hand of Karl Sommer, who between 1947 y 1966 manufactured with
his own matrixes and by the brand of Sudetia soldiers, cowboys, Indians, Arabs, Africans, wild animals and circus figures
of about 35 cm. height. Together with Sommer’s we must put Ernesto Wernicke’s production, his company Viruta
developed native figures: gauchos, Spanish conquerors even Chinese from the Ming dynasty.
By the 1970s’ because of the very low cost of the working force,
foreign companies –especially North American- brought their matrixes to the country, therefore lowering their production
and import cost, which translated into a decrease of their prices for the local market. Thus occurred with Star Wars action
figures. By 1980 the television cartoon series He-Man action figures were also locally produced.
Nowadays, because of the social and economic crisis our country is going
through, most of the companies mentioned above had to stop their production and close their doors. One of the resultants is
that most Argentinean kids play with imported or homemade toys.
The once great national toy industry is now part of the past, yearned
by many of the grown children of today.