McDonald's collectibles are collectibles, such as Happy Meal toys, related to the hamburger chain McDonald's.
The golden arches are the most recognised symbol in the world according to the McDonald’s Collectors Club. Whether we like it or not, McDonald’s has become a massive cultural force – most of us can name its products without having to consult a menu.
Part of McDonald’s success can be attributed to its ruthless self promotion. McDonald’s promotional materials take a plethora of forms and fulfil a number of functions. Happy Meal toys and boxes, limited edition Coca Cola glasses, and Ronald McDonald dolls are among literally thousands of items that the corporation has given away in order to encourage repeat custom.
Some of these items are more collectible and covetable than others, though, generally speaking, building an extensive collection of extremely rare McDonald’s memorabilia will cost a great deal less than building a similarly comprehensive collection relating to another brand.
McDonald’s was founded in 1940. Since then it has grown into the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants.
A number of McDonald’s most successful advertising campaigns have involved interactive games and hunts – one such campaign was informed by the board game Monopoly. In 1995, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital received an anonymous letter through the post. It contained a $1,000,000 winning McDonalds Monopoly game piece. McDonald’s officials visited the hospital, examined the game piece and identified it as a winner. Although game rules prohibited the transfer of prizes, McDonald’s waived the rule. It was later uncovered that the winning game piece had been sent by an individual involved in an embezzlement scheme intended to defraud McDonald’s.
For several decades McDonald’s has maintained an extensive advertising campaign. In addition to the usual media (television, radio, and newspaper), the company makes significant use of billboards and signage, sponsors sporting events ranging from Little League to the Olympic Games.
McDonald’s often promote new products and Happy Meal products by offering free gifts to those who buy. McDonald’s have offered freebies in conjunction with several other extremely well known companies such as Barbie, Beanie Babies, Coca Cola, Hot Wheels, as well as many movie and game franchises.
The Happy Meal
It started as a simple gimmick. Today, Dick Brams is known as the "father of the Happy Meal." But back in 1977, the McDonald's St. Louis regional advertising manager was just another marketer with a brilliantly simple idea: Why not create a meal just for kids? In 1979 McDonald's rolled out the U.S.'s first Happy Meal. It was circus-wagon-themed and came with the standard hamburger or cheeseburger option, as well as French fries, cookies, a soft drink and — of course — a toy. Upon opening their meal, kids got either a "McDoodler" stencil, a "McWrist" wallet, an ID bracelet, a puzzle lock, a spinning top or a McDonaldland-character eraser.
Though the culinary options have basically remained the same (Chicken McNuggets were added in 1983), the toys have changed nearly every week. A big moment for the meal came in 1987 when the first Disney Happy Meal debuted. Since then, Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Aladdin, Simba, Nemo and all 101 dalmatians have made appearances. In addition to the Disney favorites, a great number of other toys and characters have found their way into the Happy Meal box: Transformers (which are now highly prized among collectors), Hello Kitty, Legos, Teletubbies and G.I. Joe. But none have experienced the insane popularity of Ty's Teenie Beanie Babies. McDonald's introduced a miniature version of the wildly popular stuffed animals in 1997, selling more than 100 million that year and further propelling a nationwide Beanie Baby craze. The intense popularity resulted in McDonald's continuing to offer Teenie Beanies annually through the year 2000, in 2004 (when they featured Beanies for original McDonald's stars Ronald, Birdie, Hamburglar and Grimace in honor of the Happy Meal's 25th anniversary) and as recently as 2009.
While a child's interest is naturally fleeting, some adults have stayed loyal. David Bracken is vice president of the McDonald's Collectors Club, a group celebrating its 20th anniversary at a convention April 30 and May 1 in Toledo, Ohio. Bracken, who lives near Pittsburgh, Pa., and started collecting in 1993, has amassed about 10,000 McDonald's collectibles, including some 4,500 Happy Meal toys. He said his interest took hold in the early '90s, when he would take his three kids to get the cheap, family-friendly meals. "I was just amazed at the amount of different toys they made," he said. "Eventually the kids got bored with the toys, and Dad was just the weird guy that still collected Happy Meal toys," Bracken says with a laugh. (His children are now 15, 18 and 21.)
Now his family room and basement are stuffed with Happy Meal knickknacks, a 22-in.-tall Ronald McDonald made out of Legos, an inflatable playpen (complete with golden arches) and a rare 1964 Archie McDonald bag (McDonald's produced only a few Archie merchandise items before being sued by a disc jockey of a similar name). He even owns one of the iconic arches — a 9-ft.-by-4-ft. sign retired by a nearby McDonald's. It reads, "Billions and billions served." Bracken's wife refused to let him hang it in the family room. His collection became so well known that it elicited a visit from the head clown himself: to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Happy Meal in June 2009, Ronald visited Bracken's house to check out the memorabilia and deliver a Happy Meal–shaped cake. The clown's gesture did not go unnoticed. "He's got to travel all over the world, so for him to stop in my house is pretty neat," Bracken told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the time.
But while its toys have long been cherished, the Happy Meal's food choices are often criticized. To its credit, McDonald's introduced jugs of 1% milk, apple slices with low-fat caramel dip and juice boxes in the early 2000s. A four-piece Chicken McNuggets meal with apple slices, caramel dip and a box of apple juice has 380 calories, 12 g of fat and 470 mg of sodium. Then there's the cheeseburger meal with a small bag of fries and 1% chocolate milk, which weighs in at 700 calories, 27 g of fat and 1,060 mg of sodium. The Santa Clara County measure bans restaurants from including toys in meal packages with more than 485 calories or 600 mg of sodium, as well as with meals that derive more than 35% of their total calories from fat or 10% from added sugar. If the fast-food giant wants to continue serving toys with their kid meals around Santa Clara, it's going to have to make some additional menu changes. But even with the measure, the Happy Meal is unlikely to fade from prominence. After all, "it's part of America," says Bracken. "Every family knows McDonald's, and every kid at one time or another has said to their parents, 'Hey, can we go to McDonald's for a Happy Meal?' "
List of Happy Meal toys
Generally, two lots of toys are given out at any one time: a set of "boys'" toys and a set of "girls'" toys.
- A Bug's Life wind-up toys - 1998
- Alvin and the Chipmunks - toys 1991
- An American Tail Christmas ornaments and books - 1986
- Astrosniks toys - 1983, 1984
- Animaniacs- toys 1994
- Animaniacs- 1996
- American Idol- 2007
- Aladdin and the King of Thieves toys - 1996
- Action Man sport toys - 2001
- Babe plushies- 1996
- Barbie (girls) and Hot Wheels (boys) - 1990
- Barbie toys - 2002
- Barbie dolls - 2003
- Back to the Future: The Animated Series toys -1991
- Batman toys - 1996
- Batman Returns toys- 1992
- Battlebots toys - 2002
- Best of Pixar toys - 2005
- The Book of Pooh character toys - 2001
- Beano toys - 2000 (a set of toys from the famous comic book were released only in the UK/Éire market)
- Betty Spaghetty toys - 2003
- Bionicle toys - 2001
- Bobby's World toys- 1993
- Bratz dolls - 2003
- Build-A-Bear Workshop plushies - 2006
- Bambi toys - 1988
- The Berenstain Bears toys - 1986 (re-released in 1987)
- The Berenstain Bears books - 1990
- Black History Month set of two books - 1988
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command toys - 2001
- Barbie set of 8 dolls - 2001
- Bee Movie toys - 2007
- Cabbage Patch Kids and Tonka -1994
- Changeables (late 80s, early 90s)
- Circus - 1983
- Catscratch -2007
- Cartoon Network wind-up toys with pencils featuring Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Camp Lazlo, and Squirrel Boy - September 2007
- Dinosaurs toys- 1992
- Disney Princesses and Power Rangers toys - 2003
- Disney's 101 Dalmatians: The Series toy cars with two characters - 1997
- Disney's Animal Kingdom toys- 1998
- Disney's An Extremely Goofy Movie toys - March 2000
- Disney's Lilo & Stitch: The Series toys with Play Doh - 2004
- Disney's Mickey and Friends at Epcot Center- 1994
- Disney's Mulan toys - 1998
- Disney's The Little Mermaid toys - re-release in theatres (a limited edition gold painted set could be won via the colour-in competition, or one could be found in a happy meal. they are very sought after and considered to be very rare)
- Diva Starz dolls - 2001
- Doogal toys - 2006
- Disney's House of Mouse plushies - 2001
- Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire toys - 2001
- Earth Days gardening/nature set-1994
- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial posters - 1983
- The Emperor's New Groove toys with launchers - 2000
- Fingerboards with ramps - 2000
- The Flintstones Movie toys - 1994
- Flushed Away toys - 2006 (UK and Ireland only, this was also the first set to be released in the new Dreamworks deal)
- Fly Wheels and Hello Kitty toys and acessories - 2007
- Fraggle Rock toys- 1988
- Furby toys - 1999
- Furby 2000 toys - 2000
- Garfield and Odie toys with vehicles - 1989
- The GoGos and Monster Crazy Bones figures - 2000
- Gravedale High toys- 1991
- Halloween Buckets - 2001
- Happy Birthday Happy Meal- 15th anniversary set featuring toys of Ronald McDonald, plus Barbie, Hot Wheels, ET, Sonic the Hedgehog, Berenstain Bears, Tonka, Cabbage Patch Kids, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, Snoopy, Muppet Babies, Looney Tunes, and Tiny Toon Adventures- 1994
- Happy Pail plastic buckets -1983
- Happy Pail same as above, but with Olympic themes - 1984
- Happy Teeth toothbrush/toothpaste set-1983
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys - 2003
- Hello Kitty and Blue's Clues toys - 2004
- Hook water toys -1991
- Hot Wheels Going Places- 1983
- Hot Wheels and Once in a Lifetime Barbie toys - January 2000
- Hot Wheels and toys - 2000
- Hot Wheels set of 8 cars - 2001
- Hot Wheels cars with stunt tracks - 2002
- Hot Wheels World Race toys - 2003
- Hummer & Polly Pocket toys - 2006
- Hello Kitty keychains - 2001
- Hello Kitty toys - 2
- IZ Music playing and light up "IZs" - 2006
- Inspector Gadget A set of toys with gadgets inside that could be assembled into a 15" doll of Inspector Gadget - 1999
- Inspector Gadget 2 A series of light-up and motorized toys - 2003
- The Jungle Book candy dispensers with Nerds candy - 1997
- The Jungle Book 2 tiny playsets - 2003
- LEGO building sets - 1983 and 1989
- LEGO Galidor toys - 2002
- LEGO toy models - 1999 (unlike previous Lego offerings, these feature special sloped pieces with painted likenesses of then-recently animated versions of the McDonaldland characters, and in some cases, bricks matching characters' color schemes.)
- Lego Bionicle: Matoran toys - 2001
- Lego Bionicle: Piraka and Inika toys - 2006
- LEGO Sports & CLIKITS toys - 2004
- Littlest Pet Shop and Yugioh GX w/promo cards toys - 2006-2007
- Lizzie McGuire and Dave the Barbarian - 2005
- Legion of Super Heroes and Build-a-Bear Workshop toys - 2007
- Kim Possible toys - 2003
- Madame Alexander dolls - 2002
- Madame Alexander dolls - 2003
- Madame Alexander and Tak: The Great Juju Challenge toys - 2005
- Madame Alexander - The Wizard of Oz dolls - 2007
- Magic School Bus toys- 1994
- Makin' Movies- filmmaking-themed toys- 1994
- McDonaldland Junction toy trains - 1983
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh bendy plushies - 2002
- Nintendo's Mario & Friends toys - 2006
- Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 3 toys - 1990
- Matchbox cars - 2002
- Mattel's Barbie and Hot Wheels toys - 2000
- Mattel's Barbie and Hot Wheels toys - 2003
- Monsters Inc. toys with doors - 2001
- Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog toys - 1999
- Muppet babies toys with vehicles - 1986
- Muppet Treasure Island water toys- 1996
- Mystery Happy Meal detective themed-toys - 1983
- McRobots food Changeables 1987,1989
- Mattel's Barbie and Hot Wheels toys - 1993, 1995-2002
- Mattel's My Scene and Hot Wheels toys, cars and stickers - 2007
- Nak Nak toys - 2003
- Neopets plushies and trading cards - 2004
- Neopets plushies and petpet key chains - 2005
- Nickelodeon toys - 1992
- Olympic Beach Balls- 1984
- Olympic Sports puzzles -1984
- Peanuts toys - 1990
- Piggsburg Pigs toys- 1991
- Pinocchio toys - 2002 & 2003
- Play-Doh sets - 1983
- Popoids crazy creatures - 1984
- Pokémon Set of eight plastic Pokémon toys, including wind up, walking, moving, "disc shooting" game and unchangeable-battery operated "light up" Pokémon. 2006, Australia
- Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue toys - 2000
- The Real Ghostbusters - Series 1 consisted of school supplies and Series 2 consisted of add-ons for a bicycle 1986 and 1988 (?)
- Recess toys that came with plastic sports balls- (1998)
- Return to Neverland toys that build a pirate ship - 2002
- Robo-Chi toys - 2001, 2002
- School Days school supplies - 1984
- Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball handheld electronic video games - 2003
- Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog 3 toys - 1994
- Space Jam toys - 1996
- Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over toys with short comics - 2003
- Stomper Trucks toys - 1986
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture the first Happy Meal to promote a movie- 1979
- Stretch Screamers electic toys (2 recalled) - 2003
- Story of Texas books about the history of Texas (regional only) -1986
- Super Mario Bros. 3 toys - 1990
- Shrek the Third talking toys - 2007 (worldwide release, but some markets varied the number available in the set)
- Spy Kids acessories - 2001
- Spy Kids 2 all toys clip together and make Spy Gadget Ralph - 2002
- Spy Kids 3-D 3-D toys - 2003
- Spyro: A Hero's Tail toys - 2004
- Tamagotchi 1997
- TaleSpin mini-planes - 1990
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie - 2007
- Teletubbies huggers - 2000
- That's So Raven and NBA toys - 2005
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland toys - 1999
- The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D - 2005
- The Dog Artist Collection and The Cat Artlist Collection - 2005
- Inika and The Little Mermaid - 2006
- Tiny Toon Adventures toy cars with two characters -1991
- Tiny Toon Adventures- 1993
- Tony Hawk and My Scene Barbie toys - 2004
- Tonka trucks - 2003
- Toys R Us Animal Alley plushies - 2001
- Transformers toys and My Little Pony charms - 1985 (test market release only)
- Transformers: Beast Wars Transmetals toys - 1998
- Transformers: Beast Machines toys - 1999
- Transformers: Armada toys - 2002
- TY Teenie Beanie Baby plushies - 1999
- TY Teenie Beanies Babies plushies - 2000
- TY Teenie Beanies Babies: 25 Years Of The Happy Meal plushies - 2004
- Tiger Action toys - 2001
- Walt Disney World 100 Years of Magic set of 100 toys - 2002
Vintage McDonald's collectibles
A range of vintage McDonald’s glasses variously embellished with the golden arches are available to collectors. Many of these have been sources form McDonald’s conventions and store openings, presumably where wine would have been served. Convention coasters can also be found, though these are extremely rare.
Vintage McDonald’s uniforms are popular among some collectors: staff tie bars, name badges and hats in particular.
Vintage drinking straws, sew-on cloth patches, a series of pins featuring a cartoon of a famous person alongside a box of McDonald’s fries, early franchising advertising, vintage matchbooks, several distinct promotional Zippo lighters, and nail files.
Other McDonald's memorabilia
McDonald's sugar sachets and stirring sticks
Happy Meal boxes
Vintage food packaging
Vintage advertising ephemera
Store furnishing and displays
Straws, cutlery and sauce sachets
Fibre glass figures
McDonald's beanie baby
Most McDonald's collectors appear to apply the 20/20 rule to amassing collectibles: their favourite pieces may have taken 20 years to find but they probably cost fewer than $20. Since, although the rarest McDonald's collectibles aren't generally very expensive, once a collector has got his or her hands on a rare piece it will take some convincing to get them to part with it.
Happy Meal toys should be sought in their original packaging.
Naturally, complete sets of Happy Meal toys are worth more than single items. However, since many collectors are still compiling certain aspects of their McDonald's collection, sought after individual toys often sell at auction and online. Happy Meal displays are rarer and more valuable than Happy Meal toys.
McDonald's-branded items used at corporate events are very popular among collectors, with glasses, coasters and pens highly coveted.
Items branded with "Archie", Ronald McDonald's short-lived predecessor are much rarer than otherwise branded items.
McDonald's have been known to exhibit large and interesting collections in store. Collectors should contact local store managers if they with to display their collections in store.
A McDonald's plastic building sold for $60 at 123 Sold Sc in November 2007.
A rare 1970s McDonald's uniform sold for $60 at B.S. Slosberg, Inc. Auctioneers in December 2010.
A Ronald McDonald figural counter top cookie jar sold for $30 at Victorian Casino Antiques in March 2013.
A McDonald's hamburger fibre glass figure sold for $150 at Showtime Auction Services in October 2008.
Three McDonald's Happy Meal displays sold for $50 at Rago in June 2004.
A McDonald's collector's light in a box sold for $10 at A1 Auction Service in November 2003.
Four McDonald's 101 Dalmatian Happy Meal Collector's sets sold for $240 at TW Conroy LLC in May 2005.
Two McDonald's steel frame store chairs sold for $60 at Rich Penn Auctions in December 2005.
Five McDonald's corp advertising posters sold for $180 at Lyn Knight Auctions in May 2007.
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