The U.S.S. Enterprise Playset (Item No. 51210)...nothing says "Mego" quite like this little gem. This accessory gives the Emerald City and the Batcave heavy competition for most popular Mego playset ever. If not the most popular, it is certainly the most prevalent; observing the sheer number of these playsets that were produced really drives home just what a best-seller the "Star Trek" line was. Clearly, judging from the color scheme, the team behind the Mugato design also came up with this beauty--but somehow, against all logic, it works. It is about as far from accurate as you can get, but it just reeks of play value I imagine it is exactly what the bridge of the Enterprise would look like if filtered through the eyes of an unassuming six-year-old..
The success of the U.S.S. Enterprise is because of--and in spite of--many things. Let's look at some of the reasons why this playset was a must-have, then and now:
* The Handle: This is not just a playset...it's a carrying case, for on-the-go fun with the Enterprise crew! You can take it with you to school, to a friend's house, to your grandmother's...like Visa, it's everywhere you want to be!
* The Display: Not all of Mego's lines were lucky enough to have a ready-made diorama for future collectors. The Enterprise Playset is one-stop-shopping for your most basic display needs.
* The Transporter: Probably one of Mego's greatest contributions to the toy industry is this little innovation. It looks and acts nothing like the "real" transporter, but it's hella-fun! Sure, Playmates used lights, batteries and mirrors for their Transporter, but you can't top Mego's iteration for pure style. (Glide your mouse over the image to the right to take the Transporter for a test-spin!) Mego would re-use this mechanism for the Munchkinland Playset, Palitoy's Transporter Room, and Denys Fisher's TARDIS.
* The Price: The Enterprise was overproduced to a fault. (In fact, sometimes it seems like it's almost easier to find a loose, mint Enterprise than a loose, mint Scottie!) Thanks to the sheer number of these toys, they can be had for next-to-nothing. On a good day, you can even find one mint-in-box on eBay for under a hundred bucks! No excuses--if you collect Mego "Trek," you need this now.
* The Innocence: The Enterprise Playset is more than just a collectible--it's a link to a time of wonder and innocence, when every toy didn't have to use batteries, when every vehicle didn't have to come right off of the art director's blueprints, when every playset didn't have to adhere to a preset chart of paint chips and pattern swatches. I dare you to spin that Transporter and not feel like a kid again.
The Enterprise presents some unique problems for the Mego collector. Variations abound, but, because 99% of most Enterprises are found loose (or at least mint-in-box but unsealed), it's excruciatingly difficult to make judgments on just what came with what and when. Loose Enterprises are mixed and matched all the time in an effort to complete them...but how many people are using the right parts? There are no fewer than six Enterprise variations (not counting the Enterprise Gift Set, which is an entirely different item number). Variations aside, though, all Enterprise Playsets came with the following:
One (1) Double-Sided Instruction Sheet; One (1) Captain's Chair; One (1) Navigational Console; Two (2) Crew Seats (Stools); Labels for Transporter (pre-affixed or on a sheet of strips); Three (3) Double-Sided Cards for Telescreen; Accessories Labels (for Captain's Chair and Console); Mego Fold-Out Brochure (Optional)
Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the similarities end. Mego seemed determined to confound collectors with this playset. There are two different instruction sheets (one in blue ink, one in black ink), necessitated by the fact there are also different colors AND manufacturing methods for the accessories. As if this were not enough, the foreign distributors, for unknown reasons, decided that the Canadian and French Enterprises would be about 90% smaller overall than their domestic counterparts. This size differential necessitated a need for a smaller, bi-lingual Foreign box. However, Parkdale and their Frenchie friends did perform a service to uncoordinated children everywhere by pre-applying the Transporter labels to the tumbler in two large sheets, rather than leaving six smaller strips for the kids to wrestle with. Here are the differences that exist among the various Enterprises:
Let's see if we can make sense of this, shall we?
Here are the two groups of accessories that were available with the Enterprise:
This is the "blue" set of accessories, so named due to the all-blue motif of the furniture. Several things are worth noting:
* The Instruction Sheet is printed in blue ink and is slightly shorter than the one that comes in the "mixed" set (see below).
* The Captain's Chair and Console are molded in one piece rather than multiples like the "mixed" set (see below). Note the differences in the instruction sheet which call accommodate this fact.
* The furniture in the "blue set" is not marked with manufacturer indicia, unlike the "mixed" set (see below).
This is the "mixed" set of accessories, so named due to the mixed-color motif of the furniture. Several things are worth noting:
* The Instruction Sheet is printed in black ink and is slightly taller than the one that comes in the "blue" set (see above).
* The Captain's Chair and Console are molded in multiple pieces rather than one like the "blue" set (see above). Note the differences in the instruction sheet which call accommodate this fact.
* The furniture in the "mixed" set is marked with indicia which reads, "MEGO HONG KONG," unlike the "blue" set (see above).
Here are the four boxes in which the Enterprise was packaged:
This is the "standard" box. The vast majority of Enterprise Playsets are to be found in this packaging.
This is the mail-order "catalog" box for the Enterprise Playset--an exceptionally hard find. Note: This is not an outer carton containing an inner box. This IS the box for the playset.
These are the two "foreign" boxes for the Enterprise Playsets released in France and Canada. The boxes are smaller than the "standard" domestic one due to the smaller size of the playset itself.
Both boxes have a front that is written in French (see upper-left quadrant), and a back that is written in English (see lower-left quadrant). In fact, both boxes are identical, with one small exception: the Canadian box has a Parkdale Novelty sticker (see lower-right quadrant) covering the manufacturing information on the top of the box (see upper-right quadrant).
Special Note: This foreign Enterprise was actually designated with a separate stock number. Both the Canadian and French playsets are Item NO. 51210/F.
Here is a look at the three combinations in their loose forms:
On the left is the Domestic "Blue"; In the middle we have the Domestic "Mixed"; and on the right is the Foreign (ONLY available with "mixed" accessories). (Note the slightly smaller size of the Foreign Playset as compared to the Domestic. The tell-tale sign of a smaller Foreign box is the fact that much of the graphics on the cardboard pieces are cut-off on the edges.)
So, here are the six variations of the Enterprise Playset:
VARIANT #1: Standard vinyl playset PLUS "blue" set of accessories INSIDE a "standard" box.
VARIANT #2: Standard vinyl playset PLUS "mixed" set of accessories INSIDE a "standard" box.
VARIANT #3: Standard vinyl playset PLUS "blue" set of accessories INSIDE a "catalog" box.
VARIANT #4: Standard vinyl playset PLUS "mixed" set of accessories INSIDE a "catalog" box.
VARIANT #5: Smaller foreign vinyl playset PLUS "mixed" set of accessories (single-sheet Transporter labels pre-affixed) INSIDE a French-language box.
VARIANT #6: Smaller foreign vinyl playset PLUS "mixed" set of accessories (single-sheet Transporter labels pre-affixed) INSIDE a French-language box with a Parkdale Novelty sticker on top.
Pictures and commentary graciously provided by Kevin (MirrorSpock).
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