I have a long history with the Planet of the Apes franchise having sampled it at a very early age (quite possibly too early an age). As I gobbled up each of the films it introduced me to the idea that films could tell an ongoing story. I clearly remember the sequels catching my dad’s interest when they made their way to television and I loved anything he loved so I was often parked beside his chair watching with him from the floor.
Charlton Heston, whose film work my dad loved, made a real impression on me in those early movies. He felt so serious and made everything much more life or death than I was expecting. Learning that the world could end and change to our lives massively resonated with me and probably explains my continued love of zombie films and shows like the Walking Dead still today. To say the original Planet of the Apes made an impression on me that lingers and still influences my views of science fiction would be an understatement. It both scared and intrigued me all at once.
The entire story of the apes began with a French author named Pierre Boulle. His 1963 novel La Planète des Singes was translated to English, caught the public’s attention at the time and was in turn made into the 1968 film adaptation, Planet of the Apes. Four sequels followed the original film between 1970 and 1973 including Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. From that point there were two television series (one live action in 1974 and one animated in 1975). The next run of films would not take shape until 2001 when Tim Burton loosely remade the original Planet of the Apes. A decade later the film series would reboot in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was followed by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014 and War for the Planet of the Apes is planned for a 2017 release.
Over the course of these nine films, there have been a lot of collectibles celebrating the rise of the apes and I’m here to walk you through ten areas of Planet of the Apes toy and memorabilia collecting which you can consider your roadmap to the ultimate Planet of the Apes collection!
When it comes to trading cards tied to the franchise, there was one card series that stands above all others. This would be the much loved 1969 Planet of the Apes movie cards. These were actually one of the few collectibles that came out around the time of the original film and they were published by Topps for the US market in the traditional bubble gum trading card pack style. There were 44 cards in the set and it actually exists in two versions if you roll in the international market. It was produced with black borders for the UK version via Apjac Productions Inc (released in 1968) and white borders for the US version via Topps (released in 1969). The UK version of the cards are pictured above.
Though that set remains a sought-after collectible, it was certainly not the only trading card series to hit the market. There was the 1975 Topps Planet of the Apes trading card series (66 cards) which focused on the short-lived (just one season) television show. Utilizing a similar design style to the ’68 set, these cards go with the originals well and form a puzzle image with the backs of the cards (which also serves as a great way to tell the classic series from the ’75 set).
Additionally, Rittenhouse Archives entered this market in 2004 with a limited set of 9 cards titled The Planet of the Apes Behind-the-Scenes. If you chase this set, keep an eye out for the grails of the series: special cards containing actual fabric swatches from costumes. There is also an autographed card from Linda Harrison who played Nova, Charlton Heston’s mute mate in the 1968 film and the first sequel. She also had a cameo in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Side note, Rittenhouse also produced a limited set of 9 cards in their The Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston series.
In more modern days there are the Inkworks Archives Cards, a 90-card set plus autograph cards, chase cards, and more. If you roll in the large number of fan made card sets created by Greg Plonowski (which have also become collectible), you have a wonderful little arena to focus on for your Planet of the Apes collection.
Established in 1971, Power Records came along a bit later than Planet of the Apes, but they more than made up for that late start when it comes to these four collectible book and record sets. Released by Peter Pan Industries in 1974 as part of their “Super Adventure Series,” these 7″, 45 RPM records were accompanied by 20 page comic adaptations of each audio story. Personally, I love these! From the voice acting to the comic book tie-in, I’ve been a Power Records collector almost as long as I’ve been a comic book collector. These are so well done and definitely stand the test of time. If you’ve ever hear the *ding* asking you to turn the page, you will never forget the magic of these collectibles.
You get bonus points for your collection if you manage to track down the exceedingly rare counter and floor displays that were offered up by the company when these records were first marketed. For the completists out there, don’t miss the three additional 33 1/3 RPM Little LP records produced by Peter Pan Industries (Dawn Of The Tree People, Mountain Of The Delphi, and Battle Of Two Worlds) plus the two LP’s (Planet Of The Apes, album 1 and Planet of the Apes, album 2) which serve to really tie this audio collection together.
8. Board Games
If you are looking for collectible and exciting franchise focused board games, look no further than Milton Bradley in the ‘70s. Here we show off the rarer Arrow Games LTD version of the 1974 Planet of the Apes board game. The game would later be produced under the Milton Bradley banner after Arrow Games fell on financial hard times and MB acquired them in 1972. That buyout saw 75 percent share of the company going to Milton Bradley with the remaining 25 percent held by the original founders for Arrow Games (who would continue producing products, mostly jigsaw puzzles, until 1987). You will find both MB and Arrow versions of the game on the collector market but if you are going for the best, hold out for the Arrow version.
As with many games of this era, the play wasn’t all that hard to master and this was certainly one of the more dice roll focused games. The object here was to trap all of your opponents in a “3 dimensional spring-release human trap” set in the center of the board. On each turn, the player rolls two dice and then moves themselves with one dice and an opponent with the other. That said, who could focus on the game when the board itself is covered in such beautiful camera art from the film? A classic board game to say the least.
While I am on the board game front, I will also serve up an honorable mention to the 2001 Planet of the Apes Board Game from Winning Moves.
I can’t say I’ve ever been much of a lunchbox and thermos collector, but I always love seeing the artistic design work that goes into them. For Planet of the Apes, I think they really excelled when they shared this one which was released in 1974 by Aladdin Industries. There is artwork on each of the sides and back on the box (in addition to even more art encircling the thermos). Really a beautiful piece.
If the characters depicted look a little strange, it’s due to the fact that this lunchbox set was tied to the television series stars rather than the films. The front depicts Colonel Alan Virdon and Major Peter J. Burke (our two series leads) as they are held prisoner by the Gorilla general Urko. Counselor Zaius and Galen are also depicted. The reverse side shows Burke and Galen as they rescue Virdon who is being led away on horseback. Other sides depict humans being chased by a gorilla on horseback, a crashed spacecraft, and more imagery from the series.
Sure, there have been other lunch boxes released featuring the more modern film reboots, but this one from the ‘70s hold a special spot for me and is the prize to seek when it comes to Planet of the Apes lunchbox collecting.
Forget Blu-Ray, because we’re going back to a more classic age where the actual film was held in your hand. Each of these five Planet of the Apes films arrived in fans’ homes thanks to this Super 8 collection from 20th Century Fox and Ken Films. At roughly 6″ x 6″ in size, these collectibles are an easy item to tuck away or display. Sure, they may not be the perfect visual experience when you watch them and the equipment to play them may be even harder to find than the films themselves, but owning these little chunks of film history may just prove utterly irresistible to a true Planet of the Apes fan!
5. Comic Books
There has been a long list of Planet of the Apes comic books over the years. If this is your angle for celebrating the ape uprising in your collection, let me boil it all down and give you a starting point in your quest. Let’s do this in rapid fire fashion.
It all begins with two manga adaptations of the original film in 1968 and 1971. From there, the second film saw a comic book adaptation by Gold Key Comics in 1970. Marvel Comics enters the picture with a twenty-nine issue series which ran from 1974 to 1977. Power Records, discussed above, appeared with their book and record sets running in conjunction with the Marvel years. As Marvel ceased using the series, a mix of international comics carried us into the early ‘80s. Things would go a bit quiet for a time with some unlicensed indie titles occasionally paying homage to the characters, but it would be Adventure Comics (a division of Malibu Comics) that would next take up the story. Between 1990 and 1993 they created 24 issues worth of original stories.
Between 2001 and 2002, Dark Horse Comics would be tapped for a series of tie-ins related to the Tim Burton re-imagining of the franchise. Their contributions would include a film adaptation, a miniseries, a brief ongoing series, a few mini-comics, and a serialized story within their existing Dark Horse Presents title. From there the little known Mr. Comics would hold the license until 2005. Next, BOOM! Studios would step into the spotlight ushering in the longest comic book publishing run in the history of the franchise. Their ape related titles continue even today as I pen this article and they announce a new “Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes” series.
You will find no shortage of amazing stories, if comic books are your thing!
4. Collectible Prints
We’ve walked you through a lot of vintage items in this article, but there is no shortage of modern day love for Planet of the Apes if companies like Mondo and Gallery 1988 have anything to say about it. In the six images I lay out above we have three by Mondo (details top row left, middle and right) then three from Gallery 1988 (details bottom row left, middle and right). Framed, any of these would look amazing as an accent to displaying your collection and if you consider how fast many of these sell out, they are a collectible all on their own. Please note, here especially, this is just the tip of the ape filled planet when it comes to celebrating the fandom in artwork and prints. Explore! You will not regret the time you spend digging.
I’ve said it before in previous articles and I’ll say it again here, it’s increasingly hard to share any kind of list these days and not roll in the Funko POP! versions of the characters or franchise being discussed. This growing vinyl empire of creative collectibles did not ignore Plant of the Apes and brought them in as part of their POP! Movies line. First unveiled at Toy Fair in 2013, these are fun additions. Featuring Cornelius, General Ursus, Ape Soldier, and Dr. Zaius, I admit I’d love to have a Zaius for my desk.
2. Addar Models
I love these classic model kits and, for me, it’s all about the box art. Sure, built models like Dr. Zira and General Ursus look amazing, but this is one collectible I would probably just leave in the box. The art here feels raw and vintage in a way that the finished models just can’t convey. You can see what each of these look like built by following the link at the top of this section, but I wanted to roll in this box shot so you can see the visual impact of an assembled set of Addar models.
Love model building? In addition to these six gems, keep an eye out for Planet of the Apes model building fun from names like Monsters From The Woods, Forbidden Zone, Polar Lights, and Model Prisoners to name just a few.
There have been many Planet of the Apes action figures over the years and if you look at what companies like NECA are doing these days, they are devastatingly good. Since this is an article about collecting this franchise, I’m going to focus my #1 spot on the classic Mego series but encourage you to dig around and check out all the modern variations on both the recent and classic film characters. Honestly, there is no better time than now to be a Planet of the Apes collector. The new films have brought a renewed interest to the franchise and a seemingly modern action figure creativity brought to a classic brand makes this writer very happy.
The story of these Mego action figures begins in 1975 with 20th Century Fox’s challenge for America to “Go Ape!” That challenge was heard by a young Kenny Adams (son of Mego President Marty Abrams). As 20th Century Fox was busy bringing the original films to television and film marathons in theaters, Kenny and his father took in the shows. As has been widely reported, this viewing inspired Marty to contact 20th Century Fox and bid on the franchise for a toy line. Mego ended up securing those rights and Planet of the Apes became their first film property. The first five figures (Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, the Soldier Ape, and the Astronaut) were unveiled in 1974. As a fever grew within the public for all things Ape, the line was expanded to ten, adding Galen, Alan Virdon, Peter Burke, General Urko, and General Ursus in 1975. This second wave of figures was created in support of the new television series which featured these characters.
In addition to the main series of ten figures, Mego rolled out the accessories including a Treehouse and Village Playset and a remote control horse, the Action Stallion for wave one. With wave two we saw the releases of The Forbidden Zone Trap, The Fortress, The Catapult and Wagon, the Battering Ram, The Jail, Dr. Zaius’s Throne, as well as a series of 5″ Bend and Flex figures.
Continue growing your collection!
What I’ve worked to present here is a starter course in building your own, personal Planet of the Apes collection. Certainly, this article is not intended to be an all inclusive list but rather an effort to show you ten areas where you can focus and get started. Consider this a starter course to whet your appetite for things that may get you excited. From here, once the bug bites, you can begin digging into movie books, costumes, themed glasses, soap and bubble sets, plush figures, coloring and activity books, novels, scripts, movie posters, lobby cards, stills, magazine articles, prosthetics, autographs, view-master reels, fan club newsletters… You get the idea. If you love Planet of the Apes, your journey to Ape supremacy has only just begun!