Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!

26 March 2019
ghostbusters-36435.jpg Ghostbusters
We fit the bill if you want to find out about classic Kenner Ghostbusters toys.
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Who ya gonna call? Looking at classic Kenner Ghostbusters toys.

In 1984 a film was released that was destined to become a cinematic icon. However, the premise of a comedy horror featuring four nerdy scientists chasing ghosts must have seemed an unlikely recipe for blockbuster success. Yet, despite this, Ghostbusters went on to become one of the best-known movies in the world, inspiring comics, videogames, merchandise, a sequel and, most recently, a rebooted film featuring an all-female cast of ‘busters. So, with the new film catching spooks in cinemas, what better time to have a look at some of the various Ghostbusters collectables released by Kenner throughout the 1980s and 1990s?

Bizarrely, however, it wasn’t the original hugely successful film that went on to inspire the toy line. Instead the credit belongs to The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, an animated spin-off that was broadcast between 1986 and 1991. Just like the movie, the series charted the adventures of paranormal investigators Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore, along with their secretary Janine Melnitz and friendly ghost Slimer. It definitely makes more sense that the cartoon would inspire so many toys, after all, that was squarely aimed at children, and Kenner didn’t waste any time in ramping up production. In fact, apart from the mighty Star Wars, The Real Ghostbusters line of toys was its most prolific and continued to be produced between 1986 and 1991, when the series was finally taken off the air.

Ghostbusters collectables

First off the production line at Kenner was the so-called ‘Wave One’ and included the four Ghostbusters themselves, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Green Ghost (Slimer), GhostZapper and two plush toys. The main releases were, of course, the four 3¾ inch action figures of the Ghostbusters. Kenner had already hit gold with the 3¾ inch Star Wars figures so it must have been a no-brainer to carry on the trend with its Real Ghostbusters line. With similar levels of articulation, compared to their Star Wars counterparts, the Ghostbusters also came with a Proton Pack accessory that could be worn on their back, along with a coloured plastic spook, ready to trap.

As you might expect, these original Ghostbusters characters are now among the most sought after pieces (seeing as no one really expected them to become collectable toys at the original time of release) and regularly change hands for around the £200 mark, if they’re mint on their original cards. Out of the other wave one releases, another piece that sets pulses racing is the Kroger variation of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. This was a variant given to Kenner staff in 1986 and featured packaging that showed Mr. Stay Puft brandishing packs of Kroger marshmallows: “the perfect snack for your little ghost chasing Ghostbusters!”

Less than a year after the toys began busting their first ghosts and Kenner was back with wave two, which added extra ghosts, which now had some nifty action features, like Bug Eye Ghost, who would shoot out a bulbous eyeball when bashed. However, the key release was a replica of Ecto-1, the customised ambulance used by the Ghostbusters to speed around New York.  Measuring around 30cm long, this fantastic toy had doors that opened up so that several figures could fit inside, while another could be placed in the swivelling Blaster Seat on the roof. At the rear, a ghost-grabbing claw could be reeled out of the boot, ready to capture spooks on the move. Unlike Star Wars vehicles, which often tend not to be worth as much as the figures, the Ecto-1 replica comes with a fairly hefty price tag and an AFA graded example sold for £1,200 earlier this year on eBay.

Likewise, another larger toy that is particularly attractive to collectors is the Firehouse, or Fire Station in the UK.  This was released as part of the third wave in 1988… although some came out just before Christmas in 1987. Despite the fact the Ghostbusters drive around in an ambulance, their headquarters is actually an old fire station and Kenner certainly went to town on its scaled-down replica. There was actually enough space for the large Ecto-1 car to fit inside and then two other floors for the Ghostbusters to hang out in, complete with the all-important fireman’s pole to slide down. A couple of the more interesting features included a tub of ‘slime’ that could be poured through the roof and a large Ghost Containment Unit that could house the colourful plastic ghosts that came with the action figures.

If you fancied becoming a Ghostbuster yourself, then Kenner had you covered (not in slime though, thankfully). Released at the same time as the Firehouse, the Proton Pack was a fantastic set that gave kids the opportunity to dress up as their favourite character. The set included a large plastic Proton Pack that could be worn on your back, along with a ‘Nutrona Blaster Gun’ with yellow foam attachment (to simulate the beam used to catch the ghosts in the TV show), a PKE Meter (to detect the ghosts), an armband and an official-looking ID card… perfect for showing police when you were arrested while exploring a ‘haunted’ house. Again, this is actually a valuable set when complete and in its original box, with some selling for upwards of £150.

To complete the role-play set, you could also pick up the Ghost Trap (released in 1989). Once you had finished zapping the spirits with your Nutrona Blaster, you need to ‘trap’ them in this great little toy, which had an opening hatch that was operated by stamping down on a switch (just like the cartoons). Again, in good condition, this sells for around the same price as the Proton Pack set.

Those toys mentioned above are really the stand outs in the Ghostbusters line-up, and the ones you’re most likely to come across at toy fairs or auctions. Kenner continued to produce more action figures, vehicles and role-playing sets until the action figure market exploded, thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which we’ve covered previously in Collectors Gazette. Perhaps because of their relatively short lifespan (just five years), it seems that Kenner Ghostbusters toys aren’t in the same collectable league as things like Star Wars, Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and some of the figures can still be picked up relatively cheaply. However, that might be set to change, as a whole new generation of fans is introduced to the Ghostbusters through the latest film and might start researching the old toys. Who ya gonna call? Your local vintage toy dealer.