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Captain Company

on January 19, 2009 - 2:47pm

magazine ad of child with projector, creating a skull image
Look at that image. I feel like a budding paleontologist spying a treasured dinosaur fossil for the first time. It's like documenting the history of haunting.

That is a classic example of the Captain Company collection. This one is courtesy of toyranch's flickr account where he has kindly shared a tremendous collection of these vintage ads.

So what is (or sadly, was) this Captain Company? Here's a very simple history from someone who just missed this cultural gemstone.

Horror movies really hit their stride in the livingrooms of the late 1950's, and UHF stations entertained audiences with classic films. Riding the monster popularity wave into the 1960's and 1970's was Famous Monster's of Filmland Magazine, in the back of which you would find Captain Company ads.

Captain company was a Philadelphia-based mail order business, and the merchandising arm of Warren Publishing. It specialized in horror movie related products including masks, model kits, rings, posters, Super 8mm name it.

So, why were they so successful? Besides having a finger on the pulse of a niche market, Jim Warren (the man behind it all) himself was a collector:

I went back to the same formula (as the FMF magazine): if I like it, they're going to like it. I'm like them, and they're like me - we were all born under the same umbrella: we are collectors and we like certain things that are not readily available in the corner stores.

What I don't understand, as a collector and a horror/Halloween enthusiast, is how there hasn't been someone else to take up the cause. Sure, we have Halloween party stores and toy figures for mainstream monsters, but the depth of unique selection is a puddle compared to the deep dark waters of Captain Company.

I realize I am looking at this as someone admiring vintage items, for products that are kitschy and cool. Perhaps in 20 years people will be looking at what's available to me now with the same nostalgic longing (even though they were also too young to have a personal nostalgic connection to it).

I also know that it's next to impossible to find any of these vintage items. What I need is an entrepreneur to start creating the same type of items and making them available for sale at a reasonable price. Someone get on that, ok?

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