Krystal's Tips for Keychain Collectors

Age

Exactly when Playmobil® began to produce keychain versions of their figures is not easy to pinpoint, but they have been around since before klickies with moving hands and moulded faces were created.

It is often difficult to determine the exact age of a vintage keychain. As with regular Playmobil® figures, the imprint on the underside of the foot is not a clear date indicator, because the moulds used to create these figures were re-used for many years following their initial production. The most logical way to work out a rough manufacturing date is by comparing the figures to those found in early Playmobil® sets.

The bags which keychains are sold in have also undergone slight design changes over the years. Since at least the early 1990s, they have been packaged in specially printed bags. One vintage keychain I obtained came sealed in a plain, slightly age-worn, plastic bag with some parts still unassembled.

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Sources

Playmobil®'s Direct Service (DS) department sometimes run promotions where they offer free keychains to buyers placing an order for their toys. Other times they can be ordered through the DS at a set price - according to some vintage German DS catalogues I own, this was also the case as far back as the 1980s.

Another reliable source for new keychains are the Playmobil® FunParks which are located in many countries, worldwide. Some of the keychains they sell are identical to items which were previously offered through the DS, but occasionally they make available exclusives, such as their mascot pirate "Rico," who has the FunPark logo printed on his back.

I have also heard of occasions where keychains have been purchased from toy stores in Germany and the US, but it is unclear how widespread this type of distribution is. These little guys sure do cover some miles... according to a reliable source, a few British bobby keychains once even made it as far as a toyshop in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

Authenticity

There have occasionally been home-produced keychains offered for sale at online auctions, so it is not wise to assume that every single one is genuine. Thankfully, most sellers are usually honest enough to state any doubts they may have about authenticity in their descriptions, but some may not even be aware they are selling an unofficial product if they have obtained it second-hand. And if they are not collectors, themselves, they may not appreciate that this detail may be of significance to the buyer.

One thing I have noticed is that the chains and ring attachments used have varied over the years. Many of my older keychains have a chunkier chain with a large ring and flip-opening catch. I find this common factor is a good indicator of authenticity when combined with the age of the item.

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It is difficult to tell if a keychain is factory-made just by looking at a photograph of the loose (unbagged) article. Although it was common-place at one time, Playmobil® appear to have stopped printing their logo on the back of the keychain figures, again making verification a little less easy for collectors.

Promotional Items

In addition to selling keychains to the mass market, Playmobil® have co-operated with other companies by supplying them with promotional figures bearing individualised imprints. Sometimes these are duplicates of previously produced figures or keychains, such as the Siemens knight where the only difference is the type printed on the back. Other times they are completely new figures, specifically customised to match corporate identities, logos, or other criteria.

This Maltese knight sold by a museum in Mdina is a good example of an historically influenced promo figure. The image taken from the museum flyer shows the basis for this figure's design.

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Market Variations

There have been variations between keychains produced for the German market as opposed to those for the export countries. The most common example of this is the uniform colours and writing on the tabards of past police figures.

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It's quite possible that the Greek company, Lyra, which was granted a license to produce Playmobil® in the late 1970s, also manufactured keychains. These can be indentified by the LYRA imprint on the underside of the foot. I have only found two examples of Lyra keychain figures, and the chains on both of these have links which are much different in style to the rest of my collection.

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Another difference between some figures is the presence or absence of the Playmobil® logo on the back. Strangely enough, I have come across identical keychains where the only difference between them was one bore the logo while the other did not. Likewise, I've noticed variations in eye-colour between otherwise identical child keychains, black as opposed to the more commonly used brown.

Quantity

Being unable to refer to a comprehensive catalogue which lists every Playmobil® keychain ever produced means that it is impossible for the average collector to know exactly how many different ones are out there. This might seem like a disadvantage, but for an avid collector, it can be rather exciting knowing that there might still be at least one more different keychain out there, somewhere, just waiting to be discovered.

The really old keychains are getting hard to find; because of this, they usually fetch very high prices when they occasionally pop up in eBay listings. My advice to anyone else who hopes to accomplish a "complete" collection is to simply forget it and go find something else to collect.