“He-Man” and the “Masters of the Universe” was conceived back in the late 1970s by Mattel. It may or may not have been a ripoff of “Conan,” but it was one of the coolest series in the 1980’s. I am old but not quite old enough to have had these toys news, so my experiences were mostly garage sales and closeouts for my He-Man fun as a child.
He-Man and friends (and foes) hit shelves in 1982, and took the toy world by storm. Star Wars, the Transformers, and He-Man were the Big Three for kids in much of the 80s until 1990 hit the horizon, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles showed up to conquer all.
1982 was the first and possibly best year for He-Man in terms of cool junk to end up under a Christmas tree. The first year saw He-Man, Skeletor, Battlecat, Man-at-Arms, Beastman, Merman, Teela, and a handful of other figures and vehicles. But the piéce de résistance for the year and perhaps the entire line of toys was the one and only…
If you were a parent or a kid in the early-80’s checking out the toy isle in your local Toys R Us, Kiddie City, Children’s Palace, or KB Toys, Castle Grayskull would run you around $30 US ($60 or so today). Even with inflation, that is a steel for a massive playset. If you want to buy one now expect to pay about $100 – $300, depending on condition and completeness, though $150 is the sweet spot. If you want it mint in box, you’re shelling out $500 and up.
The overall castle is a very dirty green and black, which is awesome and stands in contrast to much of the other toy lines. Having a creepy, weathered skull castle sitting next to the shinny superhero and Star Wars vehicles is a stark contrast. The plastic itself is sort of flimsy. Imagine the plastic of a storage container versus the rubbery plastic in a car part or the hard plastic of a standard action figure. The castle serves as a carrying case/storage container for figures as well.
If you opened the box in 1980 you’d find a plastic, 2 part castle/case as well as some other…stuff. There’s an upper floor that comes out. One piece contains a throne room and working (!) trapdoor. The throne looks like Zodac’s chair from the cartoon. The other floor has an elevator. Mine is broken, but it does have the bird head counter weight thing.
The cool accessories, though, are the spinning, training post-thing and the weapons rack which is full of weapons. As far as I am aware, all of them came in gray plastic so are easy to identify. You also get a ladder that is entirely worthless as it’s too small for any He-Man toy… though Star Wars or GI Joe guys could use it. There are also a handful of decals that easy die from years of abuse. The only one that is a must have is the pit. Everything is topped with a cannon and a flag.
By itself, if you were a kid and this still cost around $60 US, there is NO question about buying it. It is awesome. It’s one of the best – if not most accurate – playsets around. If you are a collector or just have some toys on a shelf and you find one, even if it’s just the shell without the interior accessories, it’s worth $100 or so.
But wait! The toy wasn’t just designed to be a toy itself. It has add ons! The cool gate opens ONLY with He-Man’s Power Sword. Combine both halves and open the gate! Or just use any weapon at all, but that ruins the fun.
But wait! There’s even more! He-Man’s Castle Grayskull has one more really cool, really awesome feature…
In 1983, Mattel decided a great way to get more money from your parents was to make an add on accessory for Castle Grayskull: the awesomely cool Talon Fighter and Point Dredd! The Talon Fighter was a (sadly flimsy and easily broken) eagle fighter that looked a lot like the colors of Sorceress/Zoar. The base was the coolest part, though. It could be it’s own thing or pulled apart and the top would be added to Castle Grayskull! The whole set came with a record and a really crappy cardboard computer that is generally lost to time, like tears in the rain.
If you want the entire set, a mostly completer, good version of Point Dredd with the Talon Fighter will run around $50 today. More if you want it complete or in the original box. Realistically, you can have Castle Grayskull with the Talon Fighter hanging out above all your toys, being imposing for $200 or less.
What’s the verdict? Castle Grayskull gets an 8/10. If you add the Tal Fighter on the tower, that’s a 9/10. You can’t get more awesome as far as vintage playsets go. Only a handful are cooler or more fun and not many are as easily added to the collection as this one. The newer, 2000ish series and the Classics series both saw a Castle Grayskull but… I don’t know. There’s just something charming about the original. It’s special. I didn’t own one as a child, but it was always like the king of toys, towering over the mere action figures.
And just in case you don’t realist how big this is, even without the Talon Fighter it’s a good few inches taller than my AT-AT.
If you can get one, buy it. Enjoy it. Play with it. Let your kids play with it. BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!
What’s your favorite vintage toy? What should we review? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!