• JA-RU Toys, Harvey Comics
  • JA-RU Toys, Richie Rick
  • JA-RU Toys, Casper

Use and Reuse: JA-RU Rack Toys for Harvey Comics

Harvey Comics was founded by Alfred Harvey in 1941 and published comics until Alfred’s retirement in 1982. Alfred’s oldest son, Alan, restarted publication in 1986 and ran the company until it was sold out of the family in 1989. It is hard to imagine now, but Harvey was once a powerhouse in the comics industry and worked with some of the biggest toy companies to produce merchandise featuring their comics characters. For rack toys, Harvey originally worked with Larami Corporation, but in 1988 switched to JA-RU, Inc.

JA-RU was founded in 1961 and still produces what are called “impulse toys”. My local supermarket has JA-RU rack toys for sale in its aisles, much as stores did when I was a child. I remember getting either rack toys or vending machine toys on many of my early shopping trips with my parents. Vending machine toys became one of my earliest collections, and rack toys lost favor with me after I broke the plastic ball shooter on a brand-new pinball game.

Part of the appeal of rack toys is that they are inexpensive. While some of the low cost might be due to cutting corners on quality, as was the case with my pinball game, another way rack toy companies save money is by reusing molds. They can just change the backing card and perhaps stickers or other printed inserts from one character to another and have a “new” toy. Here are a few rack toys JA-RU made for Harvey by reusing molds:

1. Richie Rich Money Stamper #2710

This toy started out as the “Mighty Mouse Money Press” in 1981. Why Mighty Mouse needed cash I am not sure, it makes much more sense for Richie Rich, but this toy is basically an ink stamp pad, number stamps, and blank “money” to stamp denominations upon. Both are on 6”x10” backing cards.

As a collector, I find it challenging that JA-RU did not use Universal Product Codes as they were intended to be used. JA-RU’s company prefix is 075656. After that, they use numbers such as 40000, 50000 and 70000 for multiple rack toys. The Mighty Mouse version was a 40000, Richie Rich is a 50000. The last digit of the UPC is a calculated check digit. Richie’s complete UPC is 075656500006. Using the part number 2710, it should be 075656027107. Mighty Mouse is easy to find on eBay, but all the copies I could find have the “20” stamp covering the part number.

2. Richie Rich Rich Kid Set #2711

This set started out as the “Mr. Smith Money Set” #214 in 1983. JA-RU must have rushed this item to market, because the NBC TV sitcom it is based on only lasted 13 episodes. A talking orangutan needing a wallet and money clip makes some sense, since he has a job and wears a suit. Both again appear on 6”x10” backing cards, and as with the Money Stamper, the Mr. Smith UPC was 40000, and the Richie Rich UPC 50000. Mr. Smith should be 075656002142, and Richie Rich 075656027114.

3. Casper Stamp Set #2936

Now we move from one popular Harvey character to another. JA-RU’s Richie Rich rack toys have part numbers in the 27xx range.  Their Casper rack toys are numbered 29xx. This rack toy started out as the “Airwolf Stamp Set” #681 in 1984, the year the television show about the helicopter of the same name premiered.  Casper was produced on a larger 6”x10” backing card rather than the 6″x9″ card used for Airwolf, to accommodate the large Casper logo. For some reason, the Airwolf toy examples I can find on eBay do not have a UPC. Casper’s UPC is a 40000, and should be 075656029361.

Flat plastic “pinball games” are perhaps the most popular rack toy, and I must say JA-RU’s have nice, solid-looking ball shooters, not like the one that disappointed little me. “Tall” versions of JA-RU pinball rack toys would include “The Simpsons Pinball Game” #198 from 1989 and “The Tom & Jerry Movie Pinball Game” #568 from 1992. The toy takes up almost the entire backing card. This brings us to the Casper Pin Ball Game…

4. Casper Pin Ball Game #2941

The Casper pinball game is what I will call JA-RU’s “short” version, as the game itself takes up a little more than half of the 6”x12” backing card. This matches with “The Pink Panther Pinball” #314 from 1980, although the Pink Panther version is on a 6”x10” backing card. Again, this is likely to accommodate the large Casper logo. Casper’s UPC is a 50000, and should be 075656029415. Strangely enough, the Pink Panther’s UPC is correct, 075656003149!

5. Richie Rich Money Maker #2705

I will conclude this journey with an item whose mold I do not believe was ever reused. This is the only rack toy I have ever seen with instructions printed on the back! It is essentially a sleight of hand trick, where you roll a blank piece of paper into the device, then unroll printed money. It is very bulky and would sit awkwardly on a rack toy peg hanging from its 6”x9” backing card. The Money Maker is a 50000 and should be 075656027053.

I currently have 16 different JA-RU rack toys in my collection: eight Casper and eight Richie Rich. That is an impressive number for one year of production!