Popeye, that lovable little pipe-puffin' sailor man who runs on "spinach power," is more than a half-century old. He was created and introduced in January of 1929 by cartoonist Elzie Segar. Because of the immense popularity of the comic strip, many Popeye toys were manufactured, and over the years the interest in such toys has expanded like the muscles on Popeye's arms.
Some Popeye toys are scarcer than others, and thus command plenty of green when found. The price tags can make your eyes pop out.
Many companies produced the toys -- Hoge, Hubley, Marx, Chein, and others, plus Linemar, which is a Japanese subsidary of the Marx Company. Value, of course, depends on age, condition, rarity and desirability. Both very desirable and difficult to find is Popeye the Sailor in a Rowboat. It measures 15 inches long, is made of lithographed steel, and was manufactured in 1935 by the Hoge Mfg. Co. of N.Y. Winding its motor made Popeye row the boat with a pair of removable oars. Last October at a Lloyd W. Ralston toy auction in the East, one of these sold without oars for $850.
Another popular toy features Popeye and Olive Oyl on a roof with an accordion. It was manufactured by Marx in the mid-1930s. Winding the key made Popeye dance and Olive Oyl move from side to side as if playing the accordion. It has sold for as much as $400 at auction.
More plentiful toys include Popeye the Pilot, the Popeye Express, with Popeye transporting a trunk in a wheelbarrow, Popeye and the Parrot Cages, Popeye in a Barrel and Popeye on Roller Skates. Many of these bring top dollar at auctions.
Last December at a PB Eighty-Four toy auction in New York City, a lithographed tin battery-operated toy made by Linemar featuring Popeye with pipe and spinach and standing on a base imprinted with the words "Bubble Blowing Popeye" sold for $300 in its original box. This proves that even late-model, made-in-Japan Popeye toys are sought after.
Because Popeye is still much adored, toys are made in his image even today and are certain tomorrow to increase in value.