Come Get Happy

The famous Golden Arches of McDonald’s first appeared in 1955 and for the next 24 years they went about the business of selling hamburgers. Sales were great, expansion was constant, millions were sold. End of story? You might think so, but in the mid-1970′s Guatemalan McDonald’s manager Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño thought it would help sales to offer a “MenuRonald” for children which offered a hamburger, small fries and a small sundae. When the idea came to the attention of McDonald’s management in Chicago, they turned to advertising agent Bob Bernstein who with the help of several nationally known illustrators turned some cardboard boxes filled with a burger, small fries, packet of cookies and a toy into one of the top marketing ideas of the 20th Century — The Happy Meal
The first Happy Meal was a circus theme containing one of the six original toys,  a McDoodle stencil, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet, puzzle lock, a spinning top, or a McDonald’s character. Within the first year, the family-movie theme was introduced with the appearance of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture Happy Meal (December 1979). Different characters from the movie were featured for four consecutive weeks, encouraging return customers who wanted to collect the full set. 1987 ushered in the Disney era of Happy Meals, each featuring sticker books, pop-up books and character figures from Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and other animated classics.
Not all Happy Meal toys have lived up to the expectations of collectors. Perhaps the biggest miscalculation for the collecting public was the Teenie Beanie Babies series. This promotion from 1996-2000 was a huge success for McDonalds  as collector grabbed up the little critters so quickly that many restaurants exhausted their supplies before the promotion ended. While they were considered the most popular collectible of the 1990s, the majority of the Beanie Babies and Teenie Beanie Babies soon lost their value and today can be found offered on eBay in groups of 20 (unopened)  for $5-$8.
While fast food collectibles, in general, have seen a drop in value over the past decade, there are a number of Happy Meal related items that are still bring good money. Two consistently strong sellers are the Magic McNugget Snack Maker from Mattel that is currently selling on eBay for $300-$350 and store displays from the early 1990s Happy Meal promotions that are bringing a respectable $100-$150.
Happy Meal toys that are still holding value include: The full set of Wizard of Oz dolls ($250), the giant box of 101 Dalmatians ($200), the 2003 complete set of Madame Alexander dolls ($130), Super Mario 8 piece set ($115), the 50th Anniversary Peanuts full set ($100), the Muppet Babies set of 4 ($50). These realized prices for completed eBay auctions may be used as a guideline, but your toys must be in the package in mint condition and the market can pivot at any time depending on the ratio of supply to demand.
Most all of us have a few Happy Meals toys laying around, but before you start seeing dollar signs know this — most of the Happy Meal toys offered online are selling in groups of 100+ for $10-$12, or not at all. They were fun to collect, they are great to display and for the most part, that is where their value stops. Until next time . . . . Linda

Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the valuation and liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835