Sign up for our newsletter for the latest news and updates!

AC Gilbert Logo

AC Gilbert Toy Company

The AC Gilbert company was a very brief but significant contributor to action figure history but the story of its founder, Alfred Carlton Gilbert is even more remarkable and fascinating.

Born in 1884 Alfred took a particular interest in both science and sport, financing his degree in sports medicine at Yale by working as a magician. He set the world record for chin-ups and running long dive and invented the pole vault.

The Best + Biggest Action Figure Database in the World!!

  • 60,000+ Action Figures
  • Release Dates
  • Checklists
  • Video Library
  • eBooks + Guides
  • Historical $$ Values

Learn more (click)

Recent updates

A Collapsible Table:

AC Gilbert Ad

AC Gilbert Erector

In 1907 AC Gilbert founded Mysto Manufacturing which would later become the A. C. Gilbert Company. They started off primarily making magic sets but branched out into chemistry, microscopes, astronomy playsets and other educational toys.

In 1913 Gilbert invented a toy named Erector, which was and remains to this day a Meccano-style construction set inspired by New York’s railroad.

In 1918, with America heavily embroiled in World War One, the Council of National Defence were considering a ban on toy production, most likely to redirect manufacture to military ordinance which was an immensely costly process.

American Flyer model railway

AC Gilbert "The Man Who Saved Christmas"

Gilbert successfully lobbied to have this repealed earning him the nickname “The Man who Saved Christmas”. 84 years later a movie by this name was made about him, starring Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander.

It’s interesting to imagine how the toy industry would have developed, had Gilbert not been around, but his company still had some significant impact to make.

In 1938 Gilbert acquired the rights to the American Flyer model railway and adopted the 3/16 scale. Gilbert’s focus was on detail, and making the trains seem more like miniature models than toys. Alfred’s interest remained clearly in the real and the scientific.

Atomic Play set

Alfred co-founded and became the first president of the Toy Manufacturers of America and introduced benefits for his employees. He also opened the Gilbert Hall of Science in New York City, which not only promoted invention and the discipline of science to children, but also sold his products.

Possibly, most bizarrely of all, in 1950 Gilbert released the U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory. This retailed at the modern day equivalent of $460 and contained an electroscope, a Wilson-cloud chamber, a Geiger counter and uranium.

AC Gilbert Action Figures

AC Gilbert 007a
AC Gilbert 007b

In 1954 at the age of 70, Alfred turned the company over to his son. He died seven years later and the family sold their shares to Jack Wrather. The next six years, from 1961 until 1967 was the key development period in the Gilbert Company’s impact on action figures.

In an unusual move for the day they acquired the license to produce toys based on the James Bond films.

There was a James Bond slot racing set, a gadget-filled Aston Martin toy very similar to the well-known Corgi classic, a line of three-inch non-poseable figurines followed by two 12-inch G.I. Joe sized figures, billed as action figures, rather than dolls.

One of the figures was Bond himself, who came with a Thunderball style diver’s outfit. The other was Oddjob, who came in a karate “gi”.

AC Gilbert Man from UNCLEa
AC Gilbert Man from UNCLEb

The more obvious smart suits that the characters wore in their cinematic appearances were most likely too complicated and expensive to manufacture or possibly considered not conducive to action. Bond could fight Oddjob in his flippers, possibly underwater where the henchman’s deadly hat attacks would be ineffective.

Continuing the espionage theme, two more licenses were also garnered as a result of the Bond success, namely The Man From U.N.C.L.E, released in 1965 based on the popular TV show starring Robert Vaughn, David Callum and Leo G Caroll, and the largely forgotten Honey West, (“The TV private eye-full)”.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were fortunately kitted out in more appropriate attire and the clothes and accessories on these figures were interchangeable.

Mc Moon Dare-a
Mc Moon Dare-b

It is in fact possible that had the popularity of these maintained, that Gilbert would have ended up closer to Mego or with the introduction of Moon McDare: Action Man from Space (complete with his space-suited dog) they may possibly have had the market clout of G.I. Joe, which was produced by Hasbro around the same time.

Sadly it was not to be and by 1967 the company had folded, and its assets divided up among other manufacturers. Looking at their output, either the market wasn’t ready for them or there was some mismanagement going on in the background, because the concepts these figures were released under were very much the recipe for success that various other companies experienced in the following decades.

Honey West a
Mc Moon Dare-b

AC Gilbert stands as an important, if mostly forgotten early step in the action figure timeline. Also as a testament to the creative drive that can be generated by one ambitious, and inventive figurehead, and what happens when that determination is not carried forward to next generation.

Erector is still sold in the United States by Meccano.

Vintage and Modern Action Figures for Sale

    The AFR Action Figure Store
  • Worldwide Delivery
  • Multiple Currencies
  • Special offers
  • Monthly Sales
  • Customer Loyalty Prog


More Toy Manufacturers

Mattel Logo
Kenner Logo
Jakks Pacific Logo
AC Gilbert Logo

Recent Articles

  1. Mego Star Trek Action Figures: A Look Back at the Iconic Toy Line

    Feb 01, 23 12:37 AM

    Star Trek Logo
    Mego’s first Star Trek Action Figures were released as far back as 1974, pre-Star Wars, and were based primarily on the live-action TV series [ read more ]

    Read More

  2. Baseball Action Figures: A History of Sports Figures

    Jan 23, 23 11:08 PM

    Johnny Hero 01
    The very first baseball action figures were similar in design and look to Hasbro's popular GI Joe figure with interchangeable uniforms and a generic look

    Read More

  3. NHL Action Figures Guide

    Jan 15, 23 10:53 PM

    NHL Logo
    NHL Action Figures: A Look at the History and Evolution of These Collectible Miniature Hockey Players

    Read More

  4. NBA Basketball Action Figures Guide

    Jan 15, 23 09:07 PM

    In 1986 Pat McInally, while browsing through the toy aisles of a local store saw rows of toys featuring super-heroes, but none based on sports heroes

    Read More

  5. NFL Action Figures Guide

    Jan 15, 23 09:06 PM

    NFL Action Team Mates
    As sales of sport trading cards continue to drop alarmingly sales of NFL action figures continues to grow despite the current economic crisis [Read more]

    Read More

  6. The Mattel Toy Company Story

    Dec 26, 22 02:58 AM

    Mattel Logo
    Mattel is one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the world and was founded in 1945 by

    Read More

  7. The Justice League of America

    Dec 20, 22 01:17 AM

    JLA Logo
    The Justice League of America or JLA is a fictional superhero team that, as well as striking fear into villains around the world [ READ MORE ]

    Read More

  8. The NECA Toy Company

    Dec 13, 22 02:41 AM

    Neca Logo 1
    The NECA Toy Company or the National Entertainment Collectables Association are a toy manufacturer based in New Jersey...[read more]

    Read More

PLEASE NOTE: All prices and values quoted on this site were correct at the time of publication based on the average value across several online and offline auction sites etc. The prices quoted ARE NOT an offer or solicitation to buy any figures at these prices.

Share the Love!

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.
var l = window.location.href, d = document; document.write('<form action="#"><div style="text-align:center"><textarea cols="50" rows="2" onclick=";"><a href="'+l+'">'+d.title+'</a></textarea></div></form>');

All trademarks and registered trademarks, whether or not so identified, are acknowledged to be the property of their respective owners. The use of a trademark does not imply that such use has been authorised, endorsed or sponsored by the trademark owner.