Production Variants

First release Castle Grayskull

I’ve written previously about the first release of Castle Grayskull, and how it differs from later versions. I’ve recently been able to acquire a rather unique piece, a 100% complete and quite pristine first release Castle Grayskull. I’ve been looking for one like this for years, especially after my friend and fellow first-release enthusiast John Oswald acquired one similar to this a couple of years ago.

So there are a few things about this example that differentiate it from even other early 1982 Castle Grayskulls (I’ve owned several early examples, but none quite like this). I’ll go over that, but first some wide shots:

The most obvious difference between this and any other Castle Grayskull is the paint on the front of the Castle. As we learned in the MOTU documentary, The Power of Grayskull, factories initially were looking to use some kind of paint mask for Castle Grayskull, but they were instructed by Mattel to do the painting free-hand (presumably to save time and therefore money). As a result, the paint applications seem to be rather haphazard, especially in later editions of the castle. The earliest versions of Castle Grayskull therefore tend to have the best paint. The two best examples I’ve seen are my recent acquisition and one owned by John Oswald:

Image source: John Oswald. This one has a very even and careful paint pattern on the front.

I have owned a number of other castles (below) that are also nice early versions. You can see they all have pretty decent paint work around the face, with some good definition to the eyes and nose, but not quite like the two examples from above:

The vast majority of Castle Grayskulls, however, have much less care taken regarding the paint, particularly on the black overspray, which is usually applied without any precision at all:

The other thing that sets my first release castle apart from other early examples is the color of the green removable pieces. The jawbridge, turret floors, trap door activator, and trap door floor are all a very pale shade of green, unlike any other example I’ve seen before:

Typical jawbridge on left, first release jawbridge on right
First release turret floor far left, early turret floors (middle three), and revised later turret floor with added slots for cannon (far right)
Pale green trap door and activator

Some variation in color is pretty normal on these parts (and I think early examples do tend to be somewhat lighter in color), but the very light green on this first release stands out from any other example I’ve seen. The color is about the same as the base plastic of the castle itself.

Interestingly, John’s castle has a half-and-half jawbridge – the inside is pale green, like my example, while the outside is the more common darker green. This indicates it may have been put together just as the color for the jawbridge was being revised to the common darker version.

Image source: John Oswald

In this example in Mattel’s 1982 Wish List mini catolog, you can see a castle similar to John’s example, but with a jawbridge that is pale green all the way through:

Another example appears in the 1982 JCPenney Catalog:

Image source: R.M. Hart

You can also see what look like very pale turret floors on this example in the 1982 Sears Christmas catalog:

Most early Castle Grayskulls seem to have a stamp under the entrance that generally looks like 1xx2C2, with a lower number in the first three digits corresponding to an earlier castle. For example, John’s first release example is stamped 1162C2. Other early (but not quite as early) castles I’ve owned have numbers like 1242C2, 1322C2, 1332C2, etc. Interestingly all of the numbers I’ve seen are unique, at least under the entrance.

The code for my first release castle is 3021C2 – a higher number on the left three digits, but a lower one on the right three digits. I’m not entirely sure what that means. Perhaps the right three digits are general batch code (1C2 = batch 1, 2C2 = batch 2, and so forth), and the left three digits are a more individualized number given to Castles produced on a certain day or week. I can only guess here.

Everything else about my first release castle is pretty typical of any first year Castle Grayskull, including all of the other codes stamped in various places around the castle.

If you’re looking to find a first year Castle Grayskull, there are some easy things to spot that are typical. The smaller of the two turret floors should have no slots for the cannon, and the cannon top should fit loosely into the cannon base, as opposed to within round slots, as shown in the images below.

First year castles would have come with a smooth small turret floor. The one on the right comes from a later release.
First version of the instructions. Note that the laser canon isn’t associated with the turret floor.
Revised version of the instructions. With the new turret floor, the laser cannon is now intended specifically to be placed in that spot.

All early castles also seem to have some green overspray on the teeth, while later ones often (but not always) have unpainted teeth. The best early castles will have some definition around the eyes and nose, rather than the whole area being painted black. These are general characteristics, but there will be some exceptions. All early castles should have USA stamps throughout. Of course because most of these are sold loose, any castle you find could have a mix of parts from different playsets, so you could find an early castle with later accessories or vice versa.

As I mentioned in a previous article, early versions of the castle came in a box that featured only the 1982 figures on the back. The artwork here was traced directly from a photo used in Mattel’s 1982 Dealer Catalog and also shows up in the first version of the Castle Grayskull instructions:

Starting in 1983, the back of the box was altered to feature cross sell art from both the 1982 and 1983 figures:

A very typical example of a second-release, USA-made Castle Grayskull is shown below. The distinguishing factors are again evident in the design of the back of the box, the face paint pattern on the front of the castle, the small turret floor, the laser cannon, and the instructions. This is very much like the Castle Grayskull I had as a kid, and as much as I loved it, I was always dissatisfied with the paint job on the front, which didn’t quite live up to the look of the castle in the box art.

And that’s about it for this discussion on the first release Castle Grayskull. I’ve been fascinated for some time with the earliest release MOTU toys of 1982. You can read more about this topic in the following articles:

I’ll close out with some additional photos of this very interesting early example:

Special thanks to John Oswald, who is always a great resource for thoughts and ideas about this topic, and who alerted me about this castle before I was even online for the day!

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4 thoughts on “First release Castle Grayskull

  1. That is a very nice Grayskull, congratulations! It’s always interesting to see a breakdown of the differences in the early runs, and you always notice a thing or two that never jumped out at me. My childhood Grayskull was very much like this one, though the eye sockets weren’t quite as neatly done. It had the smooth small turret piece and the very pale green jawbridge. (I remember noticing that my friend’s Grayskull had a much greener one, and waaaaayy more black paint on the outer shell.) The main one I currently have is from a later run, though the black overspray isn’t too bad. I still hold out hope of coming across an early Grayskull at a garage sale or thrift store, though that hope grows fainter every year!

  2. Hey Waylon, thanks for your comments! Interesting that you had a similar one growing up! I’ve heard other people’s memories of owning things like a Blue Beard Stratos or “Wonder Bread” He-Man growing up. Of course back then we had no notion of whether something was rare and why that would matter. We just wanted to play with the toys. 🙂

  3. Love this kind of stuff. I’m straining my memory to remember what my original one looked like…I think we got it from a garage sale (~85). I don’t remember it being so black but definitely not THAT clean, more like your other earlier releases. I actually prefer a bit of over-spray to be honest… ??

  4. It’s definitely very personal. Actually my favorite paint job on a production castle is John’s example. The best paint job, however (IMO) was on the prototypes, which use black overspray in just the right areas to emphasize shadow, with lots of green on the areas that would get more light. I’ve never seen a mass-produced castle painted like that, though

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