Thanks to 80sKID for again giving us permission to use some of his pictures for this article. Check out 80sKID.com to see his full collection of merchadise, as well as great items for Automan, Greatest American Hero, and other fun shows of yesteryear.
Back when I wrote the merchandising article for Automan, I used the biblical verse "A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown," to illustrate that, even though American-based corporations had essentially ignored the series, elsewhere, particularly in the UK, it got more love. In doing the research for this article on Street Hawk merchandising, I came across the same phenomenon, causing me to tweak Mark 13:57 just a bit to now read: “A profit is expected everywhere except in his hometown.”
Clearly, licensing is a risky proposition. For every Kenner Toys, who took a chance on a science fiction film called Star Wars and found itself thrust into the pantheon of the global toy industry for the next decade, you had Mego, the hugely successful toy company who passed on Star Wars and spent the remainder of its days trying to make up for that mistake by signing agreements with every “The Next Star Wars” project it could find, ultimately bankrupting itself. But I would’ve thought the same desire that had driven ABC to try and emulate the ratings success of Knight Rider would’ve also had companies lining up to slap Rex Smith’s handsome mug on... well, a mug, in the hopes of cashing in on “The Next Big Thing”. Sadly, outside of a few items, the only way an American kid could get his hands on a Street Hawk toy was if his parents went on vacation to the UK or Brazil. Today, that kid has eBay. But collectors be warned - Street Hawk merchandise can be pricey and hard to find.
Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting and unique items that are out there.
Role play toys (Various) - Some Street Hawk merchandise that likely did make its way to American shelves was this series of role play items manufactured by Fleetwood Toys. Fleetwood focused primarily on what are known as “Rack Toys”, which are low cost and mostly found at drug and grocery stores. Often times, these items have a rather dubious connection to the property on the packaging, instead remaining thematically generic enough to be used over and over again under different names. For Street Hawk, Fleetwood released everything from a binocular/whistle/compass set (all three of which are sure to come in handy while riding a motorcycle at 300 MPH) to something called a “Compact Arsenal Target Set”.
Street Hawk Lunchbox - Another item available in the States was a metal lunchbox manufactured by Aladdin. These turn up on eBay from time to time, but they tend to be expensive, not only because of its relative rarity but also because of competition from lunchbox collectors.
Moto Laser Jesse Matt action figure - Made by Brazilian toy company Glasslite (Street Hawk was re-titled Moto Laser in Brazil and Jesse Mach was re-named Jesse Matt), this was just a figure, no bike. Armed with his trademark(!?) large assault rifle, this was part of a series of figures based on American action shows of the same era. The back of the card features all four members of The A-Team, as well as Knight Rider hero Michael Knight... lugging an M-16!
Funskool G.I. Joe Street Hawk - One of the more popular Street Hawk collectibles is this oddity released by Funskool in India. I’m not sure why it was lumped in with G.I. Joe, but this fact alone makes it even more sought after as Joe collectors comprise one of the largest segments of the toy collecting market. The bike uses the same mold as the R.A.M. motorcycle released a few years earlier in the Joe line. I also doubt that the figure is a unique mold, as it features an ammo belt slung over its shoulder. Say, I wonder if the Funskool Jesse Mach and his ammo belt has met the Glasslite Jesse Matt and his large assault rifle.
Computer game - Ocean software released a game for the ZX Spectrum personal computer, a British PC comparable to the Commodore 64. In fact, the game was set to be ported to the C64, but those plans were eventually scrapped.
Voice activated helmet - By far the coolest thing I came across in my research was the super-rare voice changer helmet manufactured by Ertl. It’s not known if these ever made it to market, but a handful have turned up on eBay over the years. What is known is that Ertl eventually re-used the mold, re-branding it as the “Star Tran Space Helmet”.
There were a number of other neat bits of merchandising, ranging from coloring books and puzzles to a Halloween costume. Finally, there was a series of four tie-in novels released in the UK, which it just so happens Noel will be reviewing for next week’s Showcase.