Major Matt Mason Prototypes

First Shot MMM Figure in blue

An Introduction

Shortly after I started collecting Major Matt Mason on a serious basis (about 1996 or so - It was at least a year before I began reading or talking with other Major Matt Mason collectors about Mattel Prototypes) I began hearing rumors of unproduced concept or prototype items. These conversations generally came from discussing actual production toys, then running into tangents about a photo seen in Mattel advertising, or “hearing about a friend of a friend who’s seen” some concept vehicle or figure. Although I heard much talk, there was surprisingly little evidence (such as supporting photography) to support the actual existence of these prototypes. Thus, most of the sources of information were questionable, as it was mostly anecdotal. In my opinion, most of the Mattel prototypes that toy collectors and dealers talk about are either fakes or myths. I remember hearing about a talking Space Station, a lunar drilling platform, a Major Matt Mason Thingmaker mold, and other items that seem to be purely conjecture. There are however a handful of legitimate prototypes that were used in Mattel photography, such as the Space Rover from an advertising photograph (reproduced in the Starlog Guide to SF Toys. Since the vehicle doesn't have an official name, it was called a Space Rover in the accompanying article - this name now tends to get used for convenience), the Cat Tracs used in some early Mattel catalogs, and some early figure mock-ups, especially of Callisto, Or and Scorpio. If you examine the original Mattel patents for the Rover and Captain Lazer, for instance, you might make the leap towards the existence of actual prototyping – I’m sure that at least one figure or accessory was created to make sure that the idea was do-able.

Major Matt Mason Test Shot Heads

You are very unlikely to encounter a Mattel prototype, but if you do it will more than likely be a First Shot of a Matt figure (top of page) or body part (like Matt’s head - these can be found with a neck hole or with the hole filled in and sometimes there's a sprue attached to the back of the neck - see above) – First Shots are toys molded from a version of the production mold in whatever materials happen to be handy to the manufacturer (thus the figures are often molded in gray, green or blue rubber in the case of MMM). The figures that have surfaced have " 66 MATTEL INC - PAT PEND" on the back - looks to have been scratched into the mold (see image below). The figure may be close to or the same as the final production figure with variations – these were made so that the designers would have an actual figure to check for quality, or so that the marketing people will have an advance physical version that may be painted up and used in advertising materials. Since most of the advertising/marketing materials are made way in advance of the scheduled production, having a First Shot allows the creation of mock-ups for photography. This is very evident in both images found in early Mattel advertising and the images used on/for the packaging.


Painted Prototype Major MATT MASON-  Figure Back Detail

For more information on prototypes appearing in Mattel photographs, please refer to my Rumours and Reproductions: Photography reference page (it’s mostly information that Paul Vreede and/or I have gathered over the years from various toy sites and books, adapted to what we know about Mattel practices in the 60’s).

After making some of the bold statements I made above (first paragraph) about most prototypes being fakes or myths, I’ve got to qualify the fact that I personally own a rather large collection of actual Mattel prototypes. These pretty much fell into my lap due to my being identified, along with a handful of others, as being a diehard Major Matt Mason fan and collector. Sometime in 2000 I was sent a rather short email message with the attached photo. It turns out that the same photo and message was simultaneously sent to several other collectors and toy dealers of my “supposed caliber.” The message basically introduced the Or figure as part of a much larger collection of Mattel prototypes – with an offer to sell the items as a lot. It seems that the other people that were offered the collection were not willing to pay the asking price for the entire lot – most offered to only buy the Or figure, in some cases even for a rather serious amount (though still less than the asking price of the collection). After some negotiating, I ended up with the whole lot – don’t think I saved money as I paid the asking price. I did, however, manage to negotiate over-time payment terms, and it took me most of a year to pay for these items.

Image sent to me

Some of you would wonder how I could possibly be so gullible as to purchase items that were supposed to be “prototypes” without seeing them – especially for a rather large sum of money. The photos that were sent to me along with the information given convinced me, along with several phone calls, that these were the “real deal.” I think after you read my descriptions that you will believe they are as well without a doubt.

As a note, it’s interesting that once you are known as a collector of prototypes, others that have them contact you about selling you theirs. Since acquiring the initial collection, I’ve bought two others plus a packaging prototype. More details about those later (the 3rd set I bought belonged to two friends of mine (Christian De Grandpre and Larry "Sharkman" Chinn) and were the first prototypes I had ever heard about – there is actually a video floating around that features these as an addendum at the end, produced by Christian).

Next: Prototype Categories (the differences between the various prototype classifications)

Should anybody reading this have any similar information, additions or corrections, then we would very much appreciate hearing about them.

All Mattel images and captions are copyright Mattel and used without permission. All other content, including images and editorial, is Copyright © 1997-2023 John Eaton and/or contributors unless otherwise stated. If there are any comments or objections, please contact John Eaton.

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