Holy Bat-Gadget, Batman: Caped Crusader Collectibles from 1966

Batman tv show opening credit poster
Capturing a colorful moment from the animated opening sequence of the television series Batman (1966–1968), these officially licensed 21-by-28.75-inch posters depict Batman and Robin running toward the viewer, with the Batmobile in the background. The posters were available for $1 as a retail item when the show first debuted. Hake’s Auctions sold this one from the Craig Warren Collection for $240.35 in December 2008.

Biff! Bam! Pow! Vronk! The year 1966 got off to a flying start as, at 7:30 p.m. EST on January 12, Batman and Robin zoomed onto the small screen in their iconic Batmobile. As seen on TV, Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward), became a pop culture phenomenon literally overnight.

The Dynamic Duo’s television debut launched a merchandising tsunami that has yet to run dry. Some $75 million worth of Batman merchandise was released in 1966 alone (about $658 million in 2022 dollars), from Bat-accessories to Bat-vehicles—even Bat-food and beverages!

A surprising number of 1966 Batman items remain extant, and many are worth big Bat-bucks. Among the most coveted are the various Bat-gadgets, which put the “fun” in “functional.” Remember Batman’s Shark Repellent Bat-Spray?

“The true crimefighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.”Batman

Ideal Toy’s Official Batman Utility Belt is generally agreed to be the pinnacle of 1966 Bat-collectibles. This “COMPLETE SET OF CRIME-FIGHTING EQUIPMENT” consists of a yellow plastic belt with a metallic black bat decal on its buckle, which conceals a secret compartment. The belt holds a Bat-Rocket Grenade, Bat-Rope with grappling claw, Bat-Storage Pouch, Batarang, Dummy Transmitter, Bat-Signal Flash, Bat-Cuffs, Bat-Gun Launcher, and Batman Message Sender (dart for the Bat-Gun Launcher).

During their Celebration of Pop Culture in January 2021, Van Eaton Galleries auctioned a complete Ideal Official Batman Utility Belt “assembled in the original cardboard box packaging” (i.e., the various items were acquired separately until the belt was complete) for a record-setting $16,940—the highest price ever paid for an American-made Bat-toy.

The Bat-Utility Belt was available on its own or as part of Ideal’s Official Batman Equipment Set with a cowl helmet and cape. (Collectors could purchase the latter two items separately as well.) Only six complete examples of the deluxe set are known to exist today.

1966 batman ideal original batbelt
The only 1966 Batman collector’s item more valuable than Ideal Toy’s Official Batman Utility Belt is its display manikin. Available only to retailers who ordered six to twelve dozen Official Batman Equipment Sets, this “incredible garage find” sold for $40,000 in July 2021.

Some of the belt’s original components had slight variations depending on their manufacture date and whether they were included within the deluxe Batman Equipment Set. Hardcore Bat—collectors are keenly attuned to these subtle differences.

There were knockoff Bat-utility belts as well—most notably, Super Hero Novelties’ unauthorized vinyl-and-cardboard Bat Belt for ninety-eight cents—but they tend to be flimsy and lacking in gadgetry.

Or, you could collect all eight of Phoenix Candy Co.’s Batman-themed candy boxes. The top of each box shows an illustration of the boxes strung together with text instructions: “MAKE A BATMAN GADGET BELT! STRING THE EMPTY BOXES THROUGH THE SIDE AND THEN PLACE AROUND YOUR WAIST.” While Hake’s Price Guide to Character Toys puts the set’s value at $360.00, Heritage Auctions sold a near-mint set for $776.75 in November 2016.

Ideal’s box for the Official Batman Utility Belt features vivid graphics that reflect the TV show’s unique comic-book aesthetic. That distinctive Bat-packaging is one of the things that contemporary collectors love about vintage 1966 Bat-merchandise.

In fact, reproduction boxes and blister packs are something of a cottage industry in the world of 1966 Batman collectibles. Their colorful imagery also has been repurposed for a second tidal wave of Bat-merchandise inspired by the 1966–68 show.

Branded as “Batman Classic TV Series” and aimed at adult collectors, the new line was introduced at San Diego’s Comic-Con in 2013 following years of wrangling over licensing rights. Attendees each received Mattel’s adult-sized Batman Classic TV Series Utility Belt, complete with a Batarang.

“Some days, you can’t get rid of a bomb.” – Batman in Batman: The Movie (1966)

Bat-gadgets weren’t limited to what Batman could carry around his waist. Other sought-after Bat-weapons include Lincoln Toys’ Batman Escape Gun, Esquire’s Official Bat-Grenade, and Mattel’s Bat Bomb. The latter two “fired” by shooting caps.

Park Plastics manufactured a Bat Ray Water Gun, Robin’s “Holy Squirt!” Water Pistol, and the Batarang Launch Gun.

Tarco offered a BatScope Dart Launcher that strapped onto the face like binoculars and fired three rubber-tipped “BAM POW DARTS.” Over the past decade, it has sold for anywhere from $10.94 with a torn front Batman decal all the way up to $649.99 still in its original blister pack.

Official batman batscope dart launcher
The vintage blister pack for this Tarco BatScope from the Craig Warren Collection features colorful graphics and hilariously melodramatic verbiage. The backside features a cutout “honorary FIEND FIGHTER” card. It sold for $394.25 through Hake’s Auctions in September 2008.

Bar-Zim produced a licensed periscope bearing bright, vibrant pictures of Batman and Robin with the Batmobile, Batplane, and Whirlybat ‘copter. Or, for sixty cents plus two Kellogg’s cereal boxtops, you could send away for Park Plastics’ OFFICIAL BATMAN SCOPE, which was also available at select retailers.

Like so many other 1966 Bat-products, the cereal boxes were remarkable for their pop-art imagery and campy verbiage: “KIDS! SECRETLY SPY OVER WALLS AND AROUND CORNERS WITHOUT ANYONE SEEING YOU!” Who wouldn’t want that Bat-superpower?

Kelloggs oks cereal box
The 1966 version.
1966 kelloggs fruit loops flat
The reproduction.
Listed in Hake’s Official Guide to Pop Culture Memorabilia with a near-mint value of $2,000, a 1966 Kellogg’s OKs cereal box advertising a Batman Periscope premium offer sold for $1,150 in February 2011. However, six years later, someone scored a reproduction 1966 Froot Loops box offering the same premium on eBay for just $29.

“Alfred, pull the short-circuit lever on the Bat-Transmitter.” – Batman

Communications devices were also essential Bat-tech. Remco’s Electromagnetic Wrist Radios transmitted both voice and code. A sealed boxed set sold for $687.94 in March 2017 via Hake’s Auctions, while a reproduction of the 1966 box was available on eBay two years later for only $13.00.

For Bat-fans who preferred handheld devices, Remco also produced Batman Walkie-Talkies (no batteries required; they were connected by plastic tubing) and a Batman Walkie-Talkie Phone Set (two red rotary-dial telephones linked by a wire). The latter was made exclusively for Sears, so it’s particularly rare.

As Remco’s two-way set demonstrated, the dome-covered Bat-Phone that served as Commissioner Gordon’s conduit to Batman was ripe for marketing. Marx Toys rose to the challenge with a battery-powered Princess-style BATMAN HOT-LINE BATPHONE in the requisite red. This talking toy spoke ten different Bat-phrases.

“Let’s get going and make an emergency Bat-turn!” – Robin

Baby-boom Bat-fans weren’t old enough in 1966 to drive the Batmobile, but Poynter Products adapted one favorite bit of Bat-technology for two wheels instead of four: the Batman Bicycle Bat-Chute.

As shown in a 1967 “Gifts & Gimmicks” column in Boy’s Life magazine, this nifty Bat-device was attached to the rear wheel of the bike. Young Batman wannabes in hot pursuit of dastardly villains could pull a metal ring to deploy the cloth chute, slowing their bicycle enough to enable them to execute a 180° Bat-Turn, just like on TV!

Batman bat-chute
One lucky eBay seller found an unused Bat-Chute in their uncle’s basement, complete with mounting hardware. This “true museum piece” sold for $2,299.99 in March 2017.

“How was I to know they’d have Shark Repellent Bat-Spray handy?” – The Penguin in Batman: The Movie (1966)

As for the aforementioned Shark Repellent Bat-Spray? It was memorably deployed in the Batman program’s spin-off movie, released in the summer of 1966. But it took half a century to make it into production: first as a prop for Hot Toys’ Batman Classic TV Series Batman figure, then as a replica homemade by an eBay seller, and finally, as a parody water bottle that—as its seller put it—“pays a heartwarming homage to the glorious ridiculousness of TV Batman circa 1966.”

Holy way with words, Boy Wonder! “Glorious ridiculousness,” indeed. As Adam West himself noted in his autobiography, Back to the Bat Cave, “It’s fun to be Batman.”

Betsie “eBetsy” Bolger is a freelance writer/editor, former eBay Education Specialist, and Top Rated Seller on eBay. She sells new, estate, vintage, and artisan jewelry for a client’s account, as well as Converse sneakers, vintage jigsaw puzzles, limited-edition Teddy the Dog merchandise, and select consignment items in partnership with her husband. Betsie is also a longtime WorthPoint fan who previously wrote WorthPoint’s commercial spots for eBay Radio. Find her via ebetsy.com, acquisatory.com, and TexAnnasAllStore.com.

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