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It’s a place called Collinwood where vampires, werewolves and ghosts abound. It is place where the creepy is ordinary. It is a place full of Dark Shadows. In 1966, Dan Curtis launched his idea for a new kind of soap opera. One that tapped into the old spooky romance novels that women read like kids read comic books.

The original plot surrounded a orphan girl named Victoria Winters (played by Alexandra Moltke) who comes to a small New England town to act as governess to a young boy. There she becomes involved with the odd members of the Collins family. There were the usual drunken sots, women with a jaded past and nasty children to contend with. Dark Shadows was little more than your average everyday soap opera until cousin Barnabas came to visit. The day Jonathan Frid put in his first pair of fangs, the Dark Shadows we all remember was born. Spurred on by an ever growing audience, Curtis began skewing the series toward the dark side and it couldn’t be spooky enough for the teenagers that had latched on to the series.

Angelique (Lara Parker) joined the cast as the beautiful and tantalizing witch that had cursed Barnabas with the kiss of the vampire. Kate Jackson of Charlie’s Angels fame made her first TV appearance as a ghost, later to become one of the series featured players. Grayson Hall, a moody looking lady with a deep throaty voice became Dr. Julia Hoffman, a sort of mad scientist set on freeing Barnabas from his undead state. David Selby was Quentin Collins, resident werewolf and all around nasty fellow. Soon Frid and Selby were vying for top honors in the fan mail department and teen magazines never left their doorstep. It was a day time phenomena.

Dark Shadows toys still rank in the fairly low price category as sixties toys go, which is odd considering the heavy fan following. This may be due to large production runs on the toys since they were as popular then as they are now. The easiest item to find is the Barnabas Collins game. Milton Bradley produced the game in 1969 and it sells for 60 to 100 dollars. The object of the game was to build your own skeleton on a hangman’s scaffold before the other players do. The game came with a cardboard coffin with a plastic lid (one cheap version and one nicer one depending on which release of the game you bought) a whole parcel of plastic bones, 4 cardboard scaffolds and your own set of vampire fangs. Finding a game that still has the fangs is the hardest part. The box art on this one is very nice with a great character sketch of Barnabas on the box lid.

In addition to the Barnabas game, there is also an official Dark Shadows game that was made by Whitman. This game, which was made in 1968, is a little harder to find. This game was a little more traditional with a basic playing board imprinted on heavy paper and cardboard movers with a stack of cards to tell you how to move. The game is filled with cutesy graphics of tombstones, black cats and bats. The box lid has a sketch of a generic looking vampire with the Dark Shadows logo and a small shot of the Collinwood house. The all paper pieces for this game make it harder to find intact and in good condition as repeated folding of the board generally caused it to tear. Expect to pay close to 100 dollars for a toy in mint condition.

Philly Gum turned out several different sets of Dark Shadows bubble gum cards. The sets are usually referred to by their various colored borders since both sets are numbered 1 - 66. There is the pink set and the green set. The pink set came out first. The wrapper and box both featured a photo of Barnabas Collins with the words TV’s Cool Ghoul Barnabas. There are no captions on the cards, and the backs fit together to make a puzzle. Many of the pink cards were "autographed" by Barnabas and friends with authentic looking signatures. The green set uses a photo of the Collins house with the Dark Shadows logo on the wrapper and box. This set has lines from the series as captions printed in a garish pink box on the front of each card. The sets are equally valued as are the wrappers and boxes which sell for 20-50 on a wrapper, 75-100 on the box and 150 dollars for a full set.

Also in the gum card category are the Giant Pinups by Philly Gum. There were 16 different posters from the show done in black and white with those same green and pink colors used in the frames and lettering. The posters featured well known characters from the series like Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique, and were folded to fit into a gum wrapper style paper. These posters sell for 10 to 15 dollars a piece.

MPC had the model license on Dark Shadows. The Barnabas figure model was made in 1968 and sells for 200 to 300 dollars unbuilt. Figure kits are difficult to sculpt in plastic but MPC did a fine job showing a menacing looking Barnabas in his famous Inverness Coat with his Wolf’s head cane. Nice likeness of the actor and good detail makes this a nice find. On the campier side is the Barnabas Collins Vampire Van made in 1969. The van is actually a hearse with dragster modifications. The model itself is really nothing special since it resembles most generic dragster models of the era but the nice box graphics or a vicious looking Barnabas behind a close up of the car makes it collectible. Price this one at 125 to 160 dollars.

For those who would rather read than build, look for the long line of Dark Shadows paperbacks with their distinctive gold covers. Selling for .75 cents at the time, these books go for 10 to 25 dollars a piece. Gold Key produced a set of comics from 1969 to 1976. These are fairly abundant and sell for around 15 to 20 dollars. There are 35 issues, the first 5 of which came with pullout posters. The graphics aren’t bad but they aren’t very spooky by today’s standards. In addition, look for a set of miniature comic books based on DS and other shows that were made by Western Publishing as giveaways to promote the comics. The books are only about 2 x 6, stapled in the middle, no covers.

The rarest and probably hottest collectible from Collinwood is an authentic Josette’s Music Box, which was made by Dan Curtis productions and sold mail order through magazines like Famous Monsters. The music box appeared to be made of gold and glass, a replica of the precious antique on Dark Shadows and sold for more than my allowance back in 1970. Today, it’s still out of my allowance range but I have seen the truth.. Josette’s music box is a plastic cylinder with a plastic lid painted copper. It does play Quentin’s theme when wound and it is labeled on the inside. It came in a cardboard box with Barnabas’s picture on the front. Its cheaply made but highly craved. The price on this one is 400 to 600 dollars.

Since the demise of Barnabas and his friends in 1971, there were two movies in the making, a series of 20 some paperbacks, a record album and a whole collection of toys all bearing the name of Dark Shadows. Then something unprecedented happened. This day time drama became the first soap opera to be sold into syndication, and eventually put on video tape for sale at your local movie store. Fans of Dark Shadows still hold yearly pilgrimages to the Collinwood set in NY, new fan magazines, T-shirts and photos still show up from time to time and Jonathan Frid still gets asked for his autograph. With all of this public attention, it’s hard to imagine that the series has been off the air for over 20 years. But like the ghosts of Collinwood, it seems that Dark Shadows is destined to go on haunting us for years to come.