Selections from the 1959 PICO Novelty Catalog
Never heard of PICO Novelties? That’s okay; neither has Wikipedia. PICO was a Los Angeles-based boutique, as well as a supplier to American dime stores, souvenir shops, and similar types of crapatoriums.
PICO has gone the way of lodge meetings and stag parties, but it left behind some wonderfully peculiar artifacts that give us a reason to hit the pause button on our modern lives so that we may simply marvel at them, and possibly learn a lesson or two. For your viewing pleasure, photographs of the actual items have been included alongside the original product listings.
For anyone who’s ever wished to drink from a drunk. But not just any old boozehound — this lush has got a sense of style, so it takes some of the lameness out of alcoholism. Simply twist off his skull, apply your lips to the headless neck and down your favorite hooch. Is it odd that I still feel sorry for the individual who had to hand-glue the purple ribbon to the bottle, even though it happened nearly fifty years ago, and there’s a reasonable chance that they’re no longer with us? Sheesh, I just realized that someone also had to tie that little ribbon.
Everybody’s Ash Receiver
Notice the what-you-see-is-what-you-get nature of this listing. The PICO catalog was intended for retailers, thus it lacks the deceptive tactics that were so commonly found in consumer-targeted magazine ads of the time. This means that shopkeepers had a full understanding of the product, and still they thought “Some of my customers will want this ash tray with the miniature toilet.” I can’t determine if the underlying joke is just outmoded or if it ever really made sense. There’s one way to find out: Next time you’re at grandpa’s house, ask him for an ash receiver and see what he brings you.
There will always be a market for anything that can potentially take the work out of romance; consider the popularity of flowers, chocolates and wine. But if your words already tend to “break the spell,” it’s not likely that whacking a Pavlovian dime store chime is going benefit the mood. What else can be said of the Kissin’ Bell? Even the copywriters at PICO seem bewildered; the best they could muster was some praise to its construction.
Or feel free to call them “Puffo Cigarets (sic)” — to each his own.
What? The ones in the photo most certainly ARE the same product that’s in the catalog. See the little man with the derby? I KNOW it’s on the wrong side, that’s just artistic license. Sure they appear much longer than they do in the illustration, but just look at the little crown on each cigarette, they went out of their way to draw the little crowns and mine has the little crowns! Fine, then … never mind!
Shiner Black Eye
Compared to other toy disguises of the era, the Shiner black eye comes with remarkably detailed instructions…
1. Remove from the wax paper. Put over the right eye only, using a mirror if possible to get proper location. (I suppose mirror use might be impossible during a post-nuclear holocaust.)
2. Eye should be pasted to wax paper again after using so that the adhesive tape will not stick to box. (I love how this reads like a Good Housekeeping for tricksters.)
3. When gauze and adhesive tape become soiled put on clean bandages — ordinary gauze and adhesive tape. (Anyone who used their Shiner to the extent that they had to replace the bandages deserves some sort of über-prankster’s medal of honor.)
Plastic skeletons aren’t often taken this seriously, but this one has a surprisingly large selection of marketing tiers…
Kit ($1.25 each): Strictly for the consumer with enough time to assemble a replica skeleton, primarily the unemployable and angry loners.
Kit with plastic display case included ($2.00 each): For praise-seekers with idle hands.
Assembled complete in case ($3.00): For those who think “I didn’t have to assemble my own skeleton, so why should I bother with this plastic one?”
Vital Organs ($1.25 each): When you start adding vital organs to the mix you’re no longer in skeleton territory. That, my friend, is an out-and-out corpse.