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Policeman & Tramp Geobra Brandstatter, ca. 1989

Policeman & Tramp
Playmobil Set 5504 Review Capsule
An old set, but a good one. Quite possibly the only shoeless alcoholic vagrant toy aimed at gradeschoolers, this is a toy that's sure to please even the most sour twentysomething. Our policeman and bum set was under $16 shipped via eBay.

Introduction

The Policeman & Tramp set is really just a drunk, shoeless, homeless guy on a bench with a cop giving him what for. As such, it's the best preschool/gradeschool toy the world has ever seen.

Supposedly discontinued in 1992, samples of this toy are still available in parts of Europe and surplus stock was sold through Playmobil USA as recently as 2001.

Figures

Playmobil figures are virtually faceless, nameless, personality-free plastic beings whose sole purpose is to occupy whatever space you give them. Some are cops, others firefighters. There are students, teachers, pretzel salesmen, lion tamers, hazmat teams, the undead, and even a ninja. It's especially amazing to have the likes of these two, because no American toymaker would probably ever release something like this to a younger audience.

Even more amazing, though, is this is part of the Victorian Dollhouse theme, aimed primarily at little girls. This is amazing, of course, because the appeal of this toy is probably squarely college students that shop at Hot Topic or Urban Outfitters.

The policeman is really the throwaway element of the set, but he's the better of the two figures. His sculpt is traditional Playmobil fare, with a bit of a gut showing his lifestyle has done him well, and his moustache showing what era he's from. The vaguely German helmet has a silvery design on the front, and his buttons are pretty much small mirrors. The red elements of his costume are separate snap-on pieces, as is his sword sheath. Like all modern Playmobil figures, he's jointed at the neck, hips, shoulders, and wrists with a grand total of six joints.

While the policeman is a well-made design in his own right, he is completely blown away by his companion in this set, best known to the world as the hobo.

Another otherwise nondescript sculpt, the figure has numerous little details to make him interesting, not the least of which are his accessories. A scruffy beard, patches sewn to his clothing, a lack of shoes, and a hat with a flower in it for some unknown reason bring this toy to life. While battle-damaged toys have been popular in Gundam and Star Wars, it's not often you see an everyday joe who's down on his luck in toy stores, at least not for sale. He has the same articulation as the officer. His yellow collar is a snap-on accessory and is removable.

Neither figure is groundbreaking or particularly noteworthy from a toy design standpoint, but the "wow" factor is very high. For anyone that has wanted a drunk cavorting around on your desk, this is the toy you've been waiting for.

Accessories

This set includes numerous accessories. Accessories attached to the figures include a helmet, a hat with a flower, two collars, two wrist pieces, and a sheath for a sword. Other accessories include a bench, a bottle of booze, a sack on a stick, and a metalized sword.

As the accessories that directly augment the figures were examined briefly above, we will start the accessory review with the bench.

Four small pieces of plastic can be assembled to give your Playmobil set-up a little extra something. The bench looks good, and for a solid-color toy looks most excellent. The level of detail is good for Playmobil, especially of Playmobil from 1989. It's sturdy and figures can sit on it without a problem, and as such, it's a successful piece.

The sack on the stick has been used elsewhere in the Playmobil line, but it seems most appropriate here. With a little fidgeting, the hobo can take his meager belongings and leave town after he's evicted from the bench. It's a small, two-piece accessory that doesn't draw attention to itself, but it's a nice extra in a set that already had plenty.

For most buyers, the most important accessory is the small bottle. A Coke-bottle green flask helps the hobo forget his worries, like where his shoes went, and will most likely inspire whatever children see it to ask "mommy, what's that man drinking?"

Of course, the hobo isn't the only worthwhile part of the set, and the Policeman needed an armament in case the shoeless impaired man were to get out of line. For him, there's a metalized sword. This is particularly neat because the vac-metal process is something almost completely removed from Playmobil toys in recent years, and in some cases, this process really adds something to the toy. Here, it really works.

For what you most likely want to do here, this is a nice, complete play environment in one handy box. Other than a newspaper that the hobo can use as a blanket, who could ask for anything more?

Packaging

Set 5504 comes in a box typical of its day, with an illustration of the theme on the back and an image of the box's contents on the front. Unlike recent sets, the set does not feature a parts inventory on the box.

Trivia

In France, this set was sold with a different police officer as set 5508.

A very similar hobo figure was sold with a Western Postal Car, set 4123, in 1987. That hobo had differently colored accessories and different legs.

Fin

This doesn't have a bunch of guns like a Zoids kit, lots of articulation like a Spider-Man toy, or even a media tie-in like... well, the aforementioned two things. What it does do is take something that seems mundane and normal and turn it into a child's plaything. And as that, this toy is a hit.

Even though this toy has been off the market for the better part of a decade, it's not all that expensive. European sellers have been moving them for $10-$20 plus shipping, with American sellers often getting a little more because there's not a huge cost for shipping.

Break it down by modern Playmobil standards, and you've got two figures at $2-$3 each and some extras. As such, it would've made a great $6-$8 set were it released today.

Since it's an older set, it's probably worth shelling down a few Lincolns for, and on eBay you may well be able to buy the best ever children's toy at a fairly low price. This toy's value comes completely from its freak appeal to older buyers and Playmobil enthusiasts, so if you're such a freak, this one's a no-brainer-- get thee to eBay and buy one now.

Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample found on eBay in Summer of 2003
Reviewed on October 16, 2003.

Playmobil

 Dinosaur Expedition
 Dino Discovery Team

 Specials & Pals
 Black Belt
 Easter Egg Pirate (2004)
 Mummy
 Nun
 Patch-Eye Pirate
 Roman Legionary

 Victorian Sets
 Policeman & Tramp

 Western Sets
 Golden Nugget Saloon

 Add-Ons
 Bison

 Keychains
 Female Police Officer

 Also See:
 Other Toys

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