The Phantom Rubber/Vinyl Figure was produced in Spain, first by JIN in 1958/59, then by Estereoplast in 1961.
The story of ‘JIN’ and ‘Estereoplast’ is not only a colorful one, but also a story of true entrepreneurship. Juan Nietto and an Industrial partner founded JIN in Badalona, Spain in 1958/59. The Nietto brothers, Francisco Nietto and Juan Nietto officially changed the company name from JIN to Estereoplast in 1961.
There is very little public documentation of JIN and Estereoplast, their exact beginning and end dates, production dates and licensee dates. This information has been sourced from a combination of highly respected Estereoplast collectors in Spain, some brief recorded interviews with the Nietto brothers themselves and some vintage printed material.
There were 2 Phantom figure variations produced, both measuring 2.5” x 1.5”. Both figure variations were licensed, however there are no trademark identifications.
1st Figure – 1958/59
Produced by JIN, a rubber/vinyl figure with a broad chest, licensed by ‘Bruguera Publishing’.
2nd Figure – 1961
Produced by Estereoplast, made of a rigid plastic, more slender design, licensed by ‘Editorial Dolar’.
Estereoplast Sales Sample Catalog
Produced in 1961 in Spain by Estereoplast, the 16 page sales catalog showcased to retailers and consumers the array of products available for purchase from Estereoplast. Featured on page 3, we see the Phantom (or ‘Hombre Enmascarado’ as he’s known in Spain).
The Nietto Brothers
Francisco Nietto (1921/2002) became a magician in 1936 and chose the stage name “Zongo” in homage to the emperor of Mongo, Flash Gordons enemy. For 20 years he studied the world of magic while his brother Juan Nietto studied marketing. Reliable sources claim that in 1958 Juan Nietto and an industrial partner opened a plastics factory in Badalona Spain under the company name “JIN”. Juan’s first success was stereoscopic glasses for children. Juan’s first attempt to design toys were unsuccessful until his brother Francisco Nietto suggested they produce toy figures; sometime in 1958-1959. Francisco’s idea was to create figures not those of the more common plastic cowboys and Indians or soldiers, but something new; figures with a “name” and notoriety. Francisco identified that children were avid comic book readers and having plastic figures of their comic book heroes would bring great demand. Francisco’s brainstorm was to start with the figure of “Captain Thunder” whose license was held at the time by “Bruguera Publishing”. Francisco sculpted the figure in clay, painted it and presented it Bruguera. Bruguera loved the idea and gave the license to the Nietto Brothers and the “Captain Thunder” 3” figure was born. With its overnight success “Bruguera Publishing” extended the Nietto’s licenses for many other comic character figures, that of “The Iron Corsair”, “Captain Truno”, “The Phantom”, and many more. To keep up with production demands the brothers hired families of a small town to paint the figures with great detail, in order that they resemble the comic book characters as closely as possible. Wife of Francisco Nietto was even hired to paint the faces with thin markers.
Now with production experience, they decided to approach “Editorial Dolar” who had licensee rights to a multitude of hero/super hero characters; now including The Phantom!
Francisco had already produced a small quantity of rubber/vinyl Enmascerado/Phantom figures and approached “Editorial Publishing” in 1961. This was the same year the company became “Estereoplast”. “Editorial Dolar” granted a license to the brothers, if, Francisco altered The Phantom’s broad chest line to a more slender version. Naturally the brothers adapted the design and produced in rigid plastic and more realistic scale figure.
In 1962 they proposed Arthur Kaps to produce reproductions of “Herta Frankel’s” famous string puppets which was becoming the most popular children’s television show at the time.
Authur Kaps puppets and its enormous popularity gave birth to an industrial explosion of the reproduction of toys and figures, not only seen in comic books but television shows and movies. With Arthur Kaps success he insisted he become a partner of “Estereoplast”. In 1963 Juan Nietto left the company leaving Francisco and Arthur, who without any business experience continued to run the company. For some 10+ years Francisco and Arthur postponed the decline and final closure of the “Estereoplast” company.
In the span of only 14+ years “Estereoplast” produced as astonishing amount of different hand painted plastic comic book and TV show figures, playsets, puppets and more. Today “JIN” and “Estereoplast” figures are some of the most desirable and most expensive toys in Spain.
Thank you Christopher Smith for assisting with images and information.