Collecting Phantom Rings
By Peter Klaus – Written 28th April 2006
For those who came in late…
Collecting Phantom items for the past 35 years has been both exciting and challenging. The quest presents difficulties because the character is popular around the world with Phantom merchandise having been produced in almost every major country. Unfortunately, a comprehensive record of global Phantom products does not even exist. Adding to the complexity of the problem is the language barrier which can sometimes interfere when trying to track a specific collectible in other countries.
The internet and ebay have had an impact in helping to find collectibles, but there is so much more to be found, the search continues.
When conversing with Phantom collectors around the world one of the most frequently asked question is, “Where can I obtain a Phantom ring for myself”?
With this in mind, a brief history of Phantom rings may be helpful for those who desire adding these desirable items for your collection.
A variety of Phantom rings were produced over the years as a result of the popularity of both the popular comic strip and comic books. Since the 1940’s several countries (USA, Australia, Sweden, Italy, and Spain) have manufactured variations of the Phantom’s rings in order to promote interest in the character and increase sales of printed material. The Phantom’s famed “skull mark ring ” and latter his “good mark ring” have changed in design somewhat each time an artist put their own creative touch on “The Ghost Who Walks”.
The first Phantom ring offered in the USA did not show a skull mark, but rather it displayed a color drawing of the Phantom’s face lithographed on a bendable piece of tin (see above). This ring was offered in 1949 as a premium, along with a number of other comic characters, if you purchased a box of “Post Toasties Flakes” cereal. Some difficulty occurred in finding the Phantom ring because only one ring was packed per box, and with 36 different characters, you had to be lucky or persistent in order to be successful .The ring itself was shipped flat and placed in a small wax paper envelope so when it was pulled from the box it could be bent and molded to the child’s finger .
In the late 1950s in Sweden a plastic “glow in the dark” Phantom skull ring was sold along with a Phantom face mask that also had luminous qualities. The ring itself was just a simple skull design made in small sizes for a child’s finger. Both the ring and mask were available through a mail order catalogue store and not through a Phantom club. These items are extremely rare and only a select few have been found.
In the 1960s Italy produced a Phantom skull ring offered as a premium when buying a Phantom comic book and poster. The ring was silver in color and made of brass. The death skull was small in size and the band featured a textured surface.
During the 1960s in the USA a “Phantom/Captain Action Flicker Ring” was included in a Phantom uniform set used to transform the Captain Action figure into a Phantom figure (see below). This blue plastic ring featured a rectangular picture of Captain Action that changed into the Phantom when viewed from a different angle (see below).
Also found in the USA during the 1960s was a small plastic Phantom skull ring that was included in the Transogram Phantom Ruler of the Jungle Board Game released in 1966 (see below). It was simply a skull head of one solid color, either yellow, red, blue, white, pink or green. The purpose of the ring was to allow the players to leave the Phantom’s death mark in a small piece of clay, during the game.
In Sweden during the 1960s, the first ever Phantom metal skull ring was produced and sold by the Phantom Fan Club for about a quarter. The ring was silver in color and had glass eyes of red or green. The ring was cheaply made and could be bent to fit the child’s finger size.
The 1970s and 1980s provided a number of Australian and Swedish metal Phantom rings which were heavier in weight and featured higher quality workmanship. In Australia the Independent Phantom Club sold a more refined silver colored brass ring with a closed back that featured a rectangle with a skull mark that had a cartoon appearance.
A few years later, the same club advertised and sold a set of three Phantom rings. Each ring came attached to a colorful 3 by 5 inch card displaying the Phantom’s fist where the ring appeared to be worn by the ‘Ghost Who Walks’ (see above). The first ring was the Phantom’s skull mark ring with a rectangular top and was similar in style to their first ring mentioned above. The second ring was one of the first attempts at producing the Phantom’s ‘Good Mark’ (crossed swords forming an X design usually in a circle). The third ring was billed as ‘The Phantom’s Death Mark’. This ring was a simple skull design but was different because it had painted luminous eyes. All three rings were very well constructed and featured closed backs. These items were produced for adults as opposed to the cheaply made children’s rings from earlier eras.
During this same time period the Swedish publishing group called Semic released a new Phantom Skull Mark ring ,and their first ever Phantom Good Mark ring. These rings were bendable, copper in color, and could be formed to fit the finger. The skull ring was a long rectangular design similar to the ring design worn by the Phantom in the Swedish comic book. The Good Mark ring had a round shape with a design of crossed swords which again resembled the ring worn by the Phantom in the Swedish adventures. The pair of rings could be purchased through the Phantom fan club and later at comic stores.
In the 1980s, the Swedish group used the same basic skull and good mark design in a highly polished gold finish.
A high quality sterling silver skull ring with the Phantom’s profile in relief on both sides was produced by the Stabur Company in 1994. This ring was based on graphics by Phantom artist, Erik Doescher and was distributed to US comic book specialty stores. These rings were numbered as part of a limited series of 495. The company also made a limited series of 100 gold versions of the same design.
Shortly afterward, another US based company called Planet Studios marketed a pair of Phantom rings in silver (Good Mark and Skull Mark). This set came in special ring boxes with The Phantom inscribed on the inside. They could be purchased by ordering directly from the company or through your local comic store. Although, the band was thinner than the Stabur ring, these were considered to be the best designed and the best packaged Phantom rings ever. The Skull and Good Mark designs were reminiscent of the illustrations by legendary Phantom artist, Sy Barry. These were the rings shown on the A&E Phantom Biography in 1996.
Prior to the release of the 1996 Phantom movie by Paramount Studios, a small toy company called Street Players marketed cheaply made “chunky” style Skull and Good mark rings of cast iron which were distributed at the pre screenings of the film in New York, USA (see above). The company also produced two Phantom action figures. In the figure containing the Phantom on the skull throne, these rings were included as a bonus. It is interesting to note that these same two rings were sold as a set in Australia and came packaged on a four by four “blister” pack card with a painted image of Billy Zane’s head in mask and cowl.
A smaller and thinner cast iron skull mark ring was also manufactured by Street Players for use as a promotional item for the release of the Phantom movie (see above). This particular skull ring which came in children and adult sizes was obtained as a premium from 7-11 stores, Subway shops, Blockbuster movie stores and some movie theaters.
An Australia fast food chain called “Hungry Jacks” (relative of US Burger King) produced a plastic “glow in the dark ring” (see above). This skull ring was similar in design to the “chunky” skull ring produced by the Street Players company.
Also in Australia after the movie release, a specialty store called ‘Granny Mays’ sold a set of silver Phantom rings (see above) produced by Skansen Giftware. In fact these rings were close copies of the rings worn in the movie by Billy Zane. The difference was these rings had a little less detail and featured an open back in the band. The rings came in an attractive box with a small face of the Phantom in a yellow triangular illustration. In early 2003 the Swedish comic group called Egmont released a newly designed and well made skull and good mark set of Phantom rings. The rings came as a premium along with a purchase of two separate Swedish Phantom comics. More detailed than earlier Swedish Phantom rings, each had a round contour to follow the curve of the finger.
The above is a very small history of Phantom Rings and should be used as a staring point only, in what is a rich history of Phantom rings produced around the world, please check back regularly as new images and information is added.