It was the 80’s and spooky/gross toys were all the rage. Madballs, Boglins, My Pet Monster, Slime, Gak, Garbage Pail Kids…I annoyingly and systemically begged my parents until my room was filled with all these wonderfully gruesome amusements. And though toys like Boglins and Monster in my Pocket had a more lasting effect on the larger generation, I was absolutely in love with my GERMS.
Huh? GERMS? Yeah, these lil buggers were not nearly as common as their other 80s brethren. They emerged on the scene for a very brief time mid-decade and disappeared rather swiftly. It is understandable why they did not catch on with the youthful, horror-loving masses- they didn’t really do anything. They were essentially just globs of hard plastic in amusing colorful shapes. They had no articulations and also lacked the ability to stand upright. Outside of being suspended in their plastic test tubes, they seemed to serve no purpose. They didn’t fight, fling weapons, ooze slime, or have an amusing scent aside from cheap chemically plastic. But I absolutely loved my GERMS!
Created by Worlds of Wonder (the same group that made Teddy Ruxpin), each creature came with its own comical lab report about the malady it caused and the symptoms. These were not real germ-related sicknesses exactly, more of amusing conditions like hiccups, giggles, belly button lint, and yawns. So, science be damned, these guys were still adorable and fun to collect.
I stumbled upon GERMS at the “discount” toy outlet in my hometown. This is where old toys went to die. Most had been discontinued or were damaged. This “scratch and dent” toy mecca is also where I would drag my parents weekly to hunt for the older series of Garbage Pail Kids they had pulled from other shops. Thank god my parents supported my weird collections of oddities! And it was here amongst the toys that time forgot that I found an end cap of GERMS. I immediately fell in love. I bought three and begged my parents to bring me back next week for more. Sadly, the line was gone before I could get the entire collection, but now decades later, I still have my partial collection of GERMS and continue to display them proudly on my bookshelf. (Note- there are some variants in my collection as some GERMS have rounded thick plastic test tubes and others have flat bottomed test tubes made of a flimsier plastic. I’m not sure when or why the transition took place so please email me if you know.)
Supposedly, these same GERMS figures made appearances again throughout toy history. I read on a toy forum that they were actually made available to doctors’ offices to place in waiting rooms several years after the initial run. I also found an entry on the Little Rubber Guy toy forum about how a variant version of the figures were sold in Italy in the 1990s, but these featured newly accented butts and anuses. Weird addition there, Italy.
Due to the rarity, GERMS now go for a pretty penny on eBay and at toy auctions. But if you happen to have a collection of GERMS or a fond memory of them, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s time to share your GERMS with the world!