1970s McDonald’s Collectibles

Welcome to another Material Culture Class, where you get a little history behind the find.  This month, we’re taking a look at some 1970s McDonald’s collectibles, right from my own childhood.

Football Games and Jail Birds

In the early 1970s, my father was a manager at the McDonald’s just outside the Ohio State University entrance.  He described it as a “double store,” having twice as many of each piece of equipment that a normal store would have had.  He said the busiest times were when an OSU football game ended – then, pandemonium!  This is a tie clip he was given to wear back in the day:

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll


I assume the little stone was that color because of the “golden” arches, because this wasn’t the color of his birthstone.

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll


A great story I often heard in childhood was the one about Ohio Penitentiary, which used to be located in Columbus.

One night, Daddy got a phone call, and “the nut on the phone” started ordering several hundred hamburgers and orders of french fries.  Daddy hung up on him, assuming it was a prank call.

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll


The guy called right back, and excitedly explained, “Listen!  I’m calling from Ohio Pen, and all our cooks have gone on strike!  Now I’m serious, man!  We need 400 hamburgers, 200 french fries…”, or however many it was.  Well, Daddy said he kicked all his people into “high gear” and they got all the grills and fryers going, and he and the assistant manager delivered that huge order right to the prison gate!  I’ll bet most McDonald’s managers never had a story like that to tell.

A tie tack Daddy also wore:

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll



All The Dolls and Burgers A Kid Could Eat

Wait, what?  That didn’t come out right.  But the best part of having a dad who managed a McDonald’s was having him bring home burgers and Ronald McDonald dolls.  Here I am at age two with two Ronalds:


I don’t know what happened to his twin, but I still have one of them.  That spot on his belly is a mystery, and it wouldn’t wash out.  Well, we’re both older and not as cute as we used to be!

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll


I love how his name is written on his back – great “font”, to use today’s terminology:

vintage ronald mcdonald mcdonalds collectible collectable tie tack doll


A Clown Is Born

Willard Scott made the first television appearance as Ronald McDonald, back in 1963.  In 1966, circus performer Michael Polakovs redesigned RM, creating the makeup and costume we know today.  In recent years, several groups have been calling for the retirement of the character, citing childhood obesity as their reason, but McDonald’s corporation says Ronald is here to stay.  (These tidbits according to a Wikipedia article.)

I, for one, hope they keep Ronald around.  Maybe they could use him to encourage kids to make healthy choices, and yet still hang on to a bit of tradition.  As someone who loves history, I’d hate to see this piece of Americana fade away.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at a few McDonald’s collectibles, and if you have a story or opinion to share, please post it in the Comments section below, I’d love to hear it!

Come back on Wednesday, when I’ll be sharing another tablescape, this time featuring a hand-painted tablecloth my grandmother made…probably also in the 1970s, now that I think about it!  And, hopefully, on Friday I’ll be showing you how we laid that vinyl plank flooring…if it ever gets delivered from the factory…grrrr.  You can follow WCIJ via email, RSS feed, Bloglovin, or Facebook so you won’t miss anything – check the upper right sidebar for that.

Thanks for reading and take good care ~ Dawn

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8 thoughts on “1970s McDonald’s Collectibles

  1. What a fun post! Love the story of the prison delivery! I remember my first visit to a McDonalds in high school in the 60’s. Hamburgers were cheap and good! My kids always loved their fries and my oldest could sing the McDonald’s menu and won a prize. So many McD;s memories!

  2. Love this post!! I remember when McDonald’s came to Prince Edward Island in the 70’s, it was huge, we had never had a chain restaurant like that, except for Kentucky Fried Chicken! What a novelty it was and the Big Mac, well, I had never tasted anything like it!!

  3. Dawn, loved the prison story! I actually worked as a switchboard operator and then a secretary at the Utah State Prison years ago. Fun collectibles from your father. I have to tell you, I have an old bushel basket full of McDonalds ‘Happy Meal’ toys. Seriously, we didn’t go there that often, but with 5 kids over the years they added up. We have always called it “The basket of toys”. Original, huh? lol! I still pull it out for the grandies to play with. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  4. Hi, I have the above Ronald McDonald with the writing in the back. since the 1970’s. It was always hanging in my Christmas tree every year. My two boys now in there 40S always were looking forward to see Ronald in the tree. Can’t you tell how much it’s worth? What great memories for our family.

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