A Bay View family has spent years tracking down the plastic figurines the old Mold-A-Rama machines used to crank out at places like the Milwaukee County Zoo.
While they're not running their store Korinthian Violins, members of the family are taking trips across the country to track down the pieces of history.
Mold-a-Rama is the brand name for a Space Age-like vending machine that makes the figurines on the spot. They were first invented in Quincy, Illinois in the 1960s.
Korinthia Klein and her family tells our news partners at OnMilwaukee that they wanted to collect all 13 figurines available at the machines at the Milwaukee County Zoo. By the end of their first summer in 2013, they had more than a dozen figurines of zoo animals.
"We had so much fun collecting them that my daughter, who was seven at the time, asked where else they have Mold-A-Rama machines, so we looked it up online and discovered a map that showed all of them are in the United States, primarily located in the Midwest and Florida," says Klein. "She then said to me, 'We could collect all the Mold-A-Rama (figurines). . . IN THE WORLD!'”
The family started to travel across the country, going to the Chicago area, other Midwestern cities and then to Florida - where they collected 60 figurines at once.
Right now they have 180 Mold-A-Rama figurines - as well as the machine once used at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee.
"When we stopped there to collect figures on our big family trip down South, we were really saddened by the state of those machines. They had been neglected for a very long time, and only two of nine machines were working," says Klein, according to OnMilwaukee. "I write a blog, and in that space I referred to Knoxville as the place Mold-A-Ramas go to die."
According to Sotheby's, a Disney Mold-A-Rama is listed for $55,000. According to the Chicago Tribune, a person was selling Mold-A-Ramas with new parts for $27-30,000. But it never sold after a lawsuit was filed.
They stopped production of the machines in 1968. Sotheby's says only 124 are known in existence. It's a claim backed by WBEZ in Chicago as well.