The History of Kinder Surprise...

Kinder Surprise (Kinder Überraschung or Kinder Sorpesa), also known as a Kinder Egg, (Kinder being the German word for "Children"), is a confection originally intended for children in the form of a chocolate egg containing a small toy, often requiring assembly.

Kinder Surprise originated in 1972 in Italy. The manufacturer is Ferrero. The toys are designed by both inside designers and external freelancers, for example the French artist André Roche based in Munich, and manufactured by many companies worldwide such as Produzioni Editoriali Aprile, a small company based in Turin, Italy, run and founded by two brothers, Ruggero and Valerio Aprile.

Prohibited in the United States
Kinder Eggs containing toys are not suitable for children under the age of three due to the small parts which may be ingested or inhaled. They are sold all over the world excluding the United States, where the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, prohibits embedding "non-nutritive items" in confections. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall on the eggs in 1997. Kinder Egg-like confections are available, but only in a form filled with small candies and/or stickers. There are some stores in the United States that sell genuine Kinder Eggs, often in conjunction with other imported British or other European sweets, although their importation is technically illegal due to the 1938 law and 1997 recall.

Click picture for larger size.

Warning Text
Every Kinder Surprise toys is accompanied of a text warning the buyer of the potential hazard for small children.
The paper reads:
"Warning, read and keep: Toy not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts might be swallowed or inhaled."

Popularity and Collectors
In Europe, their popularity has spread beyond their intended market, and they have become a minor cult phenomenon among discerning adults. There is even a thriving collector's market for the toys. This is especially true in Germany, where the manufacturer includes higher-quality toys than those available elsewhere (more details below). There are many types of toys available, but some of the most popular with collectors include the ever-changing series of small hand-painted figures (some have to be assembled), which are said to be in every seventh egg (ad slogan: "Jetzt in jedem siebten Ei"); cartoon characters (sometimes called "stick figures", which is a mistranslation of the German "Steckfiguren"); metal figures and jigsaw puzzles. Seasonal eggs are introduced around the holidays, such as the limited-edition creche collections (featuring such characters as the three kings, baby Jesus, and assorted barnyard animals) found around Christmas, and the huge ones found at Easter (extremely popular in Italy).

The Magic Code
A relatively new innovation, triggered by the advent of the Internet, is the introduction of 'Internet surprises'. Accompanying the toy is a small slip of paper containing a 'Magicode'. This code gives access to games at the Magic Kinder website, some for downloading, some for playing online.

Note: The magic code was short lived and lasted only a few years, now a days the Magic Kinder website offers lots of interaction, fun and games for everyone visiting the site, no code required.

Collecting Kinder Surprise toys
There are a number of different approaches that can be taken to collecting Kinder Surprise toys. It is important to realise that not just the toys are collectable, but also the instruction papers (which many Kinder Surprise collectors refer to by their German abbreviation of BPZ, which stands for Beipackzettel). Some novice collectors make the mistake of discarding the instruction papers. Consequently, "BPZs" tend to be rarer than the toys, which makes them more valuable to collectors. Other objects associated with Kinder Surprises (such as promotional posters, sales display boxes and dioramas) are also frequently sought after.

As with any collectable, it is possible to be "completist", and attempt to collect every toy and paper ever made anywhere in the world, as well as any other Kinder-related items. However, most collectors prefer to specialise in a particular area, such as hand-painted figurines, metal figurines or jigsaws. Some collectors even choose to only collect Kinder-related advertising and promotional material.

Before deciding on what and how to collect however, it is important to have a basic understanding of the main types of Kinder toys and how to classify and identify them. This is covered in the section below.

Classification and identification
Classifying and identifying Kinder Surprise toys is a rather complex exercise. There are several different lines, and a number of different numbering systems have been used over the years. Until the 1990s, the toys were seldom numbered at all, which can make identification difficult (although some early toys, especially hand-painted figurines, have a Ferrero mark). Kinder history can be broadly split into two periods: pre-2004 and post-2004. The pre-2004 toys were made by Ferrero. But in 2004, a Luxembourg-based company called MPG (which stands for Magic Production Group) took over toy production, although Ferrero continues to make Kinder Surprise chocolate. Prior to 2004, but after 1990, three distinct lines emerge:

Pre-2004: German line
The German line of Kinder Surprise toys was sold only in Germany before 1997, and in Germany and Austria after 1997. In general, this line is regarded by Kinder aficionados as being superior in quality to other lines. The instruction papers for German toys are quite large and usually contain the name of the series on one side, and frequently, the name of the toy on the other side, which also has the assembly instructions. In addition, each German paper has a six-digit number that is unique to the specific toy. The toys themselves do not have these numbers, but almost always have a Ferrero mark. There does not appear to be any particular pattern to the German numbering system, but the first three digits are always either 6xx or 7xx.

Pre-2004: West European line
Until the early 2000s, this line (made by Ferrero Italy) was sold and distributed in all countries except Germany, Austria and countries where Kinder Surprise eggs are illegal (such as the USA) or simply not available. From about 2001 however, it was restricted mainly to Western Europe, Japan and Hong Kong. The main distinguishing feature of this line is the use of "K numbers" (e.g. K96 No. 1), which are found on both the toys and instruction papers. The two digits after the K represent the year of issue, while the subsequent number is the number of the specific toy. So K96 No. 1, for instance, would be toy No. 1 in the series issued in 1996. Toys with "K numbers" are sometimes referred to as "K toys". The toys tend to be less sophisticated than the ones in the German line. The papers are also a great deal more basic. They are essentially elongated strips that show the toys in the set on one side and have assembly instructions for the specific toy on the other. Unlike the German papers, they almost never have any writing on them. The "K" papers were accompanied by a separate white strip of paper with a standard safety warning in many languages. The first known "K" series was K91, while the last was K04, after which MPG introduced a brand-new numbering system.

In recent years, there have also been reproductions of older K toys, which Kinder collectors frequently refer to as "recasts"[1]. These "recasts" first appeared in Poland, but soon spread to other Eastern European countries and eventually to Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. They have very similar papers to the original releases, but the numbering is slightly different. For example, a "recast" of K93 No. 81 is simply numbered "No. 81". Both the toys and papers have this altered numbering. Recasts are not very popular with collectors, but they are nevertheless sought after by completists.

Pre-2004: Argentine/Brazilian line
This line only began in the earliest years of the 21st Century after Ferrero Argentina became a much bigger player on the Kinder Surprise scene. "Argentine" toys, as they are generally known, are basically K toys, but with some significant differences from their West European counterparts. The Argentine line is distributed in South America, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is also sold in Brazil, but Brazilian papers are different from the standard Argentine versions (see below). Although the "Argentine" line mostly resembles the West European line, there are often differences in how the toys are made. For instance, where a West European animal or character toy would have the eyes painted on, the Argentine equivalent would have eye stickers. Some Argentine toys have even been exclusive and never released in the West European line. For example, the jigsaw puzzle numbered K01 No. 122 was only ever released in the Argentine line and never issued in the West European line. It is consequently quite highly sought-after by European Kinder Surprise collectors. In more recent years, a series of jigsaw puzzles based on the Monster Hotel hand-painted series was also exclusive to the Argentine line.

Up to 2004, Argentine papers showed the toy series and assembly instructions on the same side, while the opposite side contained the multi-lingual safety warning that is printed on an entirely separate paper in the West European line. Initially, the papers were of rather poor quality and tore easily, but from the K02 series onwards, they were thickened up a bit, although they were still rather less robust than their European counterparts.

Post-2004: European MPG line
After MPG took over the production of Kinder Surprise toys, the German and European lines were merged so that the same toys were now distributed in all European countries. The numbering system was changed, as were the toys and papers. Instead of a "K" number or six-digit number, all toys now had a new type of number. In the first MPG year, toys were numbered C-x (e.g. C-1, C-2 etc.). In the second MPG season, the C was replaced by an S (so toys were now numbered S-1, S-2 and so forth). In the third and current season of MPG toys, S has been replaced by 2S (2S-1, 2S-2 etc.). The papers were made somewhat larger. The toys had the new numbering and an MPG mark instead of a Ferrero one.

But although the toy lines were merged, the papers have retained some significant regional differences. German papers still contain the series name, and often the toy name, in German. West European papers have no writing, but do contain a Magicode logo. East European papers are much the same as West European papers, but have no Magicode logo.

Post-2004: Argentine/Brazilian MPG line
Notwithstanding the merger of the German and European lines, there continues to be a separate Argentine line. MPG toys are included in this line, but sometimes have differences to their European counterparts, most notably in their stickers and the papers. The new Argentine papers are much bigger than before. In fact, they are the same size as the European papers. On one side, they show the toys in the series. The reverse side has two distinct parts: the assembly instructions (across the top) and the multi-lingual safety warning (bottom half). The Brazilian papers are much the same, but the safety warning section is yellow rather than white. Interestingly, some "K" toys (mainly from the K04 series, but also a set of speedboats from the K01 series) have been released in the Argentine/Brazilian line with MPG-style larger papers. Another curious feature of the Argentine line has been the release of a small number of "recasts" of old German toys. The papers are in the original Argentine pre-2004 style, but have the German six-digit numbers. The toys are much the same as the German originals, but in some cases, the colours have been changed.

Limited editions
In addition to the regular collectable toys, Kinder Surprise series generally contain special limited-edition sets. These sets tend to vary greatly between countries, with many variations in toys, but more especially papers, which tend to be unique to the specific countries in which the sets are released. Some sets are released in many countries, while others are only issued in one or two. A few types of limited editions are discussed below.

Hand-painted figurines
Hand-painted figurines are solid toys that generally don't require assembly. They are very popular with collectors. They can be broadly divided into two types: animal themes and cartoon characters. One of the earliest known hand-painted sets is the Super-Mini-Schlumpf-Parade (Super Mini Smurf Parade), issued in Germany in 1983. Hand-painted sets issued prior to 1990 tend to be very highly sought-after, especially if, as in the case with the Smurfs, other collector groups are also interested. The earliest sets were released only in Germany, but after about 1993, they were released in many different countries, with papers unique to those countries. Even so, a small number of sets were only released in Germany, while others (like the 1994 Panda Party) were issued in several European countries but not Germany. It is fair to say that some sets have seen wider distribution than others. Until the advent of the MPG era, hand-painted sets were not numbered. However, MPG limited-edition sets have MPG numbers on both the toys and papers.

The 1994 Panda Party figures.

Some of the Super-Mini-Schlumpf-Parade figures.

The toys known in Germany as "Steckfiguren" are based primarily on cartoon characters. Some English-speaking collectors call them "stick figures", but this is not really a correct translation. A more accurate translation would be something like "put-together figurines" or "snap-together figurines". So unlike hand-painted figurines, they are not solid, but have to be assembled. As with hand-painted figurines however, they were originally issued in Germany only. In the European and Argentine lines, they were assigned K numbers, but tend to be harder to find than other "K" toys and can command a similar premium to hand-painted figurines. This is especially true of the early German releases, which were usually based on Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Hanna-Barbera characters like The Flintstones and Yogi Bear tended to feature in the "K" series, although there were also two Peanuts sets (in the K94 and K00 series) and two Smurfs sets (in the K97 and K02 series).

Some of the popular "Steckfiguren".

Metal figures
There have been many sets of metal figures - mainly soldiers - issued since about 1980. Most of these were put out in Germany, but some found their way to the West European line, where they were assigned "K" numbers. The last known metal figure set in the "K" line was a set of medieval figures released in the K98 series. There have been no metal figures issued since MPG took over the manufacture of Kinder Surprise toys.

Some of the popular metal figures.

Other Kinder Surprise egg types
In addition to the main line of Kinder eggs, there are a couple of sub-types worthy of mention:

Kinder Joy
Kinder Joy eggs are released during the hottest part of the summer in Europe. Though the toys are the same as the toys that are currently in the Kinder Surprise eggs, the Kinder Joy eggs are very different. The cover of the egg is plastic, and to open it you cut it in half. One half of the egg has the toy, and the other half has a hazelnut cream with two crunchy chocolate balls in it.

Kinder Joy packets from Greece 2008.
Maxi eggs
Maxi toys can be found in giant-sized Kinder eggs known as "Maxi eggs". They are much bigger than regular-sized toys.

Size difference between a Maxi egg and a regular sized one.

Text taken from Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia on the internet.