Skullduggery is a company that is known for producing very high-quality art products that can be enjoyed by children and professional artists alike. Both educational and entertaining, the Skullduggery line entices users to explore their creativity.
Skullduggery came into being in the 1980s when they became known for making fossil replica casts from original pieces that were obtained from museums or private collections. The company began equating its ferocious saber tooth tiger skull with a symbol of executive strength in prestigious financial and scientific journals. Awareness of the company–and subsequent sales–increased dramatically when one of its saber tooth tiger skulls was prominently seen in the 1989 movie “Working Girl” starring Sigourney Weaver.
Noting how much kids loved dinosaurs and marveled at skeletons on museum field trips, the family-owned Skullduggery business became the go-to place for moldings and castings. Before computers and email, they were a booming mail-order business managed by the Koehl family. With the help of museum-quality fossils, latex molds and cement, Emmy and Pete Koehl and their son Peter Koehl Jr. made and sold 400 skulls a month in 1989 from their tidy Orange County, California, warehouse.
A move from fossils to toys began as the family leadership shifted to the younger generation. Father Pete still retains the title CEO with sons Steve as President and Peter as VP, Marketing plus sister Corny running the day-today operations. It was the younger Koehls’ idea to expand the business into kid-friendly racecars, helicopters, and paint kits. Their tidy warehouse of the ‘80s has morphed into a 10,000 square foot facility in Anaheim, California. In 2011, new items included Light Up Marble Racers, Pit Stop Custom Painters and Tube Traxx. By 2015 the ever-evolving company launched Max Traxxx Tracer Racers RC Set. A new racing system that included glow-in-the-dark track, remote control Tracer Racers, and light trace technology which illuminated the patented track by means of black lights located on the underside of the remote-control racers.
In 2018 Skullduggery boasts of being the lead creator of high-end fossil replicas, unique car race toys, puzzles and educational toys. Their product brands include: Smithsonian Museum Craft Kits, Smithsonian 3D Motorized Puzzles, Max Traxxx Glow in the Dark Racing Systems, Marble Copters, Body Shop Racer Kits, Eyewitness Kits, Classroom Science Kits, and of course, Fossil Replicas. Skullduggery’s product lines have been designed to appeal to specialty toy-lovers throughout the world. Toy industry judges have been impressed over the years with the price-point, choices and quality of each year’s offerings. For example, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio – who is known for being discerning with its top honors – gave its Platinum Award to Skullduggery six times since 2010.
As success has passed the three-decades mark, the small company is proud to support local charities in the region. Over the years they have provided toys for the Toys for Tots program, The Sheepfold, a local shelter for women and children, and the Apps for Children with Special Needs (A4cwsn) community.
Recently President Peter Koehl granted an exclusive interview where he discussed the company and his plans for its future.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in making art supplies and why did you hear them for children?
Peter Koehl (PK): Skullduggery’s original business was making fossil replicas for study in schools and museums. While this is a compelling market, it is not very big. In order to expand our market, we decided to use some of the materials and processes we used and develop casting kits for kids.
MM: How did you think up the name of your company and how did you manage to establish it and get it off the ground?
PK: The name of our company ‘Skullduggery’ was decided upon based on the original fossil replica business. It made a lot of sense back in the 1980s and 90s due to our product line. Once we added crafts and toys, we figured we had built up a certain following we did not want to lose, so the name stuck.
MM: How long did it take you to develop the products and how do you select their themes?
PK: We develop 5 – 7 new products each year. We usually base our themes on topics that are generally popular with kids.
MM: How tough has it been to get your items into major retail stores and known to the public?
PK: The craft and toy market is very competitive and larger manufacturers have better name recognition and success with larger retailers. We are very popular on the web and we are having more and more success with regional retailers.
MM: What are some of the coolest things you’ve seen people make with your products?
PK: It is amazing how creative many people are. The casts and customizations we have seen made with our products are vast. Most of our products can be used by both kids and professional artists, so we have seen a little bit of everything. You can check out our Facebook page for specific examples.
MM: How do you think the company will evolve in the near future? For example, what other sorts of items/products/kits might you create?
PK: We are regularly attending tradeshows, meeting with sales reps, and visiting customers. We have some great new items releasing in the near future in the marble racers and Perfect Craft lines.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future of Skullduggery?
PK: Our goals are to continue developing unique crafts and toys while growing our brick and mortar and online presence.
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To learn more, visit the official website.
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Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!