Toys From the Attic: Have You Ever Seen Juri?

GeekMom Toys
To show you just how tiny Juri toys are, I placed a quarter next to some of my collection. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

Recently, GeekMoms Cathé and Sarah talked up their various attic treasures. I’m always fascinated by these little attic adventures; it’s like your own personal Storage Wars. I’m excited to offer up something similar, but mainly because I need some help.

First, a little back-story: Back in September, my father died. Over Thanksgiving, my sister, brother, and I were together, so we made time to go through some of his things. It was all of 15 minutes.

See, my dad wasn’t much of a saver. He had a few pictures and cards, an old lighter, yearbooks, and a few other mementos. He had some blank stationary paper from when I was a kid, with pictures of animals (mostly monkeys) with funny sayings on them. It wasn’t much, but he was more about experiences than keeping actual, physical stuff.

At one point, we were up in the attic area above the garage, which was mostly packed with my brother’s college junk. However, there was one little box off to the side. Inside, we found eight smaller boxes—and I was instantly whisked back to my childhood.

Each of these teeny boxes isn’t much bigger than a matchbox. However, they are packed with the most wonderful wooden toys, in the shapes of different animals. My collection includes kangaroos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, polar bears, monkey, tigers, and an actual zoo kit.

These toys are really small, the kind that would most certainly be deemed a choking hazard by today’s standards. I am 98-percent sure that they were sent to me from my aunt, who spent a lot of my childhood in Saudi Arabia. She would send us toys from time to time. Some were ornate and would sit upon the mantle in my room; others were downright frightening and placed in a box. However, these particular toys would be played with, cherished, and some 30-plus years down the line, found in a box in the attic above the garage.

Now, I am trying to find out more about them—and I need your help.

Once I got the toys back to New England, I did what any person would do: I looked them up on the web. I’m not interested in selling them. (I would never do that!) I just want to know more about them. It’s quite the cool find and I remember them well.

After several Google searches, I couldn’t find anything about them or the company that made them, Juri. As mentioned, each box is about the size of a matchbox, with German and English on them. Each one says the name Juri and that they’re made in Western Germany.

Giraffes and other Juri toys. Photo: Rachel Cericola.

Sadly, my aunt is also now deceased, so I asked two of her daughters if maybe they remembered them. Both initially thought they were from Sweden, until they saw the boxes, which clearly state, “Made in Western Germany.” Next, they told me that the toys were probably sent to me in the late 70s or early 80s. Late 70s probably makes the most sense, because I definitely remember playing with these things. In fact, there was actual proof inside the box.

Besides the toys, there are several slips of paper with evidence that these things were played with and well loved. One note asks, “I’d really appreciate, if you wouldn’t touch my zoo, the things are really easy to knock over. Thanx.” Those “things” were the animals. The other slips of paper show some of the names I came up with. (The “Rinos” are Archie, Veronica, and Betty, while the giraffes are Archie, Edith, and Gloria.)

Next, I turned to a good friend of mine. Her mom is originally from Witten, Germany—and is the only person I know who actually originates from Germany. She said that the toys looked vaguely familiar, but that was it.

My Google search did yield two eBay auctions and an old Etsy sale, so someone else has seen these things at some point. I am looking for anything and everything about these toys, the company, or why they are no longer in existence. Do they look familiar to you? Please sound off in the comments section below!

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15 thoughts on “Toys From the Attic: Have You Ever Seen Juri?

  1. My sister and I had a partial set of these toys. They probably date from the seventies for us or late sixties. Sadly, we didn’t have any boxes. We loved playing with them and my sister has the remaining pieces. My kids used to play with them whenever they visited her. I remember playing with them. They were small and delicate!

  2. I love these! I have the penguin and polar bear one (packed up somewhere). I got mine at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans when I was a kid, in the 1970s. They open like a matchbox.

  3. Yes…just looking this company up because I was going through some of my son’s old toys before carting them to his home. I bought these little boxes someplace back when my kids were small. He was born in 1979 so it would have to be the early 80’s. I have the kangaroos, llamas, rhinos, camels, bears, tigers/puma/panthers, apes, zoo arches and zoo trees. They are all in their respective “match” boxes.

  4. I’m from Brazil, Manaus (a city in the middle of the Amazon forest) and I used to play with these tiny little things when I was a child. I played and loved them a lot along with my dome headed robot, plastic alligator and my (constantly destroyed by the former toys fights) city building set. These are the toys I have the fondest memories of.

    It’s really funny to find this article about trying to find more data about them as I’m trying to do the same.

    Unfortunately mine got lost in time and I know nothing about their origins. Next time I see them in an auction I’ll surely buy the entire set for nostalgia’s sake.

  5. I have one box called “herd of camels” which I think I got at Heals in London around 1978 when I was a student in London. I love miniatures so this is one of my treasured possessions !!

  6. Hi! I realize this post is a year old, but my daughter and I are home from school due to snow, and we are looking for things to do! This morning I remembered that I had my wooden zoo collection in her closet and brought them out. She is having a wonderful Time setting them up, talking, and playing with the various characters–all from the Juri wood toy zoo! They are just as fun now as when I played with them as a kid. I’d love to chat more about them!

  7. I just bought a whole mess of these, with no matchboxes, maybe 10 sets worth, for $5 at a flea market. They were my favorite toy as a child and I had no idea they were west German. I wonder how they came to be in California in the 70’s? Thanks for this post, I learned so much about these wonderful toys.

  8. I got mine in a little toy store that was across from the big public library in downtown Portland, Oregon. I don’t have the boxes, but all of my children have enjoyed playing with these over the years.

  9. I bought mine (and one for my brother during a field trip to MetroCenter Mall in Phoenix, AZ when I was in 2nd grade (1981). I do not remember the name of the store, but I do remember having the Artic Matchbox set with penguins and polar bears, and my brothers was a Savannah Matchbox set with Giraffe and Lions.

  10. I have some of these. Its a super cute little village with houses, people, cars, and all kinds of farm animals. I played with them at my grandparents house as a child. Now they have been passed down to me. I wish I knew more about them.

  11. distinctly remember buying a farm set with the cows and a trough at Pier One Imports in the 70s, my brother’s girlfriend took me there and bought it for me, it was one of those places my parents wouldn’t go too. They had a little rack of import toys.

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