Schuco is a German toy maker founded in 1912 by Heinrich Müller and the businessman Heinrich Schreyer in Nuremberg, Germany's early toy capital. Its specialty was usually cars and trucks in both tin and diecast. The company went bankrupt in 1976 but was reorganized in 1993 and then totally independent again by 1996.
Originally named Spielzeugfirma Schreyer & Co, the company changed its name to the more succinct Schuco in 1921. When the company started in 1912, it made unique clockwork tin toys. In the 1920's it introduced its famous Pick-Pick bird (over 20 million were made up until the 1960's). In 1935 one of the first Schuco patent motor cars was produced, starting a legacy of producing toy motor vehicles that have always been the company's main offering. Production was halted during World War II and in the late 1940's production began again with tin toys, this time focused more on the American market. Unlike Lionel, Schuco only made a small amount of different trains and accessories. Heinrich Müller died in June of 1958.
In the 1960's Schuco came out with an electric powered 1:90 scale model of the Disneyland Mark I Alweg monorail. The monorail models were manufactured by Schuco from 1961 until Christmas of 1967 with some left over sets trickling out of the factory in 1968. The monorails never appeared in the 1969 catalog which implies that Schuco no longer intended to promote them. The line was a huge disappointment since they never sold well. One of the reasons for the sets' lack of success was because they were very expensive in terms of a toy during the 60's. It is believed that the small sets started at $39.95 (later reduced to $25), the middle set (American Set) for $49.95 (reduced to $39.95 by Christmas of 1964), and the large set for a whopping $89.95.
Schuco designed some unique features into the monorails. By simply flipping a switch on the motor unit, it was possible to select which rail that a particular train would obtain its electrical power from; either the top and left rail or the top and right rail. Therefore, with two separate transformers, it was possible to run two trains on the same track, but yet have complete control of each train.
Although not very popular when they were originally manufactured, these monorail models are highly prized by collectors today. The monorails appear to be holding their value, though they are not as expensive as they were in the 1990's.
The company went bankrupt in 1976. An English company Dunbee-Combex-Marx (DCM) acquired Schuco (or large parts of it), but it too went bankrupt in 1980. Eventually, rival German toymaker Gama Toys, acquired the rights to Schuco in the mid 1980's, and, for a time, new Gama Toys were 1:43 scale Schucos put directly into Gama boxes - with no name change on the base of the vehicle. In the U.S. during the 1980's Schucos were marketed by the Lilliput Motor Company of Yerington, Nevada, with Lilliput appearing right on the colorful boxes. This company is not affiliated nor should it be confused with Liliput Trains, a subsidiary of Bachmann Industries.
In 1993 Gama-Schuco combined with Trix, a maker of small scale trains, and a company previously associated with Märklin. In 1996, Schuco became independent again and saw a revival, producing a wide variety of collectible models, with many newly designed castings, but many being exact replicas of earlier lines.
In 1999, Schuco was acquired by the Simba Dickie Group and model boxes were labeled with stickers saying "Dickie Schuco" even if it was old inventory. Simba Dickie had previously absorbed Smoby which had previously purchased French Majorette which in turn had acquired Solido. Majorette and Solido were apparently spun off, but by 2009, Schuco was healthy enough to acquire Schabak.
Today the company makes Schuco model toys (mainly street vehicles) in different scales. There are classic and newer lines, all beloved by collectors. The quality of the models is superior to the average toy model vehicles, therefore unit prices are higher too, but with the conglomeration of so many venerable marques in one company the final outcome of all the brands is in question.
Link to Schuco web site.