Thrift store find: Arco Office play set

For some reason I've made a few really good doll finds at goodwill this summer. Maybe it's just that I've been looking more than usually, I don't know - after all, part of the charm of thrift stores is the unpredictable stock. So while I'm still a bit annoyed that I'll have to pass on the Steffi Love boutique play set from last post (although I hope I can tempt one of my readers into buying it instead and then post loads of photos of it) I'm still pretty happy with my summer haul, particularly when it comes to furniture. Because last week, I found this:

Arco Office Play Set!
Box and some of the contents

Arco Office play set! In original box, in good condition and almost complete. It was on the top shelf along with a couple of other boxed playsets, which I don't think I've ever come across before. I almost missed it since those square boxes in the corner of my eye didn't register as "possibly interesting doll stuff". There were a couple of fairly boring 80s sets, something with Skipper and t-shirt printing I think. There was also another Arco set, barbecue I think, which I briefly considered but eventually I felt I couldn't afford both. And really, between office and barbecue party, I'm picking office anytime.

Arco Office Play Set - contents
List of contents. As far as I can tell, all that's missing is the pens, file folders and in&out trays.
The price was 95 SEK, which is a little over $11 with todays rates. Interesting enough, there's another price tag under it which says 200! From what I can tell, goodwill pricing seems to be completely arbitrary, and I always wonder how they settle on a final price tag. I can vividly imagine two goodwill employees with completely different ideas about resale value engaged in a low-intensity duel, sneakily retagging items when the other isn't looking... or maybe they just marked it down since nobody bought it, whatever.

I can't place the dolls modeling the set, but apparently Arco is owned by/part of Mattel. I'm wondering why they chose to release these sets separately from the Barbie brand? There was also a Travel Agency set that contains pretty much the same furniture, but in other colors.

ETA: Mystery solved! As Andrea/DollsAhoy explained over on Flickr, Mattel only bought Arco Toys in 1986. This was made in 1985 and on closer inspection does not say Mattel anywhere on the box, so I guess they were free to use any clone dolls they wanted as models.

Greetings from Arco Office!
The Office
The set comes with a backdrop, which lay in the box perfectly flat and apparently unused. I feel like this should be a postcard.

Arco Office - desk stuff
Desk stuff. I love the little statue!
There's loads of little stuff in this set. I tried to fit it all on the desks in a realistic fashion, but it wasn't easy. I need more desks! Also I could do with it being a bit less pink, but it could be worse - the travel agent set was more garish. At least the cabinets are the perfect boring shade of off-white.

hollow furniture
Hollow furniture
The furniture is all fake with nary a working drawer in sight. Oh well.

Playing office
"La la la I don't know what I'm doing"
Anneliese has finally found her calling as a proper Office Lady. Her 27cm Obitsu body is a bit too short to enable her to sit ergonomically, but she makes up for it with her snazzy outfit.

stuff on my xerox
Stuff keeps piling up...
There were a few things in the box that didn't belong to the original set, for example a couple of paperclips and what appears to be a crudely drawn map of the United States on a post-it note. This little computer was the best thing: when you wind it up it whirrs like crazy (I assume computers did that in the 80s?) and displays a rolling wall of text, mostly Mattel copyright info. I didn't manage to get a good photo of  it, but you can find loads of them if you google "vintage barbie computer".

Office pranks
"AAAAAHHH who put all this stuff on my desk!?"
Most of the pieces are pretty straightforward (although what I thought was a lockable storage box for floppy disks is apparently supposed to be a pen sharpener). One thing puzzled me though, and that is the file rack. I've never seen one in real life, and the images of real ones I found on google didn't resemble the one pictured on the box. Another owner of the set told me the original files were just folded pieces of blue cardboard, which doesn't sound very realistic but whatever. I did actually find a piece of dark blue paper in the box, but whether it's part of the original set or not I can't tell. I just stuck it in there for now.

 Oh well. The Mysteries of the File Rack.

Mystery office supplies
"So... none of us actually knows why we have this thing?"

Also, in a coincidence almost too good to be true: when I found the set I had just put the second season of The Office (UK) in my basket. So if I ever get bored of the cityscape backdrop, it's good to know I have other options for setting the scene.

"Haha oh Mr. Brent, you're hilarious!"
I already have the stapler - time to buy some Jell-O...

A few more photos here.


  1. What a great find - I love all the retro office accessories!

  2. Congrats on your cool finds!

    RE: that file rack cart, I found a 1:1 verion here. Who says we're in a "paperless society?" LOL

    BTW, are the filing cabinets plastic or cardboard? Nosy me would like to know ;-)

  3. Awesome! a little paint to take the pink away and voila'!

  4. Great find! It gives me some ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Now that is awesome and so much stuff for the price! And yes, computers back in the 80's were monster size and made a lot of noise. Computers in the 70's were the size of refrigerators!

  6. @jSarie Thanks! It's fascinating how many of those things have become obsolete since.

    @D7ana Thanks! I knew more or less what it was, but I have no idea where I've seen one. Guess they're still around. And yes, it's all plastic + some stickers. There's a better photo of the cabinets on my flickr.

    @The grandmommy Oh, I'd love to paint it all '90s computer grey, but I need to find a good primer first or the paint will just flake off.

    @Muff Maybe they thought nobody would want a boring office? I went back yesterday and the barbecue/pool set was 250 SEK - almost $30!

    At least now I feel less old for remembering floppy disks... :)

  7. I had such a flashback at the image of that computer! I had that piece, and I still remember the overly-loud WHIRRRRRR! that it makes when you wind it up. XD Geez, that was a top of the line design for the time! It took scale-size 5.25" floppies!

    1. Haha, yep, and it vibrates hard enough to fall off the desk. This model doesn't take floppies, though, but it seems there was some kind of Barbie appliance that did: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Replacement-Pink-Computer-Game-Digital-Disk-Insert-Vintage-Barbie-Cash-Register-/390781309145

  8. I just came across this blog. Adding it to my list.

    What a great find! Congratulations!

    1. Glad you like it! And thanks, it really is one of my favorite finds this year.

  9. Hello, is there any way that I may directly speak to you?

  10. Hi, the easiest way is actually to send me an ask on my tumblr andersonsallpurpose.tumblr.com/ Or if you're on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andersonsallpurpose/