Monkeys with cymbals

I have two questions about the mighty monkeys, actually. First, what is the origin of the windup monkey with cymbals toy? Second, is there an actual name for the toy other than “that monkey with the cymbals thing”?

I don’t know a precise answer to either of your questions, but a little search on the web found the following:

According to Kovel’s, an antiques pricing service, there is a toy called “Monkey, Hi-Jinx, With Cymbals, Battery Operated, TN Co.” dated in the 1950’s. (It currently lists on Kovel’s for about $195.00.)

A search on E-bay found a prototypical one currently going for $230. The description suggests it too was made in the '50’s, probably in Japan. The box appears to read “Jolly Chimp” as the name of the product, but it’s a little hard to read in the photo.

There are another five items on e-bay, all listed in various forms as “wind up monkey with cymbals” or something similar, so I’d guess that there is no standardized name. There appear to be about three significant varieties-- a black orangutan looking version, a beige one that looks more like a lemur and invariably wears a hat, and some small ones with plastic faces.

I can’t hazard a guess as to its origins, other than to observe that the ones that bear dates seem to agree that they became common around the 50’s. I’m not sure why. Maybe Ed Sullivan had a cymbal playing monkey on his show or something.

Excuse me, sir. But there’s a monkey on these cymbals.

Stephen King wrote a short story that featured one of these monkeys; every time it would start grinning and banging its cymbals together (ALL! BY! ITSELF!), someone would die. I think it appeared either in Night Shift or Skeleton Crew. Anyone remember the title?


Yeah. It was in SKELETON CREW and it was called “The Monkey.”

Anyone besides me think that Mister King could REALLY use some help with his titles?

Heck, I hate to let all this good research go to waste.

First, some follow up on the “Jolly Chimp” bit. You can get a good view of one, including the box, at here. The site is selling it for $135. They also date it to the 1950’s.

If $135 seems like a lot to pay for one of these, perhaps you’d be willing to shell out $25 for a ore modern-looking version of one, batteries included. (It’s item 327b). Sorry, but they’re currently sold out.

Too cheap to even shell out the $25? Ok, here’s a cymbal-playing monkey .gif of the $135 version you can steal from

And if you’re really against the monkey, you might want to check out the Anti-Mimic League which lists cymbal-playing monkeys, along with Jack-in-the-boxes and ventriloquist’s dummies, as only slightly less creepy and disturbing than clowns.

Serving you cymbal-playing monkey needs since 11:20 a.m., May 19, 2000.

Obviously no one.
I myself would have gone for “The cymbal-beating toy monkey of death”, but that’s why I’m not a multi-millionaire author.

      • I have found the cymbal-playing monkeys creepy ever since Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I tend to wonder if S. King’s inspiration was the same. - MC

I don’t know about cymbals, but there’s an early Ernie Kovacs sketch that has a row of toy monkeys with drums keeping the beat to the 1812 Overture. That dates them around the early to mid-50s.

God damn automation…it put the Nairobi Trio out of work!