Custom Store Displays

Custom Jesse James Store Display

** Disclaimer: I make these displays. They were not made by any company currently, or in the past, affliated with Marx. I do not make these for resale, but instead for my personal use. Any / all use of the Marx trademarks, wordmarks, logo's, etc. are just to preserve historical accuracy in my creation. **

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The Work...

Jesse James!
The Robin Hood of the West
On the back of Tom Heaton's Module 2: The Best of the West Series, 1974 book you can see this picture. I believe that this prototype display was photographed in the 'Model Room' at Marx and never made it out of the building.

I knew from the experience of doing the Custom Stony Display that I needed to study this original before I embarked upon recreating it. Here are the 'Lessons' learned from that study:
  • Jesse has open hands - probably made in 1965
  • Jesse's hat doesn't look like Johnny West's hat - More like Daniel Boone's Frontier Hat
  • The vest appears to be slightly different??
  • The graphics next to the titles in the top are the same as what's on the side of the box and manual of early Johnny West's
  • The accessory card has no text on it!
  • I couldn't make out the words under the handwritten PL reference starting with "PUT HIM"
  • There are 3 'Parts' to the display: Background, Accessory Card, Figure Stand Block
  • The Accessory Card does not have nice straight edges, but instead more like a wanted poster worn edge...


Using the same techniques that I learned in the Stony display I did some ratio calculations to determine the size of this display parts. I determined that the Background was 22 in wide, by 18 inches tall; the Accessory Card was about 14 in wide, by 10 in tall; and the Figure Stand Block was 6 in wide, by 2 1/2 in tall by 4 in deep.


The first task I had was to recreate the brick wall background. Pretty easy to find some stock images on the web of brick... But, wait! What color is the brick??? I tried grey, red, sand, etc. This quickly led to one of many discussions with my friend Dave and his wife Donna... I took a step back and decided to 'fix' the colors for all elements before proceeding. I played around with the overall display color palette and would shoot them samples... "Nope, too green, need more red, how about....". We finally settled on the colors you see. Back to the brick work. We decided that this reddish, washed out brick color with some variation looked pretty good. I then made sure that there wasn't a 'repeating' pattern and created the background.

Next: The accessory card.

Wow! A lot of work here. The first problem was how to handle the irregular edge. I could make it a seperate image with the same type of torn paper edge, but how would I cut out the print and matt board to create the card? I did some rough experiments and decided that it looked too shabby. So I thought, how would Marx do it? I believe that they would have opted for a straight edge card just like all their other displays, but that would make it look radically different from the actual prototype display - and that's what I wanted. So I created the torn edged image and overlaid it onto the brick with a faux shadow and then 'cut' out a section of the brick in straight lines all around the irregular outline. - I knew that when I printed this, that I would have to maintain the exact sizes so that the brick parts on the card would line up with the same brick area on the background - oh boy, I hope I find a better place to get this printed!
Next came the accessory titles. Since the prototype did not have any wording to match, I decided to use the same titles as the original Johnny West accessory manual. I had to play around with the Font and title placement but I think it works well. This is the one time I decided not to just 'Recreate' the prototype - I really felt it needed titles.

Next: The "Woodwork"

Another color discussion with Dave and Donna. Finally settled on a weathered white. OK, now to actually model it. I tried just enlarging the original but that didn't work. So I had to redraw all the parts from scratch. Lots of photoshop trial and error to finally get something I was 'satisfied' with. I know it's not perfect but after a long time, I just wanted 'Good Enough'!. As you can see in this image, I forgot to put in the decorative piece that arcs from the top to the posts. I actually didn't realize that until I was finished and ready to send to the printer... I kept thinking something wasn't quite right and then it hit me and I drew those in.

Next: The "Cowboys"

This turned out to be harder than I originally thought! The cowboy graphics were pretty easy. I just scanned the same images from the JW Manual, resized and tweaked the lines / color to match them up. But the words were another story. What does it say? The low resolution, B/W picture is really hard to read and then one of the Marx guys scrawled the big PL reference info right over the top! Dave to the rescue again. "It looks like the words match the wording on the Figure Stand Block"... A couple of super magnified pics and we decided on the wording. Oops! Forgot the board outlines! Back to photoshop and added those in.

Finally: The "Titles"

The great Font hunt ensued, and I found the right one. But looking at the original, it appeared that the Scroll edged title areas and the Wood edged sub-title area were a different color? Again with the help of Dave and Donna I decided that I'd make them all the same 'color' but add a woody type texture to the board area. That gives it a slightly visually different shade. I did the same on the Figure Stand Block 'wood' and called it DONE!


Alrighty! Now for the printing! Dreading it, I walked into the same store that finally printed my Stony Display... But when I asked for the manager (the guy who finally did it right last time) all I got were blank stares... They finally understood my English and told me "Heem Don't Work Heeer, no more" - Oh No! "Well, can you print this large format PDF document"? Again, the blank stare... "Pee.Dee.F.??? What ees dat???". I put out the call to friends and family, went to every local photo print shop and scoured the web to find a printer! No joy in mudville, until I stumbled upon A couple of emails and some great customer service on how to save my massive file to smaller images without loosing quality and I was hooked. I sent away for 'paper' samples and within a week I was in business! I uploaded the images, placed the order and with shipping still paid less than anywhere else I found! Woo Hoo.....Be patient. I told myself. They could come back all messed up!

The prints showed up in about 10 days and I carefully unwrapped them, expecting the worst. I pulled out the roll from the shipping tube and immediately noticed that both ends of the roll were crushed from the roll slapping around inside the tube! Oh CRAP! There went my dream! I unrolled the smashed up paper wrapper to find to my utter amazement perfectly preserved prints! They used oversized paper to roll the prints in just for this very reason! And did I mention that the colors were dead on! Woo Hoo - I'm in business! With the Stony Lessons Learned in my head, I started the 'Construction' phase of this project.


  1. What Materials to use. Knowing that plywood didn't really work well, I decided to use pegboard and matt board for my construction materials. Lesson: Pegboard has holes in it....
  2. How to Construct: I cut the pegboard to size (22x18) and then reinforced the edges with 1x1 pine strips. Screwed and Glued! To make the 'stand' I cut a trapezoid shape from plywood (yes, I know it's heavy but this actually works well as a counter-weight to the background) about 6in x 14in. This I secured to the back, bottom of the pegboard so that from the side it looks like the letter 'L' (pegboard the upright, plywood the short horizontal piece). Lesson: Make sure that the bottoms of the support piece and the background are perfectly flush!
  3. Learning from my Stony Lessons, I sprayed the large prints with a Digital Image Preserver spray from the craft store. This worked very well. It gave the print a more matt finish and it says that it provides some level of UV protection as well. I tested a throw away piece by making a smudge and wiping it off with a slightly damp tissue - worked great! No fuss, no muss!
  4. Following the basic procedure I learned on the Stony Display... I cut out the prints, glued the background directly onto the pegboard, glued the accessory card onto Matt board and the figure stand block print onto matt board.
  5. For the actual figure stand block, I made it using sandwiched pine pieces cut to 4x6 in. Lesson: Don't do it this way! See the correct procedure in my James Display.
  6. Now the Accessory Card. I looked high and low for a set of mint vintage chaps! No got! But then I saw that I had an opened set of the soft accessories from the 2001 reissue Johnny - They are a slightly different color, but there were color variations in the vintage sets too, so I figured it would look OK. And they all match! Taking them and a set of vintage hard accessories I pondered how to do the card.
  7. I didn't like the way the Stony Display was put together (even though it looked authentic). You will also notice that the Jesse prototype has what appears to be brass studs in all four corners of the card... So I decided to mount the card to the background before I put on the accessories. I knew this would work because the pegboard is easy to drill through. (To make the holes for the wire holders.) I put the accessory card on the background and double, triple, quadruple checked the brick alignment and drilled the four corner holes. I then used brass round head bolts and washer/nuts to bolt the accessory card onto the backboard. This looked great except for the screwdriver slots in the heads of the bolts. I broke out the hotglue gun and glued brass smooth heads onto the bolt heads. The smooth brass heads I created by cutting down scrapbooking studs you can get at the craft store.
  8. Using the same basic technique as the Stony display, I marked, drilled holes. Cut the wires and twist tied all the accessories through the card and through the backboard. Here is where the lesson about Pegboard having holes comes in. One, light from the back will show the holes and two, sometimes the drilled accessory holes lined up with the holes in the pegboard. Not really a deal breaker but next time I will use the same (masonite?) material in the non-holed configuration. What's also good about this procedure is that you can switch out the accessories in the future because the wire is not sandwiched between the Accessory Card and Background like the Stony Display.
  9. The accessories are now mounted and I again decided not to cover them in plastic.
  10. The figure stand block is easy, all I had to do was position it, drill starter holes for the screws and screw it on through the back of the display. a dressed CXR Jesse with open hands goes on top and WHAM! I'm done....I have my very own Prototype Jesse James Store Display

Costs: About $40.00 for the prints, about $20 for other materials (Matt board isn't cheap), About 100 hours in photoshop work, about 6 hours in assembly work (takes a while to wire all those acc's).Lesson: Still Do not consider doing this as a business!