Set the Wayback Machine for October 23, 1958. This is the day, way back then, when a Belgian cartoonist named Peyo introduced a new set of characters to the Johan et Pirlouit story La flute a six trous. Now, I have no idea what those words mean because the only French I know is the fries at McDonalds. But we’re talking about The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs).
In case you don’t remember, Smurfs are a fictional group of small (only three apples tall) sky blue creatures who live in Smurf Village. No one really knows where it is except that it’s located somewhere in the woods. Peyo introduced these creatures to the world in a series of comic strips, making their first appearance in the Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou on October 23, 1958. The English-speaking world perhaps knows them best through the popular 1980s animated television series from Hanna-Barbera Productions, fittingly called The Smurfs. (Brilliant.)
They had the mission of recovering a magic flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Homnibus. And in this manner, they met a tiny, blue-skinned humanoid creature in white clothing called a "Schtroumpf", followed by his numerous peers who looked just like him, with an elderly leader who wore red clothing and had a white beard. The characters proved to be a huge success.
With the commercial success of "The Smurf empire" the merchandising of Smurf miniatures, models, games, and toys began in 1959. Entire collecting clubs have devoted themselves to collecting PVC Smurfs. You can probably find some of these items right now on ebay if you’re interested. And who isn’t?