July 2006 Issue
They are the childhood treasures that were tossed away, but now demand a kingâ€™s ransom on eBay. Vintage editions of Slinky, Silly Putty, Tinkertoy and the piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance, the Kenner Easy-Bake Oven, are just part of the nostalgic collection of 300 playthings showcased at the Ohio Historical Center in â€œKid Stuff: Great Toys From Our Childhood.â€
All are objects, says author and pop-culture enthusiast David Hoffman, 52, that helped define a generation.
â€œIn our age bracket, there isnâ€™t one of us who didnâ€™t win a fortune at Monopoly, protect ourselves behind a fortress of Lincoln Logs or take a bite out of Play-Doh,â€ explains Hoffman, a Los Angeles-based writer who penned the book the exhibit is based on. Following its publication in 1996, he worked with the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to create the traveling exhibition installed at the Ohio Historical Center through September 4.
Hoffman scoured antiques stores and perused the Internet, seeking toys that were not only popular when baby boomers were tots, but continue to rack up sales today. The ultimate find was a 1963 inaugural edition of an Easy-Bake Oven, complete with three boxes of unopened mixes, that he happened upon at a toy collectible show outside of Chicago.
The hardest item to track down was an original Nerf ball from the late â€™60s. Hoffman waged a fight-to-the-finish bidding war on eBay to acquire the foam-rubber sphere, and was declared the winner only after shelling out $50. â€œIt was an absurd amount of money to pay for a Nerf ball, which isnâ€™t highly collectible,â€ he admits. â€œBut I wanted it for the exhibit, and timing is everything.â€
Play stations bring out the kid in everyone, with opportunities to race Hot Wheels around a track, peer at 3-D images through a View-Master lens and have pictures taken with life-sized cutouts of Barbie in her Dream House and G.I. Joe in his jeep.
â€œThe display truly stimulates memories,â€ says Bill Mahon, assistant director for exhibit design at the Ohio Historical Center. â€œIt spans generations.â€
Barbie, who made her debut in 1959, is named after the daughter of Mattel Toys founder Ruth Handler.
According to a Yale University study, the smell of Crayola Crayons is among the 20 most recognizable scents to American adults.
A limited-edition Etch A Sketch, introduced in 1985, was made of sterling silver, with sapphires and topazes in the turning knobs. Encased in a velvet-lined mahogany box, it cost $3,750.
Play-Doh was originally formulated to clean wallpaper.
Lockheed has used Tinkertoy construction systems as design models to test airplane wing and fuselage systems.
In 1987, Magic Slates were used in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for secure communication because the building was thought to be bugged.â€“â€“ compiled by David Hoffman