Ghost of toys past

No so long past. The last time I wrote about vintage toys and games, Scrabble was getting its props.

Most board games and toys of my childhood are long gone, replaced by high-tech gaming for various devices. But a few endure and remain sentimentally in closets or as bookcase mementos. These three rest prominently on my shelf.

1 > Gang of eight

vintage toys, toys updates, evolution of toys and games, toy nostalgia, monopoly, duncan yo-yo, etch a sketch, notable deaths

Monopoly, the real estate board game still lives. I loved playing Monopoly – the strategizing and the wheeling and dealing. It occupied hours of my childhood. My fave token was the top hat.

But even Hasbro, the game’s manufacturer, had to adapt with the times. Hasbro has created many themed versions of the game such as the New York Yankees and Star Wars editions, but the original version hasn’t changed much – until now. Hasbro launched a brilliant social media campaign to couch one of its long-time tokens, and find its replacement.

Which of the eight original Monopoly tokens (car, thimble, boot, Scottie dog, battleship, top hat, iron or wheelbarrow) will never get out of jail, free, or otherwise ? And what new token will replace the prisoner? Look here.

2 > Shake and make

vintage toys, toys updates, evolution of toys and games, toy nostalgia, monopoly, duncan yo-yo, etch a sketch, notable deathsThat iconic red rectangle with two white knobs – L’Ecran Magique – otherwise known as the Etch A Sketch, was all.

Among the great toys I had (a Mattel Thingmaker, a Barbie Dreamhouse, a tin of Lincoln Logs) none was more dear to me than my Etch A Sketch. Its creator, Andres Cassagnes, died a few weeks back on 16 january. Cassagnes tinkered with his idea for a while, and finally created the L’Ecran Magique in 1959. Ohio Art licensed it in 1960 and the iconic red-framed device was born.

This drawing tool held a fascination for me that was, well, unshakable. How did it work? I would laboriously scrape each and every spec of aluminum powder off its screen to get to the innards that revealed a stylus driven by two knobs. So simple, and yet so brilliant!

The real trick was learning to control the Etch A Sketch knobs to make curves, to write, and ultimately to draw in such a way that the line had to be continuous. You couldn’t stop in one place and start in another. Soooo many hours of fun!

3 > To sleep, perchance to dream

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I was amazed to find the yo-yo still spinning so fast in current culture. Websites with up-to-the-minute news, competitions and advancements are numerous. I loved my first yellow and red butterfly model from the 70s, and was fairly good with some tricks.

As yo-yo lore goes: The earliest record dates to 500 BCE (a Greek artifact shows a boy playing yo-yo) and was thought to be made with two terracotta disks. Much later, circa 1929, entrepreneur Donald F. Duncan recognized the potential of the fad and purchased the existing Flores Yo-yo Corporation. In 1932, the name “yo-yo” (meaning come come, and named by its original Filipino founder, Pedro Flores) was first registered as a trademark.

Duncan’s first yo-yo, the O-BOY, was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999. Newer state of the art competition yo-yos use aluminum and ball bearings for optimum performance. Some models retail for up to $400.

National Yo-Yo Day is June 6, so be sure to have your favorite version ready. I’ll have my newer, red translucent butterfly model cleaned and restrung.

What was your favorite toy or game as a child? Do you still have it?

Tokens: ©Hasbro from The New York Times / Etch A Sketch: © 2013 Janet Giampietro / Yo-yos: Ebay + Duncan

4 Responses to “Ghost of toys past”

  1. liz-gee Says:

    First, kudos to Hasbro for their strategically brilliant marketing blast. Second, I am somewhat surprised that the cat was chosen as the newest token — it seems to be me that the animal kingdom is already represented with the dog. I would have thought that one of Hasbro’s choices would have been a mini-version of a laptop or smartphone. Since those weren’t choices, I would have selected the robot. As far as voting a token off the board game, I picked the wheelbarrow.

    My two favorite yo-yos were the one I bought with my own money — a neon version with one side green and one side red – and the red/white butterfly yo-yo that I inherited from one of my relatives.

    Etch A Sketch was a blast, an incredible device that could keep us occupied for hours. At the time, even as a kid, it seemed to me to be an ahead-of-its time creation. Truly I think it still is. My favorite toy was a baton – yes, the kind you twirl and flip. I still have it…..

  2. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Hi liz-gee:

    Thanks for your comment. A baton, good one, with the white rubber tips?


  3. collectable toys Says:

    It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Janet Says:

    Thanks for reading, and your comment.

    Stay curious,

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