Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

Novelty Items: Amusements and More!

Accoutrements trade catalog, 2008, from The Stephen and Diane Olin Toy Catalog Collection, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.I’m a huge fan of novelty items. Currently, my office is adorned with miniature rubber ducks, librarian action figures, small stuffed animals, and other cute-funny-quirky trinkets. These make great conversation pieces and delight others, as well as amuse me.

I’ve found that “novelty” is often used as a catch-all term for miscellaneous items that don’t fit into traditional categories of toys, games, and dolls. For example, practical jokes, magic tricks, souvenirs, and licensed products are considered novelty items. Eureka Trick & Novelty Co. trade catalog, 1877, courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.Some manufacturers, such as Accoutrements and Basic Fun, Inc. even specifically cater to the “Gift, Novelty, and Souvenir” industry. Some novelty items are geared toward nostalgic adults. Childhood toys such as the Fisher-Price Corn Popper and Etch A Sketch can be purchased in miniature form as key chains. Tiny versions of playthings aren’t the only popular novelty for grown-ups; the offbeat Big Mouth Billy Bass, an animatronic singing wall-mounted fish activated by motion sensor, became all the rage in the 2000s.

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

YOU and YOU ALONE: The Story of the Choose Your Own Adventure Generation

WARNING!!!! Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end! These pages contain many different adventures you can go on…. The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose! For 36 years these opening lines have beckoned booklovers and reluctant readers alike to become part of…

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

RPGs and D&D: Learning from the PlaGMaDA Papers

I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to…

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Rock On, Gary Dahl

Staff at The Strong passed around several emails this week noting the passing of Gary Dahl, inventor of the Pet Rock, a wildly popular fad from the mid-1970s. In 1975 Dahl, a California advertising man, dreamed up the notion of a Pet Rock and shipped it to a San Francisco gift show that August. His…

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

Scrabble: Oldest, Newest, Biggest, and Smallest at The Strong!

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong inducted Scrabble in 2004. Since then we’ve made efforts to collect many different versions of the famous “scrambled word game.” Oldest Visit The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame web page for Scrabble, and you’ll learn that unemployed architect Alfred M. Butts invented the game during…

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

Screen-Play: Succession Planning in the Playroom

When I leave The Strong this week after almost seven years, a shiny, new collections manager will take the helm. I feel like the well-worn toy Margery Williams describes in The Velveteen Rabbit who becomes Real when the Boy loves him and when the nursery magic Fairy sets him free. Except for the trials of…

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

Well, That’s Different! Conservation Challenges within The Strong’s Unique Collection

During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than…

Glow-in-the-Dark Toys

Glow-in-the-Dark Toys

As a kid in the late 1970s and early 80s, glow-in-the-dark toys fascinated me. During the summer months, my friends and I would play outdoors as much as we could. Even after the sun went down, we tried to cling to every moment we had to play. Toys that “lit up” in the dark furthered…

100 Years of Tinkering

100 Years of Tinkering

Toys reflect the times in which they are made, and it follows, that as time passes, these toys fade away and are often replaced by newer toys. A few toys—like many in the National Toy Hall of Fame—though, remain popular for decades. Some even endure for several generations—like Tinkertoys. The Tinkertoy chronicle began more than…

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

Simon Says: Thanks, Ralph

I was deeply saddened to hear that Ralph H. Baer had died on December 6, 2014, at the age of 92. As numerous other writers have noted, Ralph invented the “Brown Box” home video game console (produced as the Magnavox Odyssey) and the electronic game Simon. He donated his professional papers to The Strong, and…