What’s your favorite toy? I had the chance to talk about some of my favorites from the National Toy Hall of Fame with Gerri Willis on The Willis Report not long ago. The Fox Business network brought me to New York City as part of the lead-in to holiday toy shopping and to remind their viewers about classic toys. The segment’s theme, “Best Toys Ever,” felt like a perfect fit since celebrating toys with enduring play value is what the National Toy Hall of Fame is all about. And the glittery aisles of the F. A. O. Schwarz toy store made an ideal setting for a quick stroll through toy history.
It was great fun telling Gerri about how Hot Wheels got their start and how Monopoly had originally begun as a game to teach the evils of greed. I also got to explain the scientific principles inside the Etch A Sketch and the connection between President Theodore Roosevelt and the teddy bear. Several of the toys had evolved in their materials or technology over the years. For example, Mr. Potato Head started out requiring a real potato and the Easy-Bake Oven needed to adapt to the phase-out of 100 watt incandescent light bulbs. It’s hard to picture LEGO in its initial form of carved wooden bricks or to think that bamboo hoops were what inspired the Hula Hoop. Plastic makes a world of difference! Speaking of plastic brings to mind that material girl, Barbie. I couldn’t carry more than one example of a historic toy with me on the plane, so I chose to bring Barbie’s predecessor, Bild Lilli. With her roots as a cartoon character in a German tabloid newspaper, Bild Zeitung, Lilli was intended as a gag gift for smirking men—not as a role model for girls. She had a brief life as a doll before Ruth Handler, one of the founders of Mattel, acquired the patent to her design and rebranded her as Barbie in 1959. Needless to say, I got a great reaction from Gerri as she learned about Barbie’s checkered past. I hope that viewers developed an appreciation for the National Toy Hall of Fame and hope that you enjoy the segment too.