The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, last week announced a dozen 2020 National Toy Hall of Fame finalists for induction into this year’s class: Baby Nancy, bingo, Breyer Horses, Jenga, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, sidewalk chalk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi and Yahtzee.
“These 12 toys represent the wide scope of playthings — from simple sidewalk chalk that has its roots in ancient times, to Baby Nancy, which proved a turning point in the representation of race in dolls, to the more recent, highly innovative Tamagotchi,” said Christopher Bensch, the Strong’s vice president for collections, in a statement. “Whether old or new, or simple of high-tech, all 12 of these toy finalists greatly influenced the world of play.”
In 1968, Operation Bootstrap launched Shindana Toys, a community-owned company dedicated to making toys that “reflect Black pride, Black talent, and most of all, Black enterprise.” In its first year, Shindana produced Baby Nancy, a baby doll with a dark complexion and textured hair. The popularity of Baby Nancy exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct Black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.
American bingo is descended from a lottery game first played in Italy around 1530. The game came to be known as lotto and was played in France and in Germany as a teaching tool. A marketer copied the 1920s American carnival game beano and changed its name to bingo, and the game has become a staple of adult play and fundraisers for churches and charity organizations. Different versions of Bingo are played worldwide, and it is especially popular in Mexico.
In 1950, The Breyer Molding Company introduced Breyer Horses, which realistically captured the spirit and magic of the living creatures. Hand-designed by artists, the unique horses seized the imaginations of children, drew interest from collectors, and became cherished keepsakes for equestrians. The brand continues its popularity today as it celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Englishwoman Leslie Scott created Jenga based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” With its catchy name and edge-of-your-seat gameplay, Jenga has inspired both young and old to enjoy the towering, toppling results.
Created in 1966, Lite-Brite uses backlit plastic pegs on a black background for children to create glowing images, either following manufactured designs or creating their own picture. Through the years, Lite-Brite has gradually changed its format and technology but the potential for open-ended creativity has kept Lite-Brite popular for more than 40 years.
Masters of the Universe Toys
The Master of the Universe line of action figures, which includes the iconic He-Man, traces its popularity to maker Mattel’s use of comic books, television, and the big screen. The cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which ran from 1983 to 1985, created a cohesive, fantasy world that allowed Mattel to introduce new characters and new toys to the line. Over the years, Mattel has paired the brand with everything from toothbrushes to sleeping bags.
My Little Pony
Introduced in the 1980s and reintroduced in 2003, the My Little Pony line of mini-horses encourages children in traditional forms of doll play—fantasy, storytelling, hair grooming, and collecting. The small pastel ponies have come in more than 1,000 varieties, all with elongated tails and manes made to be brushed. The toys peaked in popularity between 1982 and 1993—even outselling Barbie for several years—but have made a resurgence in recent years.
Based on the French game Le Conquete du Monde, Risk translates the hobby of wargaming with miniature figures into a mass-produced war and strategy board game. First published in the United States in 1959, Risk challenges players to control armies and conquer the world. The game’s innovative mechanics ignited renewed interest in strategy games in the 1970s and continues to influence the board game industry.
Historians have every reason to believe that the earliest people played with chalk, and traces of Paleolithic cave art executed in chalk have been found throughout the world. Chalk’s use in playful pursuits relies on its physical properties. Chalk that was used on early boards was made of gypsum, the dihydrate form of calcium sulfate. Great masterpieces, clever doodles, informational expressions, educational lessons, and games like tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and four square all dance together on the tip of a piece of chalk, waiting to be freed by a child’s whim.
The Sorry! board game is one of many variants descended from the ancient Indian cross and circle game pachisi, commonly known and branded as Parcheesi in the United States. Instead of traditional dice, players draw cards that control the movement of their four pawns from start to home, on a board that resembles a modern, modified pachisi board. Sorry! has lasted because its gameplay is so random that it prompts good-natured (and devious gotcha!) fun. Even young players can claim victory over adults if they draw the right cards.
While some might consider Tamagotchi a fad, the innovative game helped shape the electronics toy market in the late 1990s and early 2000s, giving it a lasting legacy. Tamagotchi provided kids (and then nostalgic adults) with a digital pet that came alive. Children could raise their virtual pets from birth to adulthood with care, affection, and attention at the press of a button. Inspiring strong attachment and fascination, the Tamagotchi became a personal electronic device that playfully absorbed our attention and extended our cultural fascination with robots and androids.
When playing Yahtzee, each player takes a turn rolling the dice in a cup to try to match the combination of the number values with a list of predetermined combinations to score points. Simplicity, speed, and luck-based competition make the fast-paced game a perennial favorite among adults and children. Maker Hasbro estimates that 100 million play Yahtzee today on a “regular basis.
This year, fans can vote for their favorite 2020 National Toy Hall of Fame finalists from Sept. 9-16 as part of a “Player’s Choice” ballot at toyhalloffame.org. The three toys that receive the most public votes will be submitted and will join the other top three submissions by members of the National Selection Advisory Committee. The three 2020 National Toy Hall of Fame finalists that become inductees, chosen based on the ballots, will be announced by The Strong museum on Nov. 5.
To date, 71 toys have been inducted so far: alphabet blocks, Atari 2600 Game System, baby doll, ball, Barbie, bicycle, Big Wheel, blanket, bubbles, Candy Land, cardboard box, checkers, chess, Clue, coloring book, Crayola Crayons, dollhouse, dominoes, Duncan Yo-Yo, Dungeons & Dragons, Easy-Bake Oven, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Fisher-Price Little People, Frisbee, G.I. Joe, The Game of Life, Hot Wheels, Hula Hoop, jack-in-the-box, jacks, jigsaw puzzle, jump rope, kite, LEGO, Lincoln Logs, Lionel Trains, little green army men, Magic 8 Ball, Magic: The Gathering, marbles, Matchbox Cars, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Nintendo Game Boy, paper airplane, pinball, Play-Doh, playing cards, puppet, Radio Flyer Wagon, Raggedy Ann and Andy, rocking horse, roller skates, rubber duck, Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, Silly Putty, skateboard, Slinky, Star Wars action figures, stick, Super Soaker, swing, teddy bear, Tinkertoy, Tonka Trucks, Twister, Uno, View-Master, and Wiffle Ball.
All fun and games …
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