National Toy Hall Of Fame
November 11, 2011 by staff
In a Thursday morning ceremony that took on a game show format at The Strong, the dollhouse and Hot Wheels miniature cars joined the likes of Mr. Potato Head, Raggedy Ann and Silly Putty as icons of play. They were joined by a special all-purpose toy, the blanket.
The dollhouse and Hot Wheels beat out 10 other 2011 finalists: The Rubik’s Cube, Simon, Star Wars action figures, Transformers, Twister board game, Dungeons & Dragons, Jenga, the Pogo Stick, puppets and R/C vehicles.
The blanket’s ability to instantly turn into a wedding gown, a magic carpet, a fort, or a superhero cape via youthful imagination made it a shoo-in, said CQChristopher Bensch, The Strong’s vice president for collections. “It does so many things for kids everywhere,” he said.
Similarly, the cardboard box and the stick, inducted in 2005 and 2008 respectively, are in a special category of “toys of the imagination.”
Nominated in past years but never making the final cut, “Hot Wheels are the Susan Lucci of the toy world,” said Bensch. “Susan finally got her Emmy.”
Hot Wheels, which have allowed kids to vicariously feel the speedy thrills of Corvettes, Cougars and Barracudas, were introduced by Mattel in 1968. The toy maker especially designed the die-cast muscle cars to have low-friction axles and soft wheels for race-minded thrills, and developed plastic tracks with the eye-catching orange loop that transformed living room floors into speedways.
According to Mattel lore, co-founder Elliot Handler came up with the name when he spied a colleague’s sxy muscle car in the parking lot. “Wow, those are hot wheels,” he exclaimed. The company has made more than 3 billion cars, ousting out-producing the Big Three automakers. Hot Wheels are still revving up toy sales at the rate of eight cars every second.
Like the Hula Hoop, the dollhouse began as an adult amusement, then quickly gained popularity among the younger generation. Wealthy European women of the 16th century displayed their collection of miniatures in what were called baby houses to show off their good taste in textiles, woodwork and art. A century later, dollhouses had become the fodder of German toymakers.
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