July 21, 2018

TDmonthly Magazine

March 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 3

Recession Gives Way to Retro Resurgence

Nostalgia and Play Value Fuel Popularity of Classic Toys

By Claudia Newcorn
March 2009

“We want to emphasize the feeling that the experience with the toy creates, rather than the mere ownership of the toy itself.” Ray Goodhart, Ages & Stages Toy Box
Quality. Simpler times. Hands-on play. According to retailers, buyers and industry experts who spoke with TDmonthly Magazine, these are some of the key reasons retro toys continue to enjoy a resurgence among consumers.


While retro toys aren’t new to the market, demand is on the upswing for traditional playthings.

During the holiday season, “people were trying to make sure that the money they spent was spent well,” noted Casey Sartain, buyer for Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Instead of buying lots of gifts, they wanted one or two that were going to last.”

Retailers have reported increased demand for such classics as Slinky [by Poof-Slinky], Jack-in-the-Box, Lincoln Logs and Risk [by Hasbro], as well as rubber-band guns.

“Parents and grandparents want to provide their children with positive experiences. This is especially true in tough times,” explained Ken Moe, general manager of Back To Basics Toys, a subsidiary of Scholastic Inc. that has specialized in classic toys since 1988.


Classics can transport children and adults to other, simpler eras in history, said Ray Goodhart, president of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo. He believes retro toys “act as a ‘time machine’ of sorts.”

Diana Nelson, owner of Kazoo Toys in Denver, added that, “when economic times are tough, people tend to be comfortable with what they know.”

What they know, indicated Moe, is that retro toys “have timeless appeal because they provide a fun, safe and often open-ended play opportunity. … The familiarity brings a sense of comfort that people associate with their own childhoods.”

They’re a source of fond remembrance, and something parents can share with their kids.

“Classic toys have a strong play pattern that transcends generations. For some nostalgic toys, such as Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears [both by Play Along] and My Little Pony [by Hasbro], new moms have their favorite childhood memories,” said Reyne Rice, Toy Industry Association Trend Specialist. “Dads also have nostalgic favorites, such as Hot Wheels cars [by Mattel] , and their experiences as children with building sets, such as the LEGO classic house-building set.”

According to Moe, sales of construction toys, such as the Erector Set [by Nikko], marble runs and wood blocks, are also up, as well as musical instruments — the grand piano, acoustic guitar, and the sing-along CD player. Likewise, demand is up for traditional board games, as “Family Night” regains popularity.


Part of retro toys’ hidden magic is that they stimulate creativity at many levels. “We want to emphasize the feeling that the experience with the toy creates, rather than the mere ownership of the toy itself,” Goodhart expressed.

Toys that encourage active play, including the trampoline, balance board and pogo stick, have been popular of late, Moe told TDmonthly. “All of these items promote learning, social and physical development, and engage children for long periods of time,” he said.


Demand for nostalgic toys continues to grow.

“The last five years have seen a shift toward the classics, which started with parents interested in buying natural and wood products for their children,” Moe told TDmonthly. “I think every generation has made these toys its own and, with the economy being tight, we are clearly seeing a huge shift back towards the simplicity of classic toys and open-ended play. The imaginativeness that these toys spark never goes out of style.”

“There was so much tradition and honesty in a lot of those toys,” agreed Sartain. “I think [retro toys] have always been and will be popular.”

See a collection of popular retro toys below:

Original Slinky by POOF-SLINKY INC.

Original Slinky by POOF-SLINKY INC.

Kids today can enjoy this classic metal toy as much as their parents did when they were children. Awards: TDmonthly Classic 2008.
— Original Slinkys are one of the top-10 best sellers at the Lollipop Shop in Jonesborough, Tenn., and Kiawah Island, S.C., Co-owner Jeff Gurley told TDmonthly in spring 2008.
— “Slinkys are still doing very well,” Ray Goodhart of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., told TDmonthly in May 2008, noting that they sell “probably 15 to 20” per month.
— “Slinky — nostalgia does very well,” Linda Hill, owner of Emerald Isle Toys in Emerald Isle, N.C., told TDmonthly in May 2008. “[We sell] 50 per year … [to] kids — not parents — looking for older toys.”
— In May 2008, three of 55 retailers named the Slinky as one of their best-selling novelty items. Original Slinkys are a top-10 best seller at the Lollipop Shop in Jonesborough, Tenn., and Kiawah Island, S.C., Co-owner Jeff Gurley told TDmonthly in spring 2008.

Where to Buy: Rocking Horse Toy Store; Berkira (Watch the Original Slinky Video Watch Video) 6/4/2008 (Age: 5 and Up)

Curious George Jack in the Box by SCHYLLING

Curious George Jack in the Box by SCHYLLINGWind the crank and a plush Curious George pops out of the 5” tin box. The song “Pop Goes the Weasel” plays as the crank is activated. This item is intended for children over the age of 18 months. Launch date: December 2000.
— “I sell quite a bit of [Schylling’s] Jack-in-the-boxes,” Jeanne McCullough, owner of Children's Store Inc. in Boise, Idaho, told TDmonthly, when asked to name her store’s best-selling novelties.
— Three retailers singled out Schylling products as best sellers in the novelty category.
— Over a dozen other jack-in-the-box varieties are available in the Schylling line. 5/19/2008 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 1 and Up)

Lincoln Logs Travel Sets by K'NEX BRANDS

Lincoln Logs Travel Sets by KLast spring, popular Lincoln Logs were introduced in clear bags with handles, offering the familiar wood logs and plastic roofs in portable form.
--Lincoln Logs are a top seller on
--“Lincoln Logs have been around since 1916, yet nearly 90 years later, they still remain our top sellers,” said Mark Carson, co-owner of Fat Brain Toys.
--These toys are among the Top 10 product lines of 2004 at  1/31/2005 (Age: 3 and Up)

Schoenhut® Elite Baby Grand Piano by SCHOENHUT PIANO COMPANY

Schoenhut® Elite Baby Grand Piano by SCHOENHUT PIANO COMPANYSchoenhut® Piano Company has taken the concept of pianos for the very young a step further with this new three-octave Elite Baby Grand. With a keyboard almost half the size of an adult piano, this new model is designed with the three-to-nine-year-old in mind. "Not just a toy," it is a fine musical instrument and beautiful piece of furniture as well. 9/24/2007 (MSRP: $235.00; Age: 3 and Up)

Risk: Black Ops by HASBRO INC.

Risk: Black Ops by HASBRO INC.RISK gets a new look and feel in 2008 with an updated map, new rules and faster action. Planning and executing strategic military campaigns has never been more intense as modernized rules streamline playing time to a fast and furious 90-minute average. New universal-themed playing pieces eliminate the Napoleonic-era timestamp of RISK, permitting players to engage in campaigns of conquest limited only by their imagination. In addition, rule updates increase the rewards of taking risks during each turn. “Relevant figures help update the game to today’s audience while objectives help add strategy and cut down playing time,” Rebecca Woelfel of Hunter PR told TDmonthly. Launch date: Fall 2008. 4/11/2008 (MSRP: $22.99; )

Anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids® by PLAY ALONG INC.

Anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids® by PLAY ALONG INC.The Anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids™ bring back the magic of the original 1983 Kids by replicating their vintage fashions, hairstyles and facial expressions. In beautiful keepsake packaging, each of the new Kids has a special “25th anniversary” Xavier Roberts signature and comes with a silver anniversary baby spoon, a commemorative silver-stamped 25th anniversary birth certificate and adoption papers. Launch date: September 2008. 4/28/2008 (MSRP: $29.99; Age: 3 and Up)

Care Bears™ 25th Anniversary Bear by PLAY ALONG INC.

Care Bears™ 25th Anniversary Bear by PLAY ALONG INC.This limited edition silver bear celebrates the silver anniversary of the Care Bears. The bear features Swarovski crystal eyes, sterling silver accents and more. Additionally, each 25th Anniversary Bear will come with a special DVD containing “The Land Without Feelings,” the very first Care Bears episode. This episode originally aired in 1982 and was never re-released. Launch date: September 25, 2007. 7/25/2007 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 3 and Up)


Nylon strings, spruce top, mahogany back and sides. Chrome plated machine heads, pearl dot side position markers, Rosewood finger board, Nickel-silver frets, single black binding. Guitar length is 34". 12/19/2008 (MSRP: $82.00)

My Little Pony Crystal Rainbow Castle Playset by HASBRO INC.

My Little Pony Crystal Rainbow Castle Playset by HASBRO INC.Castle playset expands to two feet tall and three floors high to become home to all of your child’s favorite My Little Pony figures.  12/7/2006 (Age: 3 and Up)

WePlay Maze Balance Board by WEE BLOSSOM INC.

WePlay Maze Balance Board by WEE BLOSSOM INC.This brightly colored balance board maze provides kids with a challenging, yet fun exercise. Kids stand on the maze with the ball positioned in the holding position on the maze. By strategically and timely shifting their weight on the maze, kids will be able to maneuver the ball through the maze. The round maze is over 21" wide and accommodates up to 175 pounds. Launch date: 2006. 7/19/2007 (MSRP: $49.99; Age: 3 and Up)

Mattel Hot Wheels – 60th Anniversary Ferrari ENZO Hard Top by TOY WONDERS INC.

Mattel Hot Wheels – 60th Anniversary Ferrari ENZO Hard Top by TOY WONDERS INC.Manufactured by Mattel, this 1:18 scale red die-cast collectible model features metal construction and is individually packed in a window box. Launch date: June 18, 2007. 7/2/2007 (MSRP: $39.99; Age: 8 and Up)

Classic House Building Set by LEGO

Classic House Building Set by LEGOLittle architects will find creative inspiration in a jar! The new clear storage format contains a versatile mix of roof tiles, doors, windows and bricks which are complemented by the reintroduction of LEGO trees and flowers to create houses — from small cottages to big mansions. The jar with lid makes clean up fun and easy and helps keep all of the 233 pieces in one place.
— “Any LEGO product, I can't keep them on the shelf,” said Warren Brown, owner of French’s Toy Shop in Concord, N.H.  “It has a wide age-range and has universal appeal,” pointed out Joseph Baiocco, manager of Big Top of Scarsdale, in N.Y.
— LEGO products can be "low cost items that can easily add to other LEGO creations or be used alone," Angel Stahl, owner of Angel’s Toy Barn in Greensburg,  Pa., told TDmonthly
— TDmonthly recently spoke with with Michael McNally, the Director of LEGO Brand Relations, who said, "The entire LEGO Creator Classic Building Line got a new twist this year with several sets designed to offer unique collections of LEGO bricks and elements to help young builders create the cars, homes, and buildings they see throughout their every day." 6/7/2006 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 4 and Up)

Pogo Roo Jr. Pogo Stick by SPORT-FUN INC.

Pogo Roo Jr. Pogo Stick by SPORT-FUN INC.Pogo Roo Jr. Pogo Stick is a one-piece injection-molded frame with a uniformly coiled high-tension steel safety spring and exclusive, patented Duraguard spring cover for added safety.  The heavy-duty jumping pole is made of welded tubular steel and comes with a urethane cushion tip that will not damage floors.  This toy is perfect for young jumpers and can support 40 to 80 lbs.  Launch date: January 2007. 5/21/2007 (MSRP: $24.99; Age: 6 to 10)

Deluxe 68-Piece Block Set by BEKA INC.

Deluxe 68-Piece Block Set by BEKA INC.From the company's traditional collection of wooden blocks made in the USA, this set features 68 blocks in 12 shapes: 10 units, 10 half units, 10 half pillars, eight pillars, six columns, 4 double pillars, four Roman arches, four half circles, four small triangles, four double flats, two roof boards and two double units.
— “They don’t require minimums,” said Peg Scholtes, owner of Capitol Kids in Madison, Wis., when naming BEKA as a preferred vendor in fall 2008. Two other retailers, out of 52, also listed the company as a favorite. (Watch the Deluxe 68-Piece Block Set Video Watch Video) 11/20/2008 (MSRP: $158.00)

Schoolhouse Naturals ABC Block Set by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.

Schoolhouse Naturals ABC Block Set by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.This set includes 16 hard maple blocks that measure 1.75" and can collectively be used to spell more than 350 words. Each unfinished block features a letter, and its background has a detailed, laser-designed image of an object that begins with that letter — S for snowflake, for example. Launch date: 2008. 10/21/2008 (MSRP: $98.00; Age: 1 and Up)

6'6" Tot Master Trampoline by TRAMPOLINES USA INC.

The Tot Master is a Fantastic Trampoline with its thick safety pads to safeguard potential injuries. A free Spring Tool is also included. Composed of a galvanized steel frame, the 14" tall Tot Master has a diameter of 78" and can support up to 100 lbs. 2/6/2007 (MSRP: $159.00)

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