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Every toy in the National Toy Hall of Fame

  • Every toy in the National Toy Hall of Fame

    For time immemorial, every kid in history has had a favorite toy—even if that toy was nothing more than a stick found on the ground. Some toys are meant for individuals, some are meant to be shared in groups. Some encourage competition, others stress socialization, creativity, collaboration, or imagination. Others are simply meant to pass the time on rainy days.

    Toys have been a part of recorded history since history has been recorded—literally. There’s evidence of kids playing with toys dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt and China. The digital age has spawned an entirely new era of entertainment and play for kids of all ages, but some of the greatest toys in history are products of the analog era.

    For decades, toys were marketed by gender. Girls played with dolls, boys played with trucks. Over the generations, however, the lines have been blurred and children of all stripes hand their favorite toys off to each other, to siblings of any gender, and to playmates who share in the fun.

    Some toys, like Tonka Trucks, have evolved dramatically over the years and kept up with the times. Others, like the rocking horse, remain basically the same as they’ve been for centuries. No matter their lineage, history, or source, the very best of them all are enshrined for the ages in the National Toy Hall of Fame, which is maintained by the National Museum of Play.

    Stacker sorted every toy in the National Toy Hall of Fame by the year they were inducted based on 2019 data released in 2020. Some are name-brand toys with trademarks, others are generic. Others, like paper planes and cardboard boxes, aren’t toys at all until imaginative children turn them into one.

    Here’s a nostalgic look at the greatest toys of all time, some of which have been lost to history, while others are still on store shelves today.

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  • Barbie

    - Inducted: 1998

    Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler made the one-dimensional paper dolls that dominated the girls’ toys market in the 1950s a stone-age relic when she created Barbie in 1959. Within a year, it was the best-selling fashion doll in history. The slim and curvaceous Barbie soon became a target of feminists who claimed her image set an impossibly high standard for girls and women. Over the decades, Barbie’s body evolved, as did her ethnicity, but the plastic little lady remains the greatest fashionista in the toy universe.

  • Crayola Crayons

    - Inducted: 1998

    Crayola has been the gold standard—or Cornsilk standard if you’re a stickler for label names—of crayons since the Binney & Smith company changed child art forever in 1903. The barn paint company moved into the school supplies business when it created a line of colored sticks made of non-toxic wax—at a nickel a box, they didn’t last long on store shelves. New colors like Burnt Sienna and Macaroni and Cheese emerged over the years and dated ones like Indian Red and peach-colored Flesh disappeared as times and attitudes changed.

  • Erector Set

    - Inducted: 1998

    In 1911, America was going vertical as soaring skyscrapers were transforming skylines across the country, and it was all thanks to the invention of the steel skeleton construction frame. That year, a man named A.C. Gilbert developed the Erector Set, a new kind of toy marketed to boys who loved to build, just as Barbie was pitched to girls whose passions were assumed to be limited to purses and shoes. As it turns out, legions of both boys and girls used the engineering and construction toy set to build mini skyscrapers of their own until 1980, when the Erector Set went the way of cities made of wood.

  • Etch A Sketch

    - Inducted: 1998

    Incredible YouTube videos prove that it is technically possible to create intricate artistic masterpieces with an old-fashioned Etch A Sketch, but for most people, the results were a blur of squiggly horizontal and vertical gray lines. French electrical technician André Cassagnes didn’t get much of a response when he shopped around his L’Ecran Magique (Magic Screen) in 1959, but the Ohio Art Company recognized magic when it saw it, plunked down an investment, and the rest is drawing, shaking, and erasing history.

  • Frisbee

    - Inducted: 1998

    The Frisbee is so incredibly famous that people use its trademarked name to describe even the many off-brand imposters—when was the last time anyone asked a friend if they wanted to toss around a flying disc on the beach? It all started in the late 19th century when Yale students passed the time by playing catch with pie plates made by the Frisbie Baking Company in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut. Attempting to capitalize on the 1947 UFO sightings in Roswell, New Mexico, two guys named Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni created a plastic—and much more catchable—disc that appeared to float and hover as it traveled through the air.

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  • LEGO

    - Inducted: 1998

    A Danish carpenter invented the first LEGO bricks in 1949 and a little less than a decade later, the LEGO company patented the tiny building blocks, which can be mixed and matched in an essentially infinite number of combinations. The famous interlocking tubes and studs on just two LEGO blocks can be joined in 24 different ways. With six LEGO blocks, that number jumps to an astonishing 102,981,500 possible combinations.

  • Marbles

    - Inducted: 1998

    Beautiful and basic, marbles were referenced by William Shakespeare and have a history dating back to ancient Egypt. The game of skill that involves one player knocking another’s marbles out of contention—that’s the genesis of the expression “lost their marbles”—is now an officially recognized sport complete with its own standardized rules and championship series.

  • Monopoly

    - Inducted: 1998

    “Go directly to jail—do not pass GO, do not collect $200” is arguably the most famous quote in board game history—and Monopoly is arguably history’s most famous board game. Originally called the Landlord’s Game when it was first created in 1904, the game lampooned the greed and ambition that fueled the era’s gaping economic inequality. By the time of the Depression, Monopoly was the best-selling game in America and tabletop real estate magnates have been dreaming of a hotel on Boardwalk ever since.

  • Play-Doh

    - Inducted: 1998

    What began as a wallpaper cleaner went on to earn a place as history’s most famous and beloved modeling compound. Play-Doh emerged in its modern form in the mid-1950s and expanded in the ’80s to include a rainbow of new colors and related devices that could grind the malleable material into things like hair, spaghetti, and unmeltable ice cream. It’s estimated that 700 million pounds of the stuff have passed through the hands of children over the years.

  • Teddy Bear

    - Inducted: 1998

    Nothing says childhood like a worn and raggedy one-eyed Teddy Bear with stuffing popping out of his stitches after years of serving as his owner’s security blanket. But Teddy Bears aren’t just for bedrooms—their super-sized brothers and sisters are still a staple of boardwalk and carnival game prizes to this day. History’s most popular plush toy, the venerable Teddy Bear borrows its name from Teddy Roosevelt, who supposedly refused to shoot a wounded bear that his hunting party had tied to a tree.

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