We’re sure it says something about our childhood that we assumed every toy we embraced was created just for us, or at least our generation. But you’d be surprised to find out just how old some toys are, loved not just by the generation before us, but sometimes before them… and even before them.
Here are 20 nostalgic toys that are looking pretty fine for their age.
Battleship has been around a lot longer than we realised. Early versions of the game include the game Baslinda from the 1890s, the French game L’Attaque played during World War I and Salvo published in 1931. Battleship as we know it today with the plastic boards and pegs was created in 1967 by Milton Bradley.
Twister will be celebrating its 50th birthday in 2016, it’s quite the gracefully aged dame!
Operation has been around since 1965. The poor patient’s name is “Cavity Sam” and his maladies include a broken heart, writer’s cramp, butterflies in his stomach and brain freeze. Someone send him some flowers!
1950: Magic 8 Ball
We remember when Magic 8 Balls swept the playgrounds of Australia, no one had ever seen anything like them before… How wrong we were. Magic 8 Balls have been commercially available since 1950 – one even appeared in a Three Stooges movie in 1940.
1950: Etch A Sketch
The Etch A Sketch was invented in the late 1950s by Frenchman André Cassagnes with the slightly less catchy name L’Ecran Magique.
1947: Tonka Trucks
The Tonka company was formed in 1947 and originally produced metal tie-racks. They started creating toys as a side project but their Tonka trucks became so wildly popular that they became America’s third-largest toy company.
1943: Silly Putty
Silly Putty is weird, awesome and completely gross to touch. It was actually invented completely by accident during research into potential rubber substitutes for use by the United States in World War II.
The Slinky was invented by a naval mechanical engineer in the early 1940s after he watched one of his springs fall from a shelf, and “step” down a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor.
1920: Pogo Stick
An early prototype of what is known as the Pogo Stick was invented in 1891 when a “stilt utilising compression springs on each foot” was patented in 1891. The pogo stick, as we know it now, appeared in 1920 when two Germans named Hans and Ernst launched the “spring end hopping stilt”.
Meccano has always had an old-fashioned look and charm about it so we knew it wasn’t exactly new, but we didn’t realise it was created two centuries ago. Meccano were first conceived by a man named Frank Hornby in 1898 who originally called the product “Mechanics Made Easy” (which we kind of like).
Plasticine was created by an art teacher in England in 1897 who wanted a non-drying clay for his sculpture students. Plasticine became commercially available in 1900 and the exact composition is a secret!
With a name like “Tiddlywinks”, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that this game was created in a very different era, 1889 to be exact. Tiddlywinks was created in Victorian England by John Jaques and Son and became a massive craze in London during the 1890s.
The kaleidoscopes we know today, with rattling pieces of coloured plastic and cheap mirrors, don’t scream ‘old world charm”, but they were in fact invented in 1817. Upon launch they proved to be quite the sensation with over 200,000 items sold within three months in London and Paris.
1760: Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaws are such obvious and timeless that we supposed that they’d always been around. They were actually first made and sold commercially in London in 1760, and at that time were made of wood rather than the commonly used cardboard of today. (via Strengh Will Rise)
300 BC: Rag Dolls
We recently talked about some of our favourite modern rag dolls on Mum’s Grapevine and that inspired us to find out exactly how old they are. We thought maybe Victorian era but surprised to learn that the oldest rag doll found was from 300 BC in Ancient Rome (via See How We Sew).
500 BC: Yo-Yo
The modern day Yo-yo was created in 1928 by a man named Pedro Flores in California. However the toy actually has a much richer heritage: yo-yos were found to be a popular toy with children as far back as 500 BC in Greece, where they were made of wood, metal or terra cotta.
900-950 BC: Wooden Horse
It turns out that little children have had wooden animals with wheels for legs for a very long time. One from Ancient Greece dating 950-900 BC has been found. When Greek children (especially girls) came of age it was customary for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods.
3,000 BC: Board Games
Board games are really, really old. Egyptians were known to play a board game called Senet as long ago as 3500 BC and an ancient backgammon set from 3000 BC has been found in Iran. The first board game with a known creator was A Journey Through Europe by John Jeffreys in the 1750s. (via flickr)
5,000 BC: Toy Car
The first toy car to feature two axles and 4 wheels dating is actually 7500 years old. Found in Turkey and made from stone, this toy car – or maybe tractor, or maybe chariot – was found with other toys including 6000 year old whistles that still work! (via Messsage to Eagle)
The Good ‘Ole Stick
Ask any child, sticks are simply the best. The ultimate make-believe sword, or wand, or fishing pole or generic tool to poke things. In 2008, the National Toy Museum inducted the stick into the National Toy Hall of Fame, noting it’s probably the world’s oldest toy.