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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET



The Island of Old School Toys

December 21, 2010 - 12:02 PM | by: Mike Tobin

I’ve lost my crew today. There’s no danger. We haven’t gone anywhere that requires sophisticated navigation.  They all got their hands on the vintage Christmas gifts being pushed this season by operations like the Duluth Trading Company in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

They are a fine bunch of professionals, but if you let a 40 year old get his hands on a set of Lincoln Logs, you just lose him for a while he takes a trip back to his boyhood and builds a place to stay when he’s there. (The brand carried at Duluth is actually called Frontier Logs, but to me they’ll always be Lincoln Logs.)

That’s probably why stores like Duluth Trading and Dick’s 5 & 10 in Branson Missouri are finding great success by selling the simpler toys this year. I’m guilty of it as well. As soon as I get my hands on the building blocks or old balsa wood airplanes, I launch into a story that usually begins with, “I remember the time my brother and I…”

“People are looking for a simpler time, they are looking for the way it was,” says Steve Hartley of Dick’s 5 & 10. “We hear every single day, wow this took me back to my childhood.”

In a day when the assembly lines are busy making X-Box’s, Wii’s and guitar hero, it takes effort to get the toys of your childhood on the shelves. “We travel all over the US finding this merchandise,” says Hartley.

Tinker toys (Which are called Fiddle Sticks now) Etch a Sketch,  Lite Brite, Space Force and plain old wooden blocks; you can still get all of this stuff.  You can buy your little boy a toy gun without feeling like you have violated the rules of political correctness.  The difference between these toys and the sophisticated hand held gaming devices, that kids ask for today, is that a panel of software engineers does not create the final product, the kid does the creating.  “It suddenly turns on a part of their imagination… that the electronics don’t really do,” says Stephanie Pugliese of Duluth Trading Company.

The kids we found, however, were not asking for the Vintage toys. Mass marketing has told them that they want the American Girl Doll, the Game Cube or a toy that is linked to merchandising from a movie or TV show. It takes initiative from the parents to introduce kids to the world of their own imagination they can ride into on a stick pony. “Get them away from the TV for a little bit,” says Angela Leuzinger a mother in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

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