The National Toy Hall of Fame was founded in 1998 to celebrate classic American toys that have national significance. The selection process involves nominations from the public and a committee of experts who consider criteria such as longevity, innovation, and contribution to learning and creativity. 39 toys have been inducted since 1999, including the Erector Set, Barbie, and Monopoly. The Hall of Fame is now part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.
The National Toy Hall of Fame is an American museum created to celebrate the nation’s classic toys and toys. The hall was founded in 1998 by AC Gilbert’s Discovery Village, a children’s museum in Salem, Oregon.
The village was named in honor of AC Gilbert, the creator of the Erector Set, an engineering toy that allowed children to build elaborate objects such as bridges and Ferris wheels. He has also marketed educational toys such as chemistry sets, telegraph sets, American Flyer® trains and MystoMagic® sets. AC Gilbert wanted his toys to combine play and learning and realized that toys could encourage creative expression and satisfy a child’s natural curiosity about the world.
The National Toy Hall of Fame’s mission parallels Gilbert’s goal of choosing to recognize only toys that have national significance in the world of play and the imagination. In 2002, the museum had outgrown its original home and was relocated to Rochester, New York, where it became part of the Strong National Museum of Play, which houses more than 70,000 toys, dolls and games.
There is a specific process for selecting toys that enter the National Toy Hall of Fame. Any child or adult can name their favorite toy through the US Mail, the Internet, or at the Strong Museum of Play. An internal museum advisory board made up of educators, museum curators, and historians reviews the nominations and determines which toys meet the selection criteria. A national selection committee then reviews the toy list, and each member votes for their top picks for induction. Then the votes are tallied and the toys that get the most votes are inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
There are several criteria that a toy must meet. This criterion includes the status of the icon, which means that the toy is widely recognized, remembered and respected. The toy or game must also boast longevity, meaning that it has enjoyed popularity for multiple generations and is not just a fad. The toy must also have contributed to discovery by fostering learning and creativity. Finally, the toy must be innovative, which means that the toy must have profoundly changed the way people play or the design of the toy was new and revolutionary.
Thirty-nine toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame since 1999. The opening class of inductees was a long list of 18 toys. Original selections included the Erector Set, Barbie® doll, Crayola® crayons, Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Etch-A-Sketch®. Other toys introduced included Lego®, Lincoln Logs®, marbles, Play Doh®, Radio Flyer® Wagon, roller skates and the teddy bear. Tinkertoys®, View-Master®, Duncan Yo-Yo® and the Monopoly® board game were also selected for their first year longevity.
Since the Strong Museum of Play took over the National Toy Hall of Fame, only a few toys are inducted each year. The year 2000 saw the bicycle, jacks, jump rope, Slinky® and Mr. Potato Head® added to the hall. The following year, the only two inductions were Silly Putty® and Tonka® Trucks.
In 2002, there were more than 90 nominations, but Raggedy Ann and Puzzle were the only ones eligible. The class of 2003 saw the addition of alphabet blocks and checkers to the growing list, while 2004 was the year of GI Joe®, the rocking horse, and the Scrabble® board game.
The nominees for 2005 included Candy Land®, the jack-in-the-box, and the plain and simple cardboard box. In 2006, only Easy Bake Oven® and Lionel Trains made the cut.
In 2007, the kite, Raggedy Andy, and the sophisticated but outdated Atari 2600 system were chosen to join the National Hall of Fame’s lineup of classic toys. Interestingly, the Atari video game system was the most recently invented toy in the room. The kite, on the other hand, is believed to be the oldest having been invented in China nearly 3,000 years ago.
Created not only to recognize the importance of those classic toys, the Hall of Fame also celebrates the imagination of toy makers. Toys and their makers are an important part of American history. They hold memories, symbolize ideas and reflect the values of the generation that created them.