Monday, February 13, 2012
Bring Your Own Potato, At First
Did you, my people readers, have a Mr. Potato Head toy when you were little? Invented by George Lerner in 1949, the Hasbro Corporation manufactured and marketed this now famous spud beginning in 1952. Mr. P-H began his career as a genuine potato. Parents could purchase the bodily attachments and use a real potato as the head. This may have seemed wasteful to post-World War II parents, and so the toy was not an immediate success. Hasbro, however, ramped-up the marketing campaign--Mr. P-H was the first toy advertised on television--and, eight years after its introduction, a plastic body was included.
Mr. Potato Head (1952) by Hasbro
This spud fella has an intriguing history, some of which you may learn at the Indianapolis Children's Museum, which has a Mr. Potato Head exhibit on display through May 6. It appears to be interactive, at least in part, so children ages 3-8 (the recommended audience) should have some fun.
Mr. Potato Head (with Plastic Body)
What about us felines? Mr. Potato Head was an interesting toy to bat around with our paws, and we could pull off his attachments--eyes, ears, mouth, moustache, feet, arms, hats, what-not--with our mouths or our paws. These, too, could be batted around for awhile. Eventually, or, actually, rather quickly, this faux spud became boring to us kitties, and so we would find more engaging entertainment, like digging in potted plants or watching what Sparkle the Designer Cat aptly calls "bird TV." Mr. P-H had that funky plastic smell, anyway, which can be quite off-putting to us felines. Using an actual potato would smell much better to us cats.
For my money, if I had any, I preferred another Hasbro classic toy, G. I. Joe. Now there was a toy a cat could enjoy batting around and grabbing by the head and dragging under furniture. There was clothing made of real fabric to shred with our claws, and there were lots of accessories to grab with paws and mouth, bat around with paws, and hide in people's shoes. G. I. Joe gave us a chance to hone our hunting and stalking skills. Plus, as America's movable fighting man (advertising trademark used between 1964-1969), he was challenging prey. Of course, people (especially kids) usually became agitated when we "played" with G. I. Joe is such fashion, but if anything is accessible in a home with kitties, then it's fair game.
G. I. Joe has become quite a collectors' item since Hasbro introduced the action figure in 1964. So I suppose using him as a "cat toy" depreciated his value a little. By the way, Scowl-Face had six of these dudes (1964-1966 versions), which he still has in their original packaging. He has them stashed in a closet in some old suitcases. They may not be pristine, but they are in pretty fine shape, especially for having been cooped up in those suitcases for the past 40 years.
I suppose Mr. Potato Heads are collectibles, too. There appear to be several websites devoted to the lovable spud. To find them, just use any Internet search engine.
Our online Evergreen Indiana catalog has many collectible toy price guides. Just run a keyword search using the terms collectible modern toy price guide to find books including many popular toys during the past half century. Be sure to select "Everywhere" in the location drop-down menu.
I just realized that Mr. Potato Head (Hasbro's version) is 60 years old this year. Lucky they're not including real potatoes in the boxes. After more than half a century, they would probably be rather ripe.
Enjoy the Children's Museum Exhibit,
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Kiddy Toys News Beat
P.S. Here's a vintage television commercial promoting Hasbro's Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, from the days when kids (or their parents) had to furnish their own potatoes or fruit. Two dollars seems like a bargain today, but that was a pile of money back in the 1950s. Maybe a whole day's pay! Well, maybe not quite that bad. The U.S. hourly minimum wage was 75 cents in 1950 and $1.00 in 1956.