Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Spin Master: Putting Their Own “Spin” on Toys since 1994

Think about some of the “must-have” toys you’ve seen (or even procured) over the last few years. How about the playful robotic dog Zoomer? Or the small, colorful, hooked building balls called Bunchems? Or the great craze of 2016, Hatchimals (described by some as a cross between a Furby and a Tamagotchi)? These massively popular products are all from Canadian toy giant Spin Master, which has been developing fun, innovative toys for the past two decades. Founded in 1994, the company (which now employs more than 1,000 people globally) began with three pals, a unique idea, and lots of hard work.

Earth Buddy in-store display at Roots, about 1993. From the Spin Master Ltd. records, 1993–2017, The Strong, Rochester, New York.While at the University of Western Ontario in the early 1990s, friends Anton Rabie and Ronnen Harary operated Seiger Marketing, a venture for selling posters on college campuses. In 1994, Rabie and Harary, joined by fellow business school alum Ben Varadi, saw the opportunity to develop a novelty concept they later renamed “Earth Buddy.” With $10,000 in start-up funding, this hand-assembled product (crafted with pantyhose, sawdust, and grass seeds) eventually earned their growing company more than $2 million in sales. The following year, inspired by their latest creation (juggling batons called Devil Sticks), the company renamed itself Spin Master.

Oh Brother! Oh Sister!

Oh Brother! Oh Sister!

Mothers get their day in May. Fathers are feted in June. And what about sisters and brothers? Their turn comes on April 10—Siblings Day. Siblings Day hasn’t earned recognition as a federal holiday (yet), but since 1998, governors have proclaimed Siblings Day in 49 states. From experience and observation, I know that sibling relationships can…

Postwar Plastic Playthings: Affordability, Resources and Military Surplus

Postwar Plastic Playthings: Affordability, Resources and Military Surplus

I first became interested in the increase of plastic in children’s toys through my own daughter’s toys, especially since my undergrad degree was in Environment and Health, with a fourth year focus on Bisphenol A (also known as BPA) in baby bottles. Throughout my Masters studies, I focused on the central question of why we…

Playing with Puppies

Playing with Puppies

We have all heard the saying that a dog is man’s (and woman’s too) best friend. We love dogs so much that they even have their own special day—National Puppy Day! Canine companionship has been around for eons and extends from pets to working dogs. Whether they are snuggle buddies, sled pullers, or law enforcement…

Play for All Seasons

Play for All Seasons

I receive a lot of strange looks whenever I tell people that I look forward to the end of summer. Perhaps your face has morphed into such an expression after reading that. But there is logic behind my claim. It seems to me that the opportunity for play during the autumn and winter months is…

Rolling Out the First Driving Game

Rolling Out the First Driving Game

I’ve admired The Strong’s vintage Drive-Mobile arcade game since the first time I stood in front of it with Martin Reinhardt, the museum’s arcade game conservation technician. It was exciting to see how the first arcade driving game—a popular and enduring genre—actually worked. Martin opened the back of the game for me and demonstrated the…

“True Hollywood” Toy Stories: Tales of the Games and Toys We Love

"True Hollywood” Toy Stories: Tales of the Games and Toys We Love

When I was an undergraduate, I was obsessed with the television program E! True Hollywood Story. Each week, I took a salacious rollercoaster ride through the ups and downs of a celebrity’s life. Right before each commercial break, the narrator assured me that either the star was about to be saved from his downward spiral…

“Down at Fraggle Rock!”

“Down at Fraggle Rock!”

While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked as a DJ for the college radio station. One spring semester, I had a timeslot of 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday afternoons. I remember the sun often shining, and everyone being in a good mood as they prepared for the weekend. That’s when I started a tradition…

Fun at the Drive-In

Fun at the Drive-In

My favorite artifact in America at Play, an exhibit that opened on The Strong’s second floor in December 2016, isn’t the oldest, the biggest, or the showiest. But it’s one that transports me to another place and time. Which artifact has such magical powers? It’s the Remco Movieland Drive-In Theater play set from 1959. Today,…

But We Play It Like This: House Rules for Games

But We Play It Like This: House Rules for Games

Here’s a fun experiment: suggest playing a game of Monopoly and predict the responses you’ll receive. More often than not, you’ll be hit with an audible groan and the familiar refrain of “Has anyone ever actually finished a game of Monopoly?” Admittedly, I used to be anti-Monopoly myself. (During high school, my friend Meg and…