S Is For Stan (Lee), (FAO) Schwarz, Star Wars, Scrabble, Spin Master & Slinky
Has there been a single person who has had as much influence on the toy business as Stan Lee? Aside from Walt Disney & George Lucas perhaps there aren’t many obvious objections to declaring Stan Lee to be the single most influential person in the history of toys. Stan created (or co-created) Spider Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange and Black Widow. These comic book superheroes have yielded some of the best-selling toys of all time. Hats off to Stan Lee for his monumental impact on the world of family entertainment and toys especially.
This iconic toy store started out in Baltimore in 1862 before moving to New York City. The company was founded by a German immigrant whose name was Frederick August Otto Schwarz. The company expanded through the 1990s, building up a store portfolio of around 40 stores. The company then hit some hard times and there were multiple changes in ownership (including famous toy retailer Toys R Us). The FAO Schwarz brand is still operating today, with the flagship store now based in the Rockefeller building in Manhattan.
Star Wars was the first movie to create a merchandising and toy licensing phenomena. The depth and breadth of the movie and the broader Star Wars ‘universe’ have supported a massive cross category toy program ever since the first movie came out way back in 1977. The total franchise has thus far grossed more than $10bn USD at the global box office, with more than 300 million Star Wars action figures sold during the first cinematic trilogy wave from 1977 to 1985. Even when there were no movies for years, Star Wars still remained a top toy property throughout.
Scrabble is one of THE classic board games of all time, with more than 150 million games sold to date and with more than 1 million games selling each year still in North America. The game was originally invented by American architect Alfred Mosher Butts in 1938. The game was originally titled ‘Lexiko’ before Busts changed the name to ‘Criss Cross Words’. Butts struggled to make a commercial success of the game though and sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot. Scrabble’s timeless appeal lies in its softly educational topic and format, alongside the competition to win by laying down the highest scoring words.
Spin Master is now one of the world’s biggest toy companies with offices around the world and a full portfolio of brands including newer entertainment properties such as Paw Patrol, alongside an ever growing portfolio of classic toys & games – including Rubiks Cube and Meccano. Original started in 1994 by two childhood friends – Ronnen Harary and Anton Rabie, with 3rd co-founder Ben Varadi joining not that long after, the company has seen meteoric growth over time.
The Slinky was invented by a Naval Engineer in the USA – Richard T. James – way back in 1943. The Slinky has sold in excess of 300 million units, and even had a supporting role in the Toy Story movie franchise! Generations of children have wowed at Slinky moving down the stairs in a controlled way all on its own. The simplicity of play combined with the cleverness of the technical design make Slinky an iconic, classic and timeless toy!
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