Ed Sobey, who was the first director of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, founded the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.1 Originally located in Salem, Oregon, within the A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, the National Toy Hall of Fame was purchased in 2002 by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, later known as The Strong, and moved to Rochester, New York.2 It is one of the five play partners of The Strong.
The National Toy Hall of Fame recognizes toys and games that inspire creative play over multiple generations. Toys can be nominated by anyone for the Hall of Fame, and they are then selected by historians and educators according to four criteria:
- icon-status, how widely they are known
- longevity, how long they have been enjoyed
- discovery, how they encourage learning through play
- innovation, how they have changed play or toy designs3
This last factor, innovation, can outweigh all the other criteria if the toy has made an industry changing contribution. An example of this is the Atari 2600 Game System, which was inducted in 2007.
The National Toy Hall of Fame began by honoring Crayola Crayons, Barbie, the Erector Set, the Etch a Sketch, Frisbee, LEGOs, marbles, Monopoly, Play-Doh, the Teddy bear, and Tinkertoys in 1998. The Erector Set was of special significance since the A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village that housed the National Toy Hall of Fame was named after the inventor of the Erector Set.4
Since 1998, the National Toy Hall of Fame has generally honored two or three toys each year, including such classics as the Hula Hoop, G.I. Joe, Candy Land, Tonka Trucks, Duncan Yo-Yo, View-Master, Radio Flyer Wagon, and the Slinky. They have also honored a general category of toys, such as the bicycle, playing cards, alphabet blocks, kites, cardboard boxes, the blanket, and the stick.5
The annual list of inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame is:
- 1998 – Barbie, Crayola Crayons, Erector Set, Etch A Sketch, Frisbee, LEGOs, Marbles, Monopoly, Play-Doh, Teddy Bear, Tinkertoy
- 1999 – Duncan Yo-Yo, Hula Hoop, Lincoln Logs, Radio Flyer Wagon, Roller Skates, View-Master
- 2000 – Bicycle, Jacks, Jump Rope, Mr. Potato Head, Slinky
- 2001 – Silly Putty, Tonka Trucks
- 2002 – Jigsaw Puzzle, Raggedy Ann
- 2003 – Alphabet Blocks, Checkers
- 2004 – G.I. Joe, Rocking Horse, SCRABBLE
- 2005 – Candy Land, Jack-in-the-Box, Cardboard Box
- 2006 – Easy-Bake Oven, Lionel Trains
- 2007 – Atari 2600 Game System, Kite, Raggedy Andy
- 2008 – Baby Doll, Skateboard, Stick
- 2009 – Ball, Big Wheel, Nintendo Game Boy
- 2010 – Playing Cards, The Game of Life
- 2011 – Blanket, Dollhouse, Hot Wheels
- 2012 – Dominoes, Star Wars Action Figures
- 2013 – Chess, Rubber Duck
- 2014 – Bubbles, Little Green Army Men, Rubik's Cube
- 2015 – Puppet, Super Soaker, Twister
- 2016 – Swing, Dungeons & Dragons, Fisher-Price Little People
- 2017 – Clue, Paper Airplane, Wiffle Ball
- 2018 – Magic 8 Ball, Pinball, Uno
- 2019 – Coloring Book, Magic: The Gathering, Matchbox Cars
- 2020 – Baby Nancy, Jenga, Sidewalk Chalk
- 2021 - American Girl Dolls, Risk, Sand
Situated in its own gallery within The Strong, the National Toy Hall of Fame is an interactive gallery where guests can play and explore with the inducted toys. For example, they might race a Slinky down a staircase, dress up a giant Mr. Potato Head, play with Lincoln Logs, try out a Hula Hoop, or observe a Lionel Train display.6
- 1. “About Us.” Northwest Invention Center. < http://www.invention-center.com/about.php > 19 June 2011.
- 2. “History.” The Strong. < http://www.thestrong.org/about-us/history > 19 June 2011.
- 3. “Nominate a Toy.” National Toy Hall of Fame. < http://www.toyhalloffame.org/nominate > 5 April 2011.
- 4. “About Us.” A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village. < http://acgilbert.org/About%20Us.html > 19 June 2011.
- 5. “Inducted Toys: Alphabetical List.” National Toy Hall of Fame. < http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys > 5 April 2011.
- 6. “Things to See & Do.” National Toy Hall of Fame. < http://www.toyhalloffame.org/see-do > 5 April 2011.