A Blast From the Past: Uncovering the Forgotten World of Fisher-Price

picture story camera as one of the vintage Fisher Price toys
Image: CC BY-SA 2.0, by John Kratz from Burlington NJ, USA , via via Wikimedia Commons
vintage fisher price toy cow

Image:  CC BY-SA 3.0, by The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, via Wikimedia Commons

vintage fisher price little people for kids

Image: CC BY 2.0, by m01229, via Flickr

Play. Laugh. Grow.

That’s the underlying theme and one of the many slogans for the Fisher-Price company, who has spent just short of 90 years allowing kids to do just that. With a wide variety of toys for kids at multiple stages of development, Fisher-Price is often the go-to brand for parents and teachers.

But what makes them so great? Where did they come from? What sparked their level of quality and craftsmanship? What toy should Santa bring your child this coming Christmas?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s important to take a look back at the past. See their roots, understand their journey, and uncover the hidden gems in their toy history.

There are so many fun things to remember about vintage Fisher-Price toys, some of which you may have never known in the first place. Which is why taking part in this journey can feel so satisfying to those who are young and young at heart.

Come uncover the world of Fisher-Price with us. We promise it’ll bring a smile to your face and a pang of nostalgia to your heart.

Fisher-Price Founding Fathers

Like most mainstream corporations, Fisher-Price started out as just an idea. Herm Fisher was sick of the toys that were out on the market and wanted to create something that was more kid-friendly. Something that was inspiring, creative, and new, not just something to pass the time away.

So in 1930, he teamed up with Irving Price and Helen Schelle to ultimately form the Fisher-Price brand. Their goal was to bring happiness to children and parents alike, without making them confined in their play space.

Which, thankfully for them and us, paid off. Millions of their products have been sold nationwide and continue to entertain and enlighten children every day.

Slogans Through the Ages

Just like the company itself, and the children it creates for, the brand’s motto has gone through a lot of growth and change. Thus far, Fisher-Price has gone through four different slogans, each with their own unique meaning.

Lasting over 60 years, the first ever slogan for Fisher-Price was, “Fisher-Price Knows.” As you may have guessed, this phrase was designed to assure parents that Fisher-Price not only knows about toys but also about children. They understand what children need to succeed and will work to create products that satisfy those needs.

first ever slogan of fisher price depicting its history

Chart by author, all rights reserved

Near the turn of the century, Fisher-Price decided to stray away from the knowledge area and reinforce their themes of creativity with the phrase, “Oh, the Possibilities.” These toys are not just hunks of plastic used to keep your kids out of trouble, they are vessels for your children’s imagination. There are countless possibilities out there for your kids to explore when they play with one of these toys.

Unfortunately, that name was not a ringer and only lasted for six years. In 2003, they cranked out a new motto that read, “Play. Laugh. Grow.” These three simple words exemplified everything Fisher-Price attempts to do; they create toys that are fun and easy to play with, the potential for creativity allows children to laugh and enjoy their playtime, and through continued use of the toys, children can grow into more intelligent, creative beings.

That was no match, however, for the year 2012 when the phrase, “The Best Possible Start,” took center stage. Fisher-Price offers a ton of toy options for children just begin to comprehend the world around them. They can offer some of the best ways to start a child’s look into life and will be there through every step of the way.

Test Your Knowledge!

So you think you know Fisher-Price, huh? You’ve put together a bit of its history and now you think you’re hot stuff. Well, let’s put that knowledge to the test with a lightning round of questions!

Each year, Fisher-Price creates approximately 2,000-2,500 new toy concepts. How many of those concepts are actually chosen to be made into toys?  

a mind game with pencil on the side

What percentage of American families are familiar with the Fisher-Price name?   

a mind game with pencil on the side

What was the first toy that Fisher-Price ever sold? 

a mind game with pencil on the side

Pull toys are put through a rigorous amount of testing before being released to the public. How many hours does a pull toy roll on a Fisher-Price conveyor belt before it has been approved?

a mind game with pencil on the side

Got all your answers in? Alright! Then let’s see how you did.

Even though they are able to come up with thousands of ideas every year, not all those potential toys make it to market. Actually, only about 10% (roughly 200) of them ever make it to the toy shelves.

After surveying a wide selection of American families, just how many of them knew who Fisher-Price were? All of them. That’s right, 100% of America families were familiar with the Fisher-Price toy company.

The first toy ever sold by Fisher-Price was a pull toy called Dr. Doodle. This was released back in 1931 and sold for around $3. If you tried to buy one of these now, you would probably have to fork over nearly $1,000.

Fisher-Price wants to ensure that their toys can stand up to even the most active child imaginable. This is why they test their pull toy for 24 hours on a conveyor belt before being shipped out to the public.

How Did They Do It?

little girl enjoys playing with the spacious fisher price dollhouse

Image: CC BY 2.0, by Jamie, via Flickr

All the success Fisher-Price has had has lead to a number of other children’s toy companies to form to try to recreate the same booming success. But few have even come close to comparing to this toy-loving beast. Why is that?

What does Fisher-Price do so differently that has allowed every single family in America to know and cherish its name?

The answer is both simple and incredibly complex: they have the heart, passion, and drive to support and encourage children as they grow.

No matter if you purchase a three-wheeler, a set of rings, or a classic pull toy if it has the Fisher-Price logo on it, you can be sure that it will last through numerous hours of play with ease. Unlike many other toy brands on the market, Fisher-Price never compromises the quality of their products.

They understand that kids can get rough. Your toddler may not understand how to avoid dropping their toys just yet, and the last thing you want is for them to hurt themselves on a broken edge of a toy. With Fisher-Price, those worries go out the window.

Plus, they know kids need the chance to learn and explore the world for themselves. Their toys are designed to give them the basic tools to imagine, think, and discover.

Fisher-Price is a huge softy when it comes to kids. They are a business that strives to earn a profit, but at the end of the day, all they really want to do is make children smile. That level of pure intentions is what has allowed them to see success after success.

An Assortment of Advertisements

1972

2017

Throughout the years, Fisher-Price has had countless commercials air on television. If no one knows about their products, how will they buy them, right? But something about these commercials has remained consistent throughout the years, and its the way the children play.

If you look closely at both of these advertisements, one from 1972 and the other from 2017, you will see that they both feature children. There is no big gimmick or toy sitting on a table to look pretty; there are only toys in the hands of the children who play with them.

This emphasis on play instead of look reminds the viewer what the toys are really designed for. You can watch children run and smile with something that they can create with, rather than simply stare at a packaged object with bright lights behind it.

This sales tactic has been proven to work for Fisher-Price again and again, which is why, no matter the year, they continue to come out with children-first commercials rather than product-first.

Vintage Finds For Every Child

There is nothing quite like a stroll down memory lane. We love taking a look back at our childhood, and even things well before our childhood years. Which is why checking out these vintage Fisher-Price toys is such a pleasure.

Seeing the original designs and trying to imagine yourself, or your children, playing with them now is both fun and heartwarming. So let’s just back in time and have a look at some of the most treasured pieces of Fisher-Price history.

Dumping a Load Off

Fill ‘er up! The Dump Truckers, a classic 1960s toy by Fisher-Price, allowed children to fill up small plastic trucks with small balls, or unload those balls back into the site.

At the same time, children could learn about different colors and shapes as the blue, yellow, and red dump truckers stations had corresponding trucks that would only fit into their respective square, circle, or pentagon homes.

If you were in the market to get one of these Dup Truckers units, it would probably cost you somewhere around $50.

One Year Only!

Who wouldn’t want to smash a plush toy into a tiny piece of plastic cheese? Smooshees were soft, malleable toys that each came with their own unique home. Kids could work to shove the entire toy inside its plastic home without causing damage to either the plush toy or the plastic receptacle.

What was crazy about these toys is how memorable they are to people, even though they were only for sale between 1988 and 1989. With tons of different shapes and styles, from a girl, to a mouse, to a turtle, to a pony, people all across America loved this rather random toy series.

Today, you can find Smooshees online at a fairly reasonable price. For one in a box in good condition, you will probably spend about $25.

Little People on a Big Boat

The Little People toy series saw incredible success for the Fisher-Price company, which meant that they ended up creating a ton of different unit for the series. One unique piece was the Little People PLay Family Houseboat that launched in 1972.

This boat was large enough to fit a whole bunch of Little People and their accessories while also being small enough for a child to pick up and carry around. It included a small lifeboat, five different Little People figures, and a flag on top.

Due to its design and rarity, you’d probably have to shell out around $140 in order to get your hands on this boat today. But, it would totally be worth it.

Ride-On Anywhere

Why just push your toys around when your toys could push you? The Fisher-Price 980 Atv Explorer 6 Wheel Kids Ride On came out in 1971 and was so popular, versions of this same unit are being sold today.

The design of this unit was made to look like an exploration truck with six wheels, two Little People commanding the inside, and a steering wheel on top. You could sit on top of the unit and use your leg muscles to scoot around your home.

It ultimately was made to help build up stronger leg muscles in children while also increasing their hand-eye coordination. Truthfully, it often just meant a lot of mothers got their shins run into.

To get an original unit of the 980 Atv Explorer 6 Wheel Kids Ride On, you will have to head over to eBay, where it will likely cost you around $250.

Let’s Go to the Circus!

Why spend all that time and money going out to the circus when you could bring it right to your home? Introducing the Fisher-Price Circus, which dates all the way back to 1962.

This unit came with over 30 different pieces that could easily be stored inside the circus carriage. You could replicate a ton of different circus tricks both safely and securely in your own home. Plus, storage carriage was on wheels and could be moved about the space to simulate the traveling aspect of many circuses.

While the toy itself may have been affordable back in the day, if you are looking to purchase it now, you can expect to spend about $100.

Hello! Hello? Hello…

fisher price phone toy every child loves

Image: [No restrictions], by Museum of Hartlepool, via via Wikimedia Commons

After making a guest appearance in Toy Story 3, the Chatter Telephone reinvented itself in modern media. While there are a number of newer models available out on the market for children to enjoy, the original Chatter Telephone came out in 1962.

The phone itself offered a rotary dialing pad, a receiver, and an adorable face with eyes that moved. There was also a string attached to the phone so children could pull the toy with them wherever they went.

Since newer models are constantly being created, you may have to search a bit in order to get an original toy online. That being said, many of them can be found for around $10-$20 online.

Cha-Ching!

Kids love being able to recreate the adult things they see in life. One of the most popular things to recreate is going to the store. With the 1974 Fisher-Price cash register, children could pretend to be shop owners and charge their siblings, or their parents, for the goods in their store.

There was actually an earlier version of this model that had a metal bell attached to it but was revamped to be completely plastic for safety reasons. This model has served as the basis for countless reiterations of the cash register that is still sold in stores today.

To get this 1974 version with all the coins inside, you will be looking to spend somewhere around $40.

Play. Dance. Sing.

vintage fisher price record player toy

Image: CC BY 2.0, by Joe Wu, via via Wikimedia Commons

Music is what keeps us all connected and fulfilled in life. It is a precious joy that can be understood no matter what age you are. Children especially love to dance around and sing their heart out to their favorite songs.

This is why, back in 1971, Fisher-Price released a record player for young children to enjoy. The record player included five different double-sided miniature records that actually worked and played 10 different songs. These were children’s songs and nursery rhymes, not popular music, but still gave children the chance to dance around to familiar tunes.

The success of this toy, paired with this generation’s continued love for nostalgia, is actually what encouraged Fisher-Price to released an new version of this unit in 2010. It sold well and enlightened children on a bit of the history of both music and technology.

Depending on which unit you are looking to buy, as they were sold for over 12 years, from 1971-1983, you can end up spending somewhere between $20-$60 to get the whole unit. Be careful though, as you should receive five records with each player. Many units these days are missing a record or two.

Did You Know?

Have you ever heard of the Play Laboratory? This is a highly regarded area of the Fisher-Price toy factory where the highest officials work to determine which toys end up out on the market. Do you know who those officials are? Kids.

Starting back in 1961, Fisher-Price decided to see just how playable their products were by inviting kids into the Play Laboratory to become official toy testers. Since then, more than 50,000 children have been able to earn that title and have helped create and improve hundreds of toys for children across the nation and beyond.

Looking Forward to the Present

So what’s changed? Is Fisher-Price still able to create the types of toys that kids back in the 1940s would have loved? In some ways, yes.

They have remained a reliable brand throughout the years, always managing to put quality above all else. The toys are approved by children and make sure to always encourage growth and creativity.

But we both know that what was made in the 1950s looks nothing like the toys made in 2019. Something has to have changed.

You’re right: things have changed. The colors are brighter, the materials are safer, the edges are smoother, and the technology has advanced beyond Herm Fisher’s wildest dreams. But this is only because of the advancements our society has invented.

Just like children, adults learn, invent, and grow their products into safer, newer, and more advanced models every year. Fisher-Price is no different. Their biggest change throughout the years is that they are now better than they ever were.

They keep up with technology, understand the future of toys, and act to keep on top year after year. Their intentions have always been the same, their toys are just shinier and safer than ever before.

Never Forget

Fisher-Price has come a long way throughout the years. This incredibly successful company has continued to produce reliable toys that children can grow with, now more than ever.

But it is important to always remember where your roots are founded. Taking a look back at all the fun memories vintage Fisher-Price toys can bring is both nostalgic and exhilarating. To see that growth from where they were to where they are now is astounding and something they should truly be proud of.

vintage fisher price aladin and jasmine toys

Image: CC BY 2.0, by Mike Mozart, via Flickr

Once we grow up, it can often be easy to forget all our childish toys from the past. Don’t forget them. These toys helped to encourage you while you grew, and may have even sparked some sort of creative intention in you that you still carry to this day.

Hold on to the memories of the past, look forward to the future, and help bring joy to your children in the present with the loveable brand, Fisher-Price.

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