If there’s anything I am not, it’s a minimalist. I like curiosities and color and collections. Especially collections. One of my favorite collections, for all its warm and fuzzy nostalgia, is vintage Fisher-Price toys. You should surround yourself with things that make you happy, right?
I grew up in a house full of kids - and not all my siblings. My mom has run an in-home daycare for as long as I can remember (and even before that) and one of the perks of this unique childhood was toys. Toys everywhere.
Among these toys, and the ones I remember with the most fondness, were those manufactured by Fisher-Price: instruments, pull toys, cameras, buildings, music boxes, dolls… you name it, I like it. I’ve been lucky in that my mom still has a lot of our old toys and has started handing things down to us as she winds up (no pun intended) her child-care career.
Without even realizing it, my first toy was a Fisher-Price puppet. I still have it and I still call it Mr. Bunny. This is a never-letting-go piece of my childhood that I received from my grandparents. I was born with a cleft lip and palate and had about 10 surgeries to correct it in my first 17 years. This bunny went into every single operating room with me and was always waiting for me when I woke up after. I need to have a kid so I can pass it down, otherwise I’ll probably be buried with it.
Because I spent so much time in the hospital, my mom got me the Fisher-Price Play Family Children’s Hospital (1976-1978) at a garage sale when I was young. This set can go for around $150 (or more) on eBay.
As I learned to walk, I was constantly pulling around toys on strings. This raccoon pull toy (1979) was mine and I snagged it from my mom when I had a Beatles-themed party and needed a Rocky Raccoon for a scavenger hunt. I found the wooden Pinky Pig (1956-1958) at an estate sale for just a few dollars. It oinks as it’s pulled and its eyes bob up and down. Not creepy at all.
This musical Happy Apple (1972) was one of my, well, happiest finds. My mom has one, but still uses it with some of the younger kids she watches, so I couldn’t just take it. I found this at a vintage store and it’s in mint condition. I picked up the Pocket Camera (1974), with a working rotating flash cube, at an estate sale last year for $2.00 - a steal.
This Play Family A-Frame (1974-1976) house is another favorite I’ve been lucky enough to inherit from my mom. She was always scouring garage sales for toys in good condition to stock the daycare and she built up an amazing collection of top-quality toys for cheap. This set can run up to $50 on eBay.
Shall we talk AV? The FP Movie Viewer and slip-in cartridges (1973) are hands-down one of the most amusing parts of my collection. I think I found one viewer at a thrift store with a bag of cartridges for a few bucks and the other viewer I got from, you guessed it, my mom. What I wouldn’t give to find the, though - if you spot one, let me know!
The Record Player (1971) was on my wishlist for years and years and, in the last twelve months or so, I’ve acquired two. I keep one at my house and one in my office at work. We have a 3D printer at my library, so I found a file for and was able to print a record with Stairway to Heaven for the player. If I were ever to get a Fisher-Price tattoo, it would be of this record player.
It appears that I’m slowly amassing the equipment for an amusement park with these two pieces. The Play Family Merry-Go-Round (1972-1977) and the Play Family Ferris Wheel (1966) both feature my favorite Little People figurine ever: the sour-faced punk teenager who is displeased and woefully underpaid. True story: the Merry-Go-Round was a working part of my high school Rube Goldberg physics project (it worked - once). I actually just scored the Ferris Wheel a few days ago and was excited to discover that the plastic is still on the dog figurine in its seat.
These days, Fisher-Price is reproducing some of its best-selling vintage pieces, but there’s not much charm in them for me. I like the old pieces, ones that I know have been played with and are a part of somebody’s, namely my, happy memories. The only newly manufactured Fisher-Price items I collect are the Hallmark ornaments because, well, I also collect ornaments (I told you I like to collect). I took these out to take pictures and wondered why I don’t keep them on display all year. I think I might have to take these up to work for my office.
I keep most of my Fisher-Price pieces in my computer/hobby room on display or in my office at work. It may appear childish to keep toys around, but just looking at them makes me so happy and reminds me to chill the heck out and have fun. There are still so many sets and pieces I want to collect, many of which are waiting for me when my mom retires, but I always keep an eye out for them at thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales. Do you remember playing with Fisher-Price toys? What was your favorite?