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Looking Back on Children’s Toys

Sometimes it seems odd the connection that many children have with a particular kind of toy. When did the 'branding' of toys begin, I wondered. After a little research I discovered that as early as 1832 the American company R. Bliss Manufacturing Co were mass producing doll's houses. Reputedly the oldest toy company, with a 16th century founding date, is the German company Richter.

A more modern milestone in the branding of toys would be 1880 - the official date of the foundation of Margarete Steiff Gmbh when Margaret's brother began selling felt elephants. After they had sold the first 5,000 she began designing other fabric animals which lead to the birth of the iconic 'Teddy Bear' in 1902, named (as we all know) for the US President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. In 1904 the trademark "Steiff - Button in Ear" was developed by Margarete's nephew, Franz Steiff. The aim of this trademark was to fend off the vast numbers of cheap imitations and to make the company's own high-quality products unmistakable. Margarete won the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in St. Louis. This clearly worked since the Steiff & Louis Vuitton bear was sold at a charity auction for an amazing $2.1 million in 2000.

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Thinking back to my own childhood I adored Andy Pandy (never liked Looby Loo though - probably jealous). I was somewhat surprised to find that my eldest grandchild's favourite toy throughout her childhood, and even later, was an Andy Pandy doll. Like teddy bears, some toys have that magical appeal that can even skip generations but keep reappearing to be loved by a new set of children. The same could be said of toys that have spun off TV series such as Doctor Who and films like Star Wars and Superman.

It remains to be seen if the toys we are buying today will have that same sticking power as some of our old friends.

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