Ray and Charles Eames sure made some kid-friendly classics--the House of Cards, that Hang-it-All, the RAR Rocker, of course--and watching their movie, Powers of Ten a few times would give a rush of enlightenment to anyone ages 10^0 - 10^2.
But a few of their creations haven't fared as well in the design public's consciousness. Their walkalong-rocking horse, for example, clearly predates the age of product liability litigation. And their first toy ever to go into production is almost as rare. One mid-century auctioneer calls it The Toy, but the box just says "Toy" a couple of dozen times. [Until I hear otherwise, I'm with Repo Man: Toy.]
Like House of Cards, Toy is a building toy. Toy consisted of a bunch of dowels, some pipe cleaners, and some shiny paper that kids can assemble themselves into sculptures, structures, walls, or whatever. It looks like a geodesic dome kit, although in 1951, Buckminster Fuller was far away. They were sold at Sears, so they could've ended up anywhere, but a toy made of sticks and paper has a much lower expected lifespan than a fiberglass chair, so vintage examples are hard to come by.
Still, it's surprising someone hasn't done an updated version of Toy. I mean, that Spaceframe Sculpture Kit has gotten nothing but praise from what I can tell. I can't imagine the Eames Estate reintroducing it on their own, though; these days they seem mostly focused on fighting trademark disputes. So I hope someone crafty and entrepreneurial just goes for it; even the possibility of a trademark lawsuit over something called "Toy" makes me feel like a kid at Christmas. If only they'd time it to my next round of jury duty.
Thanks to Mark from Sparkability for the prompt.
"Whimsical Works: The Playful Designs of Charles and Ray Eames" was an exhibit at UPenn last summer [citypaper]
Bonus Charles Eames quote from the press release: "Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the preludes to serious ideas."
The show's website has more info, just not about why the The Toy failed. [upenn.edu]
Toy sold for $700 at auction in 1999, but one didnt' sell in 2001 for $900-1200. [treadwaygallery.com, wright20.com]