My father, famous for his yard sales, wound up contacting a vintage toy dealer and got a pretty penny for my sets of wood blocks. While he didn’t exactly have my permission to sell them, I was happy to receive the stack of cash he got. Really, he should have sold them decades earlier when I used one as a weapon to give a childhood friend a concussion when I was three. Sell or burn the evidence, I say. Well, he did the former about 40 years too late, but we discovered that anything Playskool had become quite collectible.
If you ever played with wood blocks as a kid, Playskool probably made them. Your imagination was all it took to build castles, mansions, and skyscrapers. Playskool initially started out making wood building blocks for children. Lucille King created the in 1928 as part of the Schroeder Lumber Company. She wanted them to be used in the classroom as teaching aids. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the company was purchased by a lumber company and later purchased the maker of Lincoln Logs. Milton Bradley acquired the company in 1968. Hasbro purchased Milton Bradley in 1984. As Baby Boomers and Generation X began to have small children, these toys became collectible.
Block Me, Amadeus
Playskool started with wood toys, including alphabet blocks and construction blocks. They later added different colored blocks. My preschool had the Playskool Postal Station, where we would put the right shape in the right slot. Yes, putting a piece of wood in a cut-out hole was considered a form of entertainment. The problem with giving children essentially two-by-four hunks of wood is that there were cases where disputes were settled by someone getting smacked with a two-by-four. Playskool later began making smaller blocks. I can’t say for sure it was specifically due to that reason, but the timing is suspicious.
Playskool Postal Station.
Playskool Dapper Dan and Dressy Bessy were cloth dolls that came with complete wardrobes. The dolls were fastened with snaps, zippers, and ties to increase your child’s dexterity. This was a novel idea since previous dolls like Raggedy Ann and Andy lacked the learning component. However, no amount of dapper anything could get a kid out of a snowsuit unassisted, much like Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Dapper Dan and Dressy Bessy.
Sit ‘n Spin
A personal injury lawyer’s dream, the Sit ‘n Spin has stood the test of time. First sold in 1973, this toy remains in production today. It is just like it sounds. Your toddler sits on it and spins themselves around. One 1973 Sit ‘n Spin sold for $75 in January 2021. Available in a variety of colors, depending upon the year, there is even a model with lights on it.
The company began to branch out with other playsets, most likely to compete with rival Fisher-Price. Playskool made a parking garage made of wood, as well as a barn. There was a workbench, complete with various tools, including a hammer. (It was initially manufactured in wood, then later in plastic, I’ll let you guess why). The Old Woman in the Shoe was another favorite. Again, putting different shaped blocks into the right slots. Their familiar place series included the Holiday Inn, Texaco, and later a McDonald’s. The Tyke Bike was a mode of transportation around the house for toddlers. That bike was initially made of wood in the 60s and 70s and plastic in the 1980s. Many of those are quite collectible.
Tyke Bike Strike
The Tyke Bike was really for of a sit-on-top scooter since it lacked pedals and had four wheels, but that did not affect its speed. I had one that I used to race on the linoleum floor in the kitchen. My racing career ended when I may or may not have dented the metal cabinets with it when I missed the 90-degree turn. That turn would later vex the cat, with a similar result. The Tyke Bike had a few iterations throughout the decades. One 1960s version was made of wood with a leopard-spotted seat. There was also a Tot Cycle that had a tiger-striped seat. In the 1970s, a red, white, and blue model was offered with white stars on a blue seat. No doubt this was their bicentennial model. There was a transitional model that had the design of the wood but was made of plastic with red spots on the yellow seat. Later the bike was made of plastic in the 1980s but kept with the white, red, blue, and yellow theme. Though it featured a solid yellow seat minus any spots or stripes, a downgrade indeed.
Tyke Bike with leopard seat.
Once Playskool’s parent company, Milton Bradley, was bought by Hasbro, the brand really grew. More toys were made of plastic, allowing for the larger production of a wider variety of toys. Playskool then made licensing deals with Teddie Ruxpin, Arthur, Barney, Power Rangers, Teletubbies, Nickelodeon, Netflix Super Monsters, and Sesame Street. Playskool is one of the many licensees of Tickle Me Elmo, among the best-selling toys of all time and available today.
The Playskool Tickle Me Elmo is one of the best-selling toys of all time.
Still Collectible After All These Years
Currently, at 120 toys, Playskool’s loyal following remains. From wood blocks, the Tyke Bike, Sit N Spin to the Old Woman in the Shoe, the familiar place series, Dapper Dan, and newer licensed options, Playskool toys are a collectible commodity. The toy line today is mostly Power Rangers, Netflix Super Monsters, and Sesame Street. Longevity makes Playskool all the more collectible, with generations of parents wanting to give their children and grandchildren the toys they played with. Okay, so maybe not those two-by-four blocks, at least not without helmets. But Tickle Me Elmo? Every kid needs one of those, maybe some of the adults too.
L.A. Rankin lives in South Florida. She is a freelance writer, avid walker, reader, and trivia savant. On any given day, she can be found at her local Dunkin’ Donuts.
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