I believe it was the Burgermeister Meisterberger who once said, “Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful, and anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon!” He would have not lasted long in Rochester, New York.
That is of course the home of the Strong National Museum of Play’s Toy Hall of Fame, which started naming toys and other assorted playthings to its roster back in 1998. It’s inducted 77 toys so far, including a whole bunch from New England toy companies, including Risk, The Game of Life, Candyland, G.I. Joe and Mr. Potato Head, just to name a few.
And those companies — Parker Brothers of Beverly, Milton Bradley of Springfield, and Hasbro of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which has since absorbed the other two — are represented among this year’s finalists as well. But which three of those 12 nominees will make the final cut for the 2022 induction class?
We’ll find out in November, but in the meantime, Boston.com readers had a very clear choice for the top spot — and a pretty good idea of the other two also.
Yes, apparently Bostonians are big Nerf stans, probably owing to our innate love of beaning people with soft, squishy things. The Parker Brothers mainstay got a whopping 25% of the votes, besting the No. 2 finisher, Spirograph.
Still, Spirograph got plenty of local love, with 20%. “Just brilliant and creative entertainment,” said Deborah C. of Dedham of the geometric drawing device first introduced by Denys Fisher in 1965. “I wish I had mine now!”
Bingo was third with 13%, its popularity no doubt owed to the fact that it’s one of the few toys or games that can actually earn you cash money if you play your (bingo) cards right. Surprisingly, though, Lite-Brite failed to crack the top 3 (it finished fourth with about 10%), despite its inclusion in the latest season of “Stranger Things,” which was enough to earn millions for Kate Bush but apparently didn’t have the same effect on Hasbro’s famous translucent peg plaything.
We also asked readers which toys would make their own personal Toy Hall of Fame, and the responses varied from the simple — Slinky, basically just a big spring — to the (formerly?) anti-feminist — Barbie, natch — to the ridiculously complex, like Teddy Ruxpin (widely considered the doll most likely to gain sentience and rule as our new toy overlord).
Below, a sampling the toys Boston.com readers picked as the best of the best from their childhoods and beyond.
Some responses may have been edited for length or clarity.
“Slinky, Wiffle Ball, Yahtzee.” — S. Oxbowmann, Wayland
“Not enough recognition is given to the ‘Father of Video Games,’ New Hampshire’s Ralph Baer. Google him.” — Bob R., North Hampton, New Hampshire
“American Girl Dolls. My friends and I would set up elaborate scenes and stories, and play them out over multiple days. We would also do the types of activities girls from those time periods would do, like sew bonnets and make tea (and have adventures, too). Their back stories make them so much more than your average doll. Historical fiction books are still my favorite genre, I think likely due to my early exposure through American Girl.” — Tina S., Back Bay
“The beloved Teddy Ruxpin … Almost unique in combination of features.” — Rick M., Boston
“Transformers.” — Dick F., Billerica
“Barbie — while sexist, she allowed for endless hours of fun and imaginative play that could include others or worked equally well alone. Spirograph — just brilliant and creative entertainment. I wish I had mine now! Risk — great for thinking and fun. Scrabble — even better for fun and thinking.” — Deborah C., Dedham
“Jump rope, sorry.” — Jenny R.
“My Combat Camo Tommy gun from the early 1960s. Loved to play war in the woods.” — Mike, Seacoast New Hampshire
“Operation.” — LS, Boston
“Half ball, because it represents free outdoor play and ingenuity from a time gone by.” — Weymouth
“Lego, played with endlessly as a kid.” — Doug, Needham
“Frisbee. It was always there — cheap, portable, everyone had one. Kept us moving!” — Kathleen, Somerville
“Evel Knievel and his Stunt Cycle! I jumped that baby over the kitchen table! Unlike the real man, it was unbreakable and didn’t come with two ex-wives and a drinking problem.” — Tim B., Westborough
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.