February 28, 2022
It’s the start of the year, the holidays are over, Christmas lights are finally almost all down, and New Year’s resolutions have been made and broken. The January-February season is for many a gray month, and this is especially true when it comes to the brave retail workers of America, as average return rates for products have gone up 6% in the last month. Whether it be the ugly Christmas sweater, the annoying toy, or just bizarre knick-knack, we’ve all had the Christmas gift you secretly, or not so secretly, hated. So in the spirit of the season of Christmas gift-returns, here are seven toys that probably should never have made it to the shelf in the first place.
In the land of the brave, barbeque yard games have always been popular with Americans, and in the case of Jarts, they were a hit, quite literally. Lawn darts or Jarts were designed in the early 1950s by dentist Lawrence Barnett. What he envisioned to become a yard game classic to the heights of corn-hole and horse-shoes would go on to explode in one of the biggest controversies in the toy industry. The aim of Jarts was to throw your darts into an opponent’s plastic circle, much like cornhole. What the cheery ads forgot to mention was this family-friendly game had darts with heavy metal ends that could apply up to 23,000 pounds per square inch when thrown high enough. Because of these obvious hazards, Jarts were finally banned in December of 1988 ensuring they would never again end summer barbecues with skull punctures and death.
Easy Bake Oven
Easy Bake Oven, a family-friendly kid-sized oven that brings gourmet cuisine to every kitchen and in fashionable exciting colors! But what may start as a fun rainy day activity has ended for many with serious burns and other perilous situations. Something much like this happened to one five-year-old in Mississippi. After she got her hand stuck in an oven for three hours (resulting in an emergency room visit) she decided to sue the company for 1.2 million dollars. This resulted in a total recall of over a million toys, and the crushed dreams of child bakers across America.
The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
Many things came from the Cold War-era United States from dreams of white picket fences to homemade nuclear bomb shelters, and of course, the weapons of mass destruction themselves. For the kids that weren’t content with plastic dolls and typical trucks, there was the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab with real Uranium! While there were no reports of explosions, house fires, or other maladies this lab kit contained four different radioactive samples to experiment on. These samples were known to crumble, making a mess and spreading radiation across the house. This resulted in is the last thing any parent would want, another mess to clean up.
Fire and Barbies, both things any good American appreciates, joined forces in 1991 to create the infamous Rollerblade barbie. She started where all the other barbies stopped: sparking experiments, conversations, and even appearing on David Letterman. But what made this Barbie so special? It wasn’t the pastel pink wardrobe, fluffy blonde hair, or even her magenta eye shadow, but her rollerblades. Barbie’s roller-blades functioned much like cigarette lighters shooting out sparks like confetti whenever she went for a spin. This was discovered much to the dismay of one girl from Missouri when she decided to play beauty shop with her rollerblade barbie. She sprayed her 4-year-old brother with hair spray and once sparky Barbie got in the mix his underwear caught on fire. Arsonist Barbie was recalled soon after but remains a popular collector’s item.
Snacktime Cabbage Patch Doll
Another toy horror story from the 90s was the Snacktime Cabbage Patch doll. Cabbage Patch dolls are known for charming generations of children with their cute and cuddly attributes, and at first, the Snacktime doll seemed no different. It was designed with powerful metal jaws intended to chomp down on plastic delicacies like french fries and apple slices. But soon the dolls were found to turn to a more cannibalistic cuisine chewing on the hair and fingers of small children. So as a public safety measure, this doll was pulled from store shelves.
Sea monkeys: instead of physical damage they crushed the dreams of hopeful pet owners across America. Cheerful advertisements promised, “The sooner you order Sea-Monkeys the sooner the good-times and fun begin in your house!” But in reality, these magical marine creatures turned out to be nothing but nearly translucent tiny shrimp. In some ways, the shrimp were much more interesting than they first appeared. They had the ability to go comatose until water was added, essentially rising from the dead. Additionally, they breathe through their feet and 400 million of them traveled to space with John Glenn in 1998. But in reality, they still made really lame pets.
Furbies are infamous in the toy world as supermarket riot starters and for their ability to pick up human speech. Furbies were first introduced in 1998 and immediately found themselves in the limelight with bans evicting them from hospitals, airplanes, and even the Pentagon. They were falsely believed to be a serious threat to national security as well as emitting hazardous radiation sending the technological world into a frenzy. Because of the creature's ability to sense light and movement, its abilities wowed the public, and the CEO of Tiger Electronics, Roger Shiffman was even quoted in an interview with CBS saying, “I’ve been told we’re developing a Furby that can drive in the year 2000.” Perhaps most bizarre of all, a fake humane society put out a study done on Furbies with false data claiming their fur was a DNA match with both canine and feline species. While Furbies are in all reality just animatronic balls of fur, they are also incredibly annoying, and much to the gratitude of America's sanity they have faded from popularity.
Capitalism has brought the world many things and many toys. Throughout the ongoing ever-growing history of toys, there have been great successes and horrid losses. All of these toys were dismal losses that truly deserve to spend eternity in a landfill. Who's to say what the future of toys will bring as technology advances, but it’s certain these failures are just the first in a line of many.