The Amazing Toys of Marvin Glass by Joyce Grant

Author Joyce Grant has lovingly collected images/ads of toys from designer Marvin Glass, most from the 1960s and 1970s. Readers likely will not have heard of Glass before this book but Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike will recognize many of his toys – from Rockem Sockem Robots to Ants in the Pants, Inchworm Ride On Toy to the Blythe doll. Glass sold his toy ideas to toy companies (rather than working for any particular one) including big names like Hasbro and Kenner. Because of the highly iconic status of so many of his creations, he could rightly be credited as one of the key figures in the toy explosion that the era of plastic made possible.

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This book is very graphic in nature – most pages are image based with small bits of text. Some of the text will explain what the toys does but mostly what we have is manufacturer, date, and current price/value on the secondary market (the author is a collector). Interesting, many of the toys include the original ‘exploded’ diagrams showing the designs/patents.

Perhaps most interesting is that the toys Glass designed started out metal/tin/wood decorated in muted colors in the early 1960s and increasingly moved toward the bright colored plastics we associate with modern toys. For that reason, this book is a fascinating study on the huge evolution of toys that took place thanks to the advent of cheap plastic base materials.

But I have to admit, I would have liked more history on each of the toys or analysis on their importance/impact/why they were/weren’t successful. The images were great – either ads or current pictures of toys that have survived over the years. But perhaps some of the love of the toys or interesting tidbits beyond a few short sentences would have really increased the value of the book for me. Grant sticks to the toys and doesn’t do any analysis or much research on Glass and how the industry was changing and involving. We don’t get information on how well (or not) he worked with Milton Bradley or Ideal, Marx or other toy companies. We don’t get any information on what was happening and what might have influenced the creation of many of the toys. This is a straight collector’s book or a nice ‘look at the pretty pictures’ type of coffee table book. Certainly, we don’t have any failed toy designs.

For me, as a child of the era in which these toys were produced, it was a lovely journey remembering forgotten toys. I didn’t know a lot of them but enjoyed seeing what I might have played with at the time. For that reason, I was very happy to have had a chance to read through the Amazing Toys of Marvin Glass. I just wish there was more research/analysis/text. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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