Every year The Strong, the National Museum of Play, inducts a handful of classic toys and playthings into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Back in September, the 2019 finalists were revealed and they included the smartphone, which at barely over a decade old was one of the youngest nominees for the Hall of Fame, but ultimately didn’t make the cut. Three finalists made the cut to be immortalised in the annals of toy history.
In addition to the smartphone, the 2019 finalists included Care Bears, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Jenga, the colouring book, Magic the Gathering, Masters of the Universe (aka He-Man), Matchbox Cars, My Little Pony, the Nerf Blaster, Risk, and the spinning top. It was a diverse list that reflected several toy lines that have been around for decades and still dominate toy store shelves today, and it would be hard to find someone who didn’t grow up playing with at least one of those iconic toys when they were a kid.
This year toy fans were actually able to vote on which of the finalists they felt deserved to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, but in reality the public opinion didn’t carry a lot of weight towards the final decision as the fan voting counted as just one member of a 23-member National Selection Advisory Committee. Given how often online voting efforts get hijacked, that approach ensured the results couldn’t be swayed.
Despite being an impressive list of worthy contenders for the honour this year, ultimately the 2019 National Toy Hall of Fame inductees included the colouring book, which saw a brief resurgence of popularity a few years ago, Matchbox die-cast cars, which became available in the U.S. as far back as 1954, and the Magic the Gathering card game, which was first published by Wizards of the Coast back in 1993.
It’s a little surprising that hugely popular and profitable toy lines like Masters of the Universe and Nerf’s dart blasters haven’t been inducted to the hall of fame just yet, particularly when past inductees included the Super Soaker and Star Wars action figures. The smartphone not making the cut, however, makes sense.
The National Toy Hall of Fame isn’t against including digital distractions in its hallowed halls, in the past both the Atari 2600 console and the Nintendo Game Boy were inducted. And while the smartphone meets the specific inductee criteria like “Innovation” and “Icon-status”, it hasn’t quite been around long enough to be considered a toy that’s been enjoyed across multiple generations, and there’s still a debate over whether or not launching birds from a slingshot or crushing candy “…fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play.”
Assuming smartphones aren’t replaced by smartglasses, smartrings, or smart embeddable brain chips in the next decade, it will present a much stronger case as to why it deserves to be in the hall of fame.