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Urban Archeologist: Toys in the Attic

...and a toy that may be better left in the past.

Urban Archeologist: Toys in the Attic Urban Archeologist: Toys in the Attic Urban Archeologist: Toys in the Attic Urban Archeologist: Toys in the Attic


Though I often avoid a table full of toys, there are sometimes treasures hidden within. While visiting a moving sale in Ridgefield I saw an old product label in the middle of pile of tangled toys. Minute Maid orange juice was a comfort food that still makes me think of Sunday mornings and pancakes and sausages.

Upon closer inspection I realized I was fooled by a clever case of product placement that the Mattel toy company pulled in the 1970s. This was no can of OJ! It was actually the Wizzer!

Take a toy from 5,000 or more years ago (the Top) and fit it with a weighted fly-wheel tucked inside. When the tip was pulled against a hard surface the Wizzer would spin so fast the heavy fly wheel inside would allow the top to stay upright for some time (thanks to centripetal force).

The Wizzer was sold in many forms, mostly a ball shape with bold colors or stickers for decorating. Somewhere in the ‘70s they came up with the idea to put them in the shape of canisters and then add the actual graphics and logos from real products. There was no better marketing ploy that to sell fake products that looked like the real thing to the 8- to 12-year-old set.

I had one of these as a kid (I think it was one resembling a Campbell’s Soup can) and I cherished it for the few minutes of my attention that anything would hold at that age. I have to mention the freakish "wizzzzing!" sound it would make when wound. It was almost as if it was going to take off. The manufacturer's goal may have been to take a bite out of the market share that the Yo-Yo was enjoying around the same time in the ‘70s.

The ironic twist (or should I say "spin?") to this saga is that Duncan eventually bought the Wizzzer name and began distributing even stranger versions of it. If you are feeling nostalgic or just want to see what you've been missing go here.

Most of the people who remember the Wizzer also seem to remember it ending up getting stuck in their hair or an unlucky sibling's hair. But wait there's more bad news! Any surface with a finish that you remotely cared about (zero as a 10-year-old) was forever scuffed. It really was all in the packaging.

Speaking of packaging, see if can help me with this Campbell’s soup ad from 1967 — can you guess what sandwich mom is planning to feed the kids

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

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