My Favorite All-Time Game Companies

As my partner Dan and I here at Dogbotz Boneyard have been preparing for the 2014 holiday season, which for us extends from Halloween to New Year’s Day and sometimes even to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, we have been posting new antique, vintage and even some contemporary products for resale. All of which led to my longtime friend Steve to ask me recently via e-mail, “Patrick, I am always amazed at the vintage board, card and even dice games you have available through Dogbotz Boneyard. Of all the games you personally collect or sell, which game companies and their products are your favorite to collect?”

Please be aware that Steve and I were colleagues back in the day (that would be the 1980s) when we both worked as fantasy role-playing game editors for TSR, Inc., the then-producer of Dungeons & Dragons and its various offspring. Even though I worked for TSR, Inc., and even though I believe the company was quite innovative when it came to role-playing games, it isn’t, alas, one of my all-time favorite game companies from which to collect product. As I had to play too many diverse roles (some good, others absolutely bizarre) in my real life, I didn’t (and still don’t) need more roles to play during my leisure moments.

That said, here are my four favorite games companies and some of the games they have created, manufactured, and distributed throughout the years.

Parker Brothers: A Philosophy of Entertainment

Since 1883, Parker Brothers has published more than 1,800 games. Among its best-known products are Monopoly, Sorry!, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Ouija, and Probe. Of these, I would say that the finance-based, land baron game of Monopoly, which originated and gained in popularity during the Great Depression, has been the most enduring game ever produced during the Industrial Era and continues to sell well in this new millennium. It is the perennial favorite of board games and it is the most mimicked and reproduced game of the last century. If you doubt this, just go to the Internet and check out CafePress or CustomopolyGames. The royalties on this game’s patent most be enormous and blissfully ironic considering the board game’s financial focus.

For a bit of history, Parker Brothers was founded in Salem, Massachusetts by George S. Parker, whose philosophy deviated from the prevalent theme of board game design. George Parker believed that games should be played for enjoyment and did not need to emphasize morals and values. Hence, it is no surprise that he created his first game, Banking (in 1883 at the age of 16), which allowed players to borrow money from the bank and try to generate wealth by guessing how well they could do. There you go — there’s a little bit of the gambler or the hedge man in each of us, even when we play games!

In 1906, Parker Brothers published the game Rook, its most successful card game to this day, and it quickly became the best-selling game in the country. From the 1930s on, the company continued its phenomenal growth, producing such long-lasting popular board games as the murder mystery challenge of Clue, the military conquest inherent in Risk, and the family entertainment factor of Sorry!

In 1991. Hasbro acquired the rights of all Parker Brothers games and has, since 2013, phased out all references to Parker Brothers on its games. Too bad, in my opinion, Hasbro just doesn’t possess the same notable name recognition value or inventiveness of George Parker and his brothers.

Samples of Parker Brothers games sold through Dogbotz Boneyard:

Rook 0210 A 0314 Deluxe Monopoly 0289 C 0914Wings 0150 A 0713

 

 

 

 

The Milton Bradley Company: Friend to Mid-Century Television Shows

Just in case you didn’t know, the Milton Bradley Company was established as a game company in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1860 by Milton Bradley. In 1920, the company absorbed the game production of McLoughlin Brothers, formerly the largest game manufacturer in the United States; and, in 1987, it purchased Selchow and Righter, the makers of Parcheesi and Scrabble. Just like its arch-rival of many years, Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley was taken over by Hasbro, Inc., in 1984.

Regardless of its ultimate fate, The Milton Bradley Company was excellent at pursuing television production companies to acquire the titles of many television shows of the 1950s and 1960s that had name recognition for and were endearing to those of us who grew up as part of the “Baby Boom Generation.” But, in truth, Milton Bradley was a board game designer who made his money by making games that people enjoyed playing. Thus, when television became the technological marvel of the mid-20th century, Bradley’s design philosophy extended to the products of that medium. The list of television-based board or card games produced by The Milton Bradley Company is exhaustive, and just looking at what we have on sale at Dogbotz Boneyard, the list includes Annie Oakley, Captain Kangaroo, Charlie Brown, Johnny Quest, Lost in Space, Sergeant Preston, Video Village, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Yogi Bear.

Of course, beyond the realm of television shows or Saturday morning cartoons, The Milton Bradley Company is also well known for some of its perennial family games such as Candy Land, Game of the States and Rack-o, not to mention its revered American Heritage set of four military history games: Broadside, Civil War, Dogfight and Hit the Beach.

Despite its acquisition by Hasbro, Inc., the Milton Bradley name has become synonymous with a game manufacturer that continues to turn out games that capitalized on current trends.

Here’s just a sampling of The Milton Bradley Company games we have on sale at Dogbotz Boneyard:

Video Village 0149 A 0913

Lost in Space 0184 A 1113

 

 

 

 

Ed-U-Cards Manufacturing Corporation: A Boomer’s Delight

As I approach my sixth decade of life, I remember that, as a kid growing up from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, we had no such entertainment venues as video or online games. Yup, if my brother and I weren’t out riding our bicycles, playing sports, or having our G.I. Joes attack the prim-and-proper Ken dolls (our arch-rivals for Barbie’s affections) of our neighbor Holly Householder or other such prepubescent playtime activities, we were indoors, playing games. And, our favorites were produced by one of the nation’s most well-regarded educational game companies, Ed-U-Cards Manufacturing Corporation.

The Ed-U-Cards Manufacturing Corporation was originally located in Long Island City, New York and began operations in 1946 as a manufacturer of educational flash cards and card games. The late 1940s was an ideal time to start a new publishing company, as the paper rationing of World War II had recently ended. Many new magazines, local newspapers, catalogs, and other paper products started then, as the paper mills suddenly had lots of paper available, and that meant low prices.

Though Ed-U-Cards did produce cards for sheer entertainment value, such as its popular series of card games based on children’s televised cartoon shows like Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear and The Flintstones, it most distinguished products were its educational games. Some of these were flash-card type games (for example, Tree Spotter Cards and Bible Story Cards), some focused on the fundamentals of language arts or mathematics (ABC Educational Cards and Animal, Bird, Fish Card Game come readily to mind), and others taught the basic of science or sports (Ed-U-Cards’ 1957 Baseball Card Game and, from the same year, Space Race Card Game are notable examples). Whatever games the company produced, these products were highly regarded and valued by us Boomer children as well as our parents and teachers.

Sadly, I could find no references to Ed-U-Cards Manufacturing Corporation beyond 1984. Nonetheless, the impact of the high-quality educational and entertainment games this firm produced lives on, for, in fact, today the industry term ed-u games refers to the production of the most visionary and enjoyable educational game products possible.

Here are some personal favorites we’ve made available through Dogbotz Boneyard:

Huckleberry Hound 0117 A 0313Ed-U Baseball Cards 0164 AA 0913Animal Bird Fish 0259 A 1114

Tree Spotter 0122 A 0313

 

 

 

 

 Outset Media Corporation: Fast Forward to the Future

As a collector and seller of antique and vintage games, I also like to contemplate what contemporary board and card games might become long-lasting and noteworthy collectibles in the future. Though TSR, Inc., and its products might have been part of my favorites list, if there’s anything that I perceive as truly collectible about these games and their by-products, it’s their stunning color artwork. So, that’s why, for example, I have a Larry Elmore painting hanging in my home as part of my larger art collection (but science fiction and fantasy artwork is a topic for a future blog). Afterward, I considered the collectible card games produced by Wizards of the Coast, particularly Magic: The Gathering and its ilk. Yet, though they present intriguing content and game mechanics, these games struck me as a passing fad, albeit a huge revenue-generating one for its parent company.

No, I sought something more enduring, perhaps even of solid educational value such as the diverse games produced by Ed-U-Cards during my youth. And so, as I reviewed contemporary game companies and their products, the one that came immediately to mind was Outset Media Corporation, makers of the now-popular Professor Noggin’s series of educational card games, the first of which was produced in 2002.

Founded in 1996 by 23-year-old university student David Manga, Outset Media Corporation is a Canadian company that develops and distributes family entertainment products, specializing in board games, party games, card games, and jigsaw puzzles. The company was originally incorporated for the sole purpose of publishing and distributing a single board game called All Canadian Trivia, which was released in May 1997 and became a Canadian bestseller with more than 100,000 copies sold in Canada alone.

Then in 2002, a children’s educational card game phenomenon that featured the fictional instructor Professor Noggin was produced. Today, 39 different titles form part of the Professor Noggin’s series of card games, and over 800,000 copies have been sold worldwide. In addition, the series has garnered 14 international toy and game awards to date, and this acclaim is due to the fact that each card game in the series encourages children to learn interesting facts about their favorite subjects. Each game of 30 cards combines trivia, true-false, and multiple-choice questions. Each card set includes a special 3-numbered die to create interaction and promote communication between players. Easy and hard levels of testing knowledge keep children interested and challenged while having fun.

Try out one of the Professor Noggin’s card games with your children or even adult family members and friends, and you’ll see why I’ve add Outset Media Corporation to my list of all-time favorite game companies.

Dogbotz Boneyard offers many titles of in the Professor Noggin’s card game series; here are but a few:

Dinosaurs 0266 A 1114 National Parks 0268 A 1114 Outer Space 0273 A 1114

 

 

 

 

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what game companies are your favorites, and why!

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

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Why Collect Vintage Games?

“With all the video, computer and Internet games available to kids these days, why would anyone want to buy vintage board or card games!” That sentiment was conveyed to me by Jason, a longtime business colleague. When I informed Jason that just the other day I had a customer who purchased not one but four vintage games from Dogbotz Boneyard, one of which was fully designed, written, and produced during pre-World War II Germany, he was amazed. “Wow! Really?” was all he could say.

As a former editor of fantasy role-playing games in the 1980s for TSR, Inc., the then-producer of Dungeons & Dragons and its various spawn, I learned that play in all of its diverse formats is a fundamental human endeavor. The ancient Romans termed that concept homo ludens, “the playful man.” In fact, much can be learned about a culture by studying how its citizens approach the idea of play. Anthropologists and sociologists have done much research in this arena, and from archaeological discoveries, we have learned that some of the basic components of play are several millennia old — dice, sticks, tokens, and even playing tiles or cards. These are devises we still use to this very day for play. Even the more “modern” games such as Go, Halma, Mahjong, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and those based on the standard 52-card, four-suit card deck are all antique, if not ancient, and are the progenitors to Old Maid, Stratego, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and so forth.

So, contemporary collectors of vintage games are sometimes motivated to add to their collections because they appreciate the historic perspective a game might convey. For example, the very rare 1890 Game of Dr. Busby is a sought-after card game because of its less-than-politically correct portrayals of  African Americans, caricatures that were rampant prior to and well beyond the turn of the 19th century.

Another impetus, which follows alongside historic appreciation, is the artwork created to illustrate the various components of a game. Board games, for instance, have been around since Victorian times. These games were beautifully lithographed and generally had intricately detailed artwork, playing pieces and storage containers. The oldest board games, whether manufactured in the U.S.A. or Europe, are hot commodities in today’s collectible market, the rarest selling for a minimum of $10,000. Turning to more recent times and remembering the artist contracts that I drafted as a game editor, I can guarantee you that the collectibility of the artwork (both color and grayscale) that has populated heroic fantasy and science fiction role-playing games since the 1980s  is . . . well, let’s just say, a huge market.

The more iconic a game becomes, the more its variants may become collectible as well, which makes the vintage game market more dynamic. Think about it! How many versions of Monopoly are there? I am not merely talking about the different editions of the standard game or its computer or Internet versions but the thematic diversity the essence of the game has engendered. Austin-opoly, Gay Monopoly, and, even one Dogbotz Boneyard has for sale, Dino-opoly — all of these are the thematic grandchildren (or perhaps, step-children) of an old master.

Finally, and with prevalency among the Baby Boomer generation, the desire to recapture one’s childhood is a motivating factor for many who collect vintage games. Therefore, some Boomer collectors seek to purchase the vintage Dark Shadows board game for the same reasons that they watched the similarly named Tim Burton film that brought to life almost 50 years later perhaps the oddest of all TV soap operas ever written and produced.  And so it goes with the Dukes of Hazard game or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. game or even images of Jerry Mathers himself in the numerous Leave It to Beaver games featuring different storylines.

Historical appreciation, beautifully designed and artistic components, thematic diversity and childhood regained are some of the reasons that I believe people collect vintage board and card games. But perhaps the most important of all is, quite simply, it’s a lotta fun!

If you are a collector of vintage games, or if you are seeking to start a games collection, here are great examples of vintage board and card games as well as other vintage toys and models available through the Playthings department of Dogbotz Boneyard.

Now it’s your turn to roll the dice or play a card!

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Summertime Is Playtime!

With the kids now out of school, with plans for summer vacations, and with temperatures soaring — we’re supposed to have 100-degree temperatures here in the Midwest within the next day or two– we’re in the season of playtime!  And, does Dogbotz Boneyard have the playthings for you and your family, neighbors and friends.

Among the toys and games we have available for resale:

  • For the strategist: dominoes, vintage chess boards, and clan-building adventures.
  • For family fun: classic board games and card games.
  • For the scholar of foreign cultures: a German garden lotto game and Schafkopf card game as well as the classic French traveling game of Mille Bornes.
  • For the doll-maker: a variety of doll heads, and even a 1930s Seminole Indian doll.
  • For the hunter: duck decoys galore!

 

And when we begin to dig a little bit deeper in the boneyard, all sorts of playthings begin to pop out: toy boats, nanoblock sets, Chinese fortune-telling sticks, more rare vintage family board and card games, and much, much more. So, visit us and check out our toys, games and playtime collectibles on a weekly basis as new items for summer fun are added often.

If you’re a collector of vintage games and toys, let us know what you’re seeking as we may already have it in our inventory but haven’t listed it yet on our website.

All the best,
And enjoy the “dog days of summer” (no pun intended),

Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com