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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Hey, Is This Collectible Antique, Vintage or Retro?

For any of us who are collectors of anything of value (hopefully real as opposed to merely perceived), we are at some point or another — and more often than not, at numerous points — confronted with the niggling thought as to whether what we’ve been collecting are antiques, vintage items, or retro pieces. Similarly, those of us who sell collectibles — as we do here at Dogbotz Boneyard — are asked the question “Is it antique, vintage or retro?” by our customers. Now there has been excessive discussion about this topic on auction websites such as the ubiquitous eBay, on blogs focusing on collectibles (such as this one), in newsletters (e- and not), etc. So much discussion, in fact, that I was at first loathe to add my proverbial two cents until, of course, Randy (one of our customers) asked me the very same question about the 1945 edition of the Cootie game we presented a few blogs ago (see Why Collect Vintage Games? posted August 27, 2012).

However, before reviewing the age differences between antique, vintage and retro, I thought it might be best to consider what exactly is a collectible, since many folks have sent me e-mails about that subject as well. In my experience, collectibles fall into three categories: manufactured, personal passion, and memorabilia.

A manufactured collectible is an item made specifically for people to collect — think any sort of tradable cards, such as those featuring sports celebrities or the fantastic creatures of Magic: The Gathering; Spiderman tumblers sold through a national fast-food restaurant chain; Hallmark Christmas ornaments, and so forth. The terms special edition, limited edition and variants such as deluxe edition and collector’s edition fall under the category of manufactured collectibles, since they are used as marketing incentives for various kinds of products, originally published products related to the arts, such as books, prints or recorded music and films, but now including cars, cigars and fine wine. A limited edition is restricted in the number of copies produced, although, in fact, the number may be either quite low or high. A special edition implies extra material of some kind is included.

A personal passion collectible is an item that was not initially nor intentionally created to be collected; however, at the point when different people purposefully began to purchase numerous items of similar style, function, design and often origin, they became by default “collected.” For example, I doubt that Shaker women of bygone centuries thought, as they were crafting their baskets, “A-ha! Some day this egg basket along with the dozen others I’ve woven (not to mention those of young Sally Fair or that gentle and wise Mrs. Smith) will be collected by folks in the 21st century so they can make mucho bucks from my toil!” The same probably holds true for match boxes, andirons, Victorian door knobs, Depression glassware and Inuit snowshoes.

The third important field of collecting is memorabilia, which includes collectibles related to a person, organization, or event, including t-shirts, posters, program booklets and numerous other paraphernalia marketed to fans. Memorabilia, though, can also include ephemera from historical, media, or entertainment events. Initially, these were items that were meant to be thrown away, yet they were saved by fans and later accumulated by collectors. Memorabilia from rock concerts, historic sporting events, and even political rallies (save those Obama and Romney signs!) are much sought after ever since memorabilia as a collectible category has become big business.

So, to review: Items marketed to be collected such as Captain America glasses are manufactured collectibles. Items collected out of a unique interest to a certain individual or group such as Art Deco inkwells are personal passion collectibles. Items associated with significant events or celebrities that were produced for one-time use but were saved by others as a cultural reminder of the times are memorabilia.

A final word about collectibles: Because a limited supply of collectibles of any sort exists, they are sought for a variety of reasons, including a possible increase in value. From a financial perspective, collectibles can be viewed as a hedge against inflation. Over time, the value of collectibles may also increase as they become rarer due to loss, damage or destruction. One drawback to investing in collectibles is the potential lack of liquidity, particularly for very obscure items. My rule of thumb? Well, I ask myself, would someone else be interested in buying what I just did? For example, am I the only person who values the vivid, fluid, and magical imagery of a Kathleen Kills Thunder painting? If so, it’ll probably end up being donated to a museum of First Nations artwork when I die. If not, I should collect her works and sell them when the time is right. The same holds true for that Kenneth J. Lane Maltese Cross brooch or that cast-iron Aunt Jemima doorstop.

Ok, now, is that painting, brooch or doorstop antique, vintage, or retro? I don’t doubt that whatever I say will be contested by throngs of others. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of blogging!

Here’s my take!

Antique: The Merriam Webster dictionary defines an antique as “a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws was created, made, or manufactured at least 100 years ago.” That said, the stereographic cards manufactured in 1908 that I just acquired from a nearby estate sale (and plan to re-sell on Dogbotz Boneyard) are antique as they are, quite simply, photographic images more than 100 years old. Even the stereoscope that I purchased with the cards qualifies as an antique, as it was manufactured in 1897.

Vintage: Okay, now there are those who really (and I mean really) hate this term, and perhaps rightly so, hence they whine. The word vintage relates originally to a specific year in which a wine was produced, such as a chardonnay vintage 1998. Later the term was associated with vehicles (a vintage 1967 Mustang), and much later with everything else (my HP Pavilion Entertainment PC laptop vintage 2010).

Lovely as the supposedly “official” use of the term vintage is, language is a living process, which means that shifts in grammar, syntax and vocabulary (gasp!) are constantly occurring. Thus is the fate of vintage! Though debate ensues as to whether the term refers to items that are at least 20 years old, 30 years old, or 50, I defer to a common website where folks can sell (not auction) their goods — Etsy. I know, not the most academic of resources, but if thousands of folks can sell thousands of products a year on Etsy, then that website is reflecting back to us — the everyday sellers and buyers — want vintage means to the general public. And for Etsy, that’s 20 years. So, I follow that rule of thumb for goods I sell on Dogbotz Boneyard. If I indicate an item is vintage, it was made a minimum of 20 years ago but not exceeding 100 years.

Retro: The word retro simply refers to an item (frequently, but not always, clothing, accessories, and jewelry) that looks out of style for the current time period. Thus, any new design that references styles, structures, or ideas from the past is deemed retro. Other interchangeable terms are retro vintage or vintage inspired. This should not be confused with a reproduction, which is an item that is purposefully made to look exactly like an antique or vintage product but that uses contemporary materials in its manufacturing process.

Hopefully, you now have a better feel for what a collectible is and, based on its age, whether it’s antique, vintage or retro. I have provided examples of products available at Dogbotz Boneyard to illustrate the three types of collectibles as well as the age-restricted terms.

Hassle me if you disagree with my thoughts.

All the best,

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

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

Costume Jewelry Is Very Retro!

Ladies, with the arrival of summer, so too come all the fun activities of the season: beach parties, family picnics, June weddings, ethnic festivals and summer soirees. And what could be more delightful than wearing a delicious piece (or two or three) of costume jewelry? Many of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues have told us that the costume jewelry of their grandparents’ and/or parents’ times has come back into fashion. Costume jewelry is “oh so very retro!” claims our dear friend Bonnie.

Well, Dogbotz Boneyard is pleased to say that we have an excellent collection of costume jewelry from the decades of the 1920s to the 1970s, plus some contemporary peices that reflect the rhinestone, Bakelite, and cameo craze of those decades. Coro, Jonette, Juliana, Trifani, Weiss, Sarah Coventry, Whiting Davis, Kenneth J. Lane, and the Mazer Brothers – we have collected some of the best names in vintage costume jewelry. So, visit us at www.dogbotz.com to see all the wonderful costume jewelry we have . . . and return regularly as we make available for sale in the “boneyard” additional costume jewelry.

 

And, if you’re a collector of costume jewelry, let us know what you’re interested in seeing as we may have some pieces in our inventory that we haven’t released for sale yet that you might enjoy, so feel free to connect with us at info@dogbotz.com.

Enjoy the summer, and let your own beauty shine!

All the best,

Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com