Toy boys

The great Furby hunt begins

In an episode of The Monkees, the boys try to help an old toy inventor named Harper, who can't get his creations produced because the toy company's manager, named only Daggart, manufactures toys designed by computers. Daggart says that when the children break or get bored with the shoddy computer-designed toys, their parents will buy more, thereby tripling the company's revenue. The Monkees try to sabotage Daggart's toy test trials by dressing in drag and as children (it is the Monkees), but the plan backfires; they get Harper fired. Still, 20 minutes and two music videos later, good triumphs over evil, Harper is rehired, the manager is fired, and quality toys prevail over their cheap, trendy counterparts.

Thirty years later, it seems as though people like Daggart continue to run toy companies, putting dollars before durability. Daniel Lauer realized this when he took his idea for Waterbabies -- a rubber baby doll that looks and feels alive when filled with warm water -- to toy companies. He was rejected and decided to release it himself. Now, according to a Waterbabies press release, it's the second-best-selling doll of the decade. But rather than just bankrolling his profits, Lauer, along with disgruntled toy exec Jeffrey Loeb, founded Haystack Toys to help out independent inventors and regular Joes with good ideas for toys.

Beginning this year, Haystack will hold the annual "Great Toy Hunt" and accept applications through its Web site (www.haystacktoys.com) for new toys. Then, the founders will tour seven major cities to interview the finalists to choose 10 toys to produce. Each inventor will enter a contract called the Haystack Handshake, which provides a $5,000 advance, five percent royalties, and a $50,000 investment toward the development of the toy product line.

But Lauer and Loeb aren't looking for any toy: They want "golden" toys, toys that will be cherished mementos for a child's life. The toys must be for children ages 3 to 6 and can't be violent or based on television shows or movies. They must "communicate authenticity, honesty, and wonder." Their examples include Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, and Furby. Seriously? C'mon, aren't those fad-centered toys with fast-fading glory and rapidly decreasing collectors' value? How about some real quality toys, something like Weebles or lawn darts?

 
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