American Made Toys

American made toys are a dying breed, a phenomenon of global realities and macroeconomics as the richest countries have relied on offshoring to dramatically reduce costs and increase revenues.

As the economy in the United States continues to suffer, it is joined by the United Kingdom and to a greater extent nations in the European Union such as Greece, Turkey and Ireland in the current economic decay. Meanwhile, recently impoverished nations are seeing a rise in the strength of their economy, such as India, Brazil and China. Many can argue that our own nation’s offshoring and outsourcing processes have instigated the trend.

Even after the highly publicized Chinese exports recall turmoil of 2007, calling for the recall of over six million individual toys from companies like RC2 Corp, Mattel, Bindeez, Marvel and Dolgencorp for dangerously high levels of lead in toys, China continues to be the dominant force in the 22.3 Billion dollar toy industry.

With China’s success comes a position of global bargaining strength as they challenge the current President of the US with their economic policies. And while it’s easy and in many ways right to blame China for all of the toys we purchase not being produced in the United States, the trend can be interpreted as a direct result of American toy manufacturers reducing costs and increasing revenues by offshoring their manufacturing activities to countries like China. So the root of the problem begins there.

Offshoring of toys began as far back as the 1960’s. By 1970 there were still about 86% of American made toys on the market which employed about 60,000 people. By 2007, about 80% of all toys purchased in the United States were being made in China and the jobs that remained in the United States were executive, corporate and creative, nearly eliminating manufacturing positions.

At the same time, executives in these companies were averaging $42 for each $1 earned by their average employees in 1980. By the year 2000, that number ballooned to $531 for every $1 each employee earned. More importantly, the savings in manufacturing costs were only slightly transferred to the consumer.

Early on, Americans loved to buy cheap Chinese toys as the savings were ridiculously low in comparison to USA made toys. We bought them as Made in USA commercials ran on our televisions. By the time our generation grew up and were buying toys for our own children, we were stuck with the current pattern, but this time we were beginning to lose out on the savings. Since cheap toys dominated the market, there were no alternatives and companies can pocket the profits while increasing toy prices.

Today, Chinese imported toys are becoming increasingly expensive. Though the average $0.36 per hour of Chinese labor is on the rise, the major increases are coming from rising costs in the raw materials of plastic, which include petroleum and resin.

Compounding this dilemma, American made toys manufacturers no longer benefit from economies of mass production, as they are now smaller mom-and-pop type of businesses unable to produce toys in large quantities and making them expensive and uncompetitive.

Above left is the original Slinky still Made in America. To the right is a cheaper “Metallic Spring.” Which would you buy? And is it that much cheaper anyway?

This page is going to serve as our personal project to list as many American made toys as we possibly can. Ultimately, it is our choice that drives economic forces and changes. But our present pattern has been developed with over half a century’s worth of powerful influences. If we buy the toys our children want at comparatively cheaper prices, 80% of our choices will be Chinese. But many companies have been making American made toys for a long time, and more and more web sites (like ours) are beginning to promote a reversal in this trend.

And not only are we doing so to strengthen the longevity of our economy, but also because we no longer want our kids playing with potentially dangerous elements such as cadmium and lead!

The original Slinky, introduced to department stores in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945, was invented by a naval engineer with a dream and a $500 loan. The original 400 Slinky’s were made by a Pennsylvanian machine shop, and 55 years later the Slinky is still made in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania!

The Little Tikes company has been manufacturing large and colorful indoor and outdoor toys in Hudson, Ohio since 1970, employing 500 workers with annual revenues of $250 million! Though they still manufacture their smaller toys and electronic components in Asia, Little Tikes has enjoyed a revival in the USA made toy with the Cozy Coupe, selling 509,000 units in 2009!

The Step 2 toys company has two large plants in the United States in Streetsboro and Perysville, Ohio employing over 800 American workers, making it the largest toy manufacturer in the United States!

BluTrack racetrack makers in Pella, Iowa made a conscious decision to manufacture their racetracks in the United States. After a frustrating assembly of a big name toy racetrack with his son, president Randy Belding realized that building the racetrack was more fun than racing the cars, and came up with these cool, thought provoking and imaginative racetracks!

Kid K'NEX are construction toys invented by a bored patron at a noisy and crowded wedding. After being turned down by big toy companies like Hasbro and Lego, K'NEX rolled out their first box in Hatfield, Pennsylvania in 1993!

After having fun with American made toys, please visit our homepage for more fun with kids toys!

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