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How Rotary Phone Toys Managed To Stay Relevant Throughout The Rise Of Smart Technology

Chances are we’ve all played some version of house when we were growing up. Pretending to be grown up, cooking in the play kitchen, and making important calls on our toy rotary phones. These classic elements of play have withstood the test of time, so much so that old school toys like toy rotary phones are still relevant today, regardless of how much technology has changed. 

Fisher Price initially released the toy “chatter telephone” in 1961. You can likely still picture the red phone receiver, eyes that would blink when the phone would ring, and a happy smile.

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Although we’re living in a new era of toys and technology, certain nostalgic items like the classic rotary phone have continued to sell and be played with worldwide. While actual rotary phones may no longer be in style, the toy is still holding its place in the market. 

Jules Burder is someone who has worked in early childhood education for 14 years. She recently spoke to the media and confirmed that the rotary phone – whether in toy or actual form – “ticks many developmental boxes. The repetitive task of rotating the dial builds fine motor skills and dexterity – this helps with pre-writing skills like pen holding,” she stated. 

“The phone also helps with counting, number recognition and even rhythm – you can imagine the click and the zing as the dial is drawn to each selected number.”

“Pretend play helps young children draw from and reflect on their own experiences and it encourages them to develop an understanding of social norms,” she says.

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“The nostalgia factor may explain why parents keep buying these toys.”

Lucia Di Mauro, the owner of Stranger Than Paradise toy shop, believes “nostalgia plays a large part in the dial phone’s enduring popularity.”

“We find that parents remember these toys from when they were kids. The design is mostly unchanged, and it sparks a memory of love or happiness. In the same way that people want to share a great song or movie, parents [and grandparents] want to pass on this positive experience to their children and grandchildren,” Lucia says. 

“Obviously, its appeal to children is not based on nostalgia. They don’t know that the toy is modeled on an old item that is no longer produced. It’s a multifaceted toy that offers many types of play, and that is what kids love.”

Flick Davies, the store manager of Honeybee Toys, finds that, “rather than the adults seeking it out, it’s the children who gravitate towards it. It seems they can’t help but pick it up. Instinctively they know what to do with it – it’s got a receiver like mummy’s phone … that just happens to be attached by coloured string.”

Mattel Family Barbie Penthouse On The Market In Los Angeles For $10 Million

A 3,200-square-foot Century City residence formerly owned by Mattel founders Ruth and Eliot Handler has just been listed for $10 million. The property was initially acquired from the Handler’s in 2012 by developer and designer Nicole Sassaman for $3 million.

“Technically, I bought the home from the real Barbie, Barbara Handler Segal. Ruth and Elliot passed away. Her brother, Kenneth, was deceased as well. So everything was left to Barbara. But don’t call her ‘Barbie.’ If you call her ‘Barbie,’ she will correct you and say, ‘It’s Barbara.’ She is a lovely woman. But few people know that Ken and Barbie were the inspiration behind the iconic dolls,” Sassaman says of the penthouse.

Sassaman went on to explain how the original penthouse didn’t have a Mattel feel to it. “It felt like a 1960s time warp. The only thing in the home related to Barbie was the Barbie and Ken dolls in a glass case. I only wish that I had asked Barbara for them, but I didn’t have the heart. Basically we tore out all the electricity, the plumbing and the framing and the windows. We came down to nothing. The whole place was one room. We started all over again,” she said.

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Sassaman is no stranger to flipping famous properties and reselling them. She’s mainly known for buying and selling the Greta Garbo estate, which she claims helped her when it came to designing the Barbie Penthouse.

“One of my favorite properties that I flipped was a house that quite a few celebrities lived in, including Greta Garbo and Gloria Vanderbilt and Tab Hunter. The house got a lot of press, but when I sold it, the people largely bought it because Greta Garbo had lived there; it was called the Greta Garbo estate. And I thought, ‘Wow.’ If I ever buy a house or a property where someone famous has lived, I will pay respect to the iconic aspect and document everything from the beginning. So I took this approach with the Barbie penthouse. Also, I never got to redesign a penthouse, so this was such a fun opportunity to do something on a different scale,” she explains.

The house has an immaculate view of the Pacific Ocean and the Hollywood Sign.

“Every room you go into has something unexpected, whether it’s the library shelves that are actually a secret door or the little room with a loft. The penthouse has a lot of interesting things you don’t see every day.” The property has three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. The office space has a queen-sized bed loft as well as a 350-square-foot balcony.

“I am always so touched by the relationship people have with Barbie. I also had Barbie’s when I was a little girl. I loved Barbie. But the most fun thing for me when I was a child was building and designing Barbie’s houses.”

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Sassaman explained why now was the right time to sell after all the work and love they put into the property:

“When I finished the penthouse in the early days, I was offered $10 million from quite a famous hotelier. It was a terrific offer. But I just wasn’t ready to sell at that time. If I don’t sell it, I get to continue to live here. And all my friends are dying that I’m selling. But I just thought it was a good time to let go and a great lesson to teach my 15-year-old daughter not to get too attached to things. Nothing lasts forever, and it is good to move on and try something new, not get stuck in a certain thing in one place. Also, it’s important to share this home. It’s a beautiful place. I have created so many amazing memories here. Even last night, all my friends were over. Everyone wants to celebrate here as long as we have it, so it seems like every night is a party. But I think it’s time to pass the torch and let someone else enjoy it,” she says.

Scott Segall is a real estate agent who’s responsible for the Malibu Barbie beach house listing in California who recently spoke about how unique the Penthouse property was in comparison.

“If you’re going to buy your daughter a Barbie Penthouse, and that Barbie Penthouse was a toy, it would look like this. It’s the live version of what Barbie would have had. There’s always been this idea that Barbie likes the finer things in life and we are delivering that.”

“This penthouse is a little more understated and low-key, so it’s not in your face. And I think a lot of people with high profiles love that. Beyond that, the history of having the Handlers who invented Ken and Barbie having lived there gives it some sort of cache. Nicole has completely reimagined the space. And I think it’s always fun when you have some kind of history associated with a remarkable property,” he adds.

Online Shopping

Facing Online Competition, Toy Stores Forced to Innovate

In the face of the existential threat to their business posed by Amazon and other online retailers, toy stores are obligated to innovate or face extinction, as in the case of the ill-fated Toys R Us. Camp is one store that does just that by offering children an opportunity to play with toys before their parents buy them, transforming the shopping process into one more focused on creating family experiences. Indeed, Camp, which recently opened a store in Downtown Brooklyn, bills itself as a “family experience store,” not strictly as a toy store, and the company hopes to lure customers away from online stores by creating a space where kids can have fun and parents can enjoy spending time with their children. In addition to selling toys, Camp hosts family activities, such as arts and crafts projects like making gingerbread houses or building a balloon powered car. The stores change their theme every few months in a bid to encourage families to visit repeatedly; currently, the space is summer-camp themed, and offers spaces like a playground and disco floors for children to play.

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While it’s free for anyone to visit any of Camp’s five retail locations, toys that are available for purchase can be found all over the place, enticing children to convince their parents to buy them something that catches their attention. As such, Camp’s plan to compete with online retailers involves fostering a physical environment where people are more likely to spend money. While it is surely expensive to maintain a store like this, the company hopes that the unique space they offer will attract not only children but parents who would prefer for their kids to play somewhere in the real world instead of engaging mainly with electronic devices. While this may be a risky strategy given the complicated and unpredictable environment of today’s retail industry, it is one that has resonated with investors, who are helping to fund the company’s expansion.

Camp’s bet is that even in this day and age, children are still interested in exploring physical spaces and interacting with each other in person

Digital media poses a threat to the toy industry in more ways than the popularity of online stores. Indeed, toys themselves may become less attractive to children as technology advances, as smartphones and tablets can provide a more engaging experience. And while video games have been a favorite among children for decades, recent advancements in technology have made this hobby far more widespread, as devices like iPhones and iPads grow in popularity and versatility. However, technology has also led to the collapse of physical media, as it is much more convenient to download a game, movie, or even book than it is to buy one from a retail location. Video gaming is a tremendously popular industry, and as toy stores generally sell video games as well, the fact that children are less likely to go to the toy store for video games in recent years is another factor that threatens the industry.

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Camp’s bet is that even in this day and age, children are still interested in exploring physical spaces and interacting with each other in person, but often miss opportunities to do so as they grow up in an increasingly digital environment. While traditional camp programs are expensive and can mean several weeks of separation between parents and their children, Camp is nominally free, and the company’s retail locations are in densely-populated, affluent neighborhoods, ensuring its customers don’t have to travel too far to get there. Unsurprisingly, the toys at Camp are sold at a premium to subsidize the rest of the experience. However, for many parents, the opportunity to spend some quality family time in an environment that’s fun for kids makes the added cost worth it.