ASCII by Jason Scott

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Little Plastic Dreams —

I made a nice little addition to DIGITIZE.TEXTFILES.COM: The 1980 Coleco Catalog.

If you don’t remember getting a Coleco catalog in the mail at some point, don’t be worried. This particular catalog went out specifically to stores or purchasers for chains. It’s directed toward people who buy by the box or the truckload, and so the tone of the catalog is how the items you buy will be supported by a television advertising campaign, and the main measurement is how big the boxes are so that you know how many you can stack in your shelves.

Beyond that, of course, all the toys in this catalog are presented as exquisitely as possible, with close-zoomed photos, and small framed shots that try to emulate the television commercial.

For a lot of people, the electronic games will hold specific interest, although I supposed the Rock n’ Roll Stroller might invoke a memory or two. More likely, though, there’s a lot of people who remember things like the Electronic Quarterback or the Lil Genius.

One particularly notable toy is Quiz Wiz, which was essentially a paper-based quiz machine that had all of the answers stored on a chip. Therefore,. it had a very large library that covered a ton of subjects, including Major Leage Baseball and the People’s Almanac, I remember a lot of Quiz Wiz commercials.

But I think the most interesting case of me having a different look at things with an adult’s eye would be the Slide-a-Boggans, which are nicely wrapped up in a pretty box and have a nice brand name and all… but they’re plastic sheets! Thick plastic sheets! And if you check out the price list, you can see they were wholesaling at between $1.20 and $1.90 based on which of the models you wanted, either big plastic sheet or bigger plastic sheet. So imagine what the markup must have been for a stamped-out piece of plastic with a box around it. What a racket!

I picked up this catalog along with the 1981 catalog (which is much larger, but still predating the Colecovision) at the MIT flea market. For the first tme in memory, I actually had to haggle with the guy over it, because he wanted $10. No way! I paid $5, which was still too much, but I felt good knowing it’s be all over the world within a short time. And here we are.

Coleco went bankrupt in 1988, and was bought out by Hasbro in 1989. It had been founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg, and his son Leonard announced at the beginning of this catalog that Coleco would be “The One” for product, promotion and delivery. At this point, in 1980, they probably thought they were at the top of the world.

Isn’t life and scanning grand.

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