Journey down the Toy Aisle: Nerf
by Justin Keys (@mrjroc83)
“It’s Nerf or nothin’!”
Legend has it that long ago in 1969, a man named Reyn Guyer from Minnesota, along with his team of toy inventors, came up with concepts of games for kids using foam balls; one of which was an indoor volleyball game. He presented it first to Milton Bradley, who reluctantly turned him down. Not to be deterred, he went to the Parker Brothers who then took from Mr. Guyer’s invention what they were intrigued with the most: the foam ball. It was soft, could be thrown around and used to play catch, but when it hit household items or people, it wouldn’t do any damage. Parker Brothers introduced it into the market in 1970 as “the world’s first official in-door ball,” naming it Nerf.
Non-Expanding Recreational Foam
“Nerf” comes from jargon used in auto sports for the foam padding and the bars in trucks that add protection from damage. However, it is said that the name NERF stands for Non-Expanding Recreational Foam, and from a nerd stand point, that makes it that much cooler. The toy brand had humble beginnings; the first foam ball spawned off into a Super Nerf Ball, and then into sports-related products such as Nerfoop and the famous Nerf Football. Unlike the foam ball, which was made by spinning foam on a lathe and shaping it, the football was produced by pouring the foam into a mold—ah, that would explain the line around it. The design evolved over time, from the very rare Turbo line (now collectors’ items) to the Vortex line. The ultimate collector’s prize is the Nerf Turbo Whistler Football, which can be worth hundreds to even thousands of dollars (Nerf Turbo Football, eBay). The reason for its rarity was that it was pulled from the toy aisles when reports came out that the plastic pieces on the football were a choking hazard. Eventually, Nerf corrected that and continued to create fun toys, including howling and whistling footballs and even darts for blasters.
Nerf Wars, Blasting Boredom to Kingdom Come
Some of the more amazing creations were the weaponry produced by Nerf, starting with the classic Ballzooka and the Masterblaster (remember Mr.Feeny using a Nerf Blaster?) to the Bow n’ Arrow. The toys have evolved over the years, and now they have an N-Strike Elite Series that’s advertised to shoot farther with more accuracy. The most exciting blaster for that line is the Hail-Fire which has 144-dart capacity! Imagine the awe-inspiring moment when that blaster is used in a Nerf War. Wow! Another popular line is Vortex, which has blasters that use cutting edge XLR Disc Tech (Nerf Vortex XLR Disc Tech) to shoot discs instead of darts.
Perhaps one of the best additions to add to any Nerf collection would be the Super Soaker blasters for the summer. How could anyone forget about having one? These water guns were the brainchild of Lonnie Johnson, an engineer with NASA. During his time working on a space probing missions, he came up with the idea for a water gun that would shoot fifty feet! Mr. Johnson used the simple materials of a plastic soda bottle, PVC pipe and Plexiglas. However, he ran into the same problem as Guyer; no one wanted to buy his idea. Right before he was going to give up, he meet Al Davis, CEO of Larami Toys and sold his idea of this new “high-power water gun” to Larami Toys in 1993 (Soaking In Success). Over 250 million water blasters have sold since. Hasbro, the parent company, added Super Soaker to the lineup when they acquired Larami. They decided to incorporate Super Soaker into the Nerf roster and recently rebranded the toy. With that said, it would be wise to make a few additions of the water blaster to your collection for some outdoor fun in the warmer weather. They’ve been the main staple in many water fights and a part of many fun summers. The classic from the early 1990s was the Super Soaker 50, another one to own in the late 1990s was the CPS 1500 which held 100oz. of water and would shoot twenty to forty feet!
Live Long and Have a Blast
The fun factor about the products is that they offer kids and adults a lot of replay value, from countless Nerf blaster wars, to awesome games of football on the beach or even indoors. We can all thank Reyn Guyer, who also invented Twister, and Lonnie Johnson for such awesome, innovative ideas using foam and water in a line of toys that helped shape our childhood, and heck, even adulthood for that matter.
It goes to show that a simple idea can become a life changing one. So until next time, keep your blasters ready, aim straight, and don’t forget to carry extra darts and water! Be safe!