Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Toy Inventor's Jewel - Nerf - Marks Its 25th Year

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Toy Inventor's Jewel - Nerf - Marks Its 25th Year

Article excerpt

The guy in the next cubicle is making you crazy. Cracking stupid jokes. Swiping your phone book. And what is he crunching on over there?

Fed up with the stress, you reach into the bottom desk drawer and grab your Razorbeast Blaster - it's payback time.

OK, this is probably just a fantasy. But if you wanted to turn the Razorbeast on someone, at least you wouldn't go to jail. It's a Nerf.

For the past 25 years, Nerf foam and plastic toys, from balls to blasters, have been relieving office stress in adults and making it OK for kids to play ball in the house.

Reynolds Guyer was the inventor of the original Nerf ball, snipping a prototype Nerf from polyurethane foam in 1968. Parker Brothers, makers of the Monopoly board game, marketed the 4-inch foam sphere as the first indoor ball. It was a hit.

Today, Nerf, manufactured by Hasbro Inc.'s Kenner Products division, is one of the big names in the $3.8 billion outdoor toy market. Nerf sales have averaged 4 million units a year for the past quarter-century.

But back in 1968, Guyer, of St. Paul, Minn., was just looking to make realistic-looking rocks for a cave man game. It was to be the successor to another big game developed by his family's toy company - Twister.

Instead of rock shapes, Guyer ended up with the sphere.

"In the invention of toys and games, about one in 95 ever come to the market," Guyer said. "Probably about one in 90 of those ever last more than one year. It's an oddity and I'm grateful for it. When they come you usually know they're a jewel."

Nerf is so widely accepted that it is on the verge of losing its identity. "It's been jeopardized in that it's becoming like Kleenex," said Chris Byrne, editor of Market Focus: Toys, a toy industry trade publication. Byrne said he relieves stress with a Nerf Detonator, which shoots suction-cup darts.

The Nerf ball, named to convey its soft "friendly" nature, has been joined by the Nerf football, soccer ball and some decidedly more aggressive products like the Razorbeast.

Guyer, 59, graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in journalism but went to work as an artist in his dad's toy and game business, Reynolds Guyer Design. …

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