PLAYING FOR KEEPS / TOYS ROUNDUP 1991 : What Becomes a Legend?

Toys are a little like fashion if you consider how frequently the trends change, and how often another must-have product comes on the market. But some toys have stood the test of time for decades. What follows is an inventory of some of the classics.

* Lincoln Logs (Playskool): Invented in 1916 by John Wright, son of architect Frank LLoyd Wright, Lincoln Logs were first manufactured in 1924. The notched, dark brown logs are stackable and made of real ponderosa pine that is sanded, stained and waxed. Each set comes with roof slats, clips, printed signs, stands and gables. Designed for children 4 to 10, there are four different sets priced from $10.99 to $26.99. One-hundred million Lincoln Log sets have been produced since their introduction.

* Tinkertoys (Playskool): This collection of spools, wheels and sticks was originally introduced at the American International Toy Fair in 1913 by stonemason Charles Pajeau, who was inspired by children playing with pencils, sticks and empty spools of thread. They were designed for kids 3 1/2 and older to build all sorts of creations--vehicles, figures, spaceships and more. Tinkertoys are made of sanded, brightly colored wooden and plastic pieces that can be used interchangeably. There are four different sets, priced from $6.99 to $16.99.

* Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (Playskool): "The original doll with a heart" turned 75 years old this year. She was created by Johnny Gruelle(cq), who used a rag doll he found in an attic to animate the stories he told his terminally ill daughter. The cloth dolls are frequently sold as a pair, with coordinating red-and-green attire. For children 1 1/2 and older, they are priced from $6.99 to $13.99 apiece.

* Mr. Potato Head (Playskool): The 39-year-old spud was first designed by Hasbro for children from 2 to 6. Originally a set of parts to be assembled on a real potato, today there are several versions available, all of which are based on a plastic spud. Super Silly Mr. Potato Head comes with 38 interchangeable accessories; regular Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are sold separately. Prices range from $3.99 to $17.99.

* Lego Building Bricks (Lego Systems): These interlocking blocks were created in 1947 by Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, son of Ole Kirk Christiansen, who founded Lego Systems in 1932. The elder Christiansen was a carpenter during the Depression and began making wooden toys when he noticed that they were big sellers despite a horrific economy. Legos are designed for three different age groups, starting as young as 4 months; sets are priced from $1.49 to $150.

* Barbie (Mattel): The 11 1/2-inch doll was invented in 1959 by Jack Ryan, after Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler came up with the concept--a 3-D fashion plate--while observing her daughter dressing paper dolls. The rest is history. Barbie and her assorted paraphernalia brought in $740 million in revenues worldwide for Mattel last year. For children 3 and older, Barbies are priced from $6 to $200 (for porcelain models).

* Lionel Trains (Lionel): In 1900 Joshua Lionel Cowen designed a window display that had a miniature flatcar toting merchandise around. But people were more interested in the flatcar than the merchandise, so Cowen further developed his window dressing. The first Lionel Trains were battery operated, with an electric train following in 1906. Designed for children 8 and older--and all those adults who are serious collectors--prices range from $100 to $1,000.

* Candyland (Milton Bradley): This board game was invented in the early '40s by Eleanor Abbott, a game designer who was stricken with polio. Milton Bradley started to manufacture Candyland, billed as "a child's first game," in 1949. Requiring no counting or reading, it is played by matching colors to get to such enticing places as Licorice Castle and Ice Sea Cream Island. For children ages 3 to 6, the game costs $7.50. About 1 million games are sold a year.

* Etch-a-Sketch Magic Screen (Ohio Art Co.): Invented by Frenchman Arthur Grandjeanin 1959, Ohio Art bought and manufactured the prototype in 1961. Etch-a-Sketch is designed for children 3 and older and costs about $10. Since 1961, 82 million screens have been sold.

* Play-Doh (Playskool): This easily moldable, brightly colored stuff was created in 1956 by Rainbow Crafts, a soap and cleaning-goods manufacturer. The special formula is still top secret. Play-Doh is (in theory) for children 3 and older, and prices range from $2.99 to $15.99.

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