What happened to the Spirograph toy?
March 25, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

What happened to the Spirograph?

I went looking for a set on-line and all I found was a vintage one on e-bay for $64. I have bought some knock-off versions, but they are too small or otherwise disappointing. I now have one on order from Australia. What happened to this toy? Does anyone know why it is not made anymore?
posted by Goodgrief to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have a child who has about eighteen billion Lego bricks. He prefers to spend his time at the computer building virtual Lego models with the (free!) Lego Digital Designer.

I'm pretty sure the Spirograph went the way of the Light Brite. Computer graphics are much more fun.
posted by bondcliff at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2010

Lite Brite still exists.

Goodgrief, try looking for a hypotrochoid drawing kit.

posted by elsietheeel at 8:45 AM on March 25, 2010

I have seen spirograph-style toys both in stores and in toy catalogs, so perhaps it's only the name that has disappeared.

Oh, I see elsietheheel found one. I would never have been able to figure out the search terms.
posted by not that girl at 8:50 AM on March 25, 2010

There is also a Klutz brand version on Amazon.

In searching for this, I found an interesting story on the history of Spirograph.
posted by jenny76 at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2010

The Spirograph was the kind of toy that was really fun for about twenty minutes once a month, and then you were like "okay, here's another loopy circle thing." Even without the rise of more sophisticated toys, kids might just have lost interest.

I'm guessing they also seemed too dangerous to some parents. Spirograph sets were full of small parts that could present a choking hazard. The early models were held down with sharp pins, which weren't too safe either. I'm not sure if the pins were eliminated in later versions. (Here's a 1972 article suggesting Spirographs should be banned from toy shelves.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2010

Hasbro still has catalog pages for Spirograph, but no links to where to buy. I remember when I worked for them seeing a travel version in the employee toy shop, but the shop tended to get lots of out-of-date stuff along with the new hottest toys, so I am not sure if it is still in production.
posted by chiefthe at 9:03 AM on March 25, 2010

The Spirograph was the kind of toy that was really fun for about twenty minutes once a month, and then you were like "okay, here's another loopy circle thing."

Yeah, or I would spend a long time working on some pattern, be almost finished and then I would lose concentration for a second and a gear would jump a tooth, ruining the whole thing.
posted by chazlarson at 9:10 AM on March 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was lucky enough to get my original Spirograph on eBay a few years ago for $11 plus shipping, and had no trouble letting my kids play with it once they were old enough for the pins. The higher prices you're seeing might indicate a resurgence in popularity.

The original Spirograph is much easier to use than the dumbed-down version now sold by Hasbro, which is horrible. The Klutz version's not bad, and the hypotrochoid art set is rather nice.
posted by Ery at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2010

I loved my Spirograph as a kid, but yeah it only made two patterns: the circle/oval, and the figure eight. But there was something hypnotizing about watching that thing go round, and round, and round, and round, and round.....
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:53 AM on March 25, 2010

You people were all clearly too well-adjusted as kids to really enjoy this thing. You all probably gave up after two designs and went and played outside in the sun like a bunch of jerks.

I poked myself countless times with those little pins at the age of 4, but it was worth it! I explored every hole of every gear, and made hundreds of designs, each different from the last.

If you really worked the four color pens, you could get incredibly interesting interesting results. Then computers came along and took all the fun (i.e. slight reward for painstaking work) out of it.

Spirograph died for me when they replaced the pins with those hole-punching nubbins that never work and destroy your paper. Fuck you, Spirograph.
posted by Aquaman at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

I loved Spirograph and never tired of it. I would carefully and slowly spin those little gears around to great satisfaction. I think it appealed somehow to my burgeoning OCD. That Klutz version is tempting me hard. I can't believe people actually thought Spirograph was crap!
posted by Coatlicue at 10:21 AM on March 25, 2010

I loved the old one but then, I was the sort of kid who looked forward to car rides because I liked to watch passing crop rows out the window of the car.

I bought a newer one for a friend's son for his birthday and it sucked.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:23 AM on March 25, 2010

Response by poster: Ery thanks for the tip re the hypotrochoid. I haven't tried that.

The Klutz version is horrible. Don't buy it, you will be disappointed.

Thanks for the links to the articles, I am haven't checked them yet but definitely will.

Aquaman, LOL, I feel you.

I want a real Spirograph set for a grown-up art project
which involves blowing up the patterns to canvas-size and using them as cheap art. We'll see how it goes with the Aussie kit.

Thanks all.
posted by Goodgrief at 12:03 PM on March 25, 2010

Last summer we bought a real spirograph set at a yard sale for a buck or two. I loved spirograph as a kid, but those little pins... The pin shaft would separate from the head and become invisible hazards. Once I was sweeping something off with my hand and put one of those pins right through the top joint of a finger. Nevertheless, a cool toy.
posted by DarkForest at 12:20 PM on March 25, 2010

I can't believe people actually thought Spirograph was crap!

I think Spirograph gave me a bit of a leg up in math classes. Graphing and linear relationships, that kind of thing.
posted by telstar at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2010

i completely forgot about the pins. yikes. those were lethal.

i own a travel spirograph, which is palm-sized and pretty cool, although limited.
posted by sdn at 8:51 PM on March 25, 2010

I got the hypotrochoid set linked above for my birthday this year (no joke), it's good but the gears are quite small. Also there are no "outside" gears, which again limits the size of the image.

If none of the actual kits work, there are about a million computer alternatives. For example, GIMP has a Spirogimp filter, with more options than you can shake a stick at. (Spirograph pattern in a hexagon? Oh yes!)
posted by anaelith at 3:54 AM on March 26, 2010

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