In the late 1980s it seemed that everybody I knew had a sticker book or two and elementary school playground discussions would invariably involve the subject at one point or another. The hobby was an absolute money-maker for the publishers, and companies like O'Pee Chee and Panini received quite a bit of my allowance money over a span of two or three years. The way it worked was simple. Kids -- or their parents -- would buy 35-cent packs of cards that were also stickers. Kids -- or their parents -- would buy the accompanying booklet where the cards could be stuck for anywhere between 50 to 75 cents. Kids would then trade their doubles1 at school, hobby shops, or trade card shows in the hopes of filling out an entire book. The only one I completed was for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The others were much more difficult as they were sports-related and would require the acquisition of hundreds of unique stickers rather than five or six dozen.
Almost three decades have passed since I last thought about this hobby. I was reminded earlier today when the boy was sitting at the table with his own sticker book, which is designed more as an afternoon activity to grant parents a bit of peace while also encouraging kids to improve their matching and reading skills. We sat together, with him peeling and affixing stickers while also providing a play-by-play commentary, and me asking questions about the characters on the pages. What sort of hobbies will he enjoy as he grows up? Many kids like to collect things, but does the youth of today collect physical objects or digital Pokemon?
I guess I'll find out soon enough.
For the moment the most played-with toys in the house are Tomica cars2, a plastic train set, and a kitchen set3. This will undoubtedly change over the next year as he starts school and becomes introduced to new people and their playtime activities. One thing that I do find interesting, however, is that the toys kids play with today, while often much cooler, are pretty much the same as my generation had when growing up. Sure, there are more electronics and an absence of Pogo Balls, but fun is fun.
Cards that they already had.
Japan's version of Hot Wheels. The suspension isn't nearly as kid-tolerant, and the die cast metal is thinner, but they're just as fun.
The boy likes to pretend he's cooking meals, so he has a kitchen set with lots of plastic fruits and vegetables that can be "cut" and "prepared". It's quite fun to watch him play.