Children of the late 1980s and 1990s loved their Koosh balls. They were easy to catch, easy to throw, and didn’t hurt nearly as much as traditional balls when hit by one. Here are some things you might not have known about the weird, wonderful toy.
1. Koosh balls were created because the inventor’s children could not master catching.
In 1986, engineer Scott Stillinger had trouble teaching his two young children to catch. Balls were too bouncy and beanbags too heavy. The California resident soon realized he needed a better ball – one that was soft, non-ricochet, and easy to grab. “I knew intuitively that a rubber filament ball would do the trick, so I set out to find a way to achieve this,”
2. Scott Stillinger was so enthusiastic about Koosh balls that he quit his job to make them.
At the end of 1986 Stillinger showed his brother-in-law Mark Button, who had worked in marketing at Mattel, a prototype of the ball. The men – and their wives – were confident enough to quit the product and start a toy company called OddzOn Products. Stillinger later called their early prototypes “raw … When I look back at how raw they were compared to today, we were insane.” But when they showed the ball to a shopkeeper, she said to them, “They’re going to be millionaires.” Stillinger built the machine to make the balls and operated it from a barn near his house.
3. Scott Stillinger applied for a patent for Koosh balls in 1987.
The patent, granted in 1988, outlined the problems with regular balls:
“One of the problems with a lot of traditional throwing / fishing gear is that it doesn’t absorb a lot of energy on impact and, accordingly, has a tendency to bounce easily and get out of hand. Also, they sometimes hurt to catch. Another problem is that they usually do not offer a surface configuration that promotes quick and secure gripping. “
Your ball – “an amusement device which has a substantially spherical configuration and is formed from a large number of slack, elastomeric filaments radiating densely and bushy from a central core area” – would “avoid these significant disadvantages in a very practical and satisfactory manner.” “:
“The filaments are slack enough to collapse on impact and absorb enough energy to avoid a tendency to ricochet. They are also so dense and limp that upon contact with the hand they quickly pull through between a user’s fingers. These functions enable a safe and fast detection of the device during the catching process. “
4. There were more than 200 possible name options for Koosh balls.
Positions inch People 1989: “Through a process of polls and logic, we chose Koosh.” According to The secret story of the ballsThe duo started with more than 200 names before asking children and adults to choose their favorite from a list of finalists. The ball is also said to be named after the sound it makes when it is caught.
5. A standard Koosh ball consists of 2000 rubber filaments.
Arranged end-to-end, the filaments stretch more than 300 feet on each 3 inch diameter ball. Incidentally, the filaments have a nickname: Stillinger and Button called them “Fühler”.
6. The media made fun of Koosh balls and the industry didn’t get it – but customers loved it.
According to The secret life of the balls“The media made fun of the soft ball. A Sports illustrated Writer compared the Koosh to one Star Trek Tribble, while another reporter likened it to a ‘psychedelic sea urchin’. “Koosh balls were also called” The Pet Rock of the 80s “. Worse still, some people in the industry just didn’t get it: one retailer even thought the filaments were defective and started cutting them off.
But in the end these reactions weren’t important. The Koosh ball hit shelves in 1987, and in 1988 the ball, which a PR person described for OddzOn as “a cross between a porcupine and a bowl of Jell-O”, was a Christmas bestseller. By the next year, it was available in 14,000 toy stores across the country and in 20 countries around the world. Stillinger and Button created other versions of their popular ball, which would eventually be available in three variants: Regular, Fuzzy (with twice as many filaments as the regular) and Mondo, the size of a grapefruit.
In 1990 Stillinger said he and Button were “surprised by the scale [Koosh’s] Success ”without spending any money on consumer advertising. Koosh balls benefited from placement next to registers – where customers couldn’t resist picking them up – and word of mouth. It soon appeared in physics class at a Kansas community college and in physical therapy sessions. There was even a fan club that sent Koosh product suggestions to OddzOn.
7. The Koosh Ball had its own book.
Released 1989, The official Koosh book There were 33 “Kooshy Activities” including a type of tag called “Koosh Attack” and games like “Lakroosh”, “Hopskoosh” and “Kooshy Kooshy Koo”.
8. There was a short-lived Kooshball comic series.
Koosh Kins – a comic strip about six living Kooshes (Grinby, Boingo, GeeGee, Slats, TK, and Scopes), produced by Archie Comics – debuted in 1991. The series ran for a few issues and was, of course, accompanied by a toy line of Koosh balls with faces and hands.
9. There has been a lot of secrecy surrounding Koosh balls.
Or at least where it was made: According to a 1990 newspaper article, OddzOn Products was so wary of competitors stealing its secrets that it kept the exact location of its Silicon Valley manufacturing facility a secret.
10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has weighed the copyright of the Koosh ball.
When the US Copyright Office declined to copyright the Koosh ball in 1988, OddzOn sued the decision as “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion”. By 1991, the case had reached the future Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a judge at the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. In its ruling, Ginsburg stated that “OddzOn requested copyright registration for the KOOSH ball to block the importation of less expensive” imitations “, but that the court was unable to make a decision on the ball’s copyright:
“We reiterate that we can simply and simply decide that the Copyright Office’s refusal to register the KOOSH Ball in the circumstances outlined here is not an abuse of power. We do not rule on the copyrights of the item or express an opinion on the decision we would make if the matter in an infringement suit was before us. “
Why couldn’t the court make a decision on copyright? The question was whether the functionality of the ball was inextricably linked to the useful aspect or not. Under US law, and as Ginsberg noted in her judgment, it is only possible to copyright things that “can be identified and exist independently of the useful aspects of the article.” The Copyright Office was of the opinion that the appearance and functionality of the Koosh ball are inextricably linked with its function and are therefore not protected by copyright.
11. Stillinger and Button sold their Koosh Ball Company in 1994.
By the time the duo decided to sell OddzOn to New Jersey Company Russ Berrie and Co. in 1994, they had sold 50 million Koosh balls and made an estimated $ 30 million a year. The Koosh line consisted of 50 products, including key rings, fin soccer balls and turf arrows. Hasbro bought the company in 1997. (Today Hasbro licenses Koosh balls to Basic Fun.)
12. A woman was sued after she was hit in the face with a Koosh ball on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show.
In 2001, 69-year-old Lucille DeBellis went to a taping of The Rosie O’Donnell Show. She was sitting in the studio audience when after the details of her lawsuit (as reported in the The New York Post) she was “suddenly hit in the face with a hard object without warning” – a Koosh ball that O’Donnell and her staff often shot in the audience using a Koosh throwing device called a fling shot.
Two years later, DeBellis filed a $ 3 million lawsuit against the show’s producers, claiming, “The Cuzball [sic] The plaintiff was punched directly in the mouth, causing pain and swelling, and bleeding gums. “The effects of the hit were long-lasting, according to the lawsuit:
“[B]because of their physical discomfort and embarrassment about their appearance, [DeBellis] was forced to spend the length of the 2001 Christmas season in her home and turned down many opportunities to attend Christmas parties and various social events … [It] impaired [her] Relationship with her boyfriend. “
DeBellis set up shop with Warner Bros. and Time Warner Cable in 2004.