Interest in Toys
Growing up, I loved anything to do with construction – building things. Tinkertoy and model airplane building were favorites of mine. I also loved to take things apart; I was always very curious about how things worked. But my knack for inventing seriously occurred only later in life. When I received my Ph.D. and wanted to make a serious career move, it was then that I gave inventing a try. Motivated by an article I read entitled “The Psychology of Toys,” and because of my academic background and my love for toys, I took the summer off in 1969 to see if I could invent.
First Game Inventions
It was around 1969-70, knowing nothing about the toy business, that I invented a game where players spun tops with their fingers. The tops would be dropped onto a playing board and hit and smack into one another. Later I learned that the game was already in existence, when I came across the now famous Battling Tops, which hit the market in 1968.
Another early invention of mine consisted of a playing board game made up of various challenges that a James Bond–type of character had to overcome. Instead of having playing cards stating that players accomplished a certain feat, the players had to actually perform the feat. The playing board had electronic elements and it was very elaborate for that time.
Lynn Pressman gave me my first job (1969) in the industry at Pressman Toys. I worked at Pressman’s showroom, inventing toys all by myself, for about 6 months; the first creations I sold were three games to Pressman Toys. One of the games was educational and called The Play Hour Game. The other two were psychological in nature: one was a game of perception called Completion, the other a fun psych-out game called Black & Blue. I was earning more than I ever dreamed of at Pressman, and in fact the games had “Dr. Howard Wexler” written on the box covers.
I fondly remember Lynn. She represented to me, at that time, glamour in a world I could only dream of. I pay homage to Lynn by stopping by to say hello to her son, Jim Pressman (who now runs Pressman Toys), every year at Toy Fair. But at Pressman I wasn’t learning enough by working alone, so I told Lynn that I had to leave and join a much bigger toy company.