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Full series and process: 90s TOYpography
K is for Koosh Ball
The Koosh Ball, the crazy looking ball once described as a "cross between a porcupine and a bowl of Jell-O,” is made of of more than 2000 rubber filaments. Scott Stillinger was inspired to invent the Koosh in 1986 when he was having trouble teaching his two young kids how to play catch.
Stillinger showed a prototype of the ball made of rubber bands to his brother-in-law, Mark Button, who’d worked in marketing at Mattel. The men—and their wives—were confident enough in the product to quit their jobs and start a toy company called OddzOn Products. Stillinger built the machine that would make the balls and operated it out of a barn near his house.
The media made fun of the Koosh at first, thinking it would flop. But in the end, those reactions didn’t matter much. The Koosh ball hit shelves in 1987, and by 1988, the ball was a Christmastime bestseller. The next year, it was in 14,000 toy stores across the country and available in 20 countries around the world.
I loved Koosh for being the inside-the-house playing ball, even though my parents didn’t know this. I loved them for juggling, playing indoor basketball, and for lots of complicated games my brothers and I concocted with totally arbitrary rules.
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