Mr. Potato Head is a plastic toy that is shaped to look like a potato. It includes several pre-made holes where plastic eyes, ears, shoes, hats, noses, mouths and arms can be attached. The customizable toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949 and began production by Hasbro in 1952. Over the years, several versions have been released with varying accessories.
There are few people that have been born in the last 50 years that don’t know what Mr. Potato Head is. The childhood staple has been released dozens of times in standard and limited edition kits. The kits contain eyes, noses, mouths, shoes, hats and more. By mixing and matching pieces, kids can create limitless combinations for imaginative play.
I remember spending countless hours playing with Mr. Potato Head. My parents loved it and they encouraged me to play with it. At the time, I thought they liked seeing the combinations I could come up with. Looking back, I know they just liked because it didn’t light up or make noise.
One of the selling features of Mr. Potato Head was that you could store the parts in the back. There was a trap door in the rump that would open for easy access. Unfortunately, the hinges weren’t of great quality and I can remember the door popping off almost constantly. The idea was that kids could put their own toys away because the trap door was easy to open. That would teach them responsibility. In reality, it was just one more thing mom had to constantly fix for me.
Mr. Potato Head came in a variety of styles over the years. There was a regular version with generic accessories, a Toy Story edition and even a Mrs. Potato Head. You could purchase boat trailers, cars and other embellishments to give your potato a luxurious life. Mr. Potato Head even made a cameo in several movies. There was a brief television show called The Mr. Potato Head Show that debuted in 1998, but the pilot season was never picked up. Mr. Potato Head is still a quasi-celebrity and enjoys a balloon in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mr. Potato Head also enjoys great popularity in preschool classrooms. The toy makes a great first lesson on anatomy. Kids can learn through play by naming the parts as they put them on the toy. The convenient in-doll storage makes Mr. Potato Head hard to pass up for a lot of teachers.
Despite the lack of electronics and the length of time that Mr. Potato Head has been on the market, the toy continues to demand top dollar. Sets frequently retail for $20 or more and parents readily pay as a way to connect with their own childhoods and give their kids a little bit of the carefree childhoods they remember.