The Retro Fun of Westminster Inc. Toys

Kitsch niche

Today’s third graders may turn up their noses at any toy that doesn’t contain a microchip, but fortunately for Atlanta-based Westminster Inc., their parents have no such scruples. Apparently whoopee cushions and potato guns are timeless.

Cofounder Max Ker-Seymer calls his products “old-tech” rather than “low-tech.” Mostly designed here and manufactured overseas, they range from puzzles and air hockey tables to remote-controlled flying spacemen. The biggest seller is eyeglasses made from a drinking straw.

Westminster’s first hit was the Tumble Buggy. Ker-Seymer sold 1.7 million of the battery-operated flipping cars in its first two years, mostly by demonstrating the car in malls. Now a wholesale distributor, the firm caters to independent drug stores, airport shops, and museums—including Richards Variety Store in Atlanta and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ker-Seymer was recently surprised to spot one of his flashlights in a gift shop in Amman, Jordan. His firm now has thirty-five local employees, plus an office in Hong Kong.

There’s no science to spotting a fun toy, says Ker-Seymer. “We are very fortunate in not having to answer to a focus group, as a lot of our items would be given the thumbs-down. Something like our Pull My Finger Pen would be one of the first to go!”

Photograph by Kaylinn Gilstrap

Betsy Riley is our executive editor.
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