Introduced in 1967, “Lite-Brite” sold for $6.95 and was described in an old print ad as an “amazing new toy that lets a child color with light. Easy to do, it’s delightfully fascinating to insert the colored pegs into the outline picture in the ‘magic’ box and see the pegs come to life in one of eight brilliant colors.”
This was probably a familiar scene in homes across the country on Christmas morning 50 years ago:
If you want to relive that excitement, check out the new PCjs Lite-Brite LED Simulation and our collection of Original Lite-Brite Pictures. The simulation doesn’t provide quite the same satisfying “punch” each time you add an LED, but it offers other features that the inventors at Marvin Glass & Associates and the marketing folks at Hasbro could only dream of. Like this Animated Christmas Tree.
That old ad went on to say that Lite-Brite included “16 pre-printed picture sheets and 6 blank ones for creative activity, and 400 Lite-Brite pegs.” However, based on assorted eBay photos, it looks like perhaps only 14 pre-printed pictures and 4 blank pages were included. And the instructions said there were only 368 pegs, which implies 46 of each color, although the form for ordering additional pegs says each color pack contained 45 pegs. Regardless, if you wanted to fill all 1735 holes of your Lite-Brite, then you would have had to order a lot more packs, at 50 cents/pack.
The pre-printed pictures bundled with the original Lite-Brite appear to have included:
The outside of the original 1967 box tempted you with pictures of the “Sailboat”, “Ducks”, and “Choo-Choo Train”, but I’m guessing that the “Train” had to be ordered separately. The box also shows some nice clear plastic boxes for holding all the pegs, but in reality, the 8 colored peg packs came in four small white cardboard boxes.
There were 5 different picture groups you could order, for only $1 per group. Each group included 8 pre-printed sheets and 10 blank sheets. You had to make your check or money order payable to HASSENFELD BROS., INC., and you had to allow 28 days for delivery.
It looks like Group 300 would have been your “best value”, since there was no overlap between it and the bundled pictures (which I’ve marked above with asterisks); group 400 would have been your “worst value” with 6 duplicates. I’m also assuming that “Girl & Boy” was the same as “Boy & Girl”.
Over the next few years, Hasbro rejiggered the groups, numbering them simply Group 1 to 5, and eliminating the silly “For Boys” and “For Girls” classifications. The price per group increased from $1 to $1.25 and later $1.75, each group included only 8 blank sheets instead of 10, and you had to allow up to six weeks for delivery instead of four.
The only pattern lost in the shuffle was “Fruit Bowl”, which was replaced with “The Wizard of Light”. And that was pretty much all Hasbro offered for several years. All 41 of those early images are shown below.
Originally, stores also sold “Lite-Brite Picture Refills”, which contained 12 Lite-Brite pictures and 25 “Lite-Brite Blanks”. I’ve only seen a few snapshots of the box for “assortment 1”, so I have no idea which 12 pictures it contained, but it seems to have included “Tropical Fish”, “The Witch”, Basketball Player”, “The Skier”, and “Toy Soldier”. It’s probably safe to assume there was an “assortment 2” as well.
Another interesting thing about the pre-printed pages is that they were printed on both sides, with the “back” side containing a reversed image. Presumably this was done so that you could choose your preferred image orientation. That didn’t help with reusability though. And that was perhaps the biggest weakness of the Lite-Brite design: once a picture was “punched”, it was difficult to use again. You could no longer see any of the color codes (B, G, V, R, O, P, Y, and W) printed on the paper. The paper wasn’t totally useless – you could still stick pegs back into all the punched holes and even add new pegs – but you would have to use your imagination (or the thumbnail images printed on the ordering form) to decide which colors to use.
Anyway, let’s all wish Lite-Brite and its creators a very happy 50th anniversary and go play.
Dec 10, 2017