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Nerf, Catan and bingo are among the new finalists for the National Toy Hall of Fame

The 12 finalists for this year's induction to the National Toy Hall of Fame: bingo, Breyer Horses, Catan, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, Nerf toys, piñatas, Phase 10, Pound Puppies, Rack-O, Spirograph and the spinning top.
The National Toy Hall of Fame / The Strong
The 12 finalists for this year's induction to the National Toy Hall of Fame: bingo, Breyer Horses, Catan, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, Nerf toys, piñatas, Phase 10, Pound Puppies, Rack-O, Spirograph and the spinning top.

It's a crowded field this year for Hall of Fame candidates.

Some are expensive. Some are cheap. The youngest is only 27. The oldest, well — it's hard to know exactly how long spinning tops have been around, but suffice to say they appear on some ancient Greek pottery.

There's bingo, the classic lottery game that dates back to the 1500s. There's Nerf. There's the humble piñata.

All are contenders for a coveted handful of spots in the National Toy Hall of Fame, a long-running exhibit housed at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

"All 12 of these toys have what it takes to be contenders for the class of 2022," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's vice president for collections, in a statement.

Since the Hall's founding in 1998, 77 different toys have become Hall of Famers. About half are branded toys, like the Radio Flyer Wagon, Lego and the Rubik's Cube. The others are beloved generic toys, from the teddy bear to the paper airplane to the cardboard box.

In potential Hall of Fame inductees, the Strong looks for four qualities, museum officials said: iconic status, enough longevity to be enjoyed by multiple different generations, a sense that the toy fosters "learning, creativity or discovery," and some kind of innovation in play or toy design.

This year's 12 finalists also include Rack-O, Spirograph and Breyer model horses. Another contender is Catan -- the German board game first released in 1995 as The Settlers of Catan — which has sold 32 million copies worldwide and helped introduce Americans to the Eurogame style of board game that has since become mainstream.

The most common heyday for this round of nominees was the 1980s: Pound Puppies, Masters of the Universe (including He-Man and She-Ra), the card game Phase 10 and the electric light toy Lite-Brite, whose bid for the Hall of Fame comes on the heels of a noteworthy appearance in the newest season of the Netflix hit Stranger Things.

"These 12 toys span the history of play. The top is as old as civilization itself and bingo has been played in some form for hundreds of years. Masters of the Universe and Pound Puppies became classics in the 1980s, but they too have greatly influenced the world of play," Bensch said.

Last year, the three inductees were American Girl Dolls, the board game Risk and that "dry, gritty material consisting of small, loose pieces of rock, soil, minerals, and gemstones" more commonly known as sand.

The public can vote through Sept. 21 via the "Player's Choice" ballot. An advisory committee will make the final decisions. The selections will be announced in November.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.