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Ohio Art sells its Etch A Sketch line

Company to focus on metal lithography, keep other toys

  • Obit-Etch-A-Sketch-Inventor-3

    The classic Etch A Sketch was introduced in 1960 by Ohio Art Co. of Bryan.

    <OHIO ART CO.

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    The Ohio Art Company in Bryan, Ohio.

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Ohio-art-company

The Ohio Art Company in Bryan, Ohio.

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BRYAN — After 55 years, the Etch A Sketch, a hall of fame drawing toy that brought fame to Bryan, no longer will have an ongoing connection with Williams County.

In a surprise move announced late Thursday, toymaker Ohio Art Co. said it has sold both the Etch A Sketch and its spin-off toy, the Doodle Sketch, to toy and entertainment firm Spin Master Corp. of Toronto for an undisclosed price.

While Ohio Art has not ended its toy division, the move means it has surrendered its signature toy line and cut ties with a crown jewel of play items that for decades was considered a staple of children’s toy boxes, earning it a coveted spot in Disney Pixar’s Toy Story films.

“I think it’s such an icon, it’s a part of our everyday life here,” said Martin L. Killgallon, Ohio Art president. “It’ll be bittersweet, but we had to look at the long-term future of the business.”

By selling Etch A Sketch and Doodle Sketch, the company said it will have more capital to focus on its metal lithography business and to reinvest in its lithography manufacturing operations in Bryan.

Production of Etch A Sketch and Doodle Sketch was moved to China in 2000.

“Ohio Art is squarely focused on continuing to build its reputation as one of the premier metal lithographers in North America,” company CEO Elena West said.

Obit-Etch-A-Sketch-Inventor-3

The classic Etch A Sketch was introduced in 1960 by Ohio Art Co. of Bryan.

OHIO ART CO. Enlarge

Ohio Art was founded in 1908 and grew up mainly as a metal lithography business — the craft of printing color and images on metal sheets that are later shaped into cans, trays, and various other items.

“Our lithography business has been very strong and profitable, but it’s very capital intensive,” Mr. Killgallon said.

“The part of the story I like in this is we’re investing in manufacturing in northwest Ohio and I think it’s a good move for the long-term future of the business. It will be good for the Bryan community as well.”

Ohio Art did not invent the Etch A Sketch, which was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998. It was invented in 1955 by the late Andre Cassagnes, a French inventor who died in Paris in 2013.

Mr. Cassagnes, an electrician, invented the drawing toy — which he called The Magic Screen — after he made a routine installation of a factory light switch plate. The plate had been wrapped in a translucent decal covering and during the installation, Mr. Cassagnes removed the decal and wrote on it with a pencil and noticed the image transferred to the opposite face of the decal.

Ohio Art executives saw his toy in 1959 at a toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany. The company bought the rights in 1960 for $25,000 and had produced or owned the Etch A Sketch toy brand ever since. Over the years, it developed spinoff Etch A Sketch toys along with other toys such as the bendable Betty Spaghetty doll.

Mr. Killgallon said Ohio Art did not sell its toy division and will keep producing a line of retro toys, such as its AstroRay Dart Blaster.

Spin Master, which was founded in 1994, has won 14 Toy of the Year awards from the Toy Industry Association. Its toy brands include Air Hogs, Paw Patrol, Bakugan, Aquadoodle, and Zoomer Dino.

“We are very excited about the relationship with Spin Master,” Mr. Killgallon said. “They’re known as a company with very good integrity. They’re known as innovators.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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