Vintage Kenner's New Spirograph, $2.

When I first started selling on eBay, I bought a load of old 1960s board games at a yard sale, just to see how they'd perform on eBay. As it turns out, they were all worthless. What I brought away from this experience was the knowledge that some games are worth a load of money, some are completely worthless, and they all look the same to me.

Do you want to spend your days memorizing the fact that the Munsters 'Picnic Game' is worth a heap of cash and the Munsters 'Card Game' isn't worth dirt? Do you want to waste brain space on the fact that the 1960's game 'Acquire' in the 13" tall box sells on eBay for many times what the 12" tall version sells for? Especially since you're not likely to ever see any of these games?

So you may find it strange that I make it a point to pay attention to the piles of board games I see at yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops. And you're probably wondering why the heck I'm going on about board games, when the subject of this entry is plainly not a board game, but 'a toy designed to produce mathematical curves technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids.' In other words, it lets kids draw some really cool geometric designs. I guess I associate Spirograph with board games simply because every Spirograph I've found has been hiding in the middle of a stack of worthless old board games.

Spirograph was invented by a guy named Denys Fisher, and Kenner bought the rights to it and started selling it in the U.S. in 1966. Since that time, it's evolved into so many permutations that you could make a hobby out of just tracking down its different variations. As always, though, our trick is not to waste time wallowing in the intricacies, but to know what to grab when you see it. Although the Spirograph is (I believe) still being made today, the examples you'll be looking for are from the late 1960s and early 1970s, and firmly in the realm of the collector. This means that condition will be paramount.

When you open the Spirograph box, you're faced with lots of little parts and pieces that were so often broken or lost over the toy's lifetime. And since a ball point pen was required to use the Spirograph, you can imagine that many of the surviving sets sport doodles and scribbles on every square inch of the box and accompanying literature.

But you'll also find those sets that simply didn't appeal to the kids who received them, and were set aside in favor of the Hot Wheels or the Barbie dolls. They were tossed into the back of the closet and forgotten, only to be discovered thirty years later when yard sale time was approaching. Don't turn up your nose at these pristine old Spirograph sets, because many of them sell for upwards of $100 on eBay!

This Spirograph set sold on eBay for $46.

Photo of Kenner's New Spirograph