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Posted on Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Classic toy Spirograph makes a comeback thanks to Ann Arbor-based company

By Ben Freed


Customers try out the Spirograph display at Learning Express on Saturday.

Daniel J. Brenner |

The Spirograph inspired generations of children to twist and spin gears and pens, creating designs that even the most artistic would have difficulty duplicating freehand.

Now, thanks to Ann Arbor-based Kahootz Toys, the toy will be available again for nostalgic Baby Boomers to pass along to younger friends and family.


The return of the Spirograph has already caused a spike in sales at the Learning Express.

Courtesy Kahootz Toys

Fond memories of receiving the toy that blends arts and crafts with mathematical precision were very much a part of Americana until Hasbro stopped marketing it broadly in the United States in the early 1990s.

“It became less of a drafting kit and more of a toy for young children,” Brent Oeschger, co-founder of Kahootz Toys, said.

“The only way you could find the classic Spirograph was to go on Ebay or from second-hand stores.”

Oeschger, Doug Cass, Joe Yassay, and Colleen Loughman, had all worked in the toy and childrens consumer product industry for the past 20 years when their former company, Giddy Up, was sold last year.

The four got together with the idea to bring back the classic children’s toy, and through a connection at Hasbro pitched the plan to the company that still owns the brand.

“Our pitch was to go in there and say ‘you have a brand that has tremendous recognition, everyone knows this name, and you’re currently only marketing it to a tiny segment of small children,’” Oeschger said.

“With our experience in arts and crafts and drawing products, we can reinvigorate the Spirograph brand and bring it to a whole new generation.”

Hasbro liked the pitch enough to grant Kahootz exclusive license to use the brand in North America.

Denys Fisher created the original toy in England in the mid 1960s. The brand was brought to America by Kenner, Inc. shortly after and was eventually acquired by Hasbro. Spirograph was named Toy of the Year in 1967 by the British Association of Toy Realtors.

“There’s a lot of pent up demand from parents and grandparents to find the initial toy to give as a gift,” Oeschger said.

That pent up demand is showing up in initial sales figures at local retailer Learning Express.

“We’ve been selling them like crazy,” store supervisor Shelby Sommer said.

“Just in the first day we stocked them we sold at least 70, that’s huge for us. And that’s with no major marketing campaign or anything. Right now we have them out in front of the register so customers will see them.”

Hasbro did not have any active manufacturing of the Spirograph, so Kahootz had to re-engineer the pieces and complete the tooling process for manufacturing. The only major change to the product is a new SpiroPutty to hold the gears to the paper.

“The earliest version had metal pushpins to hold the plastic pieces down. Then started using plastic brackets but those would still poke through the paper,” Oeschger said.

“In the 90s they tried to solve the problem by creating a bulky ‘desk’ of plastic, but that meant you could deliver fewer gears. The number of gears and options was the magic of the toy, so that’s why we developed the putty.”

Kahootz ordered an initial run of 12,000 Spirograph sets that currently are being shipped around the country. Oeschger said more sets have been ordered and they would be delivered soon to the company’s warehouse in the Airport Boulevard office park.

The company has plans for the toy beyond the recreation of the original product.

“We think that the Spirograph iconography, the designs the toy makes, is something we can really branch out,” Oeschger said.

“Play patterns, room decorations, painting, anything that your end result has that iconography we feel we can brand as ‘Spirograph’ and create an umbrella arts and crafts product like that can house numerous creative play patterns.”

If you’re still looking for a last minute holiday present, or just a little bit of nostalgia for yourself, you can find the Spirograph at Learning Express in the Westgate Shopping Center.

Related: Unwrapping memories - What toy do you miss from your childhood?

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Leean Palmer

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:22 a.m.

I would love to have the Super Spirograph in metal disks that would last forever!! It would be worth the extra expense and the icon would be forever out there for ALL to enjoy!! I have a digital cutter mackine and work with heavy guaged aluminum in alot of art projects; titanium is also soft and yet strong. I believe the possibilities are absolute and worth trying!!! Of course I would be doing it for personal use as to not infringe upon any patent holdings. Got any ideas?? Also the Togl toys rocked also!!

Leean Palmer

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

I love Spirograph and also Togl toys by Kenner; truly awesome unique building block set!


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

I miss Tinker Toys


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

I was not aware that this, one of my favorite toys, was out of print. Great that it is being brought back. I have about a six sets from across the years, and the newer ones are lame. I also have a few early other gear based art generators, like Hootenanny Magic Designer. Hope this new one is as good as the original Spirograph. Now, would anyone from Kahootz like to see the work I have done developing a Spirograph App?


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

I wish Learning Express didn't have all those live frogs fighting for their lives behind the register. It's a macabre, gratuitous display. It preculdes me going there anymore. I saw the Spiorgraph the other day and wanted it. I really did. I decided not to buy anything from them, however. Instead, I went to the toystore in Kerrytown.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Sweet! I worked with all the Kahootz people and they are very talented and passionate about their products. I was lucky enough to observe the development of this and the result is everything the original was and better! Retooling of the original gears, eliminating map pins or pegs (using the spiroputty), great graphics on reusable packaging. I am very proud to have know these folk!


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Groovy commercial.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

That story made my day. What a great toy that was in the day. No plugs or batteries, just a pen!

Ann English

Thu, Dec 27, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

No electricity needed, but pens, paper and cardboard had to be replenished; yes, I used it with pushpins. Spirograph is an outlet for kids' creativity. Learn basics from the examples in the booklet, and then a kid can build creatively from there. Hopefully, today's version comes with TWO racks, so that kids can put a ring between them to create the "continuous" designs we could draw in the sixties.

Linda Peck

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Is this truly the original? I would be interested in this if it were the original style. Also, as The Midge asked above, price and place of manufacture are important to me.


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Would pay more if a product is made in the United States? I have worked in the toy industry for many years (I am NOT with Kahootz and I do not speak for them). Typically, you will find that you will have to pay more for domestic product of this kind.

The Midge

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Cost??? Made in what country???

Donald Martin

Sun, Dec 23, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

$24.99 - Made In China