Shrink Machine from Wham-O (1968)

Company: Wham-O | Release date: 1968 | Where to purchase: eBay

“Make many mini-things – Badges, Trinkets. Toys, Gifts, Messages, and More!

Several years before Shrinky Dinks came on the scene, Wham-O unveiled Shrink Machine, a creative toy that allowed children to create “shrinkies” out of plastic.

The toy was powered by an internal 40-watt appliance light bulb installed below a heater plate. The internals were housed in a red plastic case with a clear, hinged plastic cover. A decal on the front of the toy gave the Shrink Machine a futuristic vibe.

Shrink Machine’s secret sauce was polystyrene, flexible sheets of plastic that would become smaller and thicker when heated. In Wham-O’s sensationalist advertising, the plastic was referred to as “special magic shrinking material”. The company shipped the toy with enough magic plastic to create more than 60 shrinkies.

After colouring and cutting out a shape, children placed it on the heater plate and closed the lid. Provided the toy was pre-heated for 15 minutes before being first used, the shrinkification process would take approximately 1 minute, reducing the shape into a tiny, solid miniature about one-third and 10x thicker than its original size.

Shrink Machine shipped with several accessories to help fuel the creative process, including coloured pencils, glue to combine cut-out pieces, and clips that could be used to turn shrinkies into wearable jewellery. A set of tweezers was provided to allow kids to safely handle their newly shrunk creations while they cooled.

Wham-O produced six types of shrinkies: Tiny-Trinkets, Teeny-Tinys, Bitty-Blanks, Micro-Messages, Itty-Autos, and Widdle Weirdies. These sets of shrinkies were packaged with the toy and also sold as extra Mini-Magic Sheet Sets.

Shrink Machine remains popular with vintage toy collectors, especially fans of Wham-O. Repeated use of the toy resulted in the heater plate becoming discolored. However, even after 50+ years, it is still possible to find old stock of the toy and Mini-Magic Sheet Sets in unused condition.