Spaldeens – the pink, bouncy rubber balls – were upcycled before upcycling became a “thing”.
In the early 1950s, the A.G. Spalding Company made a strategic business decision to stop disposing of its imperfect tennis ball cores. Instead, they began to offer the factory rejects at discount to five-and-dime stores in major metropolitan areas like Boston, New York, and Chicago. These “tennis balls without the felt” were stamped with “Spalding Hi-Bounce Ball” and cost between $0.15-$0.25 – a price that seemed to agree with most children’s allowances at the time.
The balls readily bounce off pavement, windows, and sewer grates, encouraging free play. This led to the development of a variety of casual street games, like Stickball, Stoopball, and Hit the Penny. The name Spaldeen is a playful nod to the way Spalding was pronounced in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
Spalding stopped producing Spaldeens in 1979 only to reintroduce them to a nostalgia-fueled market 20 years later. The latest version has the same look and feel of its predecessor – the company went so far as to match the exact shade of pink (considered a trade secret) and the familiar rubbery smell of the original.
The only thing the company can’t still match is the original price. New Spaldeens now appear online and on the shelves of sporting goods stores for around $2.00 USD.
Explore classic toys and games that captured our attention and never let go.