It’s long been a tradition in our house that whenever a friend or family member is blessed with a firstborn child — boy or girl — we present the lucky parents with a brand-new Tonka Mighty Dump Truck.
Kids still love ’em, and no wonder — Tonka’s dump truck is big, durable, fun, and extremely yellow. We’ve given dozens away, and over time we’ve been able to watch, time and again, how the Tonka embeds itself in a child’s daily life. When the kid is in infant, parents often use the dump truck as a rolling storage bin for toys and stuffed animals. Later, as toddlers begin to toddle, the truck acts like a walker, providing a sturdy platform to lean on while wandering around a room on unsteady legs. Lastly, of course, come the rough play years, but of course the indestructible Tonka stands up to that with grace and style.
Now the bad news: Tonka’s iconic yellow dump truck was first introduced in 1964, but more than forty years later, the classic toy now faces an uncertain future.
Hasbro, the giant toy company that owns the Tonka brand, has introduced an all-new Mighty Dump Truck. The new model is bigger, more modern looking, more rounded and kid-safe, and quite a bit more expensive — $50 for the new version, versus $16 for the old. But the real problem is… It’s just not the same. For one, it’s got those grotesque proportions that plague so many toys these days. For another, it’s so big you practically need a McMansion to park it.
After a recent visit to a Toys R Us (itself an endangered species) revealed shelves filled only with the new model, I drove home empty-handed, fearing that the timeless Tonka was gone for good. Yet someone at Hasbro must have felt my pain, because the next time I returned to the store, I found the old-style Tonka for sale right again right alongside the new one, still going for just $16, but now rebranded (like old-formula Coke) as the Tonka Classic.
It’s unclear how long supplies will last, and I worry that the classic Tonkas won’t be around for much longer. So to ensure adequate gift-giving supply, I’ve taken to buying a half-dozen of them at a time. I’ve also set one of the trucks aside for personal use. My wife is expecting in July, and when our daughter is born, that one will be hers.
Related Link: The First 25 Years of the Mighty Tonka Dump Truck (year-by-year product history, with photos.)
(Top photo: Cousin Tristan, now aged five, at home in France with the Tonka we sent him when he was born. Bottom photo: Loading up at Toys R Us.)