The Great Saturday Morning Experience

SWAG: Slider Puzzles

For my first entry into the SWAG (Stuff We All Get) category I’d like to present the slider puzzles. The first slider puzzles appeared in the late 1800s. Originally they were nothing but numbers, one through fifteen, on a 4-by-4 grid with one space blank, and the object was to slide the numbers around on the small wooden board to create a pattern. Apparently they were a big hit worldwide a hundred years before the Rubik’s Cube.

Many variations were made over the years including adding pictures like one called “Capture the Kaiser” during World War I and one with Herbert Hoover and FDR to commemorate the 1932 presidential election. The pictures lent themselves to a version with four different characters and the different possible orders in which you could set them. Most of the cards with these kinds of puzzles put illustrations on them showing which combinations were possible and which were not. Somewhere along the way the idea to put television shows on these puzzles took off and throughout the decades many of these were made with popular prime time shows.

If prime time shows worked then why not Saturday morning cartoons? As far as televisions shows went the popular cartoons of the day seemed to make a match for the slider puzzles. The Roalex company out of Forest Hills, New York, jumped on this bandwagon in a big way. Many were made over the years. They were marketed as perfect for gifts, grab bags and shut ins. Despite having several possible solutions they were the source of endless frustration and delight for many kids.

I can remember checking them out in the stores while my mother was shopping. My personal collection had an Underdog puzzle which I even managed to color in with crayons at one point. The colors didn’t stay on of course but I had fun with that puzzle for years. New ones are still being made today but that period of the early 60s to the early 70s produced some wonderful puzzles that if you can manage to find in good condition still attached to their cards could be worth a lot of money.

If I still had that Underdog puzzle on its card I could have sold it for between $100 and $200. Even some of those from the 50s and 60s without the cards are going for over $50. Some of the ones from the 1970s are even going for between $10 and $20 so look around in your old storage and see if you have any. You never know what great memories you might dig up along the way.

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