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Stretch toy prices pulled out of proportion

December 26, 2009|By JOEL HUFFER

There were Lincoln Logs and Legos, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, Tiddly Winks and Pick Up Sticks.

My toy box was like that of many other boys growing up in the late '70s and early '80s. It was filled with board games, action figures and, of course, a Magic 8 Ball.

But one toy clearly was my favorite.

Stretch Armstrong.

The rubbery muscle man stood 13 inches tall, but was pliable enough to be stretched up to 4 feet. And the makers of the toy encouraged boys like me to "Squish him, scrunch him, stretch him out."

And I did.

The advertisements showed Stretch in such contortions as the Giant Pretzel, the African Strangle Hold and the Big Boa Buster.

"Stretch him long ... stretch him thin, watch him return to shape again!" the commercials urged.

I would pull his arms as far as I could, wrap them around his torso three or four times -- maybe even five on a good day -- then sit and watch, amazed as he returned to his original form.

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I'd take his legs, twist them together and then watch as they unwound, spinning like a drill bit.

Similar stretch toys emerged, such as Stretch X-Ray, Stretch Monster and Stretch Serpent, but none of them measured up to the original. Even the Stretch Homer Simpson of a few years ago, though pretty clever, paled in comparison.

In the early '90s, an updated Stretch Armstrong -- wearing a workout shirt and shorts rather than the wrestling-style briefs of the original -- was released. I got one as a gift for my nephew, who seemed to share my joy in twisting and bending the body beyond recognition.

Now, 15 years later and with two young sons, I'm trying to find another Stretch Armstrong. They're not for sale in stores, so I've taken my search to the Internet.

A quick trip to www.ebay.com revealed a page called The Stretch Armstrong Store. Promising, I thought. At least until I saw prices that ranged from $189 to $399.

Further searching led me to www.stretcharmstrongworld.com, where prices were as high as $799.

C'mon. This is a latex doll filled with corn syrup that sold for about $15 in 1980.

Is somebody pulling my leg?

Joel Huffer is managing editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7796 or by e-mail at joelh@herald-mail.com.

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