Emoticons Come to Life With Wink Toys

My wife and I attended the Miami Beach Gift Show last month to see if we could find some new wares to offer on our http://www.BonaireStuff.com on-line store. While the theme of the show was mostly tropical goods (we found a number of new flamingo products), we also came across The Wink Toy Company, which has taking the emoticons we all know and love in our e-mails and embodied them in plush form (photo below).

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Emoticons are the cutesy little things many of us put into our e-mails, text messages, and even on web pages, typically composed of a combination of punctuation marks viewed sideways. For example, a smile can be represented as a colon-dash-parenthesis, i.e. : – )

Change the parenthesis to the letter “O” and you have a look of surprise, or a “U” to have your emoticon sticking its virtual tongue out, or replace the colon with a semi-colon for a wink.

The list of variants is nearly endless. And some software programs, such as AOL Instant Messenger, will even convert those text emoticons into graphical ones (especially useful for those who need things more clearly represented to understand them).

Emoticons have been around for about as long as there’s been e-mail, and that’s decades.

But now, Keith Jaehnert has given emoticons physical substance in the form of his Wink Toys. These come in two sizes (regular and “Bittywinks” – the latter are what’s stuck to the cactus in my yard in the photo accompanying this post), and five colors (baby blue, green, red, yellow, and light pink) and designs (wink, shock, grin, smile, and tongue). The 3-inch Bittywinks retail for $4.50 and the regular 5-inch Wink Toys for $8.99.

Keith told us his inspiration in creating the Wink Toy line of plushes stems from Ty (the makers of Beanie Babies) and frequent exposure to emoticons. One day it came to him he could combine the two. He is planning on following some of the Beanie Baby strategy with his Wink Toys, retiring certain combinations of colors and designs after a while, and then introducing news ones. He even has hopes for a cartoon series to be based on his Wink Toys (somehow I can’t get the image of the Pac-Man Saturday Morning Cartoon show out of my mind here).

Wink Toy launch in July of 2006, and Keith tells us things are already going strong with sales in his home state of New Jersey. Certainly, making emoticons tangible is a fun idea, and the Wink Toys are well made and soft (both key features for plushes). I hope he does well with it.

Keith did drop me a post-show e-mail incidentally, with an offer of a 25% discount for anyone buying off his web site – the special coupon code is “mia206” and good through Sept. 30, 2006.