Mel Birnkrant's
Mel Birnkrant's
All Original Toy Concepts, Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
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          1996 proved to be a banner year for CODs.  As the year began, they were succeeding wildly, and flying off the shelves, not just at Toys R Us, but at toy stores everywhere, clear across the country.   Tyco had dedicated four pages to CODs and their accessories in their Catalogue, that year.  And from Tyco’s point of view, Cuddle on Delivery had proved to be the hit of Toy Fair.  Everyone was happy, but no one more so than my partners and yours truly.

The product Tyco led off with was the Mail Truck Stroller.  This is the one COD accessory that I have never seen in any store, nor did Tyco send me a sample.  I wonder if it ever happened.
          The Mailbox Cradle, on the other hand, was by no means hard to get.  It was available everywhere!
I bought a few, myself, from my local Toys R Us, where they filled the shelves to overflowing.
         These catalogue pages were very early.  They do not include the ethnic dolls.  Apparently, these were the only samples ready when these photographs were shot.  And all the logos are pink.  These photos must have been taken, late in 1965
         Last of all, this Mailbox Highchair was another item that was available everywhere.  Like the dolls, themselves, it was extremely popular.
          Throughout 1996, the CODs grew HOT and HOTTER!   By summer, they were outselling Mattel’s, newly acquired Cabbage Patch Dolls.  This was clearly driving Jill Barad, the tyrannical CEO of Mattel, crazy.  Mattel had recently invested a fortune in taking over the Cabbage Patch license.  And, because of the huge royalty commitments they had to meet, all Cabbage Patch products had to sell for no less than $25. each retail.  Mattel had signed an ironclad contract with Xavier Roberts of Cabbage Patch, to that effect.  Meanwhile, the CODs were selling for $12.95.  At half the price of Cabbage Patch, the CODs were eating Mattel’s lunch.

Tyco was really into the CODs and they were willing to spare no expense to see that they were a huge success.  With that goal in mind, they created two fabulous commercials.  These featured a beautifully animated Stork Postmaster who flew into the scene to delivered CODs.  These ads were stunningly effective, and publicized the postal theme.  Thus, as the year continued, the competition between Tyco and Mattel was growing more extreme.  And our Cuddle on Delivery dolls were winning!  The CODs were, not only, outselling Cabbage Patch, they were putting a dent in Barbie’s sales as well. 

  The two commercials that you can see below, were clearly helping win the day!
         In the Pantheon of toy companies, Mattel is the Supreme Deity.  And if a humble toy inventor, like yours truly, is fortunate enough to sell them a product concept, chances are this Behemoth of the toy industry will prove to be benevolent.  On the other hand, if an inventor dares to compete with them, by placing a concept with another company, and it happens to succeed, or, worse still, manages to outsell a similar product, manufactured by Mattel, woe be to him!  Then, Mattel can suddenly reveal itself to be an angry Deity, sending that competing toy line straight to Hell, while wiping out the company that manufactured it as well.

This is a lesson that my partners and I learned the hard way.  As our most successful year since Baby Face was coming to an end, we were deliriously happy that the CODs had proved to be a stunning success.  We were even starting to like the name.  Tyco had succeeded in teaching the nation’s children that a COD was not really a variety of fish, but an adorable baby that they could hug, and love, and cuddle on delivery, for just $12.98!  And with Christmas on the way, many a Cuddle On Delivery doll was destined to find itself, beneath the nation's Christmas trees, on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, back at Tyco’s workshop, an army of eager elves were working on “Year Two,” creating a spectacular line of new CODs and exciting accessories, in time for Toy Fair 1997, which was only a few months away.  Little were these happy elves, or anyone, aware that there would be no Toy Fair for Tyco that year, or for that matter, ever again.

At that very moment, Somewhere clear across the country, in a place called, El Segundo, an Angry God was steaming!  This Wicked Witch was scheming to wreak revenge, and put an end to CODs.  The plan was diabolical, lethal, and final.  And so, it came to be that near the end of bleak November, a whisper echoed through the toy community.  It was reputed that Mattel was seeking the permission of the Federal Trade Commission to purchase Tyco.

Early one March morning, in the spring of 1997, a battery of vehicles, filled with teams of Mattel People, arrived at Tyco’s parking lot in Mount Laurel NJ.  This unannounced invasion took the employees of Tyco by surprise.  Before they knew what hit them, they were abruptly issued out of the building, and  instructed to leave their belongings behind.  Meanwhile, another squadron of invaders set up tents in the parking lot.  These were to house a battery of Grief Counselors to help manage the crises.  And when that day was over, of the 400 Tyco employees, who arrived at work that morning, only 175 Remained.  Among those permanently "let go," were our friends David and Richie, the entire art and design department, all of the executives, including the President of the company,... and the CODs.