Sorry for not posting last weekend, but I finally got a new desktop computer, and spent what free time I had getting it set up. It is much faster than my old laptop, and I hope it will help me post exhibits quicker.
While I am still sad to have finished posting the JA-RU rack toy exhibits, having done so opens up some exciting possibilities. Having one or two parts of a set is nice, but having a complete (or near-complete) set allows you to look at the big picture, see things that may not be obvious when only looking at one part.
I have mentioned before how I try to make the Manufacturers and Characters Depicted archive pages useful. What I have done now is to add a summary table of exhibit data to the JA-RU manufacturer page. Unlike the tables of exhibit data on each exhibit page, this table allows you to sort by one or more columns. Click a column heading to sort by it, and hold down the Shift key while clicking a second (or more) column heading for multi-column sorting. By default, I have the exhibits sorted in the order they were posted. Using the ability to change the sorting, we can start analyzing the collection data.
JA-RU had a decent product numbering system (“No.” on the backing card). The only fault I can find is that the Casper 4 Jigsaw Puzzles are all numbered 2930, there is no way to identify the variants. If we sort the table by the “Product #” column, we notice a couple of things. First is that the Richie Rich toys have 27xx numbers, and Casper toys have 29xx numbers. Once we accept that, then the gaps in the series become interesting. For example, we see 2705 and 2706 but then 2710. What were 2707, 2708 and 2709? More Richie Rich rack toys? Same for 2713, 2714, 2715 and 2717. Were there any below 2705, or above 2718? Sometimes analysis raises more questions than it answers!
Universal Product Codes
The other data we can analyze is the Universal Product Codes. If we now sort the table by the “UPC” column, we can see that JA-RU’s company prefix is 075656. The next five digits are for the product number. Most of the data fits a “ten thousands” pattern, but the Spooky with boat variant of the Casper 4 Jigsaw Puzzles does not fit that pattern. As I mentioned when I posted it, the UPC is on a label, so it is possible it was not assigned by JA-RU, but by the retailer or an intermediary such as a distributor.
Once we exclude that one item, the rest of the UPC data falls into a pattern of numbers in the ten thousands. We have the duplicate numbers “40000” and “50000”, and one “70000”. Does this number have a meaning? Unlike the product number column, it does not correspond to the character depicted. All the toys were from 1988, so there was no progression there. Looking at what other exhibit data was available to me, I next added a column to the summary table for Country of Origin (“COO”). The number does not correspond to that either. My last attempt was to go back to the items and pull their rack slot sizes (“Size”). JA-RU used a pegboard display divided into spots for toys of a particular size, and still do. Unfortunately, gathering this data did not help. Another mystery!
Regardless of the meaning of the ten thousand numbers, the final question is why they were used in the first place. The toys had product numbers, those numbers should have been used to create the UPCs. The final column I added to the summary table is what I feel the UPCs should be, with the last number being a check digit calculated using this website.
I hope to do more of these analyses in the future. Did you enjoy this post? Is the new summary table helpful? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, if you have an item that has not been featured here on the Harvey Mercheum website, please use the Contact the Curator form to let me know about it!