Coleco Industries, Inc. was an American company founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg as The Connecticut Leather Company. It became a highly successful toy company in the 1980s, known for its mass-produced version of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and its video game consoles, the Coleco Telstar dedicated consoles and ColecoVision. While the company disappeared in 1988 as a result of bankruptcy, the Coleco brand was revived in 2005, and remains active to this day.
|The Connecticut Leather Company|
Video game industry
|Fate||Closed, properties sold|
|Founded||February 29, 1932|
|Headquarters||West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.|
Above ground swimming pools
Telstar (game console)
Cabbage Patch Kids
Coleco Industries, Inc. started life in 1932 as The Connecticut Leather Company. Initially the business supplied leather and "shoe findings" to shoe repairers. Shoe findings are the supplies and paraphernalia of a shoe repair shop. The company later (1938) branched out into selling rubber footwear. With the advent of World War II the demand for the basic supplies that the company produced dramatically increased. By the end of the war the company was much bigger and on a stable financial ground and had branched out into new and used shoe machinery, hat cleaning equipment and even marble shoeshine stands.
By the early 1950s, and thanks to Maurice Greenberg's son, Leonard Greenberg, the company had diversified further and was making leather lacing and leathercraft kits. In 1954, at the New York Toy Fair, the leather moccasin kit was selected as a Child Guidance Prestige Toy, and Connecticut Leather Company decided to go wholeheartedly into the toy business. In 1956, Leonard read of an emerging technology, the vacuum forming of plastic, which led the company to become very successful, producing an enormous array of different plastic toys and wading pools.
In 1961 the leather and shoe findings portion of the business was sold, and Connecticut Leather Company became Coleco Industries, Inc. On January 9, 1962 Coleco went public, offering stock at $5.00 a share.
In 1963 the company acquired the Kestral Corporation of Springfield, Massachusetts, a manufacturer of inflatable vinyl pools and toys. This led to Coleco becoming the largest manufacturer of above ground swimming pools in the world.
By 1966, the company had grown massively so Leonard persuaded his brother Arnold Greenberg to join the company. Further acquisitions added to the company's growth, namely Playtime Products (1966) and Eagle Toys of Canada (1968). By the end of the 1960s, Coleco ran ten manufacturing facilities and had a new corporate headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.
The 1970s were a difficult decade for Coleco and yet despite this sales crossed the $100 million mark. When Coleco became listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1971 sales had grown to $48.6 million. In 1972 Coleco entered the snowmobile market through acquisition, however poor snowfall and market conditions led to disappointing sales and profits.
Under CEO Arnold Greenberg, the company entered the video game console business with the Telstar in 1976. Dozens of companies were introducing game systems that year after Atari's successful Pong console. Nearly all of these new games were based on General Instrument's "Pong-on-a-chip". However, General Instrument had underestimated demand, and there were severe shortages. Coleco had been one of the first to place an order, and was one of the few companies to receive an order in full. Though dedicated game consoles did not last long on the market, their early order enabled Coleco to break even.
Coleco continued to do well in electronics. The company transitioned next into handheld electronic games, a market popularized by Mattel. An early hit was Electronic Quarterback. Coleco produced two very popular lines of games, the "head to head" series of two player sports games, (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Hockey) and the Mini-Arcade series of licensed video arcade titles such as Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man. A third line of educational handhelds was also produced and included the Electronic Learning Machine, Lil Genius, Digits, and a trivia game called Quiz Wiz. Launched in 1982, their first four tabletop Mini-Arcades, for Pac-Man, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, and Frogger, sold approximately three million units within a year. Among these, 1.5 million units were sold for Pac-Man alone. In 1983, it released three more Mini-Arcades: for Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong Junior, and Zaxxon.
Coleco returned to the video game console market in 1982 with the launch of the ColecoVision. While the system was quite popular, selling 500,000 units over two years, Coleco hedged its bet on video games by introducing a line of ROM cartridges for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. It also introduced the Coleco Gemini, a clone of the popular Atari 2600.
When the video game business began to implode in 1983, it seemed clear that video game consoles were being supplanted by home computers. Coleco's strategy was to introduce the Coleco Adam home computer, both as a stand-alone system and as an expansion module to the ColecoVision. This effort failed, in part because Adams were often unreliable, and in part because the computer's release coincided with the home computer industry crashing. Coleco withdrew from electronics early in 1985.
Also in 1983, Coleco released the Cabbage Patch Kids series of dolls which were wildly successful. Flush with success, Coleco purchased beleaguered Selchow and Righter in 1986, manufacturers of Scrabble, Parcheesi, and Trivial Pursuit, sales of which had plummeted, leaving Selchow & Righter with warehouses full of unsold games. The purchase price was $75 million. That same year, Coleco introduced an ALF plush based on the furry alien character who had his own television series at the time, as well as a talking version and a cassette-playing "Storytelling ALF" doll. The combination of the purchase of Selchow & Righter, the disastrous Adam computer, and the public's waning infatuation with Cabbage Patch dolls all contributed to Coleco's financial decline. In 1988, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The reorganized Coleco sold off all of its North American assets and outsourced thousands of jobs to foreign countries, closing plants in Amsterdam, New York and other cities. In 1988, Canada based SLM Action Sports Inc. purchased Coleco's swimming pool and snow goods divisions. In 1989, Hasbro purchased most of Coleco's remaining product lines.
Coleco as a brand name has been owned by several entities since it was created in 1961 by Coleco Industries, Inc.
In 2005, River West Brands, now Dormitus Brands, a Chicago-based brand revitalization company, re-introduced the Coleco brand to the marketplace. In late 2006, the company introduced the Coleco Sonic, a handheld system containing twenty Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear games. In 2014, River West Brands established the subsidiary Coleco Holdings for their Coleco-branded projects.
In December 2015, Coleco Holdings announced the development of the Coleco Chameleon, a new cartridge-based video game system; in actuality, a re-branding of the controversial Retro VGS console, whose Indiegogo campaign failed to secure funding when it ended in early November 2015, with only $63,546 raised of its $1.95 million goal. In the press release, it was established that the system would be able to play new and classic games in the 8, 16, and 32-bit styles. The release for the system was announced to be sometime in early 2016, with a demonstration at Toy Fair New York in February. However, some critics suggested that the prototype fell short of its developmental goals and was nothing more than the motherboard of a Super NES model SNS-101 inside an Atari Jaguar case. Later mock images of a prototype posted by AtariAge showed the device utilizing a CCTV capture card in place of a motherboard. After Retro VGS failed to produce a fully working prototype, Coleco Holdings pulled out of involvement with Retro VGS, terminating the project.
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- "RETRO VGS". Indiegogo. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
- "Press". Mike Kennedy. Archived from the original on 2015-12-17. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
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