REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application Serial No. 60/289,560, filed May 8, 2001, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to toys and collectibles and, more specifically, to a collectible plush toy with an embedded prize having a value which is indeterminate without cutting into the toy or having supplementary information. The present invention also relates to a kit including items to allow a prize or keepsake to be retained and stored inside of a plush toy.
Plush toys such as teddy bears and dolls have long been popular playthings for children. In addition, both children and adults often enjoy collecting toys of various types, including plush toys. The recent popularity of Beanie Babies®, made and marketed by the Ty company, demonstrates the enormous popularity of collectible plush toys. In fact, these toys represent an example of a category of products specifically designed and marketed to be collectible.
With most plush toys and other collectibles, their aesthetic characteristics and apparent value are just “skin deep.” That is, an exterior nondestructive inspection of the collectible provides the owner or purchaser with sufficient information to determine, at least roughly, its collectibility and value. Efforts have been made by some companies marketing collectibles to artificially manipulate collectibility by strictly controlling quantities of certain special versions of the collectible. However, even in these cases, collectors can easily determine a value based upon the observed or reported scarcity of a particular model.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In addition to collectibles, there is also a large market for creative ways to package or store keepsakes of various types. Such keepsakes may include a child's first tooth or a lock of hair, or jewelry or other items of financial or sentimental value. Examples of existing storage devices for keepsakes include decorative boxes, display cases and lamination. However, there remains a need for creative approaches to retaining and storing a keepsake.
According to one embodiment of the present invention, a plush toy is provided, which has an outer skin defining an interior volume and a filler material substantially filling the interior volume. The outer skin has an opening defined therein, communicating with the interior volume. A prize is disposed in the interior volume. The prize may be a piece of jewelry, money, a certificate of some type, a keepsake or memento, or other items having economic or sentimental value. A closure covers the opening in the outer skin such that access to the prize requires alteration of the closure or of the outer skin of the plush toy.
According to another aspect of the present invention, a plurality of plush toys, each with a prize disposed therein, may be distributed. The prizes disposed in the interior volumes of the various plush toys may have various values, with each prize having an identity. Each prize is inserted into one of the plush toys such that the identity of the prize is not determinable without opening the plush toy. A unique reference indicia may then be attached to each plush toy and the reference indicia and the identity of the associated prize may be recorded for each plush toy. This information may then be retained in secrecy. The plush toys are then distributed, either by selling or as a promotion. At a later time, information related to the identity of the prize associated with each reference indicia may be released.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
According to a further aspect of the present invention, a kit may be provided for retaining a keepsake and storing the keepsake inside a plush toy. The plush toy would be of the type having an outer skin defining an interior volume, with the interior volume being filled with the filler material. The outer skin has a seam which may be opened so as to allow access to the interior volume. The kit includes a storage container defining an interior storage space sized to receive the keepsake. The storage container has an opening communicating with the interior storage space and a closure operable to cover the opening. A keepsake may be placed in the interior storage space, the closure may cover the opening, and the storage container may be inserted into the interior volume of the plush toy through the seam. A sewing set is also provided for sewing closed the seam so as to provide a sewn seam. A patch is provided for covering the sewn seam, with the patch including indicia reflecting the preferred contents of the storage container. Instructions are also provided indicating a procedure for retaining the keepsake and storing the keepsake in the interior volume of a plush toy. The present invention also provides for a method of retaining a keepsake and storing a keepsake in the plush toy.
FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of an exemplary plush toy forming part of, or for use with, the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a back elevational view of the plush toy of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a container for containing a keepsake;
FIG. 4 is a view of a plush toy with a seam open for access to the filler material within the plush toy, along with a keepsake in a container, indicating the insertion of the container into the interior volume of the plush toy;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an assembled kit according to a further aspect of the present invention, for retaining and storing a keepsake inside of a plush toy; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the various components of the contents of the kit of FIG. 5.
A first embodiment of the present invention improves on previously available collectible plush toys by embedding a prize whose value is unknown at the time of purchase. The collector may only determine the value of the prize by cutting into or otherwise altering the plush toy, or by awaiting the release of a “key” from the manufacturer which indicates what prizes are embedded in which toys. In this way, the invention combines the aesthetic pleasure of collecting plush toys with the mystery and excitement normally associated with game contests, raffles, and lotteries.
FIGS. 1 and 2 show an example of a plush toy, specifically a stuffed bear 10, which may be constructed in accordance with the present invention. As with a typical plush animal, the bear 10 has a plush outer skin 12 which is filled with a filler material to give the bear 10 the desired shape. The outer skin 12 may be said to define an interior volume of the plush toy, with the filler material substantially filling the interior volume.
The backside of the bear 10 is shown in FIG. 2. Centered on the backside is a patch 14 which covers an opening into the interior volume of the bear 10. According to the present invention, the patch 14 is preferably attached to the bear 10 in such a way that removing the patch 14, to obtain access to the interior of the bear 10, is destructive. That is, the patch 14 may not be removed and replaced without leaving evidence that the bear has been opened. Those of skill in the art will be aware of numerous ways in which to accomplish this. According to one preferred embodiment, the patch 14 is sewn to the outer skin 12 of the bear 10 such that the threads or patch have to be cut or torn in order to remove the patch 14. A variety of other tamper-evident seals may also be used.
Referring now to FIG. 3, one example of a prize which may be embedded in a plush toy, according to the present invention, is generally shown at 19. In this example, the prize 19 comprises a jewel 20 disposed in a vial or container 22.
Referring now to FIG. 4, the bear 10 is shown prior to application of the patch so that an opening 16 may be seen and access is provided to the filler material 18. According to the present invention, the prize 19 may be inserted into the opening 16, buried in the filler material 18, and sealed with the patch 14. In the illustrated embodiment, a jewel 20 is sealed in a small vial 22 which is in turn placed in a small bag 24. Then the entire assembly is inserted into the filler material 18 and the hole 16 is covered with the patch 14. The opening 16 may be sealed shut prior to attaching the patch 14, or the patch may serve as the only closure for the opening 16. Alternatively, the opening in the plush toy may be closed in other ways. For example, the opening may include a zipper, hook and loop fastener material, snaps, laces, or any other method of closing the opening. Preferably, the closure means for closing the opening is tamper-evident or tamper-resistant, or a tamper-evident or tamper-resistant patch or cover is placed over the closing means.
There are numerous embodiments to the present invention. One embodiment is specifically designed to encourage collectibility of the plush toy. In this embodiment, each plush toy is assigned a unique serial number or reference indicia. Then, a prize is embedded inside each of the plush toys and sealed inside with a tamper-evident seal. The prizes preferably vary dramatically in value. The majority of the plush toys would have some prize of small value, such as a piece of costume jewelry. However, a few of the plush toys will include a much more valuable prize; a prize more valuable than the selling price for the plush toy with embedded prize. For example, some may include a jewelry quality gem, such as a ruby, emerald, or diamond. The type or identity of prize embedded in each of the plush toys will be recorded and associated with the unique identifier assigned to the plush toys. In this way, records are made of which toys include valuable prizes. At the time the plush toys are sold, information identifying which toys include valuable prizes is preferably not released. However, “odds” may be released to indicate the likelihood of obtaining a particular prize in any given toy. Then, the purchaser may purchase the toy in hopes of obtaining the valuable prize. The owner may then open the toy to determine what prize is enclosed, thereby permanently altering the toy. Alternatively, the owner may wait and save the toy, or may collect additional samples.
According to one approach, the producing company will periodically release lists of what toys contain which prizes. This approach is specifically designed to encourage collecting and gift giving. For example, a person may give several of their friends or relatives a plush toy with embedded prize, according to the present invention, for a holiday gift. Then, at some later time, when information is released telling what prizes are in which toys, the gift giver may find that he or she gave one of the recipients a very valuable gift.
The plush toys may be distributed by selling, with the price of each plush toy being the same, independent of the value of the embedded prize, or the plush toys may be distributed as promotions or prizes. In the case of using the plush toys as promotions or prizes, the distributing company may determine the identities of the prizes embedded in the various toys, or the general distribution of the prizes. Alternatively, the identity of individual prizes embedded in each toy may be known by the company distributing the plush toy, such that toys with valuable prizes may be distributed to specific recipients, wherein the recipient may or may not know the identity or value of the prize until a later date.
As yet another alternative, plush toys according to the present invention may be sold at various price points, with the prizes being chosen from different groups for plush toys at different price points. That is, a low price point toy may include only inexpensive prizes, while plush toys sold at a higher price point may contain more valuable prizes, with the possibility of substantially more valuable prizes.
In another embodiment, the purchaser or recipient of a plush toy with embedded prize may find out the identity, value, or general type of prize immediately or shortly after purchase or receipt. In this embodiment, the plush toy may include a tag or other item which may be opened or interpreted so as to determine information about the prize. Examples of ways to accomplish this include a tag with a scratch-off portion to reveal a code, a sealed envelope which may be torn open immediately after purchase, a coded portion which may be interpreted by another device, or which may reveal additional information when viewed through a colored lens, as well as any other approach known to those of skill in the art. Alternatively, the plush toy may include a code or other reference indicia with a list being available for immediate reference. As one example, a person may purchase or receive the plush toy and then enter a code at a website or into a computer and receive information related to the prize. The code or information entered into the computer may be initially hidden, such as by a scratch-off portion, or being sealed in an envelope.
An example of use for the present intention would be for a corporate prize, wherein a number of employees are provided with plush toys at a corporate event. The plush toys may be preassigned, or randomly chosen. At the event, the identity of prizes may then be revealed such that the recipients immediately know the identity, type, or value of the prize they have received. Information may also be released in stages, with this or other embodiments of the present invention. That is, the recipient may learn the general class or type of prize at one stage, with more detailed information as to the type or identity distributed later. For example, the recipient may able to immediately learn that their plush toy includes an embedded jewel with a value of at least $100, and then, at a later time, learn that the jewel in their particular plush toy is a ruby with a value of $1,000.
Obviously, in accordance with the present invention, precautions must be taken in the manufacturing and distribution of the toys. As shown in FIG. 3, the prize may be enclosed in a bag 24. According to one approach, this bag is opaque and pre-sealed by an organization authorized to keep track of what prizes go in what toys. Then each bag may be assigned a serial number and include an accompanying tag which is sewn into the plush toy which includes the embedded prize. Alternatively, a tag may extend from the bag which is positioned so as to be visible from the outside of the plush toy once it is assembled. In this way, the workers actually assembling the plush toys do not know which toys include which valuable prizes. This prevents tampering. Also, it is preferred that the prizes be chosen and the plush toys be constructed such that the type of prize enclosed may not be easily determined by other nondestructive approaches, such as x-raying. For example, if some plush toys in a series include a piece of costume jewelry while one or more includes a very valuable piece of jewelry, each piece is preferably constructed so as to have a similar size, shape, and weight so that the specific prize enclosed may not be easily determined by x-raying the toy, feeling the toy, or weighing the toy.
According to other approaches, the prizes enclosed in each of the plush toys may be of many other types. For example, certificates may be provided in each of the plush toys with the certificate being redeemable for a variety of larger, non-embeddable, prizes. Some certificates may entitle the owner to receive a small, less valuable gift while other certificates entitle the owner to obtain a large valuable gift such as an automobile or gold watch. Also, the prizes may cover a range of values with several levels of value. For example, while most toys would include an embedded prize of small value, some would include a more valuable prize, even fewer would include a yet more valuable prize, and a very few number would include a very valuable prize.
According to a further aspect of the present invention, different series of plush toys may be provided, with each series having different types of prizes. For example, some plush toys may be designed specifically for a holiday such as Christmas and have embedded prizes relevant to that holiday. Other series may have prizes of more general use.
As another approach, the value and/or specific identity of an embedded prize may be provided at the point of purchase. For example, a plush toy may be provided that encloses a valuable prize, such as a piece of jewelry, and include a certificate certifying that the prize is enclosed. The plush toy may be then given as a gift with the gift giver knowing that a particular prize is embedded. A similar approach may be taken to religious occasions such as first communion, bar mitzvah and confirmation. The plush toys bought for these occasions may have a known prize embedded along with a certificate of authenticity. In this case, the purchase price would be related to the value of prize, rather than all plush toys having the same price.
A custom plush toy line may also be provided wherein a purchaser may specify, or even provide, the particular gift to be enclosed. For example, a wedding ring may be enclosed in a particular plush toy. As a version of this approach, a plush toy kit may be provided that allows a purchaser to embed a prize and then seal the plush toy in such a way that access to the prize requires the irreversible change to the toy. For example, certain types of adhesive seals may be for a one-time use, such that the seal must be torn to open it.
As yet another embodiment, plush toys may be provided that have a prize of known value inside, but not of known identity. For example, a person may purchase a plush toy that has an accompanying certificate stating that the embedded prize is worth at least $50, or some other figure. The person may then give the plush toy with the knowledge that the recipient is receiving a gift worth at least a certain amount. Plush toys may also be provided designed for a specific event such as weddings and various anniversaries. Promotional plush toys may be provided for companies wishing to provide a plush toy possibly shaped in a design that is already associated with the company, with an embedded prize of unknown value. For example, a company which has a particular mascot may commission plush mascots to be constructed with prizes embedded in each mascot. The company may then distribute these as promotional gifts.
As will be clear to those of skill in the art, in some versions of the present invention, access to the embedded prize may be provided in a nondestructive manner, such that the prize may be removed and replaced. Such access may be combined with a destructive form of access such that first access to the prize requires destruction of a tamper-evident seal, but the plush toy may be reclosed so as to give a pleasing appearance as a keepsake or plaything. As yet a further version, a nondestructive cover may be removed providing access to a transparent tamper-evident seal. The prize may be positioned just inside the transparent tamper-evident seal so that its identity may be seen through the seal. Then, a user may open the nondestructive access, look in through the “window” to the prize, but not disturb the prize, thereby leaving the tamper-evident seal in place. In this situation, a later user or owner may verify whether or not the prize has been accessed by opening the nondestructive access to examine the tamper-evident seal within. This approach may be constructed in a variety of ways. For example, in the embodiment shown in the Figures, the patch 14 may be attached to the back of the bear 10 with a nondestructive attachment such as hook and loop fastener material. Under this patch 14 a sheet of clear material may seal the interior of the bear 10. The sheet of clear material may be attached to the inside of the plush toy such that access to the interior requires tearing the sheet of material. This would leave evidence that the seal has been tampered with. However, if the seal is clear, the prize, or an identifying item such as a label or tag, may be shown just inside the clear seal for viewing by a user who has removed the outer patch 14. The outer cover may also be eliminated such that the transparent seal is accessible from the beginning.
A plush toy according to the present invention may be in a variety of designs, other than the illustrated bear. The toy may be a plush football, or doll, or any other type of plush toy. Also, a more rigid toy may be constructed according to the present invention. A plastic baby doll could have a tamper-evident seal and an embedded prize. As with other dolls, toys, and collectibles, a variety of accessories may be provided, such as clothing and tools.
Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, a kit for retaining and storing a keepsake inside of a plush toy, according to a further aspect of the present invention, is generally shown at 30. The kit 30 is designed to allow an individual or company to place a keepsake inside of a plush toy that is already owned, or separately purchased. Alternatively, the kit may further include a plush toy.
The kit 30 illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6 is one example of a keepsake kit according to the present invention. In this embodiment, the kit 30 is designed to collect and store a sample of baptismal water as a keepsake from a baptism ceremony. The kit is shown assembled in FIG. 5, with individual exemplary components shown in FIG. 6.
Referring to FIG. 6, the kit 30 preferably includes a storage container 32 that has an interior storage space sized to receive a keepsake. In this case, the container 32 is a small bottle sized to hold a small amount of baptismal water. The container 32 includes a closure 34, in this case a screw-on cap, for covering an opening in the container 32. As will be clear to those of skill in the art, the container 32 may take other forms, and may be of other sizes and shapes. As one example, a small bottle may have a plug or cork. Also, auxiliary sealing may be provided for the container 32, such as a meltable wax to be dripped on the seal between the cap 34 and the bottle. For example, a candle may be provided such that the candle may be lit and wax dripped from the candle onto the seal between the bottle and cap. To assist in filling the container 32, an eye dropper 36 may be provided. The purchaser of the kit would use the eye dropper 36 to collect some baptismal water, which then maybe placed in the container 32 and sealed. As illustrated, a bag 38 may also be provided. The container 32, once filled and sealed, may be placed in the bag 38, and the bag 38 may be closed. The bag 38 serves as an auxiliary container for the container 32. The bag 38 may take several forms, such as the small plastic zip-lock bag as shown, or a cloth or plastic bag with other closure means, such as a string tie. The user may write a note on the bag, as desired.
Once the container 32 has the keepsake placed therein, it is ready for placement and storage in a plush toy of the user's-choice. Preferably, the plush toy is of the type having an outer skin defining an interior volume that is substantially filled with a filler material. Typically, such a plush toy will have a seam in the outer skin. If the seam is cut or otherwise opened, access to the interior volume of the plush toy should be provided. Preferably, a seam is chosen and opened for access to the interior volume. If an appropriate seam is not available, or if a user wishes to access the interior volume in an area where a seam is not available, the outer skin itself may be cut. The kit 30 may include a seam ripper 40 or other device for opening a seam or cutting the skin.
Opening the seam or cutting the skin results in an opening in the outer skin, such as shown in FIG. 4. The container 32, with the keepsake therein, in the auxiliary container 38, if desired, is then placed through the opening into the interior volume of the plush toy. The kit 30 preferably also includes a sewing set 42, which preferably includes one or more needles and one or more colors of thread. The user may then sew the opening in the outer skin of the plush toy shut using the sewing set 42. Preferably, the kit 30 also includes a patch 44 for covering the sewn-closed portion of the seam or outer skin of the plush toy. In one alternative, the kit 30 may exclude the sewing kit 42, with the patch serving as the closure. The patch 44 may include indicia reflecting the preferred contents of the storage container. In the present example, the patch 44 preferably indicates that baptism water has been stored. The patch 44 may be attached to the outer skin by sewing or by heat attachment, such as by using an iron. Alternatively, it may be glued onto the outer skin. As another alternative, the patch may be placed in a position other than over the sewn-closed seam. For example, the patch may be placed on the front of the plush toy so that it is more easily visible. Additional patches may be included in the kit 30 so that a particular patch may be chosen, or multiple patches may be used.
The kit 30 preferably also includes instructions 46 explaining how to use the kit to retain and store a keepsake in a plush toy. The instructions 46 may also include suggestions and hints. The kit 30 may also include a tag, such as gift tag 48, for attachment to the plush toy once the keepsake is stored therein. The tag 48 may take several forms. As one example, the tag may be attached to the container 32 and extend out through the opening so as to be visible once the opening is closed and the patch 44 is installed. The tag 48 may be preprinted and/or filled out by a user.
The kit 30 is just one example of kits that may be provided according to the present invention. Other examples include kits designed for retaining and storing a birthstone or other gem; an Ash Wednesday kit wherein a sample of ash is retained; a Christmas kit for retaining a Christmas related keepsake or prepackaged with Christmas related items such as gold, frankincense, and myrrh; a remembrance kit for collecting a sample of cremation ash; a “will you marry me” kit for retaining a ring or other marriage related item; a marriage remembrance kit for retaining a keepsake from a wedding; a baby teeth kit for retaining one or more baby teeth; a “lock of hair” kit for retaining a lock of hair; an anniversary kit for retaining an anniversary keepsake; a Mother's Day kit for retaining a Mother's Day related keepsake; a St. Patrick's Day kit for retaining a St. Patrick's Day keepsake, such as a four leaf clover or a gold four leaf clover; a Father's Day kit for retaining a Father's Day related keepsake; a Sweetest Day kit for retaining a Sweetest Day keepsake; a souvenir kit for retaining a souvenir from a travel destination such as Disney World; a Hanukkah for retaining a Hanukkah related keepsake; or a Valentine's Day kit for retaining a Valentine's Day keepsake. Other examples will be clear to those of skill in the art. In each case, the kit may be designed to provide a container for storing the keepsake, some type of closure for closing an opening in the plush toy, and instructions. In some cases, the container may or may not be necessary, where the keepsake may be directly inserted. The kit may also be designed to allow easier access to the item placed in the plush toy. For example, in the “will you marry me” kit, it may be desirable to allow the recipient to access an engagement ring without significant effort or destruction of the plush toy. In this case, the closure for the plush toy may be easily removable, such as by hook and loop fastener material. In one example, the kit may provide for attaching a pocket or member with a recess to the outer skin, such that the recess or pocket extends into the interior volume, with a closure of some type closing off the pocket. As one example, a patch may cover the pocket and be attached using hook and loop material. Then, the recipient may easily remove the patch, and remove the item from the pocket. The keepsake or some other item may then be returned to the pocket and recovered by the patch, or the pocket may be left empty and the plush toy retained as a remembrance.
Plush toys may also be provided, according to the present invention, that are ready to use with a kit. For example, a plush toy may be provided that has an opening already provided therein with the opening being re-closed either by sewing or by a simpler method, such as a zipper, hook and loop fastener, snaps, buttons, laces, etc. As yet a further example, a plush toy may be provided with a pocket or recess in the outer skin such that a keepsake may be placed in the pocket or recess. Preferably, a closure such as a patch may then be placed over the pocket or recess to hide it. In this way, the plush toy would serve as a type of package for the keepsake. The closure of the pocket or recess may be easily reopened or may be more permanent, such as sewn or glued.
The present invention also provides for a method of retaining and storing a keepsake in a plush toy. The method includes the steps of providing a plush toy having an outer skin defining an interior volume. The plush toy has filler material filling the interior volume and an opening defined in the outer skin communicating with the interior volume. A storage container is provided for storing the keepsake. The keepsake is placed in the container and then the container is placed in the interior volume of the plush toy. The opening is then covered or closed.
As a further alternative of the present invention, the kit or method may provide an outer skin for a plush toy with the user filling the outer skin with filler material. This would give the user a feeling of completely making the plush toy, rather than altering an existing plush toy. Further, the present invention may be used as part of the currently popular business of accessorizing a plush toy. In these businesses, individuals can choose a plush toy and outfit it in accordance with a particular theme. The present invention may be used as part of this. For example, plush toys may be chosen that already have a prize or a keepsake disposed therein, or prizes or keepsakes may be inserted into the plush toy as part of the process.
As will be clear to those of skill in the art, the presently disclosed embodiments of the present invention may be altered in various ways without departing from the scope or teaching of the present invention. It is the following claims, including all equivalents, which define the scope of the invention.