For over 60 years Anchor® stones were recognized in both Europe and the USA as the most educational of toys. During their first twenty years of production, Anchor stones were endorsed, in writing, by US President Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, the Commissioner of Education of the USA, several members of the New York City Board of Education, the Superintendent of Parochial Schools in New York and many others in high governmental and educational positions. The US government considered these stone building blocks so important to technical education that they confiscated the New York subsidiary during W.W.I and sold it to A.C. Gilbert, of Erector(tm) set fame. (Although these blocks are really man-made stone, the Superior Court of New York found on December 2, 1891, that these blocks were, in fact, "stone".) These "stone" building blocks are truly educational, and their use by all children should be encouraged.
Frederick Fröbel, the founder of the kindergarten, identified six very important benefits of early education. At least four of them are best taught with Anchor building blocks; computers can not compete. The very first set teaches the ability to reproduce, in three dimensions, a design drawn in two dimensions. Second, just putting the stones back into the box teaches the ability to place irregular three dimensional objects according to a two dimensional plan. A third important educational benefit is the ability to coordinate a picture and a cross section drawing in making a three dimensional structure. All sets put a premium on attention to detail and accurate observation. The child knows that the correct information, and all of the necessary information, is given in the building plans; it is up to the child to find it in the plans. Since the number of stones in a set is limited, the child learns to observe detail and select the correct object (stone) based on the information presented -- the fourth major educational benefit. Many parents may find that their skills in these areas are not as good as they might be; so they would do well to do a little building themselves a little before offering to help their children.
Parents should encourage their children to build the designs in the plan books before undertaking personal (free style) designs. The structures in the plan books are designed to teach technique. As Pablo Picasso pointed out, regarding modern art, one must learn technique first. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is a good example. His mastery of technique allows him to play Baroque as well as modern music. After technique has been learned, one's personal designs become better, larger and show more artistry. Again, parents are likely to find that their own technique leaves a lot to be desired, so they should try a few of the designs provided in the book before attempting to help a child.
Anchor Block sets are never obsolete. After the child has become skilled at building with one set, a supplement set can be purchased. The resulting larger set is exactly the same as if the larger set had been purchased originally. Thus the owner of a set # 6 (105 stones) can increase its size to # 8 (218 stones) by the purchase of supplement set # 6A (113 stones). And in the same manner a set # 8 (or sets # 6 + 6A) can be supplemented with # 8A to produce set # 10 (334 stones); # 10A supplements # 10, making a set # 12 of 499 stones. The Anchor Block company intends to add other supplement sets. The original Anchor sets could grow and grow until they reached # 34, a set of 3,848 stones!
Supplement sets #s 6A, 8A, 10A, 12A, 14A and 16A, as well as the basic set # 6, should be available at you local retailer, or you can buy them by mail. You may be tempted to buy the smaller promotional set, # 4, but I urge you not to do so. It is too small to be really useful, except as a toy for a child between 3 and 5 years old. I do not stock either set # 4 or the supplement set # 4A.
How did such beautiful and educational toy become lost to the world? As luck would have it, the city of Rudolstadt, Germany, where the Anchor sets were made, was behind the Iron Curtain. Trade between the East and West was difficult at best, and communist ideology destroyed what little possibility there was of continued production. So, in early 1963, the factory was closed. The manufacturing equipment is lost, probably discarded as scrap.
The set number is a good guide as to which set to buy as a child's first set. A # 6 is the best set for a six year old; a # 8, for an eight year old; etc. Supplement sets can be added as the child's interest and ability dictates. At least one modern day American child was using a # 16 (919 stones) before his ninth birthday.
The new Anchor Stone Building Sets received the Parents' Choice Gold Medal for 1997 and the National Parenting Publications Award in 1999. Not bad for an 1880 toy! Quality is forever.