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Sears ‘Wish Book’ is back, which makes us wistful for its former catalogs

Ruth Parrington, librarian in the art department of the Chicago Public Library, studies early Sears Roebuck catalogs in the library's collection, in Chicago. The catalog Parrington is holding features women's fashion from 1902. The date of this photo is unknown.
Ruth Parrington, librarian in the art department of the Chicago Public Library, studies early Sears Roebuck catalogs in the library's collection, in Chicago. The catalog Parrington is holding features women's fashion from 1902. The date of this photo is unknown. Associated Press file

Those of a certain age will remember the Sears “Wish Book.”

The retailer, which recently started liquidating its Canada operations and split with appliance maker Whirlpool, is reviving at least one thing from its operations: its catalog, in digital and print form.

The company, in a recent news release, said, “Sears’ best members will receive a limited edition printed 2017 Wish Book in the mail, and select other Shop Your Way members will receive an email inviting them to pick up a copy of the collectible keepsake at their local Sears store, while supplies last.”

Some of the highlights offer the same type of random items as a Sears’ Wish Book of yesteryear, though maybe not nearly on the same scale.

Among them:

A Darth Vader plush holiday greeter (“Greet your holiday guests with a little bit of the Force!”), a La-Z-Boy rocker-recliner (“95% polyester chenille upholstery”) or maybe a Goplus 4 In 1 Multi Game Air Hockey Tennis Football Pool Table Billiard Foosball Gift.

There’s also clothing for everyone in the family, jewelry, pots and pans, boots with a floral design, watches, socks and Craftsman tools (also being sold at Lowe’s.)

Appliances include a Door-in-Door LG refrigerator, (“The sleek tinted glass panel illuminates with 2 quick knocks, allowing you to see inside without ever opening the door.”)

No point in listing prices for these modern-day goodies, as Sears can update prices in real time.

But this does remind one of the old Wish Book, which used to be hundreds of pages of everything imaginable.

A stroll through Wishbookweb.com, an online archive of major retailers’ catalogs, reveals a 1971 Sears Wish Book (note, you need Adobe Flash to see the following links) that sold a “Sun Set” Malibu Barbie for $1.94, (Yes, there also was a blond Malibu Ken.)

You also could get electric toy ovens ($14.99), electric football sets ($15.99), Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots ($8.39), drum sets starting at $9.99, unicycles (ranging from $9.74 to a pro version at $24.88) and a Pinto pedal car for $13.44.

But wait, there was more:

▪ Something called “The Executive,” a cassette tape player-recorder with external microphone and car cigarette lighter adapter (sold separately) for nearly $78.

▪ A turntable/clock FM/AM radio (“Cut $5, now $149.95.”) and a vertical broiler (less than $20.)

▪ A the pièce de résistance: a combination meat grinder/ice crusher/can opener/salad maker for $49.99. (Not to mention a double-page spread of fondue sets and hibachis.)

And, if you think Amazon’s Prime Now delivery is a modern merchandise wonder, Sears would remind you that in its home base of Cook County, Illinois, it could have most orders ready for pickup in 2 hours.

In 1971.

Much better days for the once-towering company than now, where Canada’s liquidation sales have become something of a free-for-all, with stores left in a retail apocalypse trashed-out state.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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