Another legendary figure in the toy industry has died.
Henry Orenstein, a former Hasbro executive and the founder of Topper Toys fell victim to complications from COVID-19 on Dec. 14 at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey. Orenstein’s wife, Susie confirmed his passing to CNN this weekend.
Orenstein was a Holocaust survivor that came to the U.S. and made his presence known throughout the toy industry where he spent more than 30 years as an innovator and inventor. Orenstein is credited with building a larger presence for toys at grocery stores and launched legendary brands, including the 1:64-scale Johnny Lightning die-cast cast vehicle line and the Johnny Seven O.M.A. military weapon.
As an inventor, Orenstein held more than 100 patents, including one for the original, G1 Transformers line. While often erroneously credited as a “creator” of the famous toy brand, Orenstein spotted the Japanese lines from Takara TOMY that inspired the Autobots and Decepticons. One often recounted story is that former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld once called Orenstein “the catalyst” for the Transformers brand and convinced the company to license Micro Change and Diaclone toys for the U.S. market.
Following his adventures in the toy business, Orenstein built a legendary career in another space: professional poker.
He is credited for innovating the way poker is shown on TV, most notably through the use of a special table surface and camera that allows home audiences to see the hands that players have been dealt.
In a 2016 interview with Newsweek, Susie Orenstein said that Henry would often sing himself to sleep with a familiar jingle: “Transformers! More than meets the eye…”
Henry Orenstein was 98.