Lawn Darts began to appear in sporting goods and toy stores in the 1960s and were made by various manufacturers (Sears Department Stores even had their own Sears Lawn Darts).
Also sold under the name ‘Jarts,’ these items were 12 inches long, with a heavy tip made of metal on one end and decorative plastic fins at the other end.
The metal tips were blunt so they wouldn’t cut the hands of the person tossing them, but remained pointy and heavy enough to stick in the ground when they were thrown.
These Lawn Darts were used in a recreational activity that crossed darts with horseshoes. Players would set two plastic rings on the lawn thirty feet apart and split into two teams.
Each team would toss the lawn dart in an underhand style towards the opposing ring with the objective of landing inside it.
Players won three points for getting the Lawn Dart in the ring and one point for getting it within a dart’s length of the ring. The first team to score eleven points would be declared the winner.
All in all, it was a very entertaining game, but not a good one for children, as the darts were heavy and pointed enough to cause injuries.
In the 1970s, people began to cast a suspicious eye on the safety standards used in making toys. Parents and lawmakers began voicing their concerns which led to new legal standards for what could and could not be sold to children.
Some manufacturers and stores reacted to consumer complaints by moving lawn darts out of Toy sections and keeping them exclusively in the Sporting Goods area.
Just the same, this didn’t keep kids whose parents owned Lawn Darts from digging them out and playing with them when no adults were looking.
Between 1978 and 1987, hospital emergency rooms treated a reported 6,700 Lawn Dart injuries in the US alone, with over 75% of these injuries involving children.
In 1988, Lawn Darts were officially banned in the United States. Since then, they have not been legally sold in any stores, though altered forms like the plastic Lawn Toss are still around.
To use the metal-tipped originals today is a legal offence, yet Lawn Darts remain popular with a cult of adult enthusiasts who still gather together for private Lawn Dart games and tournaments.