Lawn darts, garden darts or Jarts were banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for sale in the United States in 1988. This has done little to quell the interest in lawn darts. Today, there are companies circumventing the rules, tournaments honing the skills, and adults waxing nostalgically about the fun, laughter and sometimes terror and injury that this game of skill has caused.
The game begins...and ends!
The origin of the game of lawn darts is shrouded in mystery. By the 1960s, the heavy metal-tipped plastic yard dart was widely stocked and available. Popular companies like Franklin and stores such as Sears stocked these sets in the sporting goods aisle. Many a 70s era youngster recalls being chased by a sibling who was threatening them with a Jart. Little effort was put into playing the game according to the prepackaged rules. What was meant to be a game of skill by hurling the giant lawn darts through the air towards target hoops quickly became a game more akin to a chicken or a Wild West showdown. Kids would face one another across the lawn and loft Jarts at each other in an effort to come closest without flinching.
Adults gathering around the barbecue found lawn darts just as entertaining--especially after two or three drinks. Injuries and hospital visits piled up across the nation. Three deaths were attributed to these plastic missiles by the time the CPCC stepped in with the 1988 ban. Not only was the sale of all types of yard darts banned, but also the CPCC encourage people to destroy any and all existing sets.
The ban in the U.S. in 1988 was matched by Canada in 1989 effectively putting a chokehold on the distribution of Jarts to North America. The black-market was more than willing to satisfy the needs of lawn dart junkies for years to come. Just as prohibition era bathtub gin flowed freely, so fly freely the black-market lawn darts. Many entrepreneurs bought up existing stock and would sell them at massively inflated prices. Others began shipping them from legal countries to North America. The injuries may be real, but so was the love for lawn darts...at any cost!
Skirting the law
The same tricks to circumvent the CPCC ban on lawn darts that started in the 80s continue today. Garden darts are almost identical to the American lawn dart and are widely available in England and the rest of Europe. Garden darts are sold on all non-North American Amazon.com sites. People are illegally shipping and smuggling them into America. In the United States, online retailers sell lawn dart "parts" which can easily be assembled to create a finished product. On Craigslist, flea markets, yard sales and swap meets, a nice set of lawn darts can easily fetch over $100.
Everything old is new again
The CPCC felt the need to reissue the ban warning again in the 1990s due to a swift rise in lawn dart injuries. It has been reported that from the late 1970s until present time that over 6000 injuries have been caused by lawn darts. Many companies are trying to jump on the Jart bandwagon with similar offerings like cornhole, the all plastic Zarts, or Kubb. What these companies can't recapture and manufacture is the inherent sense of danger that made the original lawn darts so thrilling.
The heft, feel and thrill of a perfect lawn dart toss remains firmly embedded in the minds of many adults. Unfortunately, too many lawn darts became firmly embedded in young children's' skulls! For those of us that remember the danger and thrill of lawn darts--nothing else will do.