Coleco Inc. is an American company founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg as “Connecticut Leather Company“. It became a highly successful toy company in the 1980s, known for its mass-produced version of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and its video game consoles, the Coleco Telstar and ColecoVision. The company is headquartered in Manalapan, New Jersey.
Coleco originally processed shoe leather, which later led to a business in leather craft kits in the 1950s. They began manufacturing plastic moulding and moved into plastic wading pools in the 1960s. The leather part of the business was then sold off.
Under CEO Arnold Greenberg, the company entered the video game console business with the Telstar in 1976. Dozens of companies were introducing game systems that year after Atari’s successful Pong console. Nearly all of these new games were based on General Instrument’s “Pong-on-a-chip”. However, General Instrument had underestimated demand, and there were severe shortages. Coleco had been one of the first to place an order, and was one of the few companies to receive an order in full. Though dedicated game consoles did not last long on the market, their early order enabled Coleco to break even.
Coleco continued to do well in electronics. They transitioned next into handheld electronic games, a market popularized by Mattel. Coleco produced two very popular lines of games, the “head to head” series of two player sports games, (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Hockey) and the Mini-Arcade series of licensed video arcade titles such as Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man. A third line of educational handhelds was also produced and included the Electronic Learning Machine, Lil Genius, Digits, and a trivia game called Quiz Wiz. Launched in 1982, their first four tabletop Mini-Arcades, for Pac-Man, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, and Frogger, sold approximately three million units within a year. Among these, 1.5 million units were sold for Pac-Man alone. In 1983, they released three more Mini-Arcades: for Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong Junior, and Zaxxon.
Coleco returned to the video game console market in 1982 with the launch of the ColecoVision. While the system was quite popular, Coleco hedged their bet on video games by introducing a line of ROM cartridges for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. They also introduced the Coleco Gemini, a clone of the popular Atari 2600.