A cap gun that looks like the real thing, a plastic ice-cream cone with strainer-like holes for food to "squiggle" through and a Dracula game in which the winner's reward is to have his finger "bitten" were cited yesterday as some of the worst toys of the year by a local consumer group.
In announcing the results of its 10th annual survey, the consumer affairs committee of the Americans for Democratic Action urged shoppers to compare prices -- which may be 150 percent higher at some stores than at others -- and to avoid projectile toys such as guns, archery sets, slingshots and darts that could result in injuries.
"Right now, parents are on their own," said Ann Brown, the committee chairman who criticized the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for failing to issue regulations on projectile toys.
CPSC representatives joined the ADA committee at a press conference yesterday and said that injuries resulting from the use of such toys don't justify federal intervention. But they promised to look at the toys cited in the survey as potentially dangerous and to decide if further commission action would be appropriate.
The list published by the consumer group showed 15 "bad" toy buys and 10 "good" buys. In compiling the list, the group considered danger to the child, construction of the toy, whether it lived up to television advertising and whether it was messy or unsanitary. The toys also were tested on 15 separate occasions by groups of children ranging from toddlers to teen-agers.
Good buys, according to the consumer group, included the Air Jammer Road Rammer, Flip and Fold Fashions and Pyraminx, all by Tomy; Penny Racers by Takara; Crayola Caddy by Binney & Smith; Darda Demon Stunt Strip by Darda; Whip-it by LJN; Asteroids Tape by Atari, and the Fisher-Price Arts & Crafts and the Fisher-Price Tape Recorder.
Three of those toys were singled out for special commendation. Penny Racers was selected as the "best under-$2 toy." Pyraminx was named best new puzzle. And the Asteroids Tape was chosen as the most exciting electronic game.
Toy manufacturers said that their products, as a general rule, meet industry and government standards. "If there are items in the market that are truly dangerous, the logical thing to do is to talk to retailers, to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and to manufacturers about it," said Douglas Thomson, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America, a trade association whose members represent about 90 percent of the industry.
Thomson said he will evaluate the products on the consumer list to see if any action should be taken by the manufacturer. But he said some items mentioned by the consumer group, such as slingshots, are sports items rather than toys.
Consumer advocate Brown said a wide range of projectile items had been found by toy surveyors in Washington-area toy stores regardless of whether they were classified as toys or sports items.
Those items, she said, included "realistic-looking and potentially dangerous toys and arrows, darts, slingshots, cap bombs, dart guns and cork guns of all types."
Copies of the report, including the price comparison at various stores, are available for $5 each from the ADA, Room 850, 1411 K Street NW, Washington, 20005. The telephone number is 638-2545.
The report had special comment on these items:
* "Most dangerous toys": the Falconmatic cap gun and Ghost cap gun with removable silencer, $4 to $8, by Edison Toys, New York City, and the ABC's Wide World of Sports Deluxe Dart Wall Rack, $3 to $4, by Crown Recreation, New York City. The committee report said the cap guns, which look good enough to be real, could be hazardous if they were fired too close to a child's ear. Edison Toys president Ronald Aaront said the company has been making those two cap guns for years and never has been sued for any injury resulting from the use of the guns.
The report said the dart set, which had "long, pointy steel needles," had no warning label on the package and had been purchased in a toy store. Crown Recreation president Herbert Sand said the darts were not intended for children or to be sold in toy stores.
"I am very surprised that this would be in a toy store because it is so obviously something we would never sell to a child," Sand said. He also said the dart packages typically do carry a warning that says, "This is not a child's toy. May cause injury. Read instructions carefully."
* "Most overpriced toy": At-At, $45 to $55, by Kenner. This toy is a big (17 1/2-by-22 inch) mechanical monster based on the model in the movie "The Empire Strikes Back." The report said that At-At is a good toy but shouldn't cost more than about $20. Kenner representative John Beck said the plastic used to make At-At is an expensive oil-based product and that the toy was not overpriced.
* "Messiest toy": Cone Heads, $3 to $4, by Mattel. The object is to put soft food, such as ripe banana or ice cream, in the plastic cone and twist the cone bottom to make the food "squiggle out the top." The consumer report said that the children who tested the cone with bananas "spit it out in disgust." Mattel representative Jack Fox said the children who tested cones for the company liked them. "We found nothing but pleasure attached to this toy," he said.