When people walk into Keri Piehl’s retro toy store in Albuquerque, N.M., their eyes light up. Wooden spinning tops, Yo-Yos, Trolls, rainbow lava lamps, scratch-and-sniff stickers—it’s like time travel, unlocked.
Visitors are drawn to the games and puzzles in order to relive those glory days. “I sell a ton of jacks to grandparents,” Piehl says. “I always joke that I should have an over-50 league, because every single grandma tells me they were the best at jacks.” Others simply want to settle a score. Grandfathers, in particular, enjoy bringing up old marble-related injustices—like the time so-and-so cheated to win the game. “They’re still salty,” she laughs.
According to experts, this kind of nostalgia has a number of health benefits. But that hasn’t always been clear. The concept has a complicated past: “Nostalgia” was coined in the 1600s by a Swiss medical student to describe homesickness among soldiers serving in European wars—essentially, the pain of longing to return to one’s native land. (“Nostos” translates to “return,” and “algos” means “pain.”) Because these feelings triggered anxiety and even physical ailments, “it was originally thought of as a…