Fifty years ago, John Spinello was paid just $500 for the rights to his game and so is unable to claim royalties.
The 77-year old now needs oral surgery but does not have the insurance coverage needed to pay the costs. “I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years,” he told the Huffington Post.
As a result, friends and fellow toy-designers launched a crowdfunding campaign that has recently surpassed its target of $25,000. Spinello says the generosity shown and the messages he has received from lovers of the game have been “overwhelming”.
He invented the concept of the game while studying design at university in Illinois and created a basic prototype which he sold to a leading toy designer Marvin Glass.
Spinello says he was also offered a job by the toy giant, but it never materialised. “I did get the two checks – eventually,” he said. “I had to call for them.”
The much-loved game has gone on to make an estimated $40m since its debut in 1965.
Tim Walsh, friend and organiser of the crowd funding campaign says Spinello holds no resentment or bitterness about the deal.
Since the appeal was launched, Hasbro, the toy company that now owns the rights to the game has bought Spinello’s original prototype (pictured below) as a contribution to his medical bills.
“We were moved to see the recent outpouring of support from so many fans of the Operation game around the world regarding the medical needs of the game’s original inventor,” the company said in a statement.
The amount paid has not been made public but according to Walsh, “the offer was generous enough for John to accept”.