The History Of Paint By Number Kits:Paint By Number kits were so common, so popular, such a part of the American decorating scheme, that the Smithsonian created a whole exhibit around them in 2001. Their accompanying educational website, still online today, is an awesome resource for Paint By Number history. Their introduction gets right to the point and says that, while Americans loved their PBNs, critics had a snit fit:
Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s revisits the hobby from the vantage point of the artists and entrepreneurs who created the popular paint kits, the cultural critics who reviled them, and the hobbyists who happily completed them and hung them in their homes. Although many critics saw “number painting” as a symbol of the mindless conformity gripping 1950s America, paint by number had a peculiarly American virtue. It invited people who had never before held a paintbrush to enter a world of art and creativity.
Over the decades, the Smithsonian curators say, the Paint By Number aesthetic became so ingrained in our culture that other artists began to use it as a political launching point for their work. Kind of Andy Warhol-esque stuff. By around the year 2000, vintage PBNs started become collectible. Today in 2015, I’d say they are super collectible - although prices are still “affordable”, especially if you find these at estate sales where I live, because everyone did PBNs!...REMEMBER, there are 12 million Craft Master PBNs out there!
Read the entire Smithsonian history here. It’s a quick read, very entertaining, and lots of photos you can click on and see bigger.