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20 Awesome Toy Fads: A Flashback

  • Dec 18, 2009
In contrast to my 10 Hottest Toys of 2009 list, which was very high tech, I decided to take a look back at the history of hot toys and create a list of toy crazes past.  Don't lie, I know everyone's gotten sucked into at least one of these toy crazes, if not several! 

These toys are listed in chronological order and in creating it, I was so surprised to find out that some of these toys were around before my parents were even born, yet they were still popular when I was a child in the 90's.  Some of these toys are still around, while others make you scratch head and wonder how they ever got so big, but I think that we can all agree on one thing -- they're all awesome!

Prepare to feel nostalgic!  You might just want to run out and buy a few of these for a child this holiday season.  Or maybe just for your inner child ;)
Original Silly Putty
Believe it or not, silly putty was invented by accident during research for rubber goods for World War II, and oh, the fun I've had with it! The ones that I played with came in plastic eggs. They were so fun to mold and stick to places. This was like Playdoh for "big" kids. And remember how you could roll Silly Putty on newspaper to pick up the newsprint? Yeaaaah!

Slinky Toy
Invented in the early 1940's, these things make for good old fashion fun. I don't remember ever having a metal one before, but I had several of those plastic, rainbow-colored ones. I'd let 'em slink down the stairs (never with too much success though!), or play jump rope with them, and for these reasons, I had several -- because the plastic ones always got kinks in them.

Mr. Potato Head
It's so awesome that Mr. Potato Head used an actual potato back when it was created in 1949. I never really enjoyed playing with Mr. Potato Head much, but I've always thought that it was a really cute decoration! I love its influence on pop culture and how there are spin off Mr. Potato Heads, like Darth Tater, Spud Trooper and R2 POTATOO.  And KISS, anyone?

Etch a Sketch
The Etch a Sketch was invented in the 1950's in France. I had several variations of these, in different designs and sizes, yet it never really appealed to me. As a kid, it just wasn't satisfying for me to invest my time drawing something that wasn't going to look nice, and then would get swiped away in... just one swipe. When I visit my dentist now, though, who has a ton of these in his waiting room, I do catch myself doodling on one of these just for nostalgia's sake.

Easy-Bake Oven
Can you believe that this was invented in 1963? I've never had one of these, but I love the concept of it and sure do wish that I had one as a little girl! I get kind of jealous when I hear my friends talking about how they had one when they were growing up. Pffffft. I'm even jealous that Marge Simpson had one! What kid wouldn't wanna bake their very own chocolate cake with a high wattage light bulb?  Look at all the things you could make...

Troll (dolls)
I can't believe that these were introduced in the 60's because I totally played with these when I was in elementary school! They were sold pretty much everywhere and they could be won at arcades. I didn't like the large and medium sized ones too much. My favorite ones were the tiny little ones that were about two inches tall, including hair.  They've got that perpetual hair-blowing-in-the-wind look.  Sexy!

Another awesome toy of the 60's that I played with when I was a kid in the 90's. I loved my Lite-Brite so much! I created so many awesome things out of those colorful little pegs. The most awesome part was turning out all the lights to let my Lite-Brite "artwork" really shine through! Wow, I just used the world "awesome" three times to describe Lite-Brite.

Shrinky Dinks
An invention of the 70's, I totally made jewelry and other random nic nacs out of shrinky dink material in pre-school. In middle school, we used shrinky dinks for a science project, something about heat and one of the elements, if I recall correctly. No matter what age I was, it was always fun drawing on plastic sheets with sharpies, then popping them in the oven and seeing what came out. Heck, I may just save my plastic take-out container from lunch and make some tonight!

Pet Rock
The guy who came up with the Pet Rock in the 70's is a genius. He pretty much just took some rocks, glued some eyes on them, then put it in a cute little cardboard pet carrier with some straw and managed to make millions since people gobbled them up. With all the cool, older toys that I listed above, I wonder what was going on in the 70's that compelled people to be so amused by an oogly eyed rock that came in a box. Hmmmmm....

Rubik's cube
The Rubik's Cube is going to be 30 year's old next year. Yet another toy that I'm not exactly enthralled by. That, or I'm just a little bitter that I never once figured out how to solve it. I'm sure there are tutorials out there though. I'm always amazed by people who can solve this in the matter of minutes or even seconds, whether it's by solving in the traditional way, or taking it apart and putting it back together. I also understand that there's a video game version of the Rubik's Cube. I can't help but wonder how and why though since a lot of people can't even figure out the physical model.

My Little Pony
I think that this 80's toy craze is adorable. Chubby, colorful horses with pretty symbols printed on them and colorful, brushable manes. They also came in different, limited editions and some were so exclusive that they were mail order only. Craziness!

Cabbage Patch Kids
This is one of the crazes that I'm a bit sad that I missed out on. They're so random though. Cabbage. Patch. Kids. Huh? Kudos for randomness and creativity. They're also very, very cute and I would have loved to hug one to sleep! Apparently, there are collectible porcelain ones, but I'll stick with the plush.

Beanie Babies
This early 90's concoction has got to be one of the most ridiculous of all time. Beanie Babies are cute and all, but I'm not sure what made people get all crazy over them and think that they were going to appreciate in value over the years. I'm sure you all remember, but there were Beanie Babies that were supposedly worth thousands of dollars back then, and people actually shelled out that kind of money. I highly doubt anyone would buy it back for those prices now though. At least they got a cute toy out of it. They sell these at Denny's now and I always love browsing through them when I'm there.

Pogs are the epitome of the 90's. I had a whole pencil box full of these and I'm trying to remember what the appeal of these are, but I'm drawing blanks. Some people played games with them, others just collected them for the hell of it. Unlike pretty much all the other toys on this list though, I don't think too many people play with these anymore. I don't think they're even made now. This was a very, very short lived fad.

Tickle Me Elmo
When this craze hit, I considered myself too old for Sesame Street, but now as an adult, I kind of want one... I remember how news that the Tickle Me Elmo was completely sold out was on every news outlet and how prices supposedly fetched to over $1000 for parents not wanting to ruin their children's Christmas (not too many people would do that in this economy!). This doll has gone through several upgrades and can now sing and tell stories. I wonder what the next version can do :)

I seriously had about 10 of these! I remember the Tamagotchis being kind of expensive, so I didn't have as many of them as I did the knock-off Nanopets. It was always a sad, sad day when I forgot to bring my batch of virtual pets to school and I came home to a bunch of very sick, or dead ones, and then I would have to restart them. A few years later, I moved onto Neopets, though, which never die!

This was totally on my siblings and I's Christmas wish list the year that it came out. Our parents ended up getting it for us and it was pretty exciting at first watching it hobble around and trying to understand Furbish. It might have been a bit more fun if we had another one since they apparently interact with each other. I actually still have this Furby. It hasn't worked in years, though, but that's okay. It makes for a very cute fixture in my house, just like the Mr. Potato Head.

I never was into Pokemon, but I remember most of my classmates, especially the guys, were into it. Pokemon everything was coveted by these folks. It's comparable to the Twilight fans of today. T-shirts, cards, figurines, stuffed animals, bed sheets, you name it! And those Pokemon cards were a bit like the Bean Babies craze where people thought they would be really expensive someday and shelled out top dollar for them. Sadly, I don't think anyone would even want it now if it was given to them.

Bratz Dolls
I was way too old for dolls when these came out, but I got one as a gag gift a few years ago. I can see why there's so much controversy over them. It takes a bit to shock me, yet, I can't believe that these dolls are targeted at little girls and that there are little girls out there who actually want them and are playing with them. They definitely show how the times have changed.

Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster
This year's toy craze. I so want one of these! They're said to behave almost like real pet hamsters. These are apparently sold out in stores, too, and like the Tickle Me Elmo, parents have been shelling out more than retail price to purchase these elsewhere. These are only $10, yet some e-stores sell them for $50+. Crazy, huh? I'm a big girl though, I can wait until the craze dies down to get one :)

See the full review, "The Story of Nugget & How I Came to Own a Zhu Zhu.".

What did you think of this list?

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March 14, 2011
Super list here. I even had a few of them! ;) "Simon" might have been a good one to include too. http://www.ralphbaer.com/images/7.%20Simon%20copy.jpg
April 14, 2010
Love this list Devora! I have only one addition to the awesome toy list: Dolly Darlings. They were my favorite as a kid in the late 60's. My sister and I took them everywhere, playing with them till they literally fell apart. They have em on eBay at outrageous prices now...should've kept those darling dollies cuz they were awesome!
April 15, 2010
Thanks, Cheryl! And what cute dolls! I just looked up Dolly Darlings and they're so much nicer and classier than the Bratz dolls of today. I want!
April 06, 2010
Okay, I'm going to come out here and admit that I actually have the infamous Tickle Me Elmo from back when it came out in the mid-'90s. My cousin bought me an Elmo toy shortly before she died and for some reason that sent me on an Elmo-collecting binge that lasted a couple of years. I also have a shoebox filled with Pogs of all kinds. What a weird idea for a toy. Do you remember that they actually had a Pog-creating machine, for a while there, so kids could make ones with their own art. I'm not sure why, but I always wanted one. And damn it, I still have my Etch a Sketch and my Rubik's Cube and I still suck at both. LOL! Wow, this list brings back a lot of memories and makes me realize how much money I wasted on mindless frivolity. : )
December 23, 2009
I admit that I owned five of these...I'm not telling which ones.
December 23, 2009
Only?!? I'm more like... 14, but of course, I did create this list.  It's going to be 15 once I acquire #20. Yes, I had a very toy fad'ish childhood :)
December 23, 2009
Fun list! This certainly brought back memories of my childhood. Also its interesting that many of these older toys are still around and fun for all ages. Thanks for the list! Fun to see how the top toys have progressed over the years.
December 23, 2009
Thanks, Kay! It definitely is :)
December 21, 2009
This is so retro and fun. Love it!!
December 21, 2009
Thanks, Aunny! Haha, retro indeed! :)
December 20, 2009
i want a slinky!!!
December 20, 2009
A plastic one.... or a metal one? :)
December 19, 2009
I always enjoy your lists but this one is a classic... brings back so many memories.
December 20, 2009
Aw, thanks, James! Brought back many memories for me, too, in compiling and writing this list :)
December 19, 2009
What a great list. It sure brings back the memories. I still have a Rubik's Cube on my desk at work that I pick up and re-solve several times a day. (You have no idea how long it took me to figure out the steps to solve the darn thing but now I can manage it in about 5 minutes)
December 20, 2009
Thanks, Paul! That is very cool, and I'm envious of your skill! :)
December 19, 2009
exceptional work, Devora, you're making me feel nostalgic. I used to love the Rubik's cube until I finally cracked the darn thing; wish I never lost it. Happy Holidays, my friend!
December 19, 2009
Thanks, Woo! You cracked it as in you solved it, or you broke it? If I ever figure out that thing, I might just have to get the keychain version so that I can show off my skillz all over the place! ;P Happy holidays to you, too, Woo! :)
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created a list. December 18, 2009
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devora ()
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When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more
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