When you were a kid, the holidays were what you waited for all year! Chances are, there was a specific toy that everyone had to have and you had no idea what your parents and loved ones went through to get it for you. Every year, there was a toy that was more popular than all the others and they’ve definitely made their impact on history. From the Chatty Cathy dolls of the ’60s to ’90s favorites like Razor scooters and Talkboys, let’s take a look back on the most sought-after toys of Christmas past.
Shirley Temple Dolls Made $45 Million
Child actress Shirley Temple might be an enigma to kids of this generation unless your grandparents looped you in back in the day — but in 1934, getting a Shirley Temple doll was all the rage. The first celebrity-driven doll, Shirley Temple was manufactured by The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company when Temple was only 6 years old. She was then in the third year of her successful movie career.
Ideally, you need something to promote your product, and just three days before Christmas, Temple’s breakout film, Bright Eyes, was released, allowing successful doll sales of up to $45 million within seven years.
Chatty Cathy Was All the Rage In 1960
You might remember your mom telling you how all she wanted for Christman when she was a kid was a Chatty Cathy doll. Turns out, Chatty Cathy was the toy to get back in 1960.
The Mattel Corporation (yes, Barbie’s owner) put a phonograph inside the doll, allowing her to say 11 different phrases when a ring was pulled. The two most popular lines were, “Do you love me?” and “Please brush my hair!” Sounds creepy, huh? Looks like some horror film directors took some cues. Cathy was the inspiration for the Talking Tina doll, which donned the phrase, “I’m Talking Tina and I’m going to kill you,” in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.
G.I. Joe Pulled In $16.9 Million In Sales Its First Year
While Barbie may have come first, in 1964 the Hasbro Company just had to get in on the fun and invent G.I. Joe – a foot-tall military action figure with a name inspired by the 1945 movie, The Story of G.I. Joe.
Turns out, the makers of G.I. Joe owed a lot to Star Wars for their longevity as kids at the time were used to collecting Star Wars action figures of a similar size. The toys made a then-impressive $16.9 million in sales in their first year and eventually made frequent comebacks during the years after.
George Lucas Sold Vouchers for Star Wars Action Figures
If you don’t think George Lucas was a marketing genius, check yourself. Despite how you feel about the Star Wars franchise, there’s no denying the force of power their products have made within pop culture. Pun intended.
In 1977, Lucas made millions selling vouchers for Star Wars action figures after toymaker Kenner didn’t have time to manufacture more than board games and coloring books after the surprising success of the movie. The patience of a child was put to the test on Christmas morning as they unwrapped an Early Bird Certificate Package with information about the figures they would receive in a few months, but no actual toy.
18 Million Cabbage Patch Kids Were Sold In 1984
Who doesn’t have fond memories of owning a Cabbage Patch Kid and taking it everywhere? Cabbage Patch Kids made their debut in 1983 by Coleco and they were such a hit that people went out in mad droves to snatch one up.
Who knew that “adopting” a doll would end up in adult fistfights and price gouging? Some dolls even wound up on the black market for 10 times their retail price! The fad got even bigger the next year as 18 million Cabbage Patch Kids were sold in 1984. Unfortunately, Coleco went bankrupt in 1988 due to failed video game and computer ventures. Cabbage Patch Kids are still sold by Play Around.
Transformers Are Still Around
These guys are still around today due to Michael Bay’s 2007 live-action film Transformers scoring big at the box office, but in 1984, they were everything kids wanted that Christmas.
Based off of the cartoon about combatant divisions of anthropomorphic robots from outer space, Hasbro created a full line of toys that exceeded the demand during the holiday season. While parents were still scrambling around for Cabbage Patch Kids, they added another to their list with Transformers. The toy allowed Hasbro to watch their shares rise from $23 to $60 in 1984. The company shipped an estimated $80 million worth of Transformers for that year alone.
Teddy Ruxpin Was Invented by a Disney Imagineer
Chances are, you’ve seen Teddy Ruxpin at a store near you as waves of nostalgia hit you like a ton of bricks in the middle of a Target. Don’t lie.
This cutie pie animatronic talking bear was the brainchild of Disney Imagineer Ken Forsse and was a home version of what kids saw at theme parks and pizza parlors in 1985. Funny story: Many of the first generation Teddy Ruxpins arrived with a glitch, speaking in an offsetting gibberish that parents may have found disturbing. The toy was recalled the following year, with more than 12,000 returned as defective.
Some toys are so popular that parents will do anything to get their hands on them for the holidays.
People Were Injured Over Tickle Me Elmos
Elmo always had a certain charm that delighted children since the inception of Sesame Street, but no one knew the magnitude of frenzy 1996’s Tickle Me Elmo would ensure across the world.
The holiday hype was real with this one with one store worker reportedly winding up with a broken rib after a Tickle Me Elmo stampede. However, faith in humanity was (somewhat) restored after reports of the toys being auctioned off for good causes. Ten years later in 2006, Tickle Me Elmo Extreme was released, which moved so realistically that it appeared to be possessed. We’ll pass on that one.
Beanie Babies Were a Pop Culture Phenomenon
In 1996, if you weren’t the slightest bit interested in Beanie Babies, who were you? Many of us hold fond memories of going from store to store to find the most sought-after beanies – Tusk the Walrus or Bongo the Monkey, anyone?
Beanie Babies were developed in the early 1990s but only became a pop culture phenomenon after salesman H. Ty Warner got the idea to “retire” some of his already successful beanies, making them valuable on the collectible market. The company ended 1996 with $250 million in sales. Of course, Beanie Babies are still widely popular today but with much wider eyes than the original babies.
Furbys Were Weird But Highly Coveted
OK, so turns out no one actually knew what Furby was (a talking dust bunny, a creature from outer space?). It turns out, he was an owl-hamster hybrid. Good to know…twenty years later.
In 1998 Furby was all the rage and if you had no idea what he was saying, you weren’t alone. Furby came out of the box speaking an unidentifiable language and slowly learned English. Some even woke up in the middle of the night declaring, “ME HUNGRY,” scaring us out of our minds. The original Furby was discontinued in 2000 but an upgraded Furby that could carry on a conversation was produced from 2005 to 2007.
Everyone Wanted a Nintendo Wii
AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
Let’s be real here: even kids who no interest in video games had thought the Nintendo Wii was pretty cool. In 2006, the Wii had an amazing new motion-sensing wand that allowed gamers to get up and take part in the games they were immersing themselves in.
Wii-interested gamers waited in long lines at retailers only to discover that stores were only receiving a few units each, and the shortages continued throughout the following year. Nintendo sold about 3 million Wii units worldwide by Christmas 2006, and another 17 million in 2007.
Zhu Zhu Pets Were 2009’s Biggest Holiday Fad
We’re not sure why Zhu Zhu Pets were a thing, but 2009 was an odd year. While they didn’t reach Tickle Me Elmo or Cabbage Patch levels of consumer mayhem that year, several riots did ensue at Walmarts throughout the country due to the shipment of millions of Zhu Zhu Pets right before Christmas.
Cepia LLC of China estimated $70 million in sales in 2009 but Zhu Zhu Pets became a fast fad. While the toys are still being manufactured, chances are they won’t be as memorable as other holiday toys.
If you grew up in the ’90s, chances are just about everyone you knew in elementary school had one of these!
Game Boy Was the Hottest Toy of 1989
Evan Amos / Wikimedia Commons
Chances are, just about everyone you knew in elementary school had one of these and it was the talk of the classroom during lunch. In 1989, Nintendo released its newest invention, Game Boy, and nothing has been the same since. It was the first handheld console in the Game Boy line with redesigned versions released in 1996 and 1998 in the form of Game Boy Pocket and the Japan-only version, Game Boy Light.
Game Boy quickly conquered every other handheld game console on the market and sold more than 118 million units and its successor, the Game Boy Color, in the product’s lifetime.
Talkboy Was a Hit Thanks to Home Alone
@dodderydork / Twitter
If you were obsessed with Home Alone 2: Lost In New York and just had to have a Talk Boy or Talk Girl, you are not alone. While there were many other recording devices out on the market already, nothing swept the nation more than these playback devices.
Originally just an invention for the film starring Macaulay Culkin, the Talk Boy recorded audio and played it back on demand, intriguing kids around the world who needed to get their hands on one of the devices! Demand for it led to the toy being manufactured in real life by Hasbro, and it became so popular that they had to pull ads for it because they couldn’t keep up with supply and demand.
Tamagotchi Was Everyone’s First Pet…Sort Of
The future was literally in our hands back in 1997 with the craze of the Tamagotchi. Tamagotchis were handheld digital pets that users could feed and play with, but because they needed constant attention to stay healthy, they took over the country’s attention. Sound familiar?
Chances are, you either got in trouble in school for playing with one or your parents had to feed your Tamagotchi during school hours. Some may even have come home to find out that six hours of neglect caused their Tamagotchi to die. What a strange fad — yet fun nevertheless. By 2010, Tamagotchis had sold 76 million units.
Razor Scooters Wrecked Our Ankles But It Was Worth It
In 2000, Razor Scooters got kids off the couch and onto the streets. Compact and foldable, Razor Scooters became the toy of the year. The scooters became a phenomenon around the time when Dan Green landed the first backflip ever. You probably found yourself almost trampled by one or know a child who doesn’t go anywhere without one (or perhaps you were that child back in the day?)
Things only got better when an electric model was released in 2003 reaching speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Today, Razor is competing with the likes of Bird and Lime, offering dockless electric scooters for public use.
Pokémon Dominated ’90s Wish Lists
In the 1990s, you couldn’t enter a classroom without hearing a mention of the Pokémon franchise. It quickly established itself as one of the biggest franchises in the world. Pokémon’s 1996 Game Boy game was one of the most popular on its platform and with the debut of the anime TV show in 1998, the franchise reached an all-time high.
By 1999, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Pokémon, and chances are you knew someone who wanted everything Pokémon for the holidays. Between the games, trading cards, and other merchandise, it had the most toys sold during the holiday season. The Pokemon craze has only continued into the new millennium.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Have Been In Demand for Decades
Between the Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, every kid knew exactly what they wanted for the holidays.
In 1990, the Ninja Turtles became a widespread phenomenon just within the United States alone. The film version manages to earn more than $200 million at the box office and the toys – dominated by enticing action figures – conquered the holiday season, selling more than 30 million toys before the end of that year. Ninja Turtles are still going strong today, but are more of a nostalgic gem to millennials than anything else.
Xbox 360 Sold 10 Million Units In 2006
In 2005, the Xbox 360 was all the rage that Christmas. Officially unveiled on MTV that May, the Xbox 360 featured an online service, Xbox Live, which was expanded from its previous iteration on the original Xbox and received regular updates during the console’s lifetime. Some may say it was foreshadowing the future of technology.
That year, Microsoft rushed the Xbox 360 gaming console to production to beat the Sony PlayStation 3 at the market. Turns out, it worked, as the Xbox 360 sold 1.5 million units by the end of the year and 10 million more by the end of 2006.
Apple Has Sold More Than 360 Million iPads
Apple is known for its innovation and excitement for new products that the world will become obsessed with, but nothing could predict the impact of the iPad.
In 2010, the iPad pretty much revolutionized touchscreen use for everyone. Soon enough, other tech companies had to follow suit. As of May 2017, Apple has sold more than 360 million iPads. Delighting the minds of adults and children alike, the iPad is a newfound timeless gift that keeps on giving throughout every changing holiday season.