The 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s were decades in which the toy industry really got creative. During those years, countless toys were produced that are still being made today, and many of them are more popular than ever. Take a step into the past and see if you remember playing with some of the most popular toys from your childhood!
1965 – G.I. Joe
Released by Hasbro in 1965, G.I. Joe action figures represent the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps branches of the military.
G.I. Joe was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame in 2017. Today, the enduring toys are still being released and have inspired several television shows and feature films in the past years.
1966 – Suzy Homemaker
Produced by Topper Toys and first released in 1966, Suzy Homemaker is a series of miniature working household appliances. Some of the products included an oven, a vacuum cleaner, and more, all of which were sold separately.
In later years, an actual Suzy Homemaker doll was introduced, and the term “Suzy Homemaker” became popular in American English to reference someone who is frequently cooking or cleaning. Impressively, the Suzy Homemaker doll became the second-most popular doll in the United States after Barbie.
1967 – Lite-Brite
Lite-Brite is an interactive toy consisting of a light box into which the user inserts colored plastic pegs that illuminate with the help of the background light. The user can put many of the pegs into the box in a design that lights up.
Although the toy lets people get as creative as they want, Hasbro also released color-by-letter templates so that children could make their favorite characters, such as Mickey Mouse.
1968 – Hot Wheels
Although companies had been making toy cars for decades, the miniature vehicles really exploded in popularity when Mattel introduced Hot Wheels. While the small cars were initially designed to be played with by children, they have become some of the most valuable collector items in the world.
Since Hot Wheels’ initial release, many car companies have partnered with Mattel to have models of their own cars produced and sold as toys.
1969 – Snoopy Astronaut
After the United States successfully made it to the moon in 1969, it was only appropriate that a toy was released for children to celebrate this incredible achievement.
Although many toy companies had had the same idea, the most successful of these was the Snoopy Astronaut toy. At the time, Snoopy was a popular character from the “Peanut” comics and was even chosen to be the NASA safety mascot for the Apollo mission! So it only made sense.
1970 – Nerf Ball
Today, Nerf is one of the biggest companies around, with a massive line of toys that include foam dart guns, sports balls, cars, and more. Believe it or not, this toy empire started out with just a ball.
In 1970, the Nerf Ball was marketed as the “world’s first official indoor ball,” using the name “Nerf,” which was slang for foam padding that was common in off-roading. Incredibly, by the end of its first year, more than four million Nerf balls had been sold.
1971 – Weebles
Weebles is a rolling, egg-shaped figure that has a weight at the bottom that makes the toy stand upright. The catchphrase for Weebles was “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.”
Over the years, Weebles were designed to look like people and animals. Later on, there were versions styled as vehicles, houses, furniture, and more. Weebles playsets were also introduced, such as a Haunted House, the Mickey Mouse Club, and Tarzan.
1972 – Uno
No matter what your age, it’s likely that you’ve sat down to play a game of Uno at least once in your life. This is a game that many families have collecting dust in their closet until it is “re-discovered.”
Uno is a card game, with the goal of getting rid of all your cards before the other players. Still wildly popular, various new versions of the game have been developed such as themed packs.
1973 – Skateboards
Skateboards had been around for some time before 1973. However, most were constructed out of planks of wood and an old pair of roller skates, creating a less-than-favorable ride. The introduction of polyurethane wheels in 1973 allowed for smoother riding, stable turning, and the ability to roll over rougher surfaces. As a result, skateboarding exploded in popularity.
Out of nowhere, skateboard companies began popping up and producing thousands of skateboards for children who wanted to emulate the California surf-style on concrete.
1974 – Dungeons & Dragons
Also referred to as D&D, Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing board game first developed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The game was a combination of other miniature wargames from the past. It also has aspects of the 1971 game Chainmail, with a similar rule system.
Still highly popular, Dungeons & Dragons has resulted in television series, movies, and videogames, with countless editions. Today, it is considered one of the core leaders of the role-playing game industry.
1975 – Pet Rock
Much as it sounds, Pet Rock is a collectible toy released in 1975 that are smooth stones collected from Rosarito Beach in Mexico that were marketed as live pets. The concept was from the mind of advertising executive Gary Dahl.
The rocks were sold in cardboard boxes that had breathing holes as well as a straw for feeding. Although the hype surrounding the Pet Rock only lasted for a few months, more than one million of the “pets” were sold at $4 each.
1976 – Stretch Armstrong
Kenner released Stretch Armstrong in 1976, and the rubbery gel-filled doll became a huge hit right out of the gate. The muscular blond doll could thank gelled corn syrup for its amazing ability to keep its form even when stretched to the limits.
If a tear did develop in the material, it could be repaired with an adhesive bandage. The packaging even came with instructions on how to repair the doll!
1977 – Star Wars Action Figures
In 1977, the world changed as we know it when George Lucas unveiled the first Star Wars film. Obviously, the film was a massive success, and toy companies were quick to pump out Star Wars-related toys as soon as possible to keep up with the hysteria.
However, when Kenner released their Star Wars action figures in 1977, they quickly realized there was more demand than they ever anticipated. After selling out, they had to sell certificates to people so they could receive their toys when they were next available.
1978 – Simon
Developed by Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison, Simon is an electronic memory game made for Marvin Glass and Associates. The goal of the game is for the user to repeat the same sequence given by the game in the form of tones and colors, and the sequence gets longer and longer as the user progresses through the game.
Although newer versions and different styles of the game have been produced over the years, the original Simon remains a pop culture symbol of the times.
1979 – ATARI 2600
In the late 1970s, the game industry changed forever upon the release of the ATARI 2600. Initially known as the ATARI Video Computer System, the ATARI 2600 was the first gaming system to implement changeable game cartridges, allowing players to play numerous games on the same console.
The ATARI 2600 came with two joystick controllers, paddle controllers, and one game cartridge which was at first Combat before being exchanged for Pac-Man. Production of the console ended in 1992, having sold more than 30 million units over the years.
1980 – The Rubik’s Cube
Initially named the Magic Cube, the Rubik’s Cube is a 3-D puzzle developed in 1974 by a Hungarian professor named Ernő Rubik before he sold it to Ideal Toy Corp. in 1980. The classic model has six faces containing nine smaller cubes with stickers of either white, red, blue, orange, green, or yellow.
The goal is for the user to match all of the same colors on each side. The Rubik’s Cube is considered to be the world’s best-selling toy, having sold more than 350 million units by 2009.
1981 – He-Man Action Figures
Created by Mattel, He-Man is a franchise surrounding the never-ending battle between He-Man and the evil Skeletor. Beginning as a comic series, the franchise quickly grew to have numerous successful animated series, feature films, and countless action figures.
The franchise saw particular success in 1981 with the popularity of the He-Man toys modeled after the comic book characters, which would only become more successful as time went on.
1982 – My Little Pony
The My Little Pony toys were first produced in 1981. They are a line of ponies that have colorful bodies and hair, each with their own special symbols on one or both of their sides.
The line became increasingly popular during the 1980s worldwide to the point that My Little Pony had numerous animated television series, films, and grew into a major franchise. It’s estimated that more than 150 million units were sold during the 1980s alone.
1983 – Cabbage Patch Kids
First made by Coleco Industries in 1982, Cabbage Patch Kids are a line of cloth dolls with plastic heads. Developed from soft sculpture dolls made by Xavier Roberts known as “The Little People,” the dolls set every toy sales record for three years in a row, making it one of the most successful toys in all of the 1980s.
Today, Cabbage Patch Kids remains the longest-running doll franchise, now offering various products.
1984 – Transformers
Long before Transformers were a hit animated series, comic books, or feature films starring Shia LaBeouf, this was just a line of popular toys.
Manufactured by the Japanese company Takara and Hasbro, the toys were plastic pieces that could be moved around to change from a vehicle or some other mechanism into a robot, and then back again. Over the years, the premise of the toys has remained the same, although they have fluctuated in complexity.