It’s hard to believe, but there used to be a time when kids were entertained by something other than YouTube, Netflix, and “Fortnite.” Back in the 80s and 90s, we loved watching TV commercials and were basically hypnotized by the ads. The advertised toys were magnetic, and once we convinced our parents to buy them, we could play with them for hours without getting bored.
Those days are long gone, but how about a trip down memory lane? Here’s a quick history of some of the best toys from the 80s and 90s, from Rubik’s Cubes to Easy-Bake Ovens!
POPULAR 1980s TOYS
What Were the Most Popular Toys in the 80s?
Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time to the 1980s! This rad decade brought us a ton of popular retro toys like the Rubik’s Cube, the first Nintendo game console, and some very hungry hippos.
The list of the most popular toys in the 80s includes:
- Rubik’s Cubes
- Hungry Hungry Hippos
- Care Bears
- Cabbage Patch Kids
- My Little Pony
- Game Boy
- Big Wheels
- Speak and Spell
Puzzling Over Rubik’s Cubes
The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by a college professor named Erno Rubik. Funny enough, it took him a month to solve his own puzzle, and even today, only 1 in 7 people have managed to complete it.
By the early 80s, 100 million Rubik’s Cubes were sold resulting in over $250 million in sales. It was hands-down one of the bestselling toys of the 80s.
When Did Hungry Hippos Come Out?
Hungry Hungry Hippos came out in 1978 from Milton Bradley. The board game is designed for 2 to 4 players with the objective being to gobble up the most white marbles.
The Hungry Hippos didn’t inspire movies or shows like other 80s toys, but they were still extremely popular. There’s even a Guinness World Record for the fastest game ever played. A man named Axel Tuanzebe managed to eat all 20 marbles in 17.37 seconds!
The 80s Gave Us Care Bears
Care Bear toys came out in 1981, and there were 10 in all: Cheer, Bedtime, Birthday, Wish, Tender Heart, Good Luck, Love-a-lot, Friend, Funshine, and Grumpy Bear. These plush teddy bears went on to be in books, TV shows, movies, and even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Over 40 million Care Bears sold between 1983 and 1987. These 80s toys dominated the decade, and even today the creator Muriel Fahrion is making new cute bears like the “Stay-at-Home Bear,” which came out during the COVID-19 quarantine.
Cabbage Patch Kids Started Fights
Baby dolls have been around forever, but the Cabbage Patch Kids took things to the next level when they came out in 1983. These fabric dolls were released right in time for Christmas, but stores only had between 200 to 500 dolls to offer customers. This led to riots and property damage!
Still, it wasn’t all mass destruction. 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids found new homes by the end of the shopping season. Hopefully all those black eyes and broken windows were worth it!
Transformers: An 80s Favorite
Transformers were released by Hasbro in 1984. The first generation of these toys included 18 Autobots and 10 Decepticons, which transformed into cars or semi-tractor trailers. These toys were so popular, an animated show was created in the same decade.
Now Transformers are bigger than ever thanks to the 7 blockbuster movies that have been released since 1986. The Transformers movies have made close to $5 billion combined at the worldwide box office. The box office return proves just how much people still love the robots in disguise!
Everyone Loved My Little Pony
My Little Pony galloped into every little girl’s heart in 1982. Released by Hasbro, these mini ponies had beautiful rainbow colored hair that was just begging to be combed and braided!
Today, My Little Pony has totally crossed over gender lines with a community of hipster boys who love the toys. They call themselves “Bronies,” and there are viral videos of them cherishing their favorite horses. Who knows how many of them helped with the $1 billion in sales that My Little Pony earned in 2014?!
When Was the Game Boy Invented?
While other handheld consoles were available, the Game Boy totally dominated the market when it was released in 1989. People couldn’t get enough of games like Tetris, Prince of Persia, and Super Mario Land.
40,000 Game Boys sold on the first day of its release in North America with an estimated 118 million total selling by the end of the year. The game system only became more popular when the Game Boy Color came out in 1998.
The Bright History of Lite Brite
Lite-Brite was released in 1967 by Hasbro, but it didn’t become popular until the 80s. This is in large part because the light-up toy was paired with other beloved properties of the decade like My Little Pony and Darth Vader.
The Lite-Brite encouraged creativity and imagination. It was even popular enough to earn the #55 spot in Time Magazine’s list of “All-Time 100 Greatest Toys.”
Cool 80s Kids Rode a Big Wheels
You couldn’t be the cool kid in the neighborhood unless you were cruising around on a Big Wheels. These giant toy bicycles came out in 1969, but sold like crazy in the early 1980s.
The Big Wheels was inducted into National Toy Hall of Fame in 2009, and many people are still looking for these vintage 80s toys. In fact, eBay has listings that start at over $2,000!
What the Heck Was a Speak and Spell?
Are you terrible at spelling? Pick up a Speak and Spell! These popular 80s toys came out in 1978 and dominated the market a few years later. With 150+ built-in words, they were able to help many students get ready for their school’s Spelling Bees!
The legacy of the Speak and Spell lives on to this day! You can even see one in the movie Toy Story. Woody uses a Speak and Spell to send a message to the rest of Andy’s toys.
1980s Toys Honorable Mentions
- Teddy Ruxpin
- Glo Worm
- Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
- View Master
- Rainbow Brite
POPULAR 1990s TOYS
What Were the Most Popular Toys in the 90s?
Be like Bill and Ted, get inside of the phone booth, and journey back to the 90s! This decade was all that and a bag of chips, bringing us popular retro toys like the Furby, Easy-Bake Oven, and a ton of Beanie Babies.
The list of the most popular toys in the 90s includes:
- Polly Pocket
- Nintendo 64
- Etch A Sketch
- Bop It
- Beanie Babies
- Socker Boppers
- Doodle Bear
- Easy Bake Oven
90s Kids Loved Polly Pocket
With cases that looked like makeup compacts and tiny worlds that mirrored LEGO, Polly Pockets were very popular 90s toys. They came out in 1989, and the brand soon made its way onto every girl’s holiday wish list in the next decade.
Chris Wiggs invented the original Polly Pocket for his daughter Kate, but eventually sold his idea to Bluebird Toys. Mattel bought this toy company and has had the rights to Polly Pocket ever since. Today, original Polly Pocket compacts could be worth thousands of dollars!
A Brief History of Etch A Sketch
The Etch A Sketch is another toy in the National Toy Hall of Fame. It was invented in 1960 by an electrical technician named André Cassagnes and eventually sold to Ohio Art. The Etch A Sketch became famous in the mid-90s due to an updated look that included sparkly frames and pocket-sized travel versions.
It may be an old-school toy, but more than 175 million Etch A Sketches have sold since they were first released. These cool 90s toys have even been on the big and small screen in movies like Elf and TV shows like ‘Pretty Liar Liars.”
When Did the Nintendo 64 Come Out?
Nintendo was on a roll in the 80s, but they really emerged as a leader in the video game market with the N64. This cartridge-based console came out in 1996 and gave the world two party games that we love to this day – Mario Party and Mario Kart.
Even with the Nintendo Switch, we still have room in our hearts for the classic N64. As of September 2020, 32.93 million Nintendo 64 game consoles have sold around the world. People can’t get enough of games like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64, Doom, and GoldenEye 007.
What is a Bop It?
The Bop It, which was released in 1997, capitalized on the path paved by “Simon Says,” only offering a new challenge. The first version of the toy commanded you to “Bop it,” Twist it,” or “Pull it.’ This one is still selling in stores to this day, but there are also new versions that have you “flicking it,” “spinning it,” and even “shouting it”!
A man named Dan Klitsner invented the Bop It because he wanted to make his kids get off the couch and be more active. His design was bought by Hasbro, and once they changed the stick design to a pretzel shape, sales saw a 50% increase!
Popular Toy of the 90s: The Furby
The Furby was one of the most popular toys of the 90s. This digital pet was introduced in 1998 from Tiger Electronics and was programmed with 800 words and phrases. It also had blinking eyes that would totally freak you out if you accidentally came across it in the dark.
Despite its scary Gremlins-inspired appearance, 1.8 million Furbies sold in the first year, resulting in about $14 million in sales. There is still a collector’s market for the Furby to this day.
The Beanie Babies Craze of the 90s
The first line of Beanie Babies came out in Chicago in 1994, and the world was turned upside down! These Ty Warner teddies kicked off a collector craze that arguably hasn’t been seen since. If you’re lucky, you have a rare, limited edition Beanie Baby in your collection. Some are worth over $500,000!
Sales for Beanie Babies managed to surpass $1.4 billion by 1998, which is a return on investment that hasn’t been matched since. While your Princess Diana bear is probably not rare, you can still look back fondly at these cool 90s toys.
Punch Your Friends With Socker Boppers
The Socker Boppers were a controversial toy that first came out in the 70s, but boomed in popularity a couple decades later. Big Time Toys had the rights to these inflatable boxing gloves, which quickly became one of the most iconic toys of the 90s.
Everyone remembers the Socker Bopper commercials, which had a catchy jingle that you couldn’t get out of your head. This jingle paid off big time in helping with sales. The entire Sock’em line, which included the gloves, shields, and swords, sold more than 5 million units in the U.S. and internationally in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.
What is a Tamagotchi?
A Tamagotchi is a virtual pet on a keychain that first came out in 1996. It was created by a Japanese toy company named Bandai and eventually moved overseas to Europe and the United States.
Demand for the Tamagotchi was so insane, people were camping outside overnight in front of stores. These digital keychains were literally everywhere – Happy Meal toys, TV shows, books, and in any retail store imaginable. 5 million Tamagotchi keychains sold in the first year, and eventually 80 million sold by the end of the 90s.
Drawing on Doodle Bears in the 1990s
It’s cute, cuddly, and you can show off your artistic talent! The Doodle Bear was invented in New York by a man named Ed Kaplan in 1995.
As of 2016, the licensing on the Doodle Bear has expanded to bring the teddies to a new generation of children. They have a tech twist where kids can animate their illustrated Doodle Bears using a downloadable app. You can find the updated version of these popular 90s toys in 20,000 stores nationwide.
When Was the Easy Bake Oven Invented?
The Easy-Bake Oven was invented in 1963, but it became all the rage in the 90s when it was rereleased by Hasbro. An alum from the University of Cincinnati named Ronald Howes brought the first prototype to the New York Toy Fair and went on to sell half a million of these mini ovens by the end of the year.
The Easy-Bake Oven was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2006. At that point, 23 million of these ovens and over 140 million cake and brownie mixes had been sold. Kids may be starring in shows on the Food Network, but there’s still something timeless about this retro 90s toy.
1990s Toys Honorable Mentions
- Perfection board game
- Tickle Me Elmo
- Game Boy Color
- Crazy Bones
- Betty Spaghetti
Your toy box wasn’t complete without these popular toys from the 80s and 90s. Even today, many of them have gotten modern facelifts or are collectibles that are worth thousands of dollars.
Introduce your kids to these classic 80s toys, or buy a bunch of these retro 90s toys for Christmas this year. In a world of viral videos and online games, these old favorites will never go out of style!
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