These iconic toys prove to be timeless even long after our childhood has gone. Some of the toys we grew up playing with have morphed into up-to-date, even high-tech versions, while others stay as the same ol’ toys that we all loved. Here’s a list of toys that made a huge impact not only on the toy industry alone but in our lives as children as well, and the rest of the world at large.
Your girlhood days would not be complete without playing with those Barbie dolls (or their imitations). Although sales of Barbie have dropped recently, its company Mattel still claims that its dolls continue to be sold every three seconds. Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has become a role model and fashion trend-setter. She has embraced cultural diversity and has kept on reinventing herself as a way of keeping up with the times. No wonder Barbie is still every girls’ favorite doll.
From just a crude paper-and-pencil guessing game, it morphed into a board game which was created by Milton Bradley in 1967. It is now manufactured and marketed by toy giant Hasbro.
Battleships allows you to pretend to be a commander of the fleet. It provides hours of fun, no wonder it’s a classic game! It’s also portable, which allows you to play it anywhere you want. The popularity of this game led to a video game version and even a theatrical film adaptation, both released in 2012. The game has sold over 100 million times since it came out in 1967.
Beanie Babies are a series of stuffed toys created by Ty Warner Inc. (later Ty Inc.) in 1993. Instead of the conventional stuffing found in other stuffed toys, Beanie Babies are stuffed with plastic pellets — or “beans,” hence the name Beanie Babies. They are reinforced with metal threads which allow the toys to remain in certain poses such as sitting. The company deliberately avoided selling the toys in large retailers. To enhance their collectability status, Ty Inc. marketed the Beanie Babies through smaller gift shops and collectible outlets. The company’s ploy worked fabulously for them: initial sales of the Beanie Babies skyrocketed. Because of the toy’s fame, imitations such as Puffkins and the satirical version of Beanie Babies, called Meanies, were also launched. There are over 500 official types of Beanie Babies available.
Buzz Lightyear, together with Woody and the other action figures in the animated film Toy Story, won the hearts of the fans with his chutzpah and cheesy tagline. Do you know that Buzz Lightyear figure actually sent on an honest-to-God real space mission in 2009? At the request from no less than NASA, Buzz flew aboard the space shuttle Discovery and remained on the Interntional Space Station for six months. Buzz’s “training videos” from the station were shown online as part of NASA’s mission to develop interest in aerospace science among children.
An art student named Xavier Roberts created the toys in 1978, and it was made to be adopted rather than sold. In fact, it came complete with the dolls’ own adoption papers and birth certificate. By the 1980s, Cabbage Patch Dolls were fast becoming one of the most popular toys, and it was a great feat considering that they weren’t tied to any movie, TV show, or comic. These dolls went on to have their animated series too, though. The dolls jumped from one company to another that include Coleco, Hasbro, and now Wicked Cool Toys.
Many girls wanted a doll that could “speak,” so Barbie maker Mattel created the Chatty Cathy, which debuted in 1959. To get the doll “talking,” pull the “chatty ring” behind its back and it will “pronounce” eleven random phrases such as “Let’s play school,” and “I love you.” Chatty Cathy was a groundbreaking doll during its time. The original Chatty Cathy version had blue eyes and blonde hair. A few years after its release, brunette and auburn-haired varieties, as well as African-American versions, came out on the market.
The hit series from Disney Junior and Disney Channel led to the creation of the toys and other items carrying Doc McStuffin’s name and likeness. The Doc McStuffins merchandise became a hit in 2013, where $500 million worth of the products was sold. Doc McStuffins toys sold really well to all demographics, and this is really a huge record for an African-American fictional character.
The Easy Bake Oven is not just a toy pretending to be an oven, but it’s actually a working toy oven. Manufactured and first introduced by Kenner in 1963, the original toy used an incandescent light bulb as a heat source to cook goodies such as cakes, cookies, brownies, pretzels and so much more. Since its release, more than 23 million units have been sold, and over 140 goodies have been baked… or at least somewhat baked. The Easy-Bake Oven is now owned by Hasbro, and its current versions are equipped with a true heat source, almost like a real oven has.
Toy giant Hasbro faced stiff competition with the emerging electronic/tech-toy market, so it acquired the services of Tiger Electronics (the company behind the popular Giga Pets) in 1998. Out of their collaboration came their newest electronic toy to hit the market — Furby, which debuted in 1998. Furby is a furry, hamster- or owl-like creature which starts out by speaking its own language, Furbish. But eventually, the toy could learn English words as it’s really programmed by its makers to do so. Its speaking abilities have been translated into more than 20 languages.
In Furby’s launching year, 1.8 million of the cute, furry robotic toys were sold, and in 1999 the sales climbed to a staggering 14 million. The hit sales only demonstrated Furby’s success in being the first successful attempt to manufacture and market a domestically-aimed robot.
Who could have predicted that such a mere boy’s toy would launch several animated TV series, video games, comic books, and even a full-length film? G.I. Joe first emerged in 1964, the time when the Cold War was still raging. Its original creator, Hasbro, launched the original 12-inch line which centered on realistic action figures. Since then, the action figure has experienced relaunches, complete with war accouterments, vehicles, and even a real background story. In 2003, G.I. Joe was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, assured of its iconic status.
Nowadays, many parents feel that children, even infants and toddlers had to be versed in tech products, as well as to learn the rudimentary skills like ABC’s and 123’s but in a fun way. That’s why the LeapPad first arrived in 1999 with this goal in mind. Resembling a talking book, these tablet computers were designed for preschool and kindergarten-age kids to learn the alphabet, read and write, count, recognize shapes, and identify musical sounds. Since its launch, various models of LeapPad have been developed.
Prior to the toy tablet’s launch, a team of developers from Explore Technologies, Inc. created the LeapPad. Explore Technologies was eventually acquired by Leapfrog in 1998, that’s why users can only download proprietary apps developed by Leapfrog. By 2003, LeapPad sales reached its peak at $680 million.
We think no other toy could match the sheer timelessness of Lego. Not only kids can enjoy playing with these colorful interlocking blocks, but adults do, too — people of all ages, actually. Since its first launch in 1958 by the Billund, Denmark The Lego Company, Legos gave a new definition of toys, allowing kids to construct things from scratch. They can construct many things of various shapes and sizes according to their imagination.
Lego is more than just a toy — it’s a cultural phenomenon. It has spawned a theme park, action figures, a fan conference, TV shows, and a hit film. There are many exhibits that have been dedicated to Lego, such as cars that are amazingly built with Lego blocks. Minecraft, the wildly popular video game, was born out of the creator’s love for the toy. Many people have become architects and engineers because of their love for building and constructing. And it all started by playing with Lego blocks when they were kids.
Before the Bow and Arrow, NERF sold mostly basketballs and hula-hoops during the 80s. So when the NERF Bow and Arrow first arrived in 1991, it dramatically changed the entire brand to where it is right now. Today, children and teens can play with dart guns aka “blasters” that fire Nerf foams. When the Hunger Games became a box-office triumph, NERF didn’t hesitate to ride on its success and popularity to sell blasters particularly marketed to young girls. In February 2013, the brand’s current owner Hasbro launched the Nerf Rebelle, a sub-line aimed at girls. Because of the success of NERF’s blasters line, competitors such as Mattel introduced their own “secret” line of blasters which, they claimed, performed better than the NERF blasters.
The-ever maddening Rubik’s Cube is also one of the best-selling puzzles of all time. The 3-D puzzle was invented by Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Erno Rubik in 1974, and was originally called the “Magic Cube.” But it wasn’t until the 1980s that Rubik’s Cube became a household name especially after the toy was imported to the US by Ideal Top Corp.
There are more than a trillion ways to twist and turn a Rubik’s Cube. While many people find matching the colors challenging and frustrating, some people complete these puzzles in just minutes, even seconds. Today, there are annual tournaments held for the ultimate bragging rights of the quickest hands. The Rubik’s Cube is widely considered by many as the best-selling toy.
The Spacehopper was first invented by an Italian named Aquilino Cosani, who worked for a company that manufactured rubber balls. The rider of the balloon can make the ball bounce up and down in a certain direction just by leaning, while he or she holds on to the ball’s two handles. The toy became really popular in the UK.
The US, meanwhile, launched its own hopping ball which was named Hoppity Hop. The earliest versions of Hoppity Hop were made of rubber, but later variants are made of vinyl-like materials. Today, there many sizes of of Hoppity Hop balls marketed for both kids and adults, who also use it as exercise equipment.
Every die-hard Star Wars fans loves to collect anything that’s connected with the movie — and these include action figures and figurines, of course. Star Wars is probably the first film to introduce the “collectibles” culture. Thanks to Star Wars marketing campaign in 1977, it encouraged fans to buy empty boxes with coupons which they would exchange for collectible toys and action figures that mostly featured Star Wars characters. Since then, many blockbuster action or sci-fi movies have seemed to come up with their own line of collectibles as part of their marketing move.
Water pistols were given a level up when Super Soaker first emerged in 1982. It was invented by African-American engineer Lonnie Johnson, who later licensed it to Larami Corporation in 1989. Larami is now owned by Hasbro under the Nerf brand.
Unlike the conventional and cheap water pistols, Super Soakers uses manually-pressurized air to blast out water with much greater power, range, and accuracy. Because of this, playing with the Super Soaker would enable you to shoot 30 to 50 feet of water into the air — and it can even hit you hard. After the Super Soaker’s launching and success, summer toys will never be the same again.
Do you want a pet but can’t afford a real one just yet? Practice your pet-caring abilities with Tamagotchi, an egg-shaped virtual pet that was first created in Japan, by Akihiro Yokoi and Aki Maita. At that time Maita was working for the toymaker and video games company Bandai, who eventually launched Tamagotchi in November 1996. It became a fad toy during the decade. As of 2010, there have been 76 million Tamagotchi’s sold worldwide.
The name “View-Master” is a trademark name of a line of stereoscopes. It was first invented by Harold Graves, who was president of the Sawyer’s Photographic Services. The View-Master debuted at the 1939 New York Fair. The toy allowed people to look at photos of tourist attractions in 3D.
The View-Master got its biggest boost when Disney entered a licensing deal with the photographic services company. It still exists today, and in some different forms. In 2015, Mattel and Google announced plans to revive the View-Master by making a more high-tech version of it, the Virtual Reality Toy, which involves using smartphones.
Sheriff Woody of Toy Story fame eventually became a real toy along with Buzz Lightyear and other characters from the movie. Just like in the movie, you can make Woody “talk” by pulling the string on his back, and you will hear him say several different Woody phrases in the voice of Tom Hanks, the actor who provided the voice for the films.