When you think back to your childhood, what’s the first toy that comes to mind? Perhaps you remember dressing up your brand new Barbie, or maybe you were fighting on behalf of the rebellion with your Star Wars action figures.
The toys we had growing up are part of what made us who we are today. Even as adults, these toys hold a special bout of nostalgia that we often want to share and pass down to our children.
But how much do you actually remember? Do you think you could name the most popular toys of all time? Let’s put your memory to the test.
Out of all the toys out on the market from every decade, which toy has grossed the most profit?
Tough one, isn’t it? There are so many successful toys out on the market, many of which have been there for years. Which could it be? My Little Pony? Hmm, not quite.
What about Barbie? She’s been a hit for over 50 years. Close, but still not right. Think more rectangular…
If you guessed Lego, then you’d be correct! These creative blocks have been at the top of the toy food chain for decades and continue to have unparallel success with children and adults around the world.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. We have so much more information to share about everything from Slinkies to the Atari 2600.
So grab your nostalgia cap and strap on your adventure shoes as we take a stroll down memory lane to revisit the most popular toys of all time.
This doll could easily fit into the palm of any child’s hand, which allowed children of all ages to have fun with the small toy. Sculptors in the town would model the doll’s face off of a baby’s, making it very similar to the type of dolls we give children today.
Where Did Toys Begin?
Ever wonder what the first toy to exist was? According to archeologists, the first toy to ever be found dates back all the way to 2500 B.C. And what was it? A small, almost pocket-sized, doll carved out of stone.
Most Popular Toys From the 1900s
The turn of the century was a huge deal for politics, inventions, and most importantly, toys. This is the era that really started pushing toys forward and making them more accessible to kids.
They are what built up the future of the toy phenomenon, and are ultimately to thank for all the future products we now know and love.
What would childhood be without a classic set of colored crayons? There are few brands more recognizable in the art world than Crayola, who released their world-famous crayon set back in 1903.
While Crayola was not the first to make crayons, they were the first company to create non-toxic, durable, and colorful crayons that were just as safe as they were fun. These crayons, created by Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith, revolutionized the creative world by giving children the chance to see and create bright, vivid colors.
Do you remember the first time you hugged your teddy bear close at night? Your furry companion was always there to protect you from thunderstorms, monsters under the bed, and any other dangers your mind could create.
Back in 1903, Morris Michtom put two stuffed bears in his shop and named them after the American president, Teddy Roosevelt. Before long, these bears began to fly off the shelves and countless companies created their own rendition of the fluffy bear for children of all ages to enjoy.
The Best Toys From The 1910s
No, these toys are not exclusively for teens, but they did all come out in the teen years of the 1910s. With the toy industry slowly building up steam, we begin to see new and creative ideas emerge from the shadows, setting the stage for the toys that will follow them.
Writer and illustrator Johnny Gruelle created a lovable narrative about a girl named Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy. The two of them starred in a children’s book that was then paired with the actual rag doll, Raggedy Ann, back in 1918. Before long, this doll became anything but raggedy.
The simplistic style and appearance, along with Ann’s bright red hair, helped create immediate success. Thanks to her, future generations were able to see a surplus of dolls come to life in all styles, colors, and sizes.
And thus the building craze began with the release of Tinker Toys back in 1914. These wooden toys came in a mail tube with and included a mix of wooden dowels and circular bases with holes along all sides.
Together, these pieces allowed children to create like never before.
Tinker Toys are part of the reason things like Legos exist. They allowed children to create towers, homes, monsters, or anything in between with simple pieces that easily slid into one another.
With their help, children could begin to create their own worlds in the way they wanted to see them.
Most Popular Toys From The 1920s
The Great Gatsby. Short haircuts with crazy headbands. Dancing the night away. These are often what comes to mind when people think about the 1920s, but have you ever stopped to consider what great toys appeared in this decade? You might be surprised what found great success in those days.
To be fair, the yo-yo was not actually created in the 1920s. It is actually 2,500 years old and created long before our Charleston days. However, Donald F. Duncan popularized the yo-yo back in 1928 and has made it a staple in every child’s home.
The toy itself has a simple design: two circular sides with a string wrapped around the center. No matter how simple it may have been, it allowed tons of kids to perfect their skills and create fun tricks to share off with their friends. There are now even competitions around the globe to test your yo-yo skills.
RADIO FLYER WAGON
Way back in 1923, an Italian immigrant named Antonio Pasin began taking pieces of stamped metal and forming them into what we now recognize as the Radio Flyer Wagon. Before long, he learned how to mass produce the product, which allowed him to create thousands to share with people all across America and beyond.
But have you ever wondered where it got its name? He wanted to combine his two favorite inventions with his new invention, the radio, and the airplane. Thus, the Radio Flyer Wagon name was born.
Best Toys From The 1930s
The 1930s were all about strategy and aim when it came to toys. While creativity was still at the forefront for a lot of toys on the market, newer ideas were emerging that encouraging hand-eye coordination and strategic planning.
People plotted ways to win, debated over which way was best, and had a blast enjoying the toys the whole way through.
Red Ryder BB Gun
Any fan of the classic Christmas film, The Christmas Story, will tell you that all they want for Christmas is the official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model Air Rifle BB Gun, which was originally released back in 1938.
Just like Ralphie, a lot of kids yearned for this bb gun back in the 1930s. It allowed children to knock down soda cans and feel like a soldier by shooting off small BB pellets with the press of the trigger. Even though it was a bit more dangerous, it allowed a lot of kids to bond with their fathers through their toys.
Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Creates some flashbacks to long nights of a seemingly never-ending game of Monopoly, doesn’t it?
This classic friendship destroyer was released by the Parker Brothers back in 1935. The original idea was actually created 30 years earlier and entitled, “The Landlord’s Game,” but had its idea stolen and sold in order to create what we now recognize as Monopoly.
Best Toys From The 1940s
Why stay complacent with the way things are, when we can create toys that are so much more exciting? The 1940s are when the toy industry really began to pick up.
After the birth of Monopoly, a lot of other famous board games came out in this decade, like Clue and Scrabble. But what was even more exciting was the way things began to move.
No matter if you are three or 103, nothing brings a smile to people’s faces faster than blowing bubbles. Of course, the concept of bubbles was discovered far sooner than the 1940s, but it wasn’t until then that Chemtoy began to bottle a bubble solution for kids to enjoy.
These days, you can get bubbles at almost every store with a wide variety of wands and sizes. You can even get automatic bubble blowers that continuously spray bubbles for you and your friends to pop.
What walks downstairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinky sound? The Slinky! Originally released in 1945, the Slinky is a timeless toy that was designed for all children.
The simple metal spring could be pushed down a variety of objects and slink its way around your home. It was fun, easy to play with and still resides as a popular toy for children today.
Most Popular Toys From The 1950s
Truly, there is no time like the 1950s for the toy industry. This is the decade where some of the most iconic toys of all time appeared.
So much so, that our list would not be complete if we did not spend a little extra time in the 1950s. Let’s cut the chatter and get right to the toys.
Mr. Potato Head
We know your parent’s always told you not to play with your food, but with Mr. Potato Head around, how could you resist? In 1952, George Lerner released the Mr. Potato Head set based on another toy he created called Make a Face.
Before long, Mr. Potato Head needed a Mrs, and the rest soon became history. Plastic potatoes were created to save parents’ groceries, and now hundreds of iterations of the Potato Head family have been created.
Careful not to step on–too late. Besides being a painful meme many people have experience with, Lego bricks are a one-of-a-kind toy that both children and adults love to build with. They were originally created in Denmark in 1949 but did not see true success and popularity until the 1950s.
What everyone loves about Lego bricks is that they can be combined in hundreds of thousands of way. With a few simple pieces, you can build the unimaginable. People have been able to create robots, dinosaurs, and even skyscrapers out of this simple building brick.
Squishy, mushy, and bright. The three words that best describe this malleable toy marketed in stores in 1956. Play-Doh gave children the chance to take their drawing skills and bring them to life with brightly colored clay.
Since its launch with only red, blue, and yellow colors, Play-Doh has broadened those choices to cover over 50 different colors. Children can cut, mold, shape, and build their own world with materials that can be used again and again.
Believe it or not, Barbie is the first fashionable dress-up doll to ever be put out on the market. Ruth Handler noticed that her daughter could only play with paper dolls and pretend the clothes were actually on her body.
She wanted to give girls a 3D doll that they could dress and play with.
The first Barbie doll hit the market in 1959 and was not immediately popular. Before long, she began to gain momentum and is now one of the most iconic toys of all time.
Barbie has had hundreds of occupations, thousands of different outfits, and provides strength and hope for girls of all ages.
Most Popular Toys From The 1960s
After a big rush of toy ideas in the 1950s, the 1960s brought on an age of enlightenment. Technology was rapidly advancing, which allowed toy makers to bring the unimaginable to life, like the invention of the Easy Bake Oven.
It also brought a new type of doll geared toward a male audience.
Etch A Sketch
If you have ever played with an Etch A Sketch, you know just how much fun shaking clear your little brother’s drawings can be. Right at the top of the decade, the Etch A Sketch created a fun way for kids to draw without having to waste paper or ink.
This drawing pad included two knobs that controlled the vertical and horizontal location of your drawing location. You could then draw to your heart’s content, or start fresh by simply shaking the pad clean. This technology was unthinkable ten years earlier and helped to show just how far the world of toys had come.
“Dolls are for girls. Why would a boy want to play with a stupid doll?” is exactly what people thought before the G.I. Joe doll came out. This toy, originally created by Hasbro back in 1964, brought army play to life with a moveable figure dressed in camouflage.
One of the most interesting things this toy did was coin the term “action figure.” This attempted to reduce the stigma around a girly-sounding “doll” but ultimately helped launch the creation of a ton of other figures for kids to enjoy.
Most Popular Toys From The 1970s
As television and film became more commonplace, creating toys that related to those media outlets also flourished. This is the time when a blockbuster hit no one saw coming took a chance in the toy industry that paved the way for future films and series.
Of course, we’re talking about Star Wars.
Star Wars Figures
Back in 1977, a new sci-fi film hit theaters and almost immediately created a love for characters and creatures like no other film had done before. The Star Wars franchise flourished with more fans than they could have ever dreamed.
At the same time, the creators decided to market a collection of action figures, allowing people to recreate the film in their own homes.
Little did they know these figures would then go on to be valuable collectibles for Star Wars geeks around the globe. These figures mark a monumental moment in both nerd culture and toy culture that has continued to see success even today.
Hungry Hungry Hippos
It’s always supper time when you play the classic Hasbro game, Hungry Hungry Hippos. Released in 1978, this four-player game allowed kids to munch down on marbles while playing as a brightly colored hippo.
With simple game rules and highly competitive gameplay, this game had incredible success in the toy aisle. So popular in fact, that this game has seen a multitude of references in shows like The Simpsons, and films like Toy Story 3.
Most Popular Toys From The 1980s
The 1980s brought with it games like never before: digital games. Companies like Nintendo, Sega, and Atari creeped out of nowhere to put gaming and creativity to the ultimate test.
This set the stage for the new wave of technology that we are still learning and growing with to this day.
Pong. Need we say more? As video games began to take center stage, Atari spearheaded a great movement in the industry.
In the late 1970s, they released the first successful at-home console, the Atari 2600, which then erupted in the 1980s.
Atari continued to bring out newer versions of the system in this decade, along with a number of memorable games that live in the video game hall of fame as true classics. Thanks to Atari, we can now play video games with our phones, travel into the worlds ourselves with VR, and connect with players thousands of miles away within seconds.
Can you solve it? The Rubik’s Cube is the ultimate brainteaser that sparked a national phenomenon in 1980. Named after its creator, Ernő Rubik, this small cube with rotatable sides stumped a large portion of the population for hours on end.
So what’s the secret? Is it solvable? There are actually a series of algorithms and patterns that you can master which will allow you to successfully solve the Rubik’s Cube no matter how it is mixed up. The only task then is how fast can you do it.
The current world record is 4.73 seconds. Can you beat that?
Most Popular Toys From The 1990s
Anyone who grew up in the 1990s has had this strange urge to constantly revisit their nostalgic past. People love to look back at old cartoons, listen to crazy songs, and play along with Super Nintendo System, just like they did in the ‘90s.
But surprisingly, the most popular toys of this decade didn’t rely on technological advancements. They actually brought toys back to their roots.
Do you collect anything? Maybe you have a book filled with different stamps or coins. If you’re a ’90s child, you probably had a Beanie Babies collection at some point in your life.
These little creatures came in all shapes in sizes and stole the hearts of almost every American.
Originally released in 1993, these miniature stuffed animals started a collecting craze near the latter half of the decade. With so many animals in so many different colors, there was a Beanie Baby for everyone, which made them perfect to collect and share.
There is nothing sweeter than getting to cool off in the pool on a hot summer’s day. But what if instead of soaking in the water yourself, you soaked your friends? This is exactly what Lonnie Johnson attempted to do with his invention of the Super Soaker.
Originally called the Power Drencher in 1990, this spray gun allowed you to chase your friends and siblings outside and drench them in water. The guns were easy to refill, were fun to carry around for sneak attacks, and allowed you to stay cool during the hottest months of the year.
Take the Time to Treasure Your Toys
Think back to your most memorable Christmas morning. Perhaps you had begged and pleaded with your parents to get you a special toy that you just knew you would love. And you got it.
That feeling of pure joy that washed over you that morning is the same type of joy kids around the world feel when they get their own special toy. New or used, young or old, it doesn’t matter. Toys make us happy and make us all feel special, loved, and excited about the world around us.
So bust out that old set of Tinker Toys you’ve got stored in the back of your closet. You’re never too old to appreciate the toys that made you who you are today.