Most Popular Toys From the Year You Were Born
When you think back to your childhood toy box, what comes to mind? The most coveted toys in your collection were probably quite different than the must-have toys of today. Rather than the latest iPhone or PlayStation, most of us were more than content with the latest board game or action figure.
But what about the most popular toy from the year you were born? If you had an older sibling or kid-at-heart parents, you might already know the toys that were most popular during your birth year. But, for the rest of us, we rounded up the most popular toys from the year you were born — that is, 1950 all the way to the turn of the millennium. (Sorry to those born after 2000, but you don’t get to talk about nostalgia just yet!)
From timeless classics like Barbies and BMX bicycles to more niche items like Pogs and Tamagotchis, these old-school toys and games will take you for a walk down memory lane.
1950: Chatter Teeth
Invented by Eddy Goldfarb, Chatter Teeth, or Yakity Yak Talking Teeth as they were originally called, were first introduced to the market in 1949 and left a lasting impression the very next year.
The classic wind-up toy might not be as popular with kids these days, but they’re still occasionally referenced in sketches and movies due to their banal comedic factor.
* Most of our toy research came from Christmas Connections and the National Museum of Play, unless otherwise noted.
1951: View Master
If you grew up in the 1950s, chances are you’ve been pretty well acquainted with the View Master at one point or another.
The “special-format stereoscope” was well-loved for its simple but entertaining moving pictures that varied reel by reel, which, when you think about it, could very well be considered the original handheld virtual reality headset.
1952: Mr. Potato Head
While Mr. Potato Head might not be as popular as he and his wife, Mrs. Potato Head, once were, the cheeky potato figurine did have a longstanding moment in the toy-aisle spotlight.
The plastic potato most recently made headlines when Hasbro announced it will be dropping the “Mr.” prefix moving forward.
1953: Wiffle Ball
A safer, more backyard-friendly approach to traditional baseball, Wiffle Ball became quite popular in the ’50s due to its affordable price point and for the versatile indoor-outdoor nature of the game.
A standard Wiffle Ball set typically included a couple of lightweight, perforated balls and one long yellow bat.
1954: Pistol Set
While toy guns might risk you getting kicked off an airplane today, the toy pistol was all the rage in 1954.
That included cap guns, replica pistols and BB guns.
1955: Betsy Wetsy Doll
Made By Horseman Company, the Betsy Wetsy Doll was well-loved for her myriad outfits and onesies.
That sweet little face with eyes that opened and closed, well-coiffed hair and a tummy that squeaked when she was hugged was irresistibly cute for the times.
Play-Doh is still a hit with kids today — and for good reason.
The simple concoction is made from a combination of water, salt and flour and, as such, has become a common household DIY toy.
1957: Silly Putty
You can think of Silly Putty as Play-Doh, all grown up.
The slightly more complicated formula is crafted from a mix of dimethylsiloxane, silica and castor oil, and was best known for its slightly questionable ability to pick up newspaper print and other ink-based papers.
The most popular toy under the Christmas tree in 1958, Colorforms were essentially reusable stickers.
They could cling to smooth-backed surfaces without using any adhesive, allowing kids to create, edit and recreate their own storyboards and designs.
Of course, no compilation of popular toys would be complete without the ever-popular Barbie doll. First launched in 1959, Barbie was an instant hit among little girls across the globe.
Created by American business woman Ruth Handler, it’s said that Barbie was originally inspired by a German doll called Bild Lilli.
While LEGO is still to this day one of the most well-loved toys in the United States, interestingly enough, the building blocks are actually a Danish toy that gained popularity across the pond in the early 1960s.
In fact, the name LEGO is actually derived from the Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well.”
Invented in France by André Cassagnes, the Etch-a-Sketch, or L'Écran Magique as it was originally named, could easily be considered one of the first tablets. The creative drawing device allowed kids (and curious parents!) to get creative without requiring any paint brushes or crayons thanks to the coated aluminium powder and mechanical stylus.
The only downfall? There was no way to save all those gorgeous designs!
1962: Lincoln Logs
First available in 1916, Lincoln Logs were an all-American children’s toy that fostered creative thinking and smart planning and earned significant popularity in the early ’60s.
Interestingly, while the original set was inspired by the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, the wooden toys were named after Abraham Lincoln, who once lived in a log cabin.
1963: Easy-Bake Oven
The Easy-Bake Oven was, and continues to be, one of the coolest little inventions to hit the toy aisle.
That said, we use the term “toy” lightly here, as the Easy-Bake Oven is a real, functioning oven that can cook everything from cute little cakes and cookies to full on pizza and other savory meals.
1964: G.I. Joe
Owned and produced by toy company Hasbro, G.I. Joe was an instant hit among little kids who were interested in the military.
The line of action figures represented the four branches of the U.S. armed forces, including the U.S. Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps.
Operation is, in all honesty, one of the most fun and engaging board games to hit the market — even to this day.
The rather stress-inducing game fosters careful hand-eye coordination and focus while players attempt to remove foreign objects from an electrified wire loop operating table.
1966: Suzy Homemaker
Suzy Homemaker was a line of functional toy household items, designed to get little ones involved in cleaning and taking care of the house.
The line of accessories included everything from ice cream makers and blenders to washing machines and dishwashers. Seems a little dated now, though, right?
Part drawing board, part light show, the Lite-Brite was well-loved for its myriad cool colors and ability to function as both a creative toy and a piece of decor.
The pretty light box came equipped with a whole bunch of colorful pegs that allowed kids and parents to create their own landscapes and designs before lighting them up.
Hot-Wheels first hit the scene in 1968 and quickly became a classic toy across the country.
The die-cast toy cars ranged from muscle cars and race cars to more niche models aimed toward collectors — but the best part of playing with Hot-Wheels was building and spinning out on the customizable racing track sets.
1969: Snoopy Astronaut
The Peanuts franchise has become a well-loved classic around the globe — but the Snoopy Astronaut, in particular, left a lasting impression in the late ’60s.
These days, the collectible astronaut figurine sells for about $600 on eBay — talk about a gift that keeps on giving!
1970: Nerf Ball
The most popular toy from the beginning of the ’70s? The Nerf Ball!
For those unfamiliar with the squishy little toy, the Nerf Ball was the first Nerf-branded item to be released and was, quite literally, just a squishy little toy ball that was marketed to be safe enough to use indoors.
First released to the public in 1971, Weebles became an instant classic — well-loved for their whimsical egg-shaped bodies and gravity-bending movement.
Weebles are still around in present day, with collaborations ranging from “Paw Patrol” to “Despicable Me.”
Remember Uno? The fast-paced card game is still quite popular to this day thanks to its relatively low barrier to entry but super fun and engaging play.
The colorful card game was first invented in 1971 and is considered to be in the same family as Crazy Eights in terms of rules and principles.
Yes, skateboards! The well-loved sporting good gained mainstream popularity in the early ’70s and has become increasingly popular ever since.
In fact, skateboarding has even been added to the Summer Olympics as an official Olympic sport.
1974: Dungeons & Dragons
First introduced in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons has become one of the most popular fantasy role-playing board games of all time.
The game was allegedly derived from miniature wargames, including the 1971 game, Chainmail.
1975: The Pet Rock
It’d be hard for kids today to imagine something as simple as a pet rock being the most sought after gift … but in 1975, there was nothing cooler.
Created by advertising executive Gary Dahl, the Pet Rock was quite literally a rock packaged in a cardboard “Pet Carrier.”
1976: The Cher Doll
Currently available on eBay for north of $200, the Cher doll was highly coveted in 1976 (when Sonny & Cher had just released the timeless classic, “I Got You Babe”).
Featuring Cher’s signature wavy black hair and a stylish mermaid dress, the doll was more popular than Barbie — at least for a year.
1977: Star Wars Action Figures
Star Wars action figures hit the scene in 1977, just after the first film was released, and have remained just as popular among kids and collectors ever since.
In fact, the Baby Yoda plushie has been among Amazon's Top 100 list since late 2019.
Think fast! The Simon device was a simple but very popular memory game invented by Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison.
The battery-operated game requires players to repeat a given sequence that becomes progressively longer until the time runs out or they make a mistake.
1979: The ATARI 2600
Originally known as the Atari Video Computer System, this classic video game console was the very first to rank as a highly coveted toy — setting the stage for the myriad consoles to follow.
The device came equipped with two joystick controllers, a pair of paddle controllers and a single game cartridge: either Combat or Pac-Man. Remind your kids about that the next time they complain about not having enough games.
1980: The Rubik’s Cube
First invented nearly six years prior in 1974, the Rubik’s Cube gained popularity in the early ’80s and has remained quite popular to this day.
Endless, more complicated and original versions have been released over the years. But the original six-sided puzzle game has sold over 450 million units as of June 2020, making it the best-selling puzzle game in the world.
1981: The LEGO Train Set
While LEGO had been popular since its inception, the LEGO Train Set, in particular, was hotly coveted in 1981.
The comprehensive railway station included trains, railroad tracks and a train station — and despite its initial popularity, is available for under $20 on eBay.
1982: BMX Bike
While indoor toys were all the rage in the late ’70s and early ’80s, in 1982, it was BMX bikes that were the most popular.
The motocross bicycle made backyard and neighborhood riding so much easier and remains one of the most common kids bikes to this day.
1983: Cabbage Patch Kids
Cabbage Patch Kids quickly earned cult status for their sweet little faces and endless clothing options.
In fact, they were so popular that, in December 1983, there was a nationwide shortage that resulted in thousand-person lineups all across the country, many of which resulted in fights and tramplings that landed shoppers in the hospital.
1984: Transformer Figurines
While Transformers have remained relatively popular over the years thanks to the well-loved film series of the same name, it was the action figures inspired by the original Hasbro TV series that made the figurines all the rage in 1984.
1985: Care Bears
While most of us know the Care Bears as the cutesy, negativity-fighting plush bears in the cartoon of the same name, the multi-colored creatures actually got their start as greeting cards for American Greetings.
The characters were turned into plush teddies in 1983 and eventually TV characters in 1985, causing their significant rise in popularity.
1986: Laser Tag
Created by Paul Rago in 1986, the infrared pursuit game Laser Tag became wildly popular and has remained one of the most well-loved pursuit games in the U.S.
While you can no longer purchase Laser Tag equipment, the recreational shooting sport has become popular at arcades and recreation centers.
1987: Koosh Ball
Crafted from rubber filaments that radiate from a steel-bound core, the Koosh Ball is a very simple, yet oddly satisfying, toy that remains popular today.
After all, office workers need a fun toy to pass the time.
1988: Ghostbusters Toys
Who you gonna call? For many kids it was Ghostbusters or bust.
The 1984 film, and the follow up film in 1989, allowed for the supernatural comedy to remain quite popular throughout the 1980s, with myriad toys and figurines hitting the market.
1989: Game Boy
The Game Boy was the very-first handheld in the Nintendo family — and an instant must-have among kids and tech-savvy parents alike.
The 8-bit device remained popular into the ’90s, undergoing a handful of upgrades and remodels until the Nintendo DS was released in 2004.
1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Figurines
The 1987 television series, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” was an instant classic and remains a popular series to this day.
As such, the collectible Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo were highly coveted toys in 1990 — and to this day earn certain figurines hitting over $200 on eBay.
1991: Sega Game Gear
The Game Boy may have reigned supreme in the 1980s, but the 1990s were all about the Sega Game Gear.
The 8-bit handheld game console features a full-color backlit screen and a landscape format that was considered technologically superior to the Game Boy.
1992: WWF Figurines
WWF Superstars of Wrestling made its TV debut in the late ’80s, with merch and action figures hitting the market shortly after.
If you were lucky enough to find WWF figurines under the Christmas tree in the early ’90s, you may want to pull them out of storage: A typical 1992-era WWF figurine fetches around $300 on eBay these days.
While it seems simple at first glance — the Talkboy is really just a simple voice recorder after all — the cheeky handheld device became quite popular after it made an appearance in “Home Alone.”
Who knew slowing down and speeding up your voice could be so much fun?
1994: Power Rangers Action Figures
Inspired by the Japanese tokusatsu franchise “Super Sentai,” the American adaptation, originally known as “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” became an instant classic among kids of all ages.
And the popularity of the brand’s collectable action figures reflect that.
Whether you know them as Pogs or Milk Caps, the collectible discs were a must-have toy in the mid-’90s. The concept is thought to have originated in Maui, Hawaii, during the 1920s or 1930, or could have been derived from Menko, a Japanese game that dates back to the 17th century.
Either way, if you were a kid in 1995, you definitely had a collection of these colorful cardboard discs.
1996: Tickle Me Elmo
Tickle Me Elmo was all the rage in the mid-’90s — and was actually quite hard to find in stores for some time.
In fact, two women in Chicago were arrested for fighting over the doll, while another parent allegedly paid $7,000 for an Elmo on the resell market.
Conceptualized in Japan by Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai, the Tamagotchi became a worldwide craze in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In fact, according to Bandai, the virtual pet remains one of the most popular handheld devices to date, with over 82 million units sold as of 2017.
1998: The Furby
Equal parts cute and, well, sort of creepy thanks to its perceived intelligence and language skills, the Furby was a must-have toy across the US in the late 1990s.
The Furby was available in over 24 languages and is considered to be the first successful attempt at a “domestically aimed robot.”
1999: Pokemon Nintendo Games
The Pokemon video game series was an instant hit — and variations on the game remain popular to this day (just look at the recent Pokemon GO craze).
The Japanese role-playing video games were first available on the Game Boy but eventually spanned into the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64 and every Nintendo console to follow.
2000: Razor Scooter
By the turn of the millennium, Razor kick scooters were everywhere — and along with them came an influx of bruised ankle bones that continue to inspire memes to this day.
In spite of the danger to the ankles, Razor scooters shot in popularity, rivaling the bicycle and the skateboard for most of the 2000s.