Saturday, 19 December 2015

Top Selling Toys From Years Gone By (Part 1)

A nostalgic look at popular toys found on lists to Santa in the olden days.

As it's only a few days until Christmas, this week I take a nostalgic trip down memory lane as I look at a selection of toys from years gone by.  I've also included the decade when they were launched, or in some cases the decade when the popularity of the toys in question was at its peak.  However, the popularity of many toys has spanned over generations, so don't be surprised if you associate some of the toys with a different era...

1950s - Play-Doh

Play-Doh, sponsored by Keith Lemon, the 'Fuzzy Pumper'.
Despite its current use as modelling clay, Play-Doh was originally invented as a wallpaper cleaner.  Obviously, it wasn’t called Play-Doh back then, as Play-Doh wouldn’t have been a very appropriate name for a wallpaper cleaner, but it was effectively the same product.  However, as the market for wallpaper cleaner began to dwindle, the company that originally manufactured Play-Doh was heading towards bankruptcy.

Fortunately, Joe McVicker (nephew of the dude who invented Play-Doh), noticed that young kids were using the wallpaper cleaner for modelling purposes and so after a quick change of marketing direction, the wallpaper cleaner was repackaged as ‘Play-Doh’ and sales quickly took off.  Within a few years the company had already racked up millions of dollars’ worth of sales and by 2005 more than two billion cans had been sold!

It just goes to show the importance of marketing and correctly identifying your optimum target audience.

1960s - Etch-A-Sketch

As you can see, with patience it's possible
to create some impressive sketches,
such as this sketch I quickly prepared earlier.
The popularity of etch-a-sketch lasted long after its original release, as I can remember having an etch-a-sketch many years later, and my nephew still has one now.  At the time it seemed like a really cool toy, but looking back it was an extremely impractical idea.

Drawing a blocky picture by turning a couple of knobs was about as practical as eating fish and chips through a straw, but strangely, painstakingly creating an Etch-A-Sketch picture would give you a great sense of achievement.  It looks pretty antiquated nowadays when compared to the Playstations and Xboxes of today, but at the time Etch-A-Sketch was the Photoshop of its day!

1970s - Lego

"These aren't the toys you're looking for."
Lego began making plastic toys way back in 1947, but it was the introduction of mini-figures in 1978 which opened up the possibilities for licensing deals, and nowadays you can get themed Lego sets based on everything from Star Wars and Marvel Super Heroes to Harry Potter and Scooby Doo.

Such has been the success of Lego in recent years, that since the turn of the century Lego has actually been a better investment than gold!  The average Lego set has increased in value by 12% each year, so if your kid asks for an expensive Lego set for Christmas, tell them, "Okay, but you have to promise to leave it in the box and to never ever play with it, so that mammy and daddy can sell it in twenty years time to pay off the mortgage."

Since Lego was first introduced, over 600 billion Lego parts have been produced; enough for almost 100 pieces for everyone on the planet!  In 2014 Lego announced annual sales of £2.8 billion and judging by the amount of Lego my nephew has in his toy box, I would guess that he accounted for a significant proportion of those sales.

1980s - My Little Pony

My Little Pony.
Someone Else's Average Sized Horse.
Unfortunately, my nephew is a boy not a girl, so I couldn't get any photos of My Little Pony, and had to make do instead with a horse photo.  It's not little, and it's not mine, and it's also not a pony, but it's the closest I could find so it'll have to do.

Anyway, getting back to the My Little Pony toys, much like my nephew I'm also a boy, not a girl, so I was never really into My Little Pony when I was younger.  I can understand the appeal though, and when Hasbro were first approached with the idea of cute toy ponies, they must have suspected they were on to a definite winner.  That suspicion proved very much accurate, and in 2014 Hasbro sold an impressive one billion dollars worth of My Little Pony toys!

1990s - Pokemon

'Pick a chew.'
Pokemon were first introduced over two decades ago, but their popularity has endured well beyond the nineties and my nephew still loves them now.  He once explained the rules of the Pokemon card game to me and my immediate reaction was that the Pokemon card inventors were brilliantly devious at sneakily tricking kids into learning maths.

Each player gets seven cards, and to win a card battle you have to compare the statistics of each Pokemon card, then perform a complicated mathematical sum to decide who won the battle.  My nephew just saw it as a fun card game, and he didn't realise he was being sneakily conned into learning complicated arithmetical sums!

. . . . . . . .

That's it for this week, but over the decades there have been hundreds of other cool memorable toys, so I'll feature another batch of toys from years gone by in the run up to Christmas next year!

N.B.  Please note, the etch-a-sketch drawing of course wasn't something I quickly prepared earlier, and in fact it was drawn by Paul Johnson.

This nostalgic look at toys from the past was written and compiled by Charles Fudgemuffin. You can follow Charles Fudgemuffin on facebook and twitter:
Twitter: @CFudgemuffin

Charles Fudgemuffin's younger brother, Charles Fudgemuffin Jr, recently published a Christmas themed novella 'Santa And The Naughty Elf' which is available for Kindle from Amazon.
Santa And The Naughty Elf

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About The Author

The 'How To Save The World' books
by Charles Fudgemuffin
Charles Fudgemuffin is the author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books which are available for Kindle from Amazon.  The first book in the series is available from the following link:
How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy

As with all Kindle books, you can also download a free sample of the first few chapters.

Please note, the 'How To Save The World' books contain material suitable for ages 18+ and are not recommended for prudes or squares.