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The must-have retro Christmas toys of the last 70 years - How Many Do You Remember?

popular retro toys
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As Christmas 2022 draws nearer, we're looking back over the must-have toys from the past 70 years. Recognise any of these?  

Silly Putty, 1950

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Developed in 1943, Silly Putty debuted on shelves in 1950 where it became the must-have for children around the country. A silicone-based polymer that was elastic, could bounce, be easily moulded, and always held its shape. Parents liked the fact that the putty was nontoxic and nonirritating. Since its debut, more than 300 million eggs of Silly Putty have been sold.

Mr. Potato Head, 1952

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Mr Potato Head remains popular to this day thanks to his Disney revival, but he first hit the market in 1952 when he topped the Christmas list of children around the world. The big difference? The 50s version used a real potato! 

The Hula Hoop, 1957

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The hula hoop has been around for centuries but it wasn't until the late 1950s that Wham-O, a California toy company, rolled out a mass-market plastic hoop for kids. Costing just $1.98, they sold 25 million in the first six months, with more than 100 million sold by 1958. 

Barbie, 1959

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Now a household name, Barbie was pioneered in March 1959 when Ruth Handler, Barbie's creator noticed that her daughter Barbara (Barbie) and her friends played with more grown-up female dolls over their baby dolls. She realised there was a gap in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future and came up with the "Barbie" concept, initially modelling her on a German comic-strip character, Bild Lilli. Barbie was a Christmas list favourite and has firmly remained there ever since.

The Ken Doll, 1961

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Power couple, Barbie and Ken were introduced when Barbie's boyfriend, Ken was developed in 1960. By Christmas 1961, he was the most-wanted toy, complete with his own line of clothing and accessories.


G.I Joe, 1964

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The arrival of Ken paved the way for 'masculine dolls' and by 1964,  G.I Joe was the talk of Christmas. The revolutionary 'toy for boys' had 21 moving parts and was hailed the 'world's first action-figure.'

Lite Brite, 1967

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First launched in 1967, Lite-Brite caught the eye of children around the country with its innovative-for-its-time technology. Featuring a plastic screen mounted onto a 25-watt light bulb, pre-printed picture sheets could fit under pegs in eight colours to create a wide variety of designs, from trains and animals to people. 

Hot Wheels, 1968

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Mattel jumped in with Hot Wheels in 1968 and revolutionised the motor toy space. The original line of models included Mustang, Camero, Corvette and Firebird and topped the Christmas must-have toy lists for decades to come. 

Nerf Ball, 1970

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A NERF ball was one of the first balls designed to be played indoors. It was made of recreational foam and was heavily advertised as a safe indoor game, making it hugely popular amongst parents at Christmas. 

Uno, 1972

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With the rising popularity of action figures and must-have gadgets, it's surprising the 'it' Christmas toy in 1972 was a card game. But with its colourful, fast-paced nature, it was a big Yuletide hit in 1972.

Baby Alive, 1973

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By the mid-1970s, Baby Alive was in huge demand as one of the first dolls that you could interact with. She could eat, drink and even fill her nappy. 

Star Wars, 1977

1977 saw the release of Star Wars: A New Hope, the biggest commercially successful film to date. So it comes as no surprise that Star Wars toys were the must-have Christmas toy that year.  With such high demand, the toys were not able to be fulfilled meaning lots of eager children received an ‘Early Bird certificate’ on Christmas morning, which they could later redeem for 4 action figures. 

Speak and Spell, 1978

First premiered at the 1978 Consumer Electronics Show, this revolutionary gadget utilised DSP (digital signal processing) and synthetic speech to teach spelling and pronunciation of words. It was even available in 7 languages and appealed to parents as a great educational toy. 

Care Bears, 1981

Care Bears

The original Care Bears are still in demand today - in 1981 you could pick up a Love-a-lot Bear, Wish Bear, Cheer Bear, Bedtime Bear or Good Luck bear. Do you still have yours?

My Little Pony, 1982

A white, a blue, a lilac and a pink My Little Pony character in a sparkling field

Everyone remembers My Little Pony. In 1982, the world was introduced to Cotton Candy, Butterscotch, Blue Belle, Snuzzle, Minty and Blossom who quickly became the most popular toys of the year - and the entire decade, even getting their own TV series.  

Cabbage Patch Kids, 1983

cabbage patch kids

A cheeky bunch, the Cabbage Patch Kids took the world by storm in 1983 causing a rush at Christmas to pop them into stockings. 

Transformers, 1984

1984 Transformers toy

The legendary cartoon series was released at the same time as the toy. Transformers allowed children to interact with their robots, be creative, and collect new robots as they were released. 

Sylvanian Families, 1987

1987 Sylvanian Families

If you were a kid in 1987, it's likely Sylvanian Families were on your Christmas list. These beautiful collectable families hit the shelves in 1987 and have become a household name ever since, continuing to be best-sellers to this day. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1990

teenage mutant ninja turtles action figure

In 1990 we were introduced to brothers, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo - four teenage-mutant-ninja turtles who captured the heart of the nation and fast-tracked their way to the number 1 toy of the year.

Gameboy, 1991

Cream Nintendo Game Boy with a Mortal Kombat and Star Wars game cartridge

With the 90s came more technologically advanced toys topping Christmas lists, and in 1991 it was the turn of the Nintendo GameBoy. The 8-bit GameBoy came with a revolutionary Game Link cable allowing two players to connect as multiplayer and play simultaneously. 

Power Rangers Figures, 1994

90s power ranger action figures

One of the best-selling Christmas toys of 1994 was the Power Ranger figure, based on the popular kid's TV show, 'The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.' The figures are now highly collectable and sought after. 

Pogs, 1995

Large collection of pog cardboard coins with cartoon characters on them

No British playground was complete without the swapping of Pogs in the mid-90s.  

Arriving on the scene in 1995, milk-cap Pogs amassed 350 million dollars worth of sales worldwide, despite the simplicity of the toy and the game.

Tamagotchi, 1997

1997 saw the arrival of the Tamagotchi from Japan. A virtual pet that you could feed, walk, wake and play with - everything possible to not let it die - at the flick of a few buttons. Teenagers worldwide were obsessed with their pet Tamagotchis, allowing them to top the Christmas charts in 1997. 

If you still own an original Tamagotchi they can be worth a lot of money today.

Furby, 1998

furby 1990s 1998

Another interactive toy of the 90s was the Furby, making the 1998 Christmas charts. Furby was an adorable pet who spoke its own language, Furbish and need love and attention to thrive. 

Harry Potter Figures, 2001

Harry Potter action Figures, 2001

2001 saw the first instalment of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books adapted into a box office smash hit. Inevitable then that Harry Potter and co were taking the toy market by storm with their collection of merchandise. From action figures, games and puzzles, if it was Harry Potter branded, it was a must-have Christmas favourite. 

Bratz, 2002

Fashion dolls looked a little different in 2002 when 4 new girls arrived on the scene - Chloe, Jade, Sasha and Yasmin, AKA Bratz. These 10-inch dolls were hugely popular at Christmas and all came complete with an array of clothes and accessories.

Robosapien, 2004


The Robosapien was invented by Brit, Mark Tilden and manufactured by WowWee Toys in April 2004. By Christmas, it had sold 1.5 million units. It was fully interactive and could respond to touch, sound and much more. 

Iggle Piggle, 2007

iggle piggle in the night garden

In the Night Garden became hugely popular after its launch in March 2007 and by Christmas, this plush character was the most-bought toy that year! 

High School Musical Dance Mat, 2008

High School Musical Dance Mat, 2008

The best-selling Christmas toy of 2008 was this High School Musical version of the already-popular dance mat, following the film's release which smashed box offices all over the world. 

Leapfrog LeapPad Tablet, 2011

With more expensive children's tablets entering the market this year, LeapPad was able to launch something that was more affordable for families, inevitably shooting it to the top of children's Christmas lists nationwide. 

Frozen's Elsa, 2014

Frozen Elsa doll 2014

In 2014 the world went crazy for Frozen. The Disney heroine Elsa became the obsession of children all over the world which can mean only one thing? A best-selling Christmas Elsa doll. 

Nintendo Switch, 2017

nintendo switch

The Nintendo Switch was one of the best-selling mobile GameBoy toys of 2017. Popular amongst children and adults alike and with hundreds of old and new games available for download. 

Ryans World Egg, 2019

Young boy smiling happily with his thumb up holding a ryan's world golden egg

The rise of YouTubers and social Influencers meant we got to meet Ryan in 2019, a young toy reviewer that kids watch for hours and hours. In 2019 he released an egg with 15 surprises inside and yes, you guessed it - it became a Christmas best-seller.  

Lego Technic Lamborghini, 2020

2020 lego Lamborghini

In 2020 Lego launched the most complex build yet - the Lamborghini Sian FKP 37. Requiring expert skill and concentration, this was the ultimate toy for Lego fans everywhere. 

Barbie Dreamhouse, 2021

Barbie dreamhouse 1960

Proving oldies really are goodies, the popular 1960s toy, Barbie and her Dreamhouse returned in 2021 with some major renovations.  The most customisable Barbie dollhouse yet, it comes complete with a moveable swing, slide and pool and a first-ever integrated lights and sounds system. 

Barbie Cutie Reveal Doll, 2022

barbie cutie reveal doll

Barbie is back and she's here to stay. These days, there tends to be more than one 'must-have' toy at Christmas, and in the mix this year is Barbie's latest addition, the Cutie Reveal doll. An iconic Mattel doll dressed as an adorable animal. It comes with 10 accessories, including clothing, a comb, and a mini pet.

Got any toys you'd like to sell? 

At Vintage Cash Cow, we can determine what your toys are worth, whether they are old or new. Some toys are now highly collectab

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