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Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past 100 years

  • Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past 100 years
    1/ Olivier Le Queinec // Shutterstock

    Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past 100 years

    The holidays are coming, and just like every year before this one, there’s sure to be a new gift craze or fad taking the country by storm. In order to celebrate all things related to holiday gifting, Stacker poured through data to find the crazes and fads of years past, from 1918 to now.

    The information has been collated from lists of both the hardest to find and the most popular Christmas gifts, the National Toy Hall of Fame’s toy list, the Toy of the Year awards, inventions that became immediately popular, and lists of the 100 all-time greatest toys. The gifts included span age groups, ranging from toys for toddlers to a few items made just for adults, providing a unique snapshot of trends from each year throughout the past century.

    From building bricks to electronics, read on to discover holiday gift crazes from the past century.

    RELATED: States that produce the most Christmas trees

  • 1918: Lincoln Logs
    2/ WSKG Public Media // Flickr

    1918: Lincoln Logs

    If you ever wanted to build your own cabin, Lincoln Logs’ interlocking log-building sets were the toy to have. John Lloyd Wright, son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, invented the logs in 1916, and began to market them in 1918. They were an instant success, though they wouldn’t officially be called Lincoln Logs for a few more years.

  • 1919: Meccano Sets
    3/ STUDIO ALIJN // Flickr

    1919: Meccano Sets

    This predecessor to the Erector Set was first produced in the early 1900s, invented by Frank Hornby in the United Kingdom. In 1919, Hornby formed the Meccano Guild to encourage boys of all ages (up to adults) to gather together and get to building.

  • 1920: Raggedy Andy
    4/ Growing Up Crazy Toy Videos // YouTube

    1920: Raggedy Andy

    In 1920, Raggedy Ann gained a brother. Cartoonist and illustrator Johnny Gruelle began to publish the “Raggedy Andy Stories,” as a complement to Raggedy Ann, and an Andy doll came, too. Adults snapped them up so their kids could have a matching Ann and Andy set.

  • 1921: Chanel No. 5
    5/ Tim Evanson // Flickr

    1921: Chanel No. 5

    The invention of Chanel No. 5 was a game-changer in elite circles of women. Now they could smell fresh and clean longer, thanks to the assistant of Coco Chanel’s perfumer who accidentally added a higher chemical dose to the mixture. Chanel marketed it immediately, and it was cleared off the shelves once the holidays came around.

  • 1922: Pogo Stick
    6/ Valentyna Chukhlyebova // Shutterstock

    1922: Pogo Stick

    The pogo stick was invented in 1919 in Germany, but the first shipment arrived with warped wood and couldn’t be sold. More orders came in the following few years, with a newly designed product made from metal, and by 1922 pogo sticks were the most popular outdoor toy for children and adults, and featured prominently in magazine and newspaper ads.

  • 1923: Chemistry Set
    7/ oskay // Flickr

    1923: Chemistry Set

    In 1923, A.C. Gilbert (the former Erector Set inventor) flexed his edutainment muscles once more and created a toy chemistry set, just for boys. It gained instant popularity, even though it was profoundly unsafe; it contained chemicals that set things on fire and others that are used to make bombs.

  • 1924: Flossie Flirt Doll
    8/ Porcelain dolls pictured here. No Flossie Flirt Doll image available // SNEHIT // Shutterstock

    1924: Flossie Flirt Doll

    The Ideal Company produced Flossie Flirt in 1924, launched just in time for Christmas. The doll flirted with her eyes, darting them from side to side, winking, and blinking. Flossie Flirt was so popular that year that some newspapers published “Doll Lady” schedules, outlining where and when dealers who sold the doll would be available.

  • 1925: Electric Train Set
    9/ Pixabay

    1925: Electric Train Set

    Electric train sets took over the toy market in 1925 from three separate companies: Hornby (of former Meccano fame), American Flyer, and Lionel. The trains were expensive, though; one set cost about a month’s salary.

  • 1926: Winnie-the-Pooh
    10/ Castles, Capes & Clones // Flickr

    1926: Winnie-the-Pooh

    By the time “Winnie-the-Pooh” was published in 1926, the bear was already popular, having been made famous by A.A. Milne’s poetry and newspaper stories. Winnie and his friends were inspired by a set of stuffed toys Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, had in his nursery.

  • 1927: Brownie Camera
    11/ cogdogblog // Wikimedia Commons

    1927: Brownie Camera

    When the Brownie camera, invented in 1900 by Kodak, was released, it was the first time the public at large could enjoy photography as a hobby, thanks to its non-prohibitive price point. The first model sold well, but the Brownie 2c model, which hit the market in 1927, did even better.

  • 1928: Dubble Bubble
    12/ James Green // Flickr

    1928: Dubble Bubble

    In the candy world for the 1928 holiday season, everyone wanted Dubble Bubble. The gum was created accidentally by Walter Diemer at Fleer Chewing Gum Company and was stretchier, less sticky, and more prone to bubbles than regular chewing gum at the time. The first 5-pound batch available sold out in one afternoon.

  • 1929: Yo-Yo
    13/ Daderot // Flickr

    1929: Yo-Yo

    No one knows exactly when the yo-yo was invented, but its first appearance in the U.S. was in 1927, when Pedro Flores, an immigrant from the Philippines, started carving and selling them. Yo-yos were a toy from his childhood. By 1929, he had two factories in Los Angeles just to keep up with demand.

  • 1930: Mickey Mouse
    14/ State Library of Queensland // Flickr

    1930: Mickey Mouse

    The first stuffed Mickey Mouse doll was commissioned by Disney in 1930, created by a woman named Charlotte Clark. Mickey had already been around for two years, and his popularity was still increasing; the dolls were instantly popular.

  • 1931: Radio Flyer Wagon
    15/ Pixabay

    1931: Radio Flyer Wagon

    The American Flyer wagon, produced by the Liberty Coaster Company in Chicago, is the original Radio Flyer wagon. The company changed its name to Radio Steel and Manufacturing in 1930, and changed the wagon name the same year. By the end of 1930, the company was making 1,500 wagons a day to supply the craze taking over the country for gifts the following year.

  • 1932: Sock Monkey
    16/ niseag03 // Flickr

    1932: Sock Monkey

    Another Illinois company, the Nelson Knitting Co. based in Rockford, began producing the distinctive red-heeled sock that became the typical sock monkey in 1932. Money was often tight, due to the ongoing Depression, and mothers would sew the worn-out socks into monkey toys for their children. Soon, a sock monkey pattern came with every pair of socks.

  • 1933: Sears Wish Book
    17/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    1933: Sears Wish Book

    This trend wasn’t so much a toy as it was a printed collection of toys. The Sears Christmas Book, a staple for holiday shopping, showed everything anyone could want to buy someone for Christmas. The first one in 1933 was only 87 pages; by 1968, it was 608 pages.

  • 1934: Buck Rogers Ray Gun
    18/ odeerg // YouTube

    1934: Buck Rogers Ray Gun

    The first science fiction comic strip ever, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century AD,” premiered in January 1929. It was a daily strip, followed by a color Sunday edition in 1930 and a radio show in 1932. In 1934, the first Buck Rogers replica toy ray gun debuted; it sold for 50 cents and made a “pop” sound when fired.

  • 1935: Canned Beer
    19/ Joe Haupt // Flickr

    1935: Canned Beer

    This year, the first canned beer hit the market in Richmond, Virginia, from Gottfried Krueger Brewery. It was so popular that by the end of the year, 37 more breweries were selling canned beer, and more than 200 million cans were sold.

  • 1936: Monopoly
    20/ elPadawan // Flickr

    1936: Monopoly

    In 1935, Parker Brothers started selling the real estate game Monopoly, however, the idea for the game was stolen. 1936 was a particularly popular year for the game because the original creator, Lizzie Magie, called out the thievery on the front page of The Washington Post that January.

  • 1937: Pedal Cars
    21/ FOTO:FORTEPAN / Saly Noémi // Wikimedia Commons

    1937: Pedal Cars

    In the mid-to-late 1930s, pedal cars were enjoying a seemingly never-ending heyday. The design of the pedal cars matched the changing full-size auto industry. Some company catalogs had up to 30 pedal car models.

  • 1938: Action Comics
    22/ PetLvr // Flickr

    1938: Action Comics

    We’re in the middle of a superhero boom right now, and that can largely be traced back to Action Comics #1 in 1938, the first introduction of Superman. Only 200,000 copies were printed that first year, but it sold so well that the creators were quickly able to obtain a spinoff comic of their own.

  • 1939: Little Green Army Men
    23/ JWPhotowerks // Flickr

    1939: Little Green Army Men

    These little plastic toy soldiers were first produced in 1938, which ended up being impeccable timing—when World War II began in 1939, the popularity of the toys took off. Today, you can find them in all sorts of poses, including yoga.


  • 1940: Bubbles
    24/ GeorgeLouis // Wikimedia Commons

    1940: Bubbles

    No, blowing soap bubbles wasn’t invented in 1940. But the practice became widely popular that year, thanks to a company in Chicago that began to bottle its own solution.

  • 1941: Captain America Comic Book
    25/ MrBlueGenes // Flickr

    1941: Captain America Comic Book

    A year before World War II had even ended, Captain America’s first appearance showed him punching Hitler on the cover of the comic book. It was controversial, which helped sales; the comic flew off the shelves as fast as it arrived.

  • 1942: Little Golden Books
    26/ BudCat14/Ross // Flickr

    1942: Little Golden Books

    Prior to 1942, books for kids were high quality, but way too expensive. Little Golden Books changed that, selling for only a quarter at accessible locations. The first year, hundreds of thousands sold, and through the holiday season into February the next year, more than 1.5 million were in print.

  • 1943: Chutes and Ladders
    27/ EtanSivad // Flickr

    1943: Chutes and Ladders

    Chutes and Ladders, introduced by Milton Bradley in 1943, was based on an Indian game called Snakes and Ladders. It was an immediate success and stayed popular through several generations.

  • 1944: Dick Tracy Detective Kit
    28/ Atomicsteve // Wikimedia Commons

    1944: Dick Tracy Detective Kit

    Dick Tracy first showed up in 1931, but gained popularity in 1944 thanks to the resurgence of the radio show the year prior. This year, the hot toy was a Dick Tracy Detective Kit, complete with a manual, suspect information, a badge, a decoder, and more.

  • 1945: Slinky
    29/ Marcin Wichary // Flickr

    1945: Slinky

    Another year, another toy created by accident. Richard James, a mechanical engineer, was designing springs when he knocked one over and saw how it walked down the shelf. The Slinky wasn’t immediately popular when it was first released, but became wildly desired after a 1945 Christmastime demonstration of the toy in a department store in Philadelphia.

  • 1946: Tupperware
    30/ State Library and Archives of Florida // Flickr

    1946: Tupperware

    Wives and mothers everywhere rejoiced with the invention of Tupperware bowls. They were airtight, watertight, and durable, and with the new proliferation of home refrigerators, made storage simple.

  • 1947: Electric Football
    31/ Bill Webster // YouTube

    1947: Electric Football

    Electric football isn’t a game of skill, unless you count as a skill the patience you need to ignore that awful buzzing noise of players floating across a vibrating football field. This toy, created in 1947, was a favorite to play Christmas morning.

  • 1948: Tinymite Radio
    32/ Joe Haupt // Wikimedia Commons

    1948: Tinymite Radio

    Crystal radios were some of the first radios, grabbing onto a signal from broadcasting stations and playing the sound through amplifiers. They were popular in the '20s and '30s, but faded out, except for in the form of toys. The Tinymite Radio was manufactured in 1948 and became immediately popular.

  • 1949: Silly Putty
    33/ bigdogLHR // Flickr

    1949: Silly Putty

    Silly Putty was accidentally created when an engineer was trying to develop a synthetic rubber in 1943. No one had a use for it though, until 1949, when toy store owner Ruth Fallgatter decided to sell it in her catalog. It outsold almost everything in the catalog that year.

  • 1950: Magic 8 Ball
    34/ greeblie // Wikimedia Commons

    1950: Magic 8 Ball

    The fortune-telling pool ball America loves didn’t start out as a ball at all; it was a tube, created by a psychic’s son. The invention was picked up by Abe Bookman, brother-in-law to a shop owner in Cincinnati, who eventually shaped it like a crystal ball. In 1950, Brunswick Billiards wanted to use the item as a giveaway and turned it into an 8-ball, and it gained immediate popularity.

  • 1951: View-Master
    35/ Enokson // Flickr

    1951: View-Master

    The View-Master was originally designed to be a way to look at scenic photography from around the world. It was launched in 1939 at the World’s Fair and became marginally popular, but sales skyrocketed in 1951 when the discs started showing images from Disney movies.

  • 1952: Mr. Potato Head
    36/ Senator John Heinz History Center // YouTube

    1952: Mr. Potato Head

    When the first Mr. Potato Head was introduced, there was no body. It was a Bring Your Own Potato toy of just wacky face components. It was the first toy to have an actual commercial, which definitely contributed to it making over $4 million in sales in the first few months after its launch in 1952.

  • 1953: Matchbox Cars
    37/ Pixabay

    1953: Matchbox Cars

    These tiny cars are tiny thanks to a strange rule at a school. Jack Odell’s daughter was only allowed to bring toys to school that could fit into a matchbox, so Odell produced the little diecast cars and sent her to school with it. All the students loved the cars, and when Matchbox officially launched in 1953, it cleaned up in the sales department.

  • 1954: Wiffle Ball and Bat
    38/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    1954: Wiffle Ball and Bat

    The Wiffle Ball inventor was a father, just looking for a safer way for his son to play baseball and not break any neighbors’ windows. He used old perfume packaging to create the original ball. Woolworths picked up the sets in 1954, and the game took off.

  • 1955: Gumby
    39/ Pixabay

    1955: Gumby

    In 1953, animator Art Clokey debuted Gumby in a short film. Bigwigs at television companies loved the idea, and gave Clokey his own show, “The Gumby Show.” Gumby toys came out in 1955 and shared the same immediate success.

  • 1956: PEZ
    40/ Ian Dudley // US Air Force

    1956: PEZ

    PEZ candy actually dates back to the '20s, but the dispensers were invented in the '50s. Character heads were added in 1955, and in 1956, one of the more popular dispensers debuted: the space gun.

  • 1957: Frisbee
    41/ Petey21 // Wikimedia Commons

    1957: Frisbee

    By the time Frisbees were released in 1957, the flying discs had been around for nearly 90 years. It started as a “frisbie,” the empty pie tin from Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The craze took over nationally when Wham-O created the first iconic plastic disc.

  • 1958: Hula Hoop
    42/ Dave Reinking // YouTube

    1958: Hula Hoop

    Another Wham-O toy, the hula hoop was meant to capture the essence of Chinese acrobats spinning hoops on their limbs. Within the first few months of the hoop’s release in 1958, more than 25 million were sold.

  • 1959: Barbie
    43/ mr.paille // Flickr

    1959: Barbie

    When the first Barbie was introduced at the New York Toy Fair in 1959, the audience was skeptical. But one should never underestimate the appeal of a fashion doll: 300,000 Barbies sold in the first year.

  • 1960: Etch-A-Sketch
    44/ Etcha // Wikimedia Commons

    1960: Etch-A-Sketch

    The original Etch-A-Sketch, invented in 1959 in Germany, wasn’t too popular when it launched at a toy fair in Nuremberg. But it caught the eye of an Ohio company, who bought the product and saturated televisions with ads for the toy. It became a must-have item for Christmas in 1960 and was so popular that the factory had to work until noon on Christmas Eve to fill all the orders.

  • 1961: Chatty Cathy
    45/ Mattel // YouTube

    1961: Chatty Cathy

    Powered by a phonograph record in her belly, Chatty Cathy spoke 11 different phrases. She appeared in television commercials starting in 1960, and by 1961 she was the second most popular doll in the U.S., right behind Barbie.

  • 1962: Legos
    46/ Joybot // Flickr

    1962: Legos

    After several iterations, the modern version of the Lego block was introduced in 1958. But it was a static toy, and even though it was already popular, it gained even more fans when the Lego wheel debuted in 1962.

  • 1963: Easy Bake Oven
    47/ Bradross63 // Wikimedia Commons

    1963: Easy Bake Oven

    Who knew that with a tiny lightbulb, you could bake brownies and cakes? Hasbro knew and released the Easy-Bake Oven in 1963. It debuted just in time for the Christmas rush and has been a favorite of young bakers ever since.

  • 1964: GI Joe
    48/ formbx257 // YouTube

    1964: GI Joe

    Barbie was the queen of dolls in the 1960s, dominating sales. A marketing agent in New York, Stanley Weston, wanted to give boys the same joy of having a doll and developed the GI Joe action figure; Hasbro invested and started to sell it in 1964. More than 16 million GI Joe action figures sold by the end of that first year.

  • 1965: Tonka Truck Dump Truck
    49/ frankieleon // flickr

    1965: Tonka Truck Dump Truck

    Tonka Trucks were invented by three people in Minnesota who originally wanted to make garden tools, but started making toy trucks after receiving a toy steam shovel. The dump truck was released in 1965, became an instant bestseller and remained to be for the next 35 years.

  • 1966: Troll Dolls
    50/ The Things // YouTube

    1966: Troll Dolls

    The original troll dolls, invented by Danish woodworker Thomas Dam in 1959, were much creepier. They were made out of wood, had wool hair, and glass eyes. The dolls gained popularity in the '60s and held onto it throughout the decade, with teens collecting them and hosting “bring your own troll” parties.

  • 1967: Barrel of Monkeys
    51/ bunnyhero // flickr

    1967: Barrel of Monkeys

    Barrel of Monkeys, the game of linking red, S-shaped plastic monkeys into a long chain, originated when Leonard Marks was waiting at a shop counter, playing with snow tire replacement chain links. By 1967, Barrel of Monkeys was #2 on the hit toys charts, just behind Wham-O’s Super Stuff.

  • 1968: Hot Wheels
    52/ Leap Kye // Flickr

    1968: Hot Wheels

    Hot Wheels were one of Matchbox’s direct competitors, though Matchbox focused on size and Hot Wheels tricked out its cars. The first line released in 1968, called the Original Sweet 16, instantly overtook all the competition in the diecast car industry.

  • 1969: Flatsy
    53/ tvdays // YouTube

    1969: Flatsy

    If you combine a paper doll and a Barbie, you get Flatsy, a flat doll with hair, changeable clothes, and accessories. Ideal Toy Company released them in 1969, and they were immediately popular. Flatsy dolls became collectors items the very next year.

  • 1970: NERF
    54/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    1970: NERF

    By 1970, Parker Brothers knew kids everywhere were tired of being told they couldn't play ball in the house. So the company released a ball specifically to be played inside: NERF, a soft foam ball that wouldn’t hurt a thing if it smashed into it. By the end of the first year, more than 4 million had been sold.

  • 1971: Weebles
    55/ Tube Outpost // YouTube

    1971: Weebles

    The tagline may sound familiar: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” The little wobbling egg-shaped people were invented in 1971, based on the Punching Clown from the show “Romper Room.” The dolls gained immediate success.

  • 1972: Polaroid Camera
    56/ Fabian Reus // Wikimedia Commons

    1972: Polaroid Camera

    Polaroid, an already established company, took a giant leap forward in 1972 when it released the Polaroid instant camera. Legend holds the co-founder’s daughter was the inspiration; she was wondering why she couldn’t see vacation photos immediately after they were snapped. The camera was the cover story for Life magazine just before Christmas that year, bringing it outstanding sales.

  • 1973: Baby Alive
    57/ Fun with Baby Alive // YouTube

    1973: Baby Alive

    1973 was a huge year for creepy, lifelike dolls. That year, Baby Alive was introduced and dominated the market. It had a mechanical mouth that chewed up food from packets, which it then “disposed of” in its diaper.

  • 1974: Magna Doodle
    58/ After These Messages 18 // YouTube

    1974: Magna Doodle

    In 1974, a new type of chalkboard was invented, one without chalk and without dust: the Magna Doodle. It was very similar to the Etch-A-Sketch—just newer—and sold millions.

  • 1975: Pet Rock
    59/ Company Man // YouTube

    1975: Pet Rock

    The Pet Rock was originally meant as a joke, a “pet” that didn’t need any care at all, which seemed to resonate incredibly well with the ethos of the self-indulgent mid-'70s. It cost $3.95 in 1975 and took over the country that year, with more than a million selling.

  • 1976: Paddington Bear
    60/ Rick Ligthelm // Wikimedia Commons

    1976: Paddington Bear

    “A Bear Called Paddington” was first introduced to the world in 1958 as a children’s book. The bear himself in a stuffed animal version followed in 1971, and in 1975, the toy was given the green light in the U.S. market. It took off and had become a must-have for Christmas by 1976.

  • 1977: Slime
    61/ Pixel Dan // YouTube

    1977: Slime

    First introduced in 1976, squishy and oozy Slime came packaged in a plastic garbage can and became a bestseller right away. 1977 saw a new, wildly popular way to play with Slime: the Slime Monster Game, where players try to slime their opponents.

  • 1978: Hungry Hungry Hippos
    62/ CarbonNYC [in SF!] // Flickr

    1978: Hungry Hungry Hippos

    Timed well to match a country of shortening attention spans, Hungry Hungry Hippos was released in 1978 to high acclaim. The players act as plastic hippos and try to eat as many marbles as possible as fast as possible. Kids born in the early '80s may remember the game well; it has been a staple in the family game room since its launch.

  • 1979: Atari
    63/ France1978 // Flickr

    1979: Atari

    The '70s started the video game craze, with Atari first reaching homes in 1975. And though 150,000 were sold that first year, it didn’t truly take off until the inventor sold the system to Warner Communications. By the end of the year in 1979, sales topped $415 million.


  • 1980: Rubik's Cube
    64/ whity // Wikimedia Commons

    1980: Rubik's Cube

    The Rubik’s Cube was invented by a professor in Budapest in 1974, with the sole purpose of helping his students understand three-dimensional problems. The twisty turning puzzle cube became popular in 1980, though, when it had a worldwide release at toy fairs across the globe. The toy was immediately a hit and about 100 million cubes sold the first two years.

  • 1981: Smurfs
    65/ Asrar Makrani

    1981: Smurfs

    In September 1981, "The Smurfs" first aired on television and instantly became part of a standard '80s childhood. Stuffed toys were released shortly after the first episode, just in time for the holiday season.

  • 1982: BMX Bikes
    66/ Schwar // flickr

    1982: BMX Bikes

    We can largely thank a boy and his alien for the BMX bike craze throughout the '80s. The off-road trick bikes were featured in "ET," released in 1982, and kids around the country instantly had to have them.

  • 1983: Cabbage Patch Kids
    67/ william_mckeehan // Flickr

    1983: Cabbage Patch Kids

    Cabbage Patch Kids were originally created by a 21-year-old folk artist in Georgia as dolls you could “adopt” after they were “born.” The artist, Xavier Roberts, couldn’t keep up with demand; in 1982, he joined forces with Coleco to mass produce the dolls. When they launched to the public at large in 1983, people were so obsessed with getting one before Christmas that violent riots broke out several stores.

  • 1984: Transformers
    68/ France1978 // Flickr

    1984: Transformers

    In 1984, both “Transformers,” the TV show, and Transformers, the toys, were released. Hasbro produced the bendy robot toys that took on other forms, like cars, planes, and cassette tapes. Transformer fever took over, and the toys became one of the most successful franchises in history.

  • 1985: Teddy Ruxpin
    69/ The Escape Pod Network// YouTube

    1985: Teddy Ruxpin

    Teddy Ruxpin, the stuffed bear with a cassette tape in his back, entered the world of mass toy production in 1985. He could tell stories and move his mouth and eyes along with the tale. The bear sold out for Christmas and remained the top-selling Christmas gift for two years.

  • 1986: Pound Puppies
    70/ Joe Haupt // Flickr

    1986: Pound Puppies

    Like the Cabbage Patch Kids, Pound Puppies were toys you could “adopt,” and they came in a cardboard carrier with a guide to taking care of the new pet. They were selling out in stores by 1985 and got an extra boost in popularity when their own cartoon premiered in the fall of 1986.

  • 1987: Nintendo
    71/ Evan-Amos // Wikimedia Commons

    1987: Nintendo

    Gamers have Nintendo to thank for reviving the completely destroyed video game scene in the 1980s. Atari had fallen out of favor, and no one was buying video game systems, not even the Nintendo when it was first released; that is, until Super Mario Bros. debuted. No one knows for sure when the game went on sale in the U.S., but by 1987 it was there and taking Nintendo to stardom with it.

  • 1988: Koosh Ball
    72/ NightMist // Wikicommons

    1988: Koosh Ball

    The world was introduced to the Koosh Ball in 1987. The creator wanted to help his kids learn how to play catch, so he invented an easily caught ball made from rubber strands, 2,000 of them per ball, to be exact. By 1988, the Koosh Ball was a must-have Christmas gift.

  • 1989: Game Boy
    73/ JCD1981NL // Wikimedia Commons

    1989: Game Boy

    Capitalizing on the popularity of the original system, Nintendo released Gameboy, a handheld video game system, in 1989. It was bundled with puzzle game Tetris and immediately took the world by storm, selling 35 million that first year.

  • 1990: TMNT Action Figures
    74/ Sawyer Family Reviews // YouTube

    1990: TMNT Action Figures

    By 1990, everyone wanted to be a hero in a half-shell, or at least have one of their own. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were sweeping across the country thanks to a comic book, a cartoon, and action figures. That year, the first movie was released, and the toys started flying off the shelves faster than ever before.

  • 1991: Pogs
    75/ Great Big Story // YouTube

    1991: Pogs

    Pogs in some form have already been around since the 1600s. The original discs were about the size of milk caps, and that’s what kids used when the game became popular in Hawaii in the early 1900s. In 1991, a schoolteacher named Blossom Galbiso taught her students how to play, sparking a craze that would take over the country.

  • 1992: Barney
    76/ Nicescene // Shutterstock

    1992: Barney

    Barney, the big lovable purple dinosaur, first debuted in a TV show in April 1992. By November, more than 25,000 people were flocking to events around the country, forming lines almost a mile long, just to get a glimpse of the dino. Barney everything sold like crazy that first year.

  • 1993: Talkboy
    77/ Onetwo1 // Wikimedia Commons

    1993: Talkboy

    Fun fact: The first Talkboy wasn’t actually a real thing. It was a nonfunctional prop for 1992’s "Home Alone 2." Fans wanted it though and launched a letter writing campaign to have the voice-changing cassette recorder produced. The campaign was successful, and in 1993 the functional Talkboy instantly topped toy charts.

  • 1994: Power Rangers
    78/ The Cyber Archive // YouTube

    1994: Power Rangers

    The initial life cycle of the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" was fairly short. The show launched in 1993. In 1994, fans were causing 8-mile-long traffic jams to meet the characters, and the toys topped the holiday gift charts. Only a year later, popularity peaked with a movie and then rapidly declined. But that was just the first wave; the Power Rangers were back with a vengeance by 2013.

  • 1995: Beanie Babies
    79/ The Cyber Archive // YouTube

    1995: Beanie Babies

    In 1995, the Beanie Baby toy craze took off when one of the toys, a stuffed lamb called Lovie, was discontinued. The inventor, Ty Warner, told angry customers the toy had “retired,” exponentially driving up demand. He began to do this at random to different Beanie Babies, and by the end of 1995, was raking in billions in sales.

  • 1996: Tickle Me Elmo
    80/ Lucky Penny Shop // YouTube

    1996: Tickle Me Elmo

    Tickle Me Elmo, the doll that laughed more and more as you tickled it, hit shelves in July 1996. But it didn’t sell well at first; not until Rosie O’Donnell featured it on her show in October. By holiday shopping season, people were trampling one another to get the dolls, which were selling out in a matter of minutes.

  • 1997: Tamagotchi
    81/ The Cyber Archive // YouTube

    1997: Tamagotchi

    In 1997, everyone wanted Tamagotchi, the portable pet you feed and play with and help grow; unless you forget to pause the game, leave it alone for a few hours, and your Tamagotchi dies. Shortly after its release, it was featured in The New York Times and was selling out nationwide, with wait lists for people hoping to get one.

  • 1998: Furbies
    82/ Pixabay

    1998: Furbies

    Furbies were the world’s first in-home interactive robot, and they were wildly popular, despite being so creepy. High demand for the toy pushed prices to more than $100 at Christmastime in 1998.

  • 1999: Pokemon Trading Cards
    83/ Angelina Pilarinos / Shutterstock

    1999: Pokemon Trading Cards

    Trading cards have always brought in a tidy sum, and Pokemon cards, the game based on capturing and battling adorable monsters, is no exception. In 1999, Pokemon cards were the most popular holiday gift, and also the most controversial: Some parents sued the company that year, claiming the game had given their children gambling problems.

  • 2000: Razor Scooter
    84/ 丁 // Wikimedia Commons

    2000: Razor Scooter

    The foldable Razor Scooter was initially released in 2000, and the company sold more than 5 million in the next few months. The scooters are still popular today among people of all ages (including adults scooting their way to work in the city), but nothing has quite matched the popularity of the first launch.

  • 2001: Bratz
    85/ The Cyber Archive // YouTube

    2001: Bratz

    In 2001, Barbie got pushed to the side by her edgy descendants, Bratz Dolls. The dolls were fashion-forward, wore a lot of glittery makeup, and had huge doe eyes. Millions sold that first year, and now there’s a whole Bratz empire behind the dolls.

  • 2002: Beyblades
    86/ Clayton Lenhardt US Airforce // Wikimedia Commons

    2002: Beyblades

    Customized spinning battle tops Beyblades were born in Japan in 1999 and launched internationally in 2002. They were an instant success, becoming the top toy that year not just in the U.S., but also in Canada, Mexico, France, Australia, and the U.K.

  • 2003: Electronic Hulk Hands
    87/ Andy App // Flickr

    2003: Electronic Hulk Hands

    While Beyblades were still dominating sales in 2003, the Toy Association’s Toy of the Year Award for that year edged them down a notch and placed Electronic Hulk Hands at the top spot. The big green gloves made Hulk noises when you hit things with them.

  • 2004: Robosapien
    88/ Valentina Razumova / Shutterstock v-- pictured here is v2

    2004: Robosapien

    Robotics had come a long way since the Furby craze of 1998, and in 2004, Robosapien burst onto the market. It was a trainable robot that could interact with you and do basically whatever you wanted it to do. Kids went crazy for it, taking it to the top of the Christmas must-have lists.

  • 2005: Xbox 360
    89/ Javier Donoso // Wikimedia Commons

    2005: Xbox 360

    The next big innovation in video game systems launched in November 2005 with the Xbox 360. It was a much anticipated release, and gamers and parents waited outside stores all night to get one, only to be confronted with low stock supplies that often left them empty-handed.

  • 2006: PlayStation 3
    90/ Evan-Amos // Wikimedia Commons

    2006: PlayStation 3

    The third iteration of the PlayStation hit the shelves in late 2006, just in time for the holidays. It was the most expensive of any video game system yet, but also came in multiple versions with a 20 GB hard drive or a 60-gigabyte hard drive.

  • 2007: iPod Touch
    91/ Aido2002 // Wikimedia Commons

    2007: iPod Touch

    When Apple first released the iPhone in 2006, it was an instant hit. However, the company knew not everyone was buying it, either because they had a phone already, didn’t want it, or it just cost too much. So in 2007, Apple release the iPhone without the phone: the iPod Touch. It stayed a bestseller until the next generation was released in 2008.

  • 2008: Nintendo Wii
    92/ The Cyber Archive // YouTube

    2008: Nintendo Wii

    Nintendo’s first motion-sensitive console released in 2006, launching a new type of video gaming that others would expand on in years to come. The console sold out at the holidays every year, and in 2008, sales reached 13.4 million units.

  • 2009: Nook
    93/ Yamavu // Wikimedia Commons

    2009: Nook

    Barnes & Noble took a risk in 2009 and released an e-reader called the Nook, directly into competition with Amazon’s Kindle. Sales backed the value of the decision, though. That year, the company sold out of its entire stock, and people were waiting for backordered ones through the Christmas season.

  • 2010: iPad
    94/ cote // Flickr

    2010: iPad

    The first iPad was much anticipated as a new tablet following the release of the iPhone a few years earlier. More than 300,000 sold when it first launched, and by the end of the holidays, sales had reached the millions, outselling actual Mac computers.


  • 2011: Let's Rock Elmo
    95/ Hasbro -- Let's Dance Elmo pictured here. No image of Let's Rock Elmo available.

    2011: Let's Rock Elmo

    Move over, Tickle Me Elmo. The red doll can now play instruments and sing. Let’s Rock Elmo knew six songs and was popular enough in 2011 to make Time’s Top 10 Everything list.

  • 2012: Wii U
    96/ Takimata // Wikimedia Commons

    2012: Wii U

    Nintendo’s next console, the Wii U, launched in November 2012, just in time for the holiday shopping craze. It sold out in the first seven days in stores, again prompting hopeful system owners to wait outside all night to get one.

  • 2013: Big Hugs Elmo
    97/ Elmo visits military families, no image of Big Hugs Elmo available. // Louis Briscese // Air Force

    2013: Big Hugs Elmo

    Every time a new Elmo toy comes out, he creeps back into popularity, as happened in 2013 with the release of Big Hugs Elmo, the Elmo doll that hugged you back. It immediately made it on Toys-R-Us’ list of best holiday toys. Only one problem, though; it was recalled shortly after because the batteries had a tendency to overheat.


  • 2014: TMNT Rereleased Action Figures
    98/ YouTube

    2014: TMNT Rereleased Action Figures

    Disney’s new movie “Frozen” was all the rage throughout 2014, but numbers after the holidays proved another movie actually spawned the highest-selling toy of the season. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie relaunched in 2014, along with the action figures, which outpaced the Elsa doll from “Frozen,” originally thought to be #1.

  • 2015: BB-8 Droid
    99/ Pixabay

    2015: BB-8 Droid

    By April 2015, the BB-8 Droid was already being listed as one of the year’s must-have holiday gifts. The robotic ball with a detachable, independently moving head was controlled by a smartphone and by Christmas morning, Star Wars geeks of all ages had one rolling around under the tree.

  • 2016: Hatchimals
    100/ Pixabay

    2016: Hatchimals

    Hatchimals are cute, interactive toys that hatch themselves out of eggs. They were released in October 2016 and instantly began selling out in every store that sold them.

  • 2017: Fingerlings
    101/ WowWee // YouTube

    2017: Fingerlings

    Matching the Hatchimals-level holiday craze, 2017 saw the introduction of Fingerlings, little robotic monkeys that attaches to your finger and makes monkey noises at you. They consistently sold out within hours every time more were put on the shelf.

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