The Most Popular Christmas Toy The Year You Were Born

When you’re a kid, your Christmas gift must
be the hottest toy of the year, the one that’s advertised day and night. Every Christmas has its own “hot toy,” and
the phenomenon stretches back decades. Let’s unwrap the most popular Christmas toy
on the year you were born. In late 2000, Razor Scooters proved to be
the must-have toy of the early aughts. And what was the appeal of this two-wheeled
thrill ride? Well, as it says on the official Razor website: “[The Razor Scooter] instantly captured our
imagination and catapulted the scooter into a global phenomenon. […] Parents love it because there is no
assembly required and kids love that it comes in a variety of colors.” [Just some guys doing very cool stuff with
a Razor Scooter] Razor Scooters were brought to you by Razor
USA, a company founded by Carlton Calvin, who already had some major experience in the
toy biz. He also marketed faddish delights like Fingerboards
and the once-ubiquitous milk caps game Pogs. Calvin estimated that Razor sold five million
scooters for Christmas in the year 2000, but since the company only held a 50 percent share
of the scooter market, that means as many as ten million kids wound up getting a scooter
that year. Who remembers the Furby, a toy that was once
the hottest ticket in town? “What’s that?” “It’s my Furby.” “Furby loves a loving touch.” “Tickle me!” This electronic pet was covered in fur and
looked a lot like Gizmo from Gremlins. [Burp] “Haha, haha.” “More Furbys. More fun!” The toy even came with a backstory. The creatures were supposed to be adorable
aliens who were only fluent in their native language of Furbish. At first, they speak nothing but this seemingly
nonsensical language… but as kids spend more time with them, the Furby starts to speak
their language. “Uh-oh, whoopee.” “Me Amanda.” “MeeManDaaa.” “ME AMAZED!” “That’s Furby!” “FURBY!” “Hehehehe!” Despite those huge bulbous eyes and all that
fur, the toy originally retailed for only $35. But after the product launch in 1998, prices
shot upwards of $100 in secondary markets. The demand was insane. By Christmas of 1998, Tiger Electronics had
sold about 1.8 million Furbys. And the fad only got bigger and furrier from
there. By the end of 1999, an astounding 27 million
kids were teaching language skills to these little guys. A decade before every single person on the
planet became addicted to their smartphones, American kids got an early taste of pocket
tech thanks to Tamagotchi, an imported Japanese toy from Bandai. Slightly larger than a golf ball, this virtual
pet required owners to tend to their every need, and to regularly feed them with the
push of a button. The $15 gadget was the must-have, hot new
toy of 1997, and stores quickly sold out of this endlessly needy technology. “What about this one?” “Okay. This one’s misbehaving, so it needs to be
disciplined.” “I’ll handle this. I was tough but fair.” Sesame Street was never intended to be a cash
cow, so the crazy demand for Tickle Me Elmo dolls must’ve caught toy store owners completely
by surprise back in 1996. The doll was, of course, based on the red,
furry, childlike Muppet named Elmo – an almost frustratingly cute creature that’s prominently
featured on Sesame Street. Upon its release, Tyco Toys’ Tickle Me Elmo
doll cost just under thirty dollars – quite a reasonable price considering that the fuzzy,
perpetually frazzled creation laughed and quaked upon receiving its titular tickle. “When your child tickles him, he talks, laughs,
and his whole body shakes!” “Oh boy!’ In July of 1996, Tyco was expecting to sell
400,000 Tickle Me Elmo dolls, but when they realized how quickly the dolls were getting
snatched up, the company ramped up production, hoping to ship a million Tickle Me Elmo dolls
to toy stores in time for Christmas. But that still wasn’t enough to satisfy demand:
Stores kept running out of Tickle Me Elmo dolls just as quickly as they received shipments. Well, the dolls may have been in short supply,
but there was no scarcity of enterprising scalpers on the make: “It’s a real Tickle Me Elmo, right here. In the box, brand new. $200 for everything.” Meanwhile, frantic parents lined up for hours,
muscling each other out of the way to grab one of these must-have Christmas treasures. “Parents become desperate. We hear desperation in their voice, like,
‘Where can I get it?’ Well, I don’t know where you get it. Move on. Choose something else.” By the start of the new millennium, it was
well-established that a Pixar movie was a bonafide cultural event. The studio could be relied upon to release
a critically-acclaimed film every year or so – and it would be an animated spectacular
that both kids and parents would enjoy, alongside a handful of tie-in toys. Shops were woefully unprepared in 1995, when
the very first full-length Pixar movie Toy Story premiered. At that point, Pixar wasn’t a major force
in the market, so retailers didn’t stock up on enough of the tie-in merchandise. “To infinity and beyond!” “Not a flying toy.” “Get your Buzz Lightyear action figure and
save a galaxy near you! BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!” They certainly didn’t have enough real-life
figures of Buzz Lightyear lining the shelves. A manic frenzy for Toy Story toys developed
between the film’s release on November 22nd, 1995 and Christmas Day. Parents snatched up whatever was available,
leaving plenty of desperate shoppers in the dust. The drama even inspired a clever in-joke in
1999’s Toy Story 2: “And this is the Buzz Lightyear aisle. Back in 1995, shortsighted retailers did not
order enough dolls to meet demand.” Action figure lines had been hit or miss since
G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe dominated
the toy aisle in the mid-1980s. It took an action-packed TV show to bring
on a real resurgence, and that series was Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. The show followed a group of teenage martial
arts experts who wore colorful masks and jumpsuits, using their skills to defeat a bunch of bad
guys from outer space. “Power rangers!” “Uh-oh!” “Ruuuh!!” “FIRE!” Easily identifiable characters? Weapons? Robots? This show had everything kids liked. After the show debuted in late 1993, Power
Rangers Fever officially took hold in 1994. By Christmas of that year, toy stores couldn’t
keep merchandise in stock. “Aw, these guys are pushovers.” “Awwww!” In an effort to fend off predatory toy dealers,
some shops resorted to making customers ask for the toys, or limiting sales. Merchandise even sold on QVC. In fact, a Power Rangers toy event moved $1.9
million worth of product in two hours. As Christmas loomed, manufacturer Bandai fielded
700 phone calls a week from frantic parents looking for stores that might still have these
guys in stock. The first Home Alone film was a massive hit
at the box office in 1990. People simply couldn’t get enough of little
Kevin McAllister, played by a young Macaulay Culkin. The film had all the trimmings of a Christmas
classic in the making, only with slapstick cruelty filling in for the Yuletide cheer:
Young Kevin burned the burglars’ hands with flaming hot doorknobs, and smashed their faces
with plummeting irons and flying paint cans. Well, If Home Alone popularized good-natured
sadism, Home Alone 2 popularized personal voice recorders for kids. In the second film, Kevin gets separated from
his family in New York, and at one point in the story, he uses a device called a Talkboy
to slow down and deepen his voice: “Plaza Hotel reservations. May I help you?” “How do you do? This is Peter McAllister, the father.” “Yes, sir?” “I’d like a hotel room, please.” Before the film’s release in 1992, the Talkboy
wasn’t on store shelves. It was just a prop built for the movie, but
it was also super slick product placement. On the same day of the movie’s release, the
Talkboy was put on toy shelves. Demand for this toy was so high that Tiger
Electronics manufactured the Talkboy for years to come, making sure stores around the country
were well-stocked with the deluxe version of the gadget in time for Christmas 1993. “Hi kids, we’re home early.” “Hi kids, we’re home early.” Nevertheless, lots of retailers still sold
out of the device, which presumably made plenty of kids do this: “Aaaaargh!” As the story goes, a Danish fisherman and
woodworker named Thomas Dam invented troll dolls back in 1959, because he couldn’t afford
a store-bought toy to give his daughter for her birthday. Instead, he decided to make a toy of his very
own, inspired by his own imagination and the forest-dwelling, luck-bringing trolls of Nordic
legend. Her treasured toy reportedly caught the eye
of a Danish toy store owner, who prompted Dam to form a company and sell his creepy
creations throughout the world. About a million of his troll dolls were purchased
in the U.S. in 1964. Then in the ’90s, these little fellows found
themselves back in style again. [Singing] “Can’t stop hugging the troll kids. Can’t stop hugging the troll kids.” The popularity of troll dolls surged in America
in 1992, when retro toys were hot, hot, hot for Christmas. In fact, troll dolls were far and away the
most popular old-school toy that year, with their wide grins and that wild shock of colorful
hair, coming at you in several sizes and from several different manufacturers. Believe it or not, Americans reportedly snatched
up about $1 billion worth of troll dolls back in the early ’90s. For the fourth Christmas in five years, the
number one thing on kids’ Christmas list happened to be a Nintendo product. This time, it was the Super Nintendo Entertainment
System, which at that point was the video-game maker’s latest and greatest home console. In North America, the system originally retailed
for $199, twice the price of the NES from a couple of years before. But the graphics promised to be twice as good,
as this was a 16-bit system as opposed to the 8-bit system of the NES. When it first hit stores in the summer of
’91, only a handful of games were available. This included the bundled Super Mario World,
while games like Pilotwings and F-Zero could be purchased in stores. Nintendo anticipated selling at least two
million SNES consoles by the time Christmas had come and gone. Ultimately, Nintendo sold over 23 million
systems all told. Ah yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These “heroes in a half shell” turned out
to be an unlikely success story, which began as an underground comic book back in 1984. That’s where we first met this quartet of
mutated reptiles named after Renaissance artists. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live in a
sewer, eat pizza, and train in the martial arts under a rat sensei named Splinter. By 1987, a popular animated TV series was
on the air. In 1990, the first live-action Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles movie hit the big screen, earning over $200 million at the box office. Action figure versions of the Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles were readily available in the late ’80s, but sales absolutely exploded after
the film. More than 300 products hit toy stores in time
for Christmas. The Game Boy was an innovative, portable video
game system that proved to be a huge success for Nintendo. This wasn’t exactly the newer, better, faster
generation of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Instead, it was marketed as a device that
offered all the joys of the NES, but in the form of a battery-powered, pocket-sized device. “It’s portable. It’s in stereo. And its games are interchangeable.” Thanks to the device’s two-inch, green-colored
screen, gamers could leave their bedrooms and rec rooms and bring the Game Boy everywhere,
along with addictive games like Tetris, which came bundled with the system. Portable consoles became a profitable alternative
to traditional gaming for Nintendo, and it led to later devices like the Game Boy Advance
and the 3DS. All told, Nintendo sold over 118 million of
the original Game Boy. But it wasn’t their first success. In 1985, Nintendo launched a brand new entertainment
system that offered eye-popping graphics and sound. At least, for the time. Sales of the Nintendo Entertainment System
started picking up significantly in North America when the company offered the product
in different bundles. The original Basic Set included nothing but
the console, but later versions included a single game, like Super Mario Bros. In 1988, this was followed by the more expensive
Action Set, which included the NES Zapper. Oh, and we should probably mention the short-lived
accessory, R.O.B. The Robot: “Are you ready? Is your family ready for the incredible Nintendo
Entertainment System? Are you ready for R.O.B., the extraordinary
video robot?” The NES was a retail phenomenon, selling 10
million copies by the beginning of the 1988 holiday shopping season. By the time Christmas came and went, another
seven million customers had purchased one. In the 1980s, an engineer named Ken Forsse
added some cutting-edge technology to a toy as old and classic as they come – the teddy
bear. The result was Teddy Ruxpin, the first commercially
available toy to feature animatronics. “I failed again.” “How ’bout these, master?” “Hi there! My name is Teddy Ruxpin!” Teddy was outfitted with a cassette deck,
where kids placed one of many tapes full of magical stories. And then Teddy told his tall tales to excited
little kids. His lips and eyes moved, like the friendliest,
furriest robot on the storytelling scene. The toy hit stores in late 1985 just before
a terrifying Saturday morning special aired on ABC. “Golly, she is a real wood sprite! No bigger than a bird. And very pretty.” “Well how ’bout movin’ this big… ooh!” Teddy Ruxpins became increasingly popular
throughout 1986. By Christmas, it was one of the most sought
after toys in the country. $93 million worth of Teddy Ruxpin dolls had
been sold after being in stores for just one year. More than 20 years before it was a billion-dollar
movie franchise that launched Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox to superstardom, the Transformers
were a line of toy robots that – with just a few turns and clicks – “transformed” into
cars, trucks, and various other snappy disguises. “Introducing Blaster. He looks like an innocent radio but transforms
into a powerful Autobot communicator.” Launched in late 1984 alongside the animated
Transformers series, their popularity reached a fever pitch in 1985, generating $333 million
in revenue that year, a quarter of all of Hasbro’s sales. Cabbage Patch Kids certainly weren’t the first
soft, squeezable dolls with interchangeable outfits. But several marketing gimmicks helped make
them an extremely hot commodity. “Wow…!! I’m bouncing up and down…!” These dolls clearly weren’t your average,
faceless, mass-produced toys. They even came with “adoption papers” to make
their new owner feel more like a parent. In the ads, fully grown adults perhaps got
a little too excited about this fact, particularly since they presumably had real kids of their
own: “They’re here!” “Look, genuine adoption papers and birth certificate.” “Even get a birthday card.” The problem with turning out one “special”
doll after another: each Cabbage Patch Kid took a lot of time to make, and parent company
Coleco simply couldn’t churn them out fast enough to meet demand. The dolls became massively popular throughout
1983, leading to total madness during the holiday shopping season. Dolls sold for twice their label price, parents
attacked each other at toy stores, and other parents camped out in shop parking lots in
order to meet incoming shipments. “Where is she? Is that what Christmas is about?” “I agree with you 100%.” “A full-grown woman taking a doll out of a
child’s hand!” The fad certainly didn’t subside in 1984,
but Coleco managed to get ahead of the curve, increasing production well before the holiday
season. But the dolls remained hard to get, with thousands
of parents on waiting lists by Christmas 1984. Many of them didn’t receive their dolls well
into 1985. By then, distributor Coleco was enjoying sales
of $776 million, and the vast majority of that money was thanks to Cabbage Patch Kids. The Rubik’s Cube was perhaps the definitive
fad of the ’80s. Created by Hungarian architect and design
teacher Erno Rubik, the hand-sized block requires users to rotate the colored, movable pieces
of a cube until each side is the exact same color. Easier said than done – unless you’re this
guy. [A young child solves multiple Rubik’s Cubes
whilst juggling them. Steve Harvey is dumbfounded.] The toy was originally marketed to adults. In fact, the product launch was hosted by
none other than Hungarian celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor. But the Rubik’s Cube really took off as a
children’s toy, probably because kids had the time and patience to solve it. Following its success, officially-sanctioned
Rubik’s spinoffs like Rubik’s Race and Rubik’s Revenge flooded the market. Bantam Books biggest bestseller of 1981 was
The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube, which was purchased by over seven million people
who simply couldn’t get the colors to line up on their own. “You’re watching the most exciting game you’ll
ever see on your TV set.” For years, consumers could buy an electronic
gaming device that hooked into a TV and allowed them to play games like Pong, but the launch
of the Atari VCS – or Atari Video Computer System – popularized the notion of games on
interchangeable cartridges, promising players an array of choices. This Atari video game system launched in 1977,
and slowly grew in popularity. It was a white-hot commodity around Christmastime
in 1979 and sold a million units, all while competing with upstarts like the Intellivision
and the Odyssey. Atari dominated the video game market throughout
the early ’80s. In fact, the console had made its way into
four million more homes in 1982 alone. The folks at Mego Toys must be kicking themselves. In 1977, they turned down the chance to manufacture
and distribute toys based around a small, science-fiction movie with a cast of unknowns. Instead, their rival Kenner took the deal. Yes, that movie was Star Wars, which became
a much more massive hit than anyone could’ve imagined. That year, millions of kids wanted nothing
more than to find Princess Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker under their Christmas
tree. Unfortunately, Kenner didn’t have enough time
to make their Star Wars toys, so they didn’t. To pacify fans, the company sold an item called
the “Early Bird Certificate Package” – a shoebox-sized cardboard stand that featured images of Star
Wars figures and a mail-in certificate that was good for four action figures that would
supposedly be shipped in a few months. “They’re the Star Stars ‘Early Bird’ set of
figures. These action figures are not yet available,
but this Star Wars ‘Early Bird’ certificate package is in stores.” Unfortunately, a lot of stores sold out of
the Early Bird Certificate Package, too. In other words, in Christmas ’77, countless
parents gave their kids the promise that they’d receive their toys sometime in the spring
or summer. Star Wars action figures did eventually make
it into stores in 1978, and Kenner ultimately sold $100 million worth of what was initially
a line of 12 figures. Kids can be a rambunctious bunch, particularly
on Christmas morning. How many children were heartbroken after Santa’s
stop-in because they immediately broke all their brand new toys? That wasn’t a problem on December 25th, 1976,
when Stretch Armstrong was the most popular toy. Stretch Armstrong was a latex doll made to
look like a blond guy in trunks with a condensed corn syrup center, which explains his considerable
stretching capabilities. Armstrong’s arms, legs, and torso could be
pulled, bent, and tied in knots according to taste. At his longest, Mr. Armstrong could be extended
to four feet long. “How’d he do that?” “Heh, he’s been ‘doing that’ since he was
a kid!” Kenner ultimately sold $50 million worth of
the $11 doll. Now seen as the ultimate example of a dumb
fad, the Pet Rock didn’t really do anything. It was literally just a rock in a box. Advertising executive Gary Dahl took small
stones from a Mexican beach and nestled them on beds of hay in tiny cardboard boxes that
had holes cut out, presumably so that the rocks could breathe and enjoy a decent quality
of life. The Pet Rock sold well throughout 1975, making
for an ideal Christmas gift that year. By the time the fad died out, approximately
1.5 million Pet Rocks had found their forever homes. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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24 thoughts on “The Most Popular Christmas Toy The Year You Were Born

  1. The real Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Beast Wars: Transformers were some of my favorite toys that I got for Christmas (other than many other toys I got over the years). I was born in 1986

  2. Pretty sure I got an Atari in '82. Got a Nintendo in '86 but had to wait until freakin' March because they were so back logged on orders!

  3. I wonder what was the most popular toy for Christmas in 1940? (I was less than a year old at the time, so I don't remember.) I'm really surprised at your segment on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Didn't you know that the guys who came up with the concept were reacting to the tie-in product lines for Saturday morning animated (and live action) TV shows? They aimed for something outrageous and catchy and worked backward from the best sort of toy to manufacture, with some character variations, and eventually came up with the famous TMNT plus a mutated rat Sensei. The rest is HIST-o-ree!

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