Prepare for a seasonal saunter down memory lane. New research by musicMagpie has listed the holiday season’s most popular toys for the last 50 years – and it’s filled with absolute Christmas crackers.
The clearest trend is the rise of hi-tech presents and skyrocketing prices. As recently as the 1990s, on average, the top five most popular gifts each year totalled a combined cost of £336 in today’s money – a far cry from the £1,466 total for 2019. From the 1970s to the turn of the millennium, these are some of our favourite Christmas toys.
Space Hopper, 1971 – Also known as a moon hopper, hoppity horse, skippyball and a great many other things, the humble space hopper sprang into the nation’s living rooms with a satisfying ‘boing’ and more than a little collateral damage.
Rosebud Preserves - the award-winning Yorkshire business that started from a family kitchen 30 years ago
Ahead of the Mastermind memory game and the 99p Etch-A-Sketch in the festive stakes, the hopper found success in a less technical era, when personal stereos and electronic entertainment systems were still some years off.
Hungry Hungry Hippos, 1978 – Beautiful in its simplicity, Hungry Hungry Hippos was a back-to-basics, fun-for-all-the-family festive option, after more expensive gifts like the Atari games console and 8 track cassette player that found success in preceding years.
Published by tabletop giants Hasbro, the game debuted with a successful TV ad campaign featuring a line of cartoon hippos and a memorable jingle: “It’s a race, it’s a chase, hurry up and feed their face!”
Rubik’s Cube, 1980 – Part of the furniture in the modern toy shop, it seems almost strange that there was a time before the Rubik’s Cube, but these portable puzzles were invented by the Hungarian sculptor Erno Rubik in 1974.
Help needed to fix Hardcastle Crags’ famous stepping stones
Now thought to be the world’s bestselling toy, the cube was initially a mechanical experiment, designed to retain structural integrity despite consisting entirely of moving parts. After a quick re-branding, the puzzle went the toy equivalent of viral, delighting and infuriating children and adults, communists and capitalists alike.
The Batmobile, 1989 – From the small screen to the silver screen, 1989 showcased an all too familiar trend for modern gift-givers – the inestimable influence of the summer blockbuster. Tim Burton’s hugely-anticipated Batman movie hit cinemas in June, and the studio approved Batmobile model promptly dominated winter wish lists.
PlayStation, 1995 – The early-Nineties saw a mini-Renaissance for conventional toys – Barbie, Action Man, Play-Doh, Silly Putty and the Cabbage Patch Kids all managed to cut through the tide of tech – but in 1995 the Sony PlayStation ushered in a new era of video game dominance.
Nine years later, it became the first console ever to shift more than 100 million units. By then the race between Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft was dominating Christmas lists across the land: 2005, 2006 and 2007 were topped by the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, and the PlayStation 3 respectively, until they were displaced in 2008 by, of all things, a High School Musical-themed dance mat.
Bettys and the art of Christmas window displays
Furbies, 1998 – Hot on the heels of Tamagotchi, these lovable electric pets provided a brief but noteworthy respite from the video game onslaught when they hit shelves in 1998.
Looking back now, Furbies resemble a very basic form of household AI.
Newly purchased units were programmed to steadily ‘learn’ English phrases from their owners, while the recent Emoto-tronic range comes with much more advanced facial expressions.
As far as we’re aware, no Furbies have yet passed the Turing test, but with another 20 years of ‘learning’ under their belts, who knows...