X

We handpick the products and services we write about. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

The biggest toy from the year you were born

Elmo, Lego, Nerf -- relive your childhood with this definitive list (and maybe buy some nostalgia, too).

Mike Rothschild

See full bio
snoopy1969
1 of 50 Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Yes, you can still buy these

What's the toy you miss the most from your childhood? And how many of these do you remember? We're going back through 50 years of America's buzziest, most talked-about toys, with the help of the Strong National Museum of Play, which provided this list.

We'll start with 1969, the year of the Snoopy Astronaut.

With his jaunty bubble helmet and air pack, Astronaut Snoopy is ready to play his part in moon-landing fever! Not sure the scarf will help much in the cold vacuum of space, though. 

nerf1970
2 of 50 Mike Mozart

1970 - Nerf Ball

The world's first ball designed for indoor play, "Nerf" stands for "non-expanding recreational foam." It sold 4 million balls in its first year -- sparing windows around the country.

weebles1971
3 of 50 Virginia Sherwood/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

1971 - Weebles

Based on the clown from the hit TV show "Romper Room," these egg-shaped little people were so hard to knock over that the brand's slogan was "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down." 

uno1972
4 of 50 ISC Images & Archives/Getty Images

1972 - Uno

Barber Merle Robbins invented Uno as a riff on the classic game crazy eights, but with cards you can customize. He mortgaged his house and traveled the country to sell it. It became a huge sensation, and Robbins never cut hair again. 

shrinky-dinks1972.png
5 of 50 Mike Mozart

1973 - Shrinky Dinks

These thin sheets that bake into shapes were invented by two Wisconsin moms for a Boy Scouts project. The shapes have been used for everything from stem cell research to art therapy.

dnd
6 of 50 Getty Images

1974 - Dungeons and Dragons

The iconic role playing game introduced standard concepts in the genre, and is still the biggest-selling RPG of all time. In the 1980s, it was at the center of a moral panic over alleged links to Satanism.

petrock1975
7 of 50 Bettmann/Getty Images

1975 - Pet Rock

Marketing executive Gary Dahl invented pet rocks to mock his friends who complained about their real pets. The rocks were bought in bulk from beaches in Mexico, and cost 1 cent to polish. 

cher1976
8 of 50 Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

1976 - Cher doll

Designed to cash in on the popularity of The Sonny and Cher Show, these foot-tall likenesses of Sonny and Cher instantly became huge hits. Well, Cher did. Sonny, not so much. Original Chers are hard to find now, because they tended to melt easily

starwars1977
9 of 50 OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

1977 - Star Wars action figures

Because 20th Century Fox was convinced that Star Wars would flop, the studio let director George Lucas keep its merchandising rights in exchange for his directing fees. In one year, Star Wars toys grossed $100 million for Kenner.

simon1978
10 of 50 Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images

1978 - Simon

Milton Bradley introduced its electronic version of "Simon Says" with a midnight party at the notorious disco Studio 54. The four notes "Simon" plays are the four notes played by a bugle. 

atari1979
11 of 50 Wahyu Ichwandardi/Getty

1979 - Atari 2600

The 2600 sold a million copies during the 1979 holiday season, and was so popular that Atari had to rush unfinished new games out to meet customer demands, leading to poor reviews and an industry crash a few years later.

rubiks1980
12 of 50 Alastair Martin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

1980 - Rubik's Cube

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik's toy sparked multiple bestselling books about how to solve it. The original 3x3 cube can make 43 quintillion different combinations

heman1981
13 of 50 Dinello/The People/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

1981 - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Mattel designed He-Man to compete with Star Wars action figures. The character was based on a Viking warrior, and despite a high-profile lawsuit alleging so, it did not take inspiration from Conan the Barbarian. 

carebears1982
14 of 50 Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

1982 - Care Bears

The Care Bears were developed as characters for American Greetings cards in 1981. You know a Care Bear is authentic if it has a hard plastic heart on its rear end.

cabbagepatchkids1983
15 of 50

1983 - Cabbage Patch Kids

The plush dolls were hugely popular around Christmas 1983, but most stores hadn't ordered enough. This lead to massive brawls, injuries, and even near-riots when empty-handed parents didn't get one of the limited supplies.    

trivialpursuit1984
16 of 50 Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

1984 - Trivial Pursuit

The game was first created in Canada in 1979 by Scrabble players who lost too many pieces to play. Its popularity peaked in 1984 when the original game sold tens of thousands of copies.

teddyruxpin1985
17 of 50 CNET

1985 - Teddy Ruxpin

Ruxpin was a teddy bear that could read kids a bedtime story using interchangeable tapes. Though it was America's most popular toy for two years, its maker went bankrupt thanks to the 1987 stock market crash, but the recent reboot adds some updated electronics to the old favorite

lasertag1987
18 of 50 John Mahler/Toronto Star via Getty Images

1986 - Laser tag

The concept of laser tag wasn't one product, but a game developed by several different companies who built game centers in malls. It was based on a US Army training system that used infrared beams fired into clothing sensors. 

jenga1987
19 of 50 Fiona Hanson/PA Images/Getty Images

1987 - Jenga

Jenga was developed by a British game designed in the late '70s, based on blocks bought at a bazaar in Ghana. The name "jenga" is derived from kujenga, Swahili for "to build."

nes1988
20 of 50 TENGKU BAHAR/AFP via Getty Images

1988 - Nintendo Entertainment System

The NES is the best-selling video game system of all time, and revitalized the industry after the 1983 post-Atari crash. By 1990, one-third of all American households had one -- far more than owned personal computers. 

gameboy1989
21 of 50 Artur Debat/Getty Images

1989 - Game Boy

Nintendo's handheld version of the NES wasn't the first system to feature game cartridges, but it was by far the most popular. The one game linked to it more than any other is "Tetris," which sold 35 million copies just for the Game Boy.

teenage
22 of 50 Getty Images

1990 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Though it was a huge kids craze in the '90s, TMNT started as a self-published comic book in 1983. The comics were much grittier and more violent than the "cowabunga" pizza-eating turtles of the cartoons.

supersoaker
23 of 50 Thomas S. England/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

1991 - Super Soaker

NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker, inspired by his experiments with high-velocity water-operated pumps. It took him 10 years to develop the squirt gun that's since become the standard for backyard water wars. 

supernes
24 of 50 Neil Godwin/GamesMaster Magazine/Getty Images

1992 - Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Just like the Nintendo was the best selling system of the 8-bit technology era, the SNES was the best seller of the 16-bit era. The "video game wars" of the early 1990s pitted Sega's Genesis against the SNES -- and naturally, Nintendo won.

barney
25 of 50 James Keyser/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

1993 - Barney

The purple dinosaur hatched from a Texas mom whose son had outgrown all the children's shows of the time. It was adapted for PBS by an executive who later said, "it is not a program for parents. Barney relates to preschoolers." No kidding. 

mmpr
26 of 50 Mario Ruiz/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

1994 - Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

The biggest kids TV franchise of the mid-'90s combined stock footage from Japanese TV shows with new scenes. Despite its popularity, the show ran only three seasons (with the cast mostly replaced) because it ran out of stock footage to recut.

beaniebabies
27 of 50 Bill Greenblatt/Getty Images

1995 - Beanie Babies

Creators Ty, Inc. made a limited number of each design, and retired them almost at random, inflating the value of the rarest babies to thousands of dollars. It also had the first direct-sales website in history.

ticklemeelmo
28 of 50 James Keyser/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

1996 - Tickle Me Elmo

Elmo was such a huge hit that it inspired another wave of Cabbage Patch-style carnage. With only a million Elmos made in the first year, Elmo mania saw fights, trampled sales clerks, and unrepentant scalping. 

tamagotchi
29 of 50 Yves Forestier/Sygma/Getty Images

1997 - Tamagotchi

The Japanese virtual pet lived in a small electronic egg, and didn't do much other than eat, sleep, poop and eventually die. So many kids took their pets to class (because early versions died almost immediately without care) that schools banned them.

furby
30 of 50 DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

1998 - Furby

The fuzzy, big-eyed Furby could learn English and repeat phrases back to you. The US government was so concerned over Furby's listening abilities that the NSA banned them from its facilities for fear China was using them to spy.

pokemoncards
31 of 50 Evan Agostini/Liaison Agency/Getty Images

1999 - Pokemon Cards

The Pokemon franchise was already huge when the first collectible card game hit the market in 1999. They are still so valuable that a mint condition set of original cards sold for more than $107,000 in 2019. 

razorscooter
32 of 50 Ted Soqui/Sygma/Getty Images

2000 - Razor Scooter

The idea of a foldable scooter seems pretty simple. But when Razor introduced its scooter in mid-2000, copycats tweaked the design. By the end of the year, Razor had gotten a patent on the design, then sued two dozen companies for infringement. 

bratz
33 of 50 Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

2001 - Bratz

The big-eyed Bratz dolls were a hipper version of Mattel's workhorse Barbie, but kids loved them both. The two companies behind the dolls did not love each other, and have spent almost two decades filing competing lawsuits

beyblade
34 of 50 Jean-Michel TURPIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

2002 - Beyblade

The spinning battle top game Beyblade features hundreds of tops, guns to shoot the tops, and stadiums for them to battle in.

robosapien
35 of 50 David Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

2003 - Robosapien

The Robosapien is an interactive robot that can be programmed to do simple tasks, such as giving high fives, picking up socks, and fighting a global machine war for SkyNet.

doratheexplorer
36 of 50 Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

2004 - Dancing Dora the Explorer

The dancing Dora gyrates in a circle while singing the song We Did It from the Dora the Explorer TV series. Being a peaceful explorer, she does not fight Robosapien.

webkinz
37 of 50 Kim Foster-Tobin/The State/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

2005 - Webkinz

Webkinz combined a plush toy with an online component where kids could adopt and care for them. They were like Tamagotchis that didn't die - except when Webkinz owner Ganz deleted tens of thousands of inactive Webkinz accounts in 2019. 

nintendowii
38 of 50 Gilles BASSIGNAC/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

2006 - Nintendo Wii

Another year dominated by Nintendo. Released in mid-November, the Wii sold over 600,000 units in its first week, and moved so fast that there were world-wide shortages for months. Its hand-held wireless controller opened up a whole new world of games to buy.

ipodtouch
39 of 50 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

2007 - iPod Touch

The iPod Touch was released just months after the iPhone, and they do almost the same things, other than make calls. Steve Jobs was even said to have called the iTouch "training wheels for the iPhone." It's now the last of the Apple iPod line. 

rubiksrevolution
40 of 50 G. Gershoff/WireImage for Ruth C. Schwartz and Co./Getty

2008 - Rubik's Revolution

Nearly three decades after its birth, Rubik's Cube was back in an electronic form that used LED lights instead of movable pieces to play a variety of different games. It was a hit, though not quite the fad of the original cube.

zhuzhupets
41 of 50 Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

2009 - Zhu Zhu Pets

This plush family of robotic hamsters was both a huge hit and really scarce

monsterhigh
42 of 50 Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

2010 - Monster High Dolls

Faced with crashing sales for Barbie, Mattel launched Monster High, which basically looked like a zombie version of longtime competitors Bratz. Bratz followed with its own line of zombie-looking Bratz. 

skylanders
43 of 50 Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images/Skylanders Giants

2011 - Skylanders

Skylanders are action figures with chips inside that are read by a device that pits the characters against each other in combat. They aren't to be confused with Highlanders, the immortal warriors who can only be killed by removing their heads. 

wiiu
44 of 50 Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

2012 - Wii U

The HD upgrade to the Nintendo Wii, the Wii U sold like crazy in 2012, but cratered pretty fast. Nintendo drastically cut the price, and pulled the entire line within a few years.

teknopuppy
45 of 50 Gerald Martineau/The The Washington Post/Getty Images

2013 - Tekno the Robotic Puppy

Looking for a pet for your Robo-Sapien? Tekno featured more than 160 different functions and emotional reactions, and allowed little kids to enjoy having a pet without their parents cleaning up afterward. 

rainbowloom
46 of 50 Tobias Hase/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

2014 - Rainbow Loom

A simple peg board that lets users weave small rubber bands together, the Rainbow Loom was developed by a crash-test engineer.

bb8toy
47 of 50 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

2015 - BB-8 Droid

Everyone's favorite orange ball was the breakout star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The most popular piece of BB-8 merch was the remote-controlled droid that could do almost everything the movie's droid could. Except repair X-Wing fighters. Because those aren't real.

hatchimals
48 of 50 Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

2016 - Hatchimals

If a Furby and a Tamagotchi had a baby, it would be this robotic, hatching fur creature. Hatchimals learn to walk and talk, and need to be fed to live. A bunch of Hatchimals didn't hatch their first Christmas, and a few were even "born" having already died. Yikes. 

lolsurprise
49 of 50 Jack Taylor/Getty Images

2017 - L.O.L. Surprise Dolls

Cashing in on the YouTube unboxing video craze, L.O.L. Surprise Dolls are small dolls wrapped in layer after layer of stickers, notes, accessories, and other goodies. Naturally, unboxing videos of L.O.L. Surprise Dolls racked up millions of views on YouTube.

fingerlings
50 of 50 Victoria Jones/PA Images/Getty Images

2018 - Fingerlings

Last year's top toy checks all the boxes. They're small, adorable, react to stimulation, make funny sounds and are inexpensive enough to buy in bulk. Retail experts suspect that online bots bought them by the thousands and resold them online for big bucks.

More Galleries

59 Weird Objects Seen on Mars, Explained

More Galleries

59 Weird Objects Seen on Mars, Explained

62 Photos
2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

95 Photos
The 42 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The 42 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

43 Photos
Meyers Manx 2.0 EV Reimagines the Classic Dune Buggy

More Galleries

Meyers Manx 2.0 EV Reimagines the Classic Dune Buggy

13 Photos
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Prototype Hits the Road in South Korea

More Galleries

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Prototype Hits the Road in South Korea

20 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

More Galleries

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

82 Photos
2023 GMC Canyon Is a Mean Off-Road Machine

More Galleries

2023 GMC Canyon Is a Mean Off-Road Machine

59 Photos