The Coolest Toys
It’s easy for young parents to feel a bit out of their element the first time they go toy shopping for their kids. It’s hard to connect with these new toys because we don’t have an emotional connection with them. We miss our toys, and nothing would please us more than to see our kids playing with toys that we once loved.
Well, we’re here to say that not only is it possible, but it also makes economic sense. You see, most of us still have those old toys laying around, because we just couldn’t bear to part with them. So why not head back to your parents house one weekend, and dig up some of your old things and present them to your kids. They may not be completely satisfied (meaning that you’re still going to have to buy them stuff they really want) but even the pickiest kid won’t say no to a roomful of extra toys to play with, and probably destroy. Plus, you’ll be able to join in and actually enjoy it.
Photo Credit: evelynishere
Every kid wants to be able to drive a car and spends countless hours thinking about what kind of car they’d drive if they could. That’s probably why little toy cars have been so popular for so many years.
Just about every 30-year-old guy in America has a box of these cars sitting in his parents’ house. Some of them can be found for sale online but like we said, chances are you or a bunch of people you know have them already. Just ask around.
Photo Credit: Matt Schilder
Yes, the movie was a huge blockbuster and there are tons of new Transformer toys on the market, but all children of the '80s know that the real Transformers era was defined by the cartoon and the ORIGINAL toys.
I mean, who among us doesn’t remember the day they realized that the voice of Starscream and the voice of Cobra Commander were in fact one in the same? That was our Watergate.
Anyway, classic Transformers were and are the bomb, so do your kids a favor, find your old stash and show them how awesome Soundwave is (hopefully you still have the cassettes).
Photo Credit: chanchan222
Remote Control Vehicle
There are plenty of remote control cars and boats out there, and kids love them, but the R.C. devices that they go really bananas for are the ones that fly. Planes. Helicopters. Blimps even. And there are lots of them out there.
There were 149 remote control planes listed on eBay when we wrote this and we randomly found two for sale together in Indiana on Craigslist for $50.
Photo Credit: KlausNahr
Old Board Games
Most of us have or had the board game closet at home, and when we were growing up it was chock-full with tons of board games. There’s usually a range of games, starting with Chutes and Ladders for younguns, then the Game of Life, Monopoly and eventually we graduate to Scrabble and chess.
If we’re lucky, our parents have maintained that game spot and it’s ripe for the pilfering. I was just at my mom’s house last week and managed to grab Trivial Pursuit (and team MainStreet routinely crushes TheStreet’s Gregg Greenberg).
Photo Credit: GreenColander
Toy train sets are often set aside as collectibles and can be worth big bucks, but chances are, even if you didn’t have one when you were a kid, you have a relative that has a box of them up in the attic. If you can get your hands on some, definitely grab them.
There’s something – well, magical – about toy trains and lots of kids really go crazy for them. They are also a fun activity for parents and kids to do together and build up over time. We found a pretty basic Lionel train set for sale on Craigslist for $135, but be on the lookout for garage sales too.
Photo Credit: Killfile
These days, Lincoln Logs are made of plastic, which I think we can all agree is sacrilege. Back in the day, they were made of wood, as all logs should be, and they made it possible for all of us kids to have a nice cabin in the woods for summer and weekend retreats.
If you can find your old set, grab them and enjoy the wonderful aroma of recreational timber. We found a 30-year-old set for sale outside of Philly for just $10. The seller found them in the attic.
Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer
These tiny stuffed animals were once thought to be a better long-term investment then gold. Unfortunately for all those people who spend thousands of dollars on their collections and held on to them, the Beanie Baby market slumped hard and now the plush toys can be bought for a song. That’s good news if you’ve got a little one who absolutely loves stuffed animals.
Photo Credit: Bludgeoner86
I had to ask a few fellow MainStreet staffers about this one. Polly Pockets are pocket-sized dolls in pocket-sized cases and were first sold by Bluebird Toys in 1989, then later by toy making giant Mattel, which bought Bluebird.
Kids loved them in the ‘80s and ‘90s because they were cute and portable, but their small size made the dolls and their accessories easy to lose. Even as recently as 2007, some of the toys were recalled because of magnets that could detach and become a choking hazard to kids. But if you find an old Polly Pocket in your closet and it’s not one of those, it could still be a hit.
Mattel makes Polly Pockets even now, and it has expanded the brand to include not-so-pocket-sized items as well.
Photo Credit: evelynishere
Whether they’re a pencil topper, a keychain or a bigger figure, Troll dolls are a classic collectible, and if you dig in the cushions of your mom's couch you'll probably find one.
Back in the day, kids rubbed their round and even bejeweled bellies and stroked their brightly-colored hair to bring good luck. If they could stand to look at them. These cute-but-ugly toys go in the “either you love them or hate them” category. And man do love them. There are plenty of collectors, and new ones are still being sold in toy stores, and even on Amazon.com.
Photo Credit: EraPhernalia
Old Video Game Systems
This one may be a tougher sell if your kid has already become accustomed to the amazing graphics and sounds of current gaming systems.
Let’s face it: An original Nintendo – even a Super Nintendo – can’t compare with a PlayStation 3. They shouldn't even appear in the same paragraph. That said, if your kid has an appreciation for classics, then this is worth a shot.
I mean, I like backgammon and that game is thousands of years old, so there’s every reason to think that your kid might have some appreciation for the original Legend of Zelda … or in the very least Super Mario Brothers II. Duck Hunt? Definitely Metroid.
Photo Credit: MNgilen
The Barbie doll business is timeless, and little girls will always love them, and their brothers will always rip their heads off and feed them to the dog.
There are plenty of new Barbie dolls on the market – our current favorite is the recently released “Sugar Daddy Ken” doll. He’s an older Ken with silver hair and a fancy green blazer who walks a tiny dog (named Sugar). We think the blazer might signify wealth, while the tiny dog and silver hair symbolize geriatric Ken’s desire to attract much younger women. Nice work with that one, Mattel.
Seriously ladies, instead grab your box of mutilated Barbies and Skippers and hand them down to your daughters, or else you run the risk of your kid actually marrying a guy like Sugar Daddy Ken. I guess that’s better than Meth Head Ken (next year’s collection?).
Photo Credit: Brani's Fashion Dolls
Children of the' 80s will remember this amazing, mechanical construction set. It’s hard to describe, except to say it was both aquatic and outer-space oriented at the same time. If you’ve got kids who seem to be budding engineers, this is the toy for them.
Hopefully you can find your old set, or you can search on eBay and Craigslist, but it turns out they actually still make these toys and they are relatively affordable. Check out this YouTube video demonstrating how they work.
Photo Credit: hankscards
Classic Action Figures
Lots of these old school action figures are worth a lot of money, so if you’re looking to buy a bunch of old Star Wars figures for example, think again. However, if you’re like me then you’ll be able to find a fantastic assortment of Star Wars, G.I. Joe and WWF action figures in a trunk in your dad’s garage.
If your parents trashed your toys, then start asking your friends and neighbors for buckets of broken and dismembered action figures. Kids won’t mind if they are messed up because they’ll be able to assemble mutant armies with tons of crazy-looking foot soldiers.
Photo Credit: Craig Hatfield
Radio Flyer Wagon
I never quite understood the fascination with this one but, let’s face it, there’s something special about a red wagon. First of all, it’s practical.
Kids need something to haul around all their old, dismembered action figures. Beyond that, the Radio Flyer is a an amazing example of pure Americana. If you don’t have one, your parents may have theirs from when they were kids. These days they actually sell plastic versions of them too.
Photo Credit: Mymollypop
Sit 'n' Spin
It’s a scientific fact: Kids are happier when they are spinning. Hasbro first began making the Sit 'n' Spin more than 30 years ago.
This is from their Web site : “Way back in the 1970s, it occurred to us that spinning and preschoolers are a natural combination.” You know what else is a natural combination? A 5-year-old spinning at 20 miles per hour for 10 minutes straight and then throwing up Yoo-Hoo and Cheerios all over the living room. But no matter. Sit 'n' Spins are awesome, puke and all, and if you can’t find an old one in the basement, you can pick up a new one for just $20.
Photo Credit: Hasbro
Pogo Stick & Pogo Ball
I could never quite get the hang of a pogo stick, and I was insanely jealous of the kids who were great at it. I was overjoyed, however, when the Pogo Ball came out in the 1980s.
It was much easier to balance on, and as you can see, it was way more extreme. You can still buy them too, for about $15.
Photo Credit: ndrwfgg
There are two types of kids in the world: Those who can walk on stilts and those who can’t. I was a member of the latter group, though I have a sense that my kid will be part of the former. When the time comes, I’m going to build her a set of stilts.
The design is pretty simple and all you really need is some wood and nails. If she gets really good at them, maybe one day I’ll get her extreme jumping stilts, which are decidedly NOT retro and look like a lot of fun.
Photo Credit: Foxtongue
If only Ole Kirk Christiansen, the Danish inventor of the Lego, had lived long enough to see just how huge these toys have become (he died in 1958). According to one estimate, there are more than 1,000,000,000,000,000 Legos in the world (that’s quadrillion, people).
That means that chances are there are at least a few Legos in every house you’ve ever been in, in your entire life. You know you’ve got a bucket of them somewhere. Grab them, walk into your kid’s room, and dump the bucket in the middle of the floor. Then the two of you can start building something together (I never followed the directions as a kid, did you?). I suggest a space fort.
Photo Credit: Mr. Thomas
Who wants a portable trampoline? I do. Moon Shoes were big in the 1990s and were the brainchild of the folks at Nickelodeon. The idea is that they simulate walking around in a low-gravity environment, like the moon. You can still these puppies, and at $30 I’m considering getting a pair for myself (I’ve got small feet).
Photo Credit" JonL
I hated birthday parties at the roller skating rink because I was the kid clutching the wall. Since I couldn’t steer, I’d basically have to cut across the rink whenever I worked up the courage to push off the side boards. I can still hear the loud thud that the skates and my body made as they hit the opposite side.
Be that as it may, I’m the first to admit that the kids who actually could skate looked like they were having a heck of a time. So if your kid has a bit more coordination than me, then dust off your old roller skates, apply some grease to wheels and get that youngster rolling.
Photo Credit: The Real Estraya
It’s amazing to me that suburban skater kids from the '80s are now old enough to have kids of their own. Most of these skater parents probably won’t want to part with their old boards for sentimental reasons, but I’d like to urge them to reconsider.
A skateboard should be used, so if you skater parents are lucky enough to have produced skater offspring, then I think it’s only right that you hand down your board to the next generation. And the next generation should, in turn, completely thrash it.
Photo Credit: magoexperto
Etch a Sketch
I was never one of those people who could reproduce the Mona Lisa on an Etch A Sketch … in fact I think the best I could muster was the letter “t” (lower case). Regardless of you level of talent, these toys are really fun, and your kids will love it, even if their creations resemble little Jackson Pollocks. In this case, a hand-me-down might not work too well. Etch A Sketches, in my experience, have a life span. After a while there are dead spots where you can’t draw, and they seem to spread. Chances are you’ll have to spring for a new one, but they’re only about $12.
Photo Credit: Eliya