Weekend Extra

Top holiday toys from the last 25 years

 1993 - Talkboy

 

What was so fun about the TalkBoy (and the TalkGirl) was that it didn't even exist until every kid said they wanted it. The TalkBoy made its first appearance in Home Alone 2, but it wasn't an actual product until toy manufacturer Tiger decided to produce the handheld tape recorder and cassette player. Kevin McAllister and every other kid on the planet immediately put the toy on their wishlist so they could spy on and trick their friends, parents, and any would-be criminals.  

1994 - Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Action Figures

Apparently, it's still Morphin' time because Power Rangers are the one toy on this list still in demand today. Just five years ago Power Rangers toys accounted for $60 million in sales. Even though the show premiered in the states in 1993, the 21 seasons of television and two feature-length movies have made sure the toys didn't die out like Beanie Babies and Furbys. 

1995 - Ty Beanie BabiesDid you know the Ty Beanie Babies got their start in 1993 at a gift show in Tennessee? The animals were created by Ty Warner, a well-known toy salesman with attitude issues, according to a lot of his colleagues. The Beanie Baby craze started when some of the plushes were discontinued or "retired" as Warner came to call it. Once retired, the demand for the toys skyrocketed. Some of the animals were selling for upwards of $1,800. In just four years, the Ty company was worth $1.3 billion. Ty Warner himself cleared $700 million that year. In 1997, USA Weekend said 64% of American households owned at least one Beanie Baby. In 2004, though, sales declined by 90%.

1996 - Tickle Me Elmo

The Tickle Me Elmo may have been the first "trample-worthy" toy of Christmas. Sure, Teddy Ruxpin and Cabbage Patch Dolls were huge, but Elmo took it to another level. The maker of the jiggly Elmo, Tyco, used talk show host Rosie O'Donnell  (and her 1-year-old son) to market the toy. They sent 200 dolls to the show and she threw them into the audience when her guests, Tom Hanks and Willie Nelson, would say a certain word. Then, Elmo got his spot on The Today Show. By Thanksgiving, some stores were selling out of Elmos in less than five minutes! 

1997 - Tamagotchi

When the Tamagotchi craze hit in the states in 1997, some stores in New York were selling 10,000 units in 24 hours. Bandai, one of the companies behind Power Rangers, developed the virtual pet in short supply, but some say that was just to drive up demand. Tamagotchi's tried to make a comeback last year, but the consumer market forgot to feed its Tamagotchi obsession and the craze died off, as most fads do. 

1998 - Furby

Ah, the Furby. One of the only toys on the list accused of wiretapping its owners. The Furby was actually inspired by the Tamagotchi, but the creators of the Furby wanted to create a companion that someone could pet. Within a week of its debut, the Furby was on back order... and they were 35,000 orders behind. Sales skyrocketed to 14 million units in 1999. The creator said it was such a big hit because the toy really did have a mind of its own, leading some to imagine it was actually alive. 

1999 - Pokemon

Originally named Pocket Monsters, these little beats surged in popularity thanks to Nintendo's Game Boy. However, then came the card game. Oh, the card game. Personally, I had my dad stop at the store every Friday after school so I could use my allowance to buy a new pack. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that if a Pokemon battle broke out on the playground I would be prepared. Now, 19 years later, the franchise is worth close to 15 billion dollars. You're welcome, Pokemon. Sincerely, my dad. 

2000 - The Razor Scooter

Before Bird and Lime there was Razor. Sold by The Sharper Image, the scooters made their debut at a toy fair early in the new millennium. It was an aluminum frame with roller blade wheels and a handle. The Sharper Image crew knew they had to get them to the U.S. In the last half of 2000, Razor and The Sharper Image had sold more than 500,000 scooters. However, after the holiday rush, Razor struggled to move product and started suing copycat companies. They're still relevant, though. To date, they've sold more than 34 million two-wheeled scooters. 

2001 - Bratz

We never thought Barbie could be dethroned until Bratz, oversized heads and all, showed up on the scene in 2001. Bratz was able to rule the marketplace mostly because of Barbie's and Mattel's complacency with what had worked for them before. However, Bratz disrupted the market and ended up becoming THE toy for young girls. Chloe, Jade, Sasha, and Yasmin were everything Barbie was not. They had exaggerated facial features, miniskirts, high boots, heels, and were billed as having sassy personalities. The dolls posed such a threat to Mattel that the company took them to court, nearly bankrupting Bratz's owners, MGAE. 

2002 - Beyblades

Let it rip!! The tops came with interchangeable pieces to customize the battle experience with different weights, rings and disks determining how the toy would behave in the arena. Ultimate fans also added accessories like stadiums and launchers to their collection. The company sold more than 150 million units.

2003 & 2004 - Robosapien

Robosapien was a realistic, recreational robot who was easily programmed and mastered with a remote control. Robosapien is the first robot based on the "science of applied biomorphic robotics," which enabled him to act more like a human. Once you mastered the thing, the little guy could dance, navigate a hallway, or even give you a high five.

2005 - XBOX 360 Console

While the ad campaigns for the XBOX 360 were always questionable, the sales speak for themselves. The console was announced in May of 2005 and then released just in time for the holidays. The XBOX 360 sold out in every region it was sold in...except in Japan. Nearly a half million units were sold during the holiday season, which is quite a lot considering the $400 price tag. 

2006 - PlayStation 3 & Wii

A direct competitor to the XBOX 360, the PS3 was actually more successful than the Microsoft counterpart. The PS3 was also released around Thanksgiving and sold more than 200,000 units before the end of November. The Wii, a little more inexpensive and a totally different animal than the PS3 and 360, sold more than 400,000 units by the end of November. And, in most cases, if you didn't have one by the first of December you were out of luck until after the holidays. The Wii craze went even further in 2008 when 10 million units had been sold by the end of the year. 

2009 - Zhu Zhu Pets

Maybe the most inexpensive toy on the list, the $9 Zhu Zhu Pets were the must-have toy less than 10 years ago. If you don't remember, the toys were robotic hamsters that could squeak, roll, and even drive their own cars. The little toys were so popular that some of the stores didn't even bother putting them on shelves because shipments were selling out so fast. On eBay, the hamsters were selling for five and six times their retail price. 

2010 - The iPad

Whether you were playing Fruit Ninja, reading, sending emails, or just browsing the web the iPad seemed to have something for everyone. Released in the Spring of 2010, it was still a hot commodity around the holidays when they sold more than 10 million before the year's end. 

2011 - Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet

Aimed at teaching kids how to read, write, learn math skills, and how to have something to play with other than mom and dad's iPad, the Leapfrog LearningPad was THE item for preschool and elementary kids in 2011. It even had a built-in camera and video recorder with all of its other learning apps. Parents also loved that it was encased with heavy duty plastic, something the iPad could have benefited from. 

2012 - Nintendo Wii U

The Wii U, despite being a huge failure for Nintendo in the long run, was a hot toy for Christmas in 2012. Nearly 2 million units were sold during the holidays, mostly because it was the hot new thing, but sales fizzled out almost immediately after the New Year. 

2013 - Big Hugs Elmo

All Elmo ever really wanted was a hug. In 2013, he started handing them out to everyone with $59.99 in their pockets. Elmo’s reliability around Christmas is something of a self-fulling prophecy. Every year, big stores stock up on the latest version because it was a bestseller in prior years. But what makes it a bestseller is that the stores decide to carry it in the first place.

2014 - Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, Sven, and the entire Frozen Fam

Parents were singing "Let it Go" to their money after Frozen was released. Kids wanted ice castles, action figures, dolls, dresses, a sing-along boombox, even blankets and bedding sets. Toy insiders told the media it was an easy sell because the Frozen story was so good that parents didn't mind going all out on the toys. More than 20 percent of surveyed parents said they would be buying at least one Frozen item that Christmas. 

2015 - BB-8

This was the droid everyone was looking for just a few years ago. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" didn't debut until December, just a few weeks before Christmas, but that didn't stop BB-8 from finding its way to the top of the must-have list. The tiny spherical robot could patrol around your house or be controlled with your smartphone. Some retailers were comparing it to the Tickle Me Elmo from 20 years prior as the toys were flying off the shelf as quickly as they could put them there. 

2016 - Hatchimals

Maybe the perfect mashup between Tamagotchi and Furby, the Hatchimal drove parents crazy. Stores were short on supply for several weeks during the holidays season, and the $50 toys were consistently selling for $200 online. Making it worse, a lot of the Hatchimals didn't work because they couldn't hatch. 

2017 - Fingerlings

While Hatchimals still dominated sales in 2017, there was another toy that took the top spot. The Fingerlings curled around your fingers and responded to sound, motion, and touch with 40 different movements. The great thing for parents was that they were relatively inexpensive at $15. Some of the toys sold out more than three months before Christmas, starting the rush a lot earlier than previous seasons. Some stores were even limiting the amount customers could buy at one time. 

2018 - Kano harry Potter Coding Kit

Coding toys are all the rage this year, and when you meld that with Harry Potter, it gets wild. Fans can learn to code spells like Wingardium Leviosa, Stupefy, and Expelliarmus. You can even choose custom wands! Like the company's previous hardware, it comes with a companion app that teaches you programming through block-based logic. This time, though, the challenges produce spells that you control on screen with a build-it-yourself plastic wand. It retails for around $100. 


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