Every holiday season, there’s always one toy that is a must-have. Customers have been known to wait in line for hours, pay massive amounts of money and even physically fight in toy store aisles (even more reason to shop on Cyber Monday) … just to get their hands on the hot toy of the moment.
Read on to discover the most popular toys of the past three decades and what the next toy craze will be.
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Cabbage Patch Kids (1983)
Created in 1978 by Xavier Roberts, these “adoptable” soft-sculpture dolls were all the rage in the 1980s. Due to a clever marketing campaign, the dolls were a virtual overnight success, eventually raking in $600 million in sales by 1985. The dolls flew off the shelves during the holidays, forcing customers to wait in line for hours just to purchase one. The success of the Cabbage Patch Kids grew and grew until they became the best-selling introduction of a doll in toy history.
Originally produced in 1984 by Japanese toy company Takara and the American toy company Hasbro, these shape-shifting robots quickly became a sensation. The toys gained so much popularity that they spawned an animated series, an animated film in 1986 and the extremely popular live-action movie franchise in the 2000s.
Teddy Ruxpin (1985-86)
This animatronic, talking teddy bear was initially produced by the toy manufacturer Worlds of Wonder and introduced to the market in 1985. The story-telling teddy’s slogan boasted of being “the world’s first animated, talking toy.”
Koosh Ball (1987)
This delightful ball made of rubber strings was created by a man named Scott Stillinger, who named his product after the sound it made when it hit the ground. The toy was marketed by Mattel and was a smashing success.
Nintendo Entertainment System (1988)
This 8-bit video game console was an astounding success when it first hit the market, with 7 million systems sold in 1988, the year it was released, especially during the holiday season. The market for NES cartridges that year was larger than the market for the entirety of all computer software.
Game Boy (1989)
The handheld, Nintendo-released game console quickly sold an incredible 1.1 million units, outselling all of its video game counterparts and becoming one of the best-selling electronic game devices of all time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Toys (1990)
The TMNT action figures (based off the characters from the film of the same title) were wildly popular during the holiday season of 1990 and sold over 30 million by the end of Christmas.
Super Nintendo (1991)
Nintendo was really on a roll, and its new hot release of 1991, Super Nintendo, was no exception. It quickly became the best-selling video game console of the 16-bit era.
Barney Doll (1992)
Created by the toy manufacturing company Dankin, the plush purple dinosaur toy based off the character from the popular TV show came about because parents demanded it after seeing their kids cuddling video cassette boxes of the series.
This portable audio cassette player and recorder toy was originally conceived and used as a prop for the 1992 film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. After the success of the film, young fans demanded a real-life version of the Talkboy. Released by Hasbro, the Talkboy became so popular during the holiday season that it was forced to pull the product’s ads due to short supply.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Toys (1994)
These action figures were based on the characters of the extremely popular television series of the same title. The merchandise was so hot that the toys flew off the shelves during the holiday season of 1994.
Beanie Babies (1995)
These collectible stuffed animals were created by Ty Warner, who would arbitrarily take certain Beanie Babies off the market, making them “hard-to-find collectibles” that customers would pay hundreds of dollars for. The demand for the toys became so intense that some customers had physical altercations with each other in the aisles over the stuffed dolls.
Tickle Me Elmo (1996)
Based on the Elmo character from Sesame Street, this giggling doll was manufactured by Tyco, which introduced the toy to the market in 1996. Elmo was an unexpected success and sold out almost immediately. Since the toy was in such short supply, scalpers capitalized on the demand and sold it for hundreds of dollars. Physical altercations between customers repeatedly broke out over the doll, and by the end of 1996, the entire stock (1 million Tickle Me Elmo dolls) had been completely sold.
At the height of this handheld virtual pet’s popularity, 15 Tamagotchis were sold every minute in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 40 million units were sold worldwide.
Originally priced at $35, these electronic, robotic toys were so in demand during the Christmas season that their resale value skyrocketed up to as much as $300. An astounding 27 million Furbies were sold in 1998.
This popular merchandise franchise based on the Game Boy game was a smashing success during the holiday season of 1999. The craze involved various kinds of merchandise, particularly trading cards, and also sparked a popular animated TV series. Pokemon is still a powerhouse today, topping $57.65 billion as of 2015.
Razor Scooter (2000)
Originally manufactured by Sharper Image, this popular scooter ushered in the new millennium with a bona fide holiday frenzy. The Razor was so popular that it led to the creation of a new extreme sport: freestyle scootering.
These teen fashion dolls with the distinct look of big heads and skinny bodies were so successful in 2001 that they surpassed Barbie as the #1-selling toy geared towards girls. In spite of the success, many parents were concerned that the dolls were too provocatively dressed and that they promoted an unhealthy body image.
This line of spinning top toys was developed and manufactured by Takara Tomy in 2002. It dominated the market and was one of the most popular toy lines in the world from 2000-2005.
This biomorphic robotic toy was manufactured by WowWee Toys, and it sold a whopping 1.5 million units between April and December 2004.
Xbox 360 (2005)
This video game console was rushed to shelves by Microsoft to beat out the later-to-be-released Sony Playstation. The strategy worked, because the Xbox 360 sold a total of 5.5 million units during its first six months on the market.
Playstation 3 (2006)
This video game console was incredibly popular in 2006, carrying on the trend of wildly successful gaming releases. The system was so popular upon its release that people became violent in their attempts to acquire one.
2007:Nintendo DS (2007)
This dual-screen, touchscreen gaming system from Nintendo swiftly became the most popular handheld system in history. It was also the second-most-sold console in history, moving a whopping 1.4 billion units.
Nintendo Wii (2008)
Nintendo was certainly on a roll in the late 2000s, and the Nintendo Wii was major proof of that. The gaming system sold 10 million units by the end of 2008, many of which were purchased during the holiday season.
Zhu Zhu Pets (2009)
Originally known as “Go Go Hamsters” in the U.K., these plush robotic toys were all the rage during the Christmas season of 2009. Originally retailed at $9, the Christmas craze became so huge that their value shot up to $60 because demand was so high.
This popular handheld computer device is, of course, popular with adults, but it also, interestingly, was a massively popular gift for children during the Christmas season of 2010 — so popular, in fact, that it sold more than 300,000 units on the first day of its release.
LeapPad Explorer (2011)
A tablet computer developed for kids, the LeapPad Explorer flew off the shelves during the holiday season of 2011. After its initial success, it was awarded Toy of the Year honors by the American International Toy Fair in New York City.
Wii U (2012)
This home video game console was another home run for Nintendo during the holiday season. It sold out like wildfire, and customers reportedly waited in line for hours to get a hold of one.
Big Hugs Elmo (2013)
This plush, talking Elmo toy followed in the massive success of Tickle Me Elmo and was nearly as successful during the holiday season of 2013.
Elsa Doll (2014)
The doll based on the character from the hit animated film Frozen was a wild success. It was crowned the new queen of best-selling dolls marketed toward girls, and retailers were caught off guard by its demand during the holiday season, leaving many in short supply.
BB-8 Star Wars Toy Droid (2015)
This remote-controlled toy droid based on a character from the upcoming Star Wars film is predicted to be the best-selling toy of the 2015 season, as evidenced by the fact that when first released, the initial supply sold out in merely one day. Shop online for the BB-8 Star Ways Toy Droid at select retailers, including Best Buy, eBay, and The Disney Store.
This interactive toy starts as an egg and needs your child’s love in order to hatch. After enough care and attention, the egg will be ready to hatch into a furry creature that can be raised from baby to toddler to kid. The toy can learn to repeat what you say, to walk, to dance and to play games. Hatchimals are selling fast, so get them while you can!
NES Classic (2016)
Video game nostalgia reigns supreme with this retro-styled Nintendo system that is loaded with 30 classics, including Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden. The console sold out in just moments, but the company has promised to produce more stock and release additional systems throughout the holiday season.
This post has been updated on Nov. 23 to reflect the new scarce toys of 2016.
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