We all have the story about the toy that our mothers threw out on us. The ones that are now worth a ton. But missing your old toys isn’t just about a dashed future windfall, it’s about our ever-fading ability to play make believe and fall into the things that occupy our time in a way that is both joyful and ponderous. It’s also about the ways that some of these things could still fit into our lives — if we were lucky enough to track them down.
With that in mind, here is a list of toys that we wish we had again because they were awesome, we could still use them (in some way), and in some cases, because money is now the chief accessory of the adult imagination and some of this crap is worth some serious bank.
Crayons and construction paper were low rent, if you had a creative little mind and wanted to partake in some vinyl fan fic, Colorforms were the way to go, allowing you the chance to create your own stories with all of your favorite characters and also cardboard.
Interestingly, Colorforms are back now, but it’s not the same. For one thing, vinyl fan fic means something totally different, and for another, the characters aren’t exactly the same as they were in 1987. Don’t bother trying to play with your old ones, either. According to our own super scientific exploration, after all this time, they’ve lost their cling. Which is ironic in that as childhood recedes into the rearview mirror, most other things begin to suck more, not less.
The Playskool Kitchen
Behold, the toy that fed the Easy Bake Oven its lunch. Oh, you can make a cake with a light bulb? I’ve got plastic chicken, a fake sink, and an imagination! You also had a playroom behemoth that transitioned nicely from full-service kitchen to GI Joe (or generic army man #NoJudgements) headquarters. I’m talking practicing diving maneuvers in the sink and landing planes in the oven. The U.S.S. Flagg ain’t got sh*t on the Playskool Kitchen.
G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg
Okay, that last thing I said up there was a brazen lie. The Flagg was the Cadillac of ’80s playsets. How amazing was the Flagg? It was a seven-and-a-half foot aircraft carrier with a working PA system and the crown jewel of Hasbro’s insane collection of playsets that also included a space shuttle and various hideouts and lairs to go along with the assorted jets, cars, tanks, and colorful soldiers with their accessory pets and flamethrowers. G.I. Joe was an open odyssey into simplified warfare that probably messed up our heads, and I miss it so damn much, is what I’m saying.
Is a nearly 8-foot long toy aircraft carrier worth much to your life now? In terms of practicality? No. But in terms of getting P-A-I-D? Hell, yes. A Flagg in the box goes for like $3,000 while an outside the box model seems to be going for around $1,400. Is it worth spending $1,400 for a chance to play out the plot from the latest episode of The Last Ship in whisper tones so as to not disturb your spouse? MAYBE!
Garbage Pail Kids
As far back as the 1965 release of Ugly Stickers, Topps had cornered the market on gross trading cards. But it wasn’t until the 1985 release of their Garbage Pail Kids card that their regular practice of enchanting consumers with grotesque bubble gum cards truly become a phenomenon. The enduring brilliance of Garbage Pail Kids is that something which started as a savage spoof of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze has now arguably outlasted its inspiration by continuing to parody pop culture trends. Because of their lasting appeal (or un-appeal), the original card sets remain highly collectible — regularly going for heaps of cash on eBay. Which means you probably wish you didn’t tape them in your bike spokes or stick them on your school locker, huh?
Remember the first time you went to Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizzatime Theater and saw the animatronic performers? Provided they didn’t give you nightmares, you probably wanted to relive that magic anytime and anywhere. Teddy Ruxpin allowed 1980s kids to do just this. The toy from Worlds of Wonder, debuting in 1985, could play a tape in its back and tell stories, keeping the play value high by having many Ruxpincentric adventures available for purchase…or you could just use him to play your Weird Al and Van Halen tapes. That combined with his inherent cuteness meant that the teddy bear had been reinvented for a new generation.
Although this writer was personally more of a Snake Mountain kind of guy, there is no denying that Castle Greyskull from Mattel’s Master of the Universe line was one of the decade’s most impressive toys. Featuring a trap door, a throne and two levels of play possibilities, the plastic replica of He-Man’s hangout/home still conjures warm fuzzies in the hearts of those who came of age in the Where’s the Beef? era. The fact that Castle Greyskull was featured in Filmation’s successful He-Man cartoon didn’t hurt matters either.
These actually aren’t that hard to find and the price isn’t too high. The only barrier to entry is that people get judgy when you ask them if they want to come over to play nowadays.
Nintendo Power Glove
When Nintendo fans flocked to see The Wizard back in 1989, it wasn’t because they really dug the precocious charms of Fred Savage or the burgeoning cool indie vibe of Jenny Lewis, but rather that they wanted to witness the Nintendo Power Glove in action. In reality, the device was a bit of a dud, but that didn’t matter to legions of ’80s kids who felt that donning the glove would make them an indestructible video game giant who would, at last, truly be playing with power. And that’s what it was all about: POWER, not the glove. Possessing this needless accessory upped your coolness quotient and made you the kid that other kids wanted to play with, and the one who could choose the day’s activities… which usually didn’t involve playing with the Power Glove, lest your friends discover its hollow grace.
Few items give one that much dominion over their fellow man now. Such a shame.
Fisher-Price Roller Skates
Was there another toy company whose products were as durable as Fisher-Price? Whether you were playing with replicas of the Sesame Street gang or listening to tunes on your plastic record player, Fisher-Price products stood the test of time. Sometimes this was nearly literal. Case in point: Fisher-Price Roller Skates. These roller skates could be adjusted to suit the growing feet of its users, and were made out of durable plastic that could survive the spills and falls experienced by novice skaters. In a happier timeline, the rollerblade was never invented, nor the sneaker with the wheels in them, or even the secret hoverboard that we all know is being developed. Instead, we’d all be confident in the knowledge that we could, at any time, break our roller skates out of our backpacks (everybody still has backpacks in this timeline, as well) and skate away from danger.