If you grew up in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, you'll no doubt remember most of these classic retro toys. From trolls to Star Wars figures; slinky to Silly Putty, we've compiled a list of the best-sellers from every year.
These were a cheap and cheerful stocking filler, particularly popular in 1950. If you had brothers you’ll no doubt remember the sting of a water balloon to the back of your head!
Walt Disney’s Cinderella toys
Also popular in 1950 were toys and games based on the release of Walt Disney’s latest feature film, which came out in July.
Muffin the Mule push-along toy
Muffin was, of course, a popular mule puppet, who was the star of a BBC TV show from 1946-1955. In 1951 Muffin-mania was riding high, and many children hankered after their own Muffin toy.
Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland toys
Disney had done it again! This time with whimsical classic Alice in Wonderland. We longed for an Alice doll.
This was a game with a ball and a small hand-held hoop, that children loved. It was marketed in 1952 as ‘the sensation of the year’.
Oh how we loved our Pedigree dolls! We loved to dress up our babies and put them to bed in an old drawer. We were so envious of any little girls who owned a proper little pram.
It sounds boring – just a metal spring that walks itself down the stairs – but that didn’t stop us spending hours from watching them. And, if we’re honest, stretching them out and messing around with them once the novelty of the stairs had worn off.
Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men
In the 50s we loved watching the adventures of Bill, Ben and Little Weed on Watch With Mother, and we longed for puppets of our own.
Sooty glove puppet
Harry Corbett and Sooty (with later additions Sweep and Soo) were our TV favourites, so it was natural that come Christmas 1954 we only had one thing on our list for Father Christmas.
If you had brothers, you no doubt tripped over a few badly placed Matchbox cars in your childhood! Pleasingly solid little toys, they were great fun to race.
Paint by Numbers
In 1954 there was a real craze for painting by numbers – from seascapes to recreations of famous paintings, there was something very soothing about them. We loved the dinky paint pots that came with it.
The board game that every household owns hit the UK in 1955 and was a quick hit.
Less of an intellectual challenge than Scrabble, the other favourite toy of the year was Silly Putty. Funny, slightly pointless yet strangely satisfying squidgy stuff!
Beat the Clock board game
Based on the ever-popular Sunday Night at the Palladium, this board game was a top-seller in 1956.
Davy Crockett hats
After yet another Disney hit, Davy Crockett hats and toys were popular stocking fillers in 1957.
You were no one in the playground of 1958 if you didn’t have a hula hoop. Sometimes the simplest toys really are the best, and the bright plastic hoops were a runaway success. Can you still work one today?
We’re not sure why drawing on an Etch-a-Sketch was so much more fun than using a pen and paper…but it was! Perhaps it was to do with the big buttons, or the satisfaction of giving it a good shake to clear it. Whatever it was, it was the best-selling toy of 1960.
They’re still around today, but Trolls reached the height of their success in 1961. These funny-faced creatures had a shock of bright hair that we loved to brush or plait.
Fisher Price toys really have stood the test of time, and the Chatter Phone, with its wide eyes and red wheels is still available today. It was first made back in 1962.
This clever toy was first made in 1963, and used a little light bulb to safely heat and cook tiny cakes. It was hugely popular and made doll’s tea parties extra special.
We loved pretending to be surgeons with our tiny tweezers – but always felt a bit guilty when we caused our poor patient’s nose to glow red!
Aston Martin DB5 Corgi Toy
Every little boy (and grown man!) wanted to be James Bond, and the stylish Corgi toy based on his Aston Martin was a top selling in 1965 after the release of Sean Connery’s Thunderball.
A board game unlike any other, it was such fun to put our left hand on green and our right foot on blue – although it did lead to the odd bruise as we all collapsed on top of each other!
The Americans had GI Joe, but we had Action Man, who made his way to our shores in 1966. If your brother had one, you probably borrowed it to play the husband to your dolls!
“Hit, and sunk!” There was a strict ‘no peeking’ rule when the battleship boards came out, and no more pleasing feeling than seeing your opponent reach for a red peg.
It shouldn’t have been as fun as it was, but something about spinning a pen round in a plastic cog to make spiral patterns was one of our favourite things to do in 1967.
Hot Wheels were pleasingly solid little die-cast toys introduced by Mattel in 1968 and was the main competitor of Matchbox.
Sindy was the British rival to the toothsome American Barbie, and was created by Pedigree in 1963. She was much more wholesome and we took to her quickly – she was the best-selling toy in the UK in both 1968 and 1970.
Another toy that we’re not quite sure was as fun as we found it at the time! Lite-Brite was basically a small light box with coloured pegs that could be used to make a light-up picture. A bit like Etch-a-Sketch for the disco era!
If you woke on Christmas morning in 1971 to a large weight on your feet, you were probably one of the lucky children to receive that year’s must-have toy – the Space Hopper. How we loved bouncing around the garden on these bright, beautiful toys. We still remember the smell of the plastic.
Katie Kopycat doll
This hard-plastic blonde doll was seated at a desk and would copy whatever you wrote down on your side of the desk. A clever concept that got a little dull quite quickly! They now retail for lots of money on ebay.
Still a family-favourite today, Uno was a great hit in 1972 – and a good way to get your revenge on siblings by making them pick up four extra cards.
Plasticraft modelling kits
Do you remember the smell of the chemicals in a Plasticraft set? We’re not sure they’d get away with selling them to today’s children, but back in 1972 you could mix them to your heart’s content before embedding the mixture into moulds to make keyrings and jewellery.
In 1973 there was a craze for Walkie Talkies, which made us feel like secret agents as we passed messages to friends – always ending with ‘over and out’.
Mastermind board game
Another classic game, Mastermind was a hit in 1973 and is still played today. It was a good one for small families as you only needed two players. We’ve never stared so intensely at plastic pegs since.
These sturdy truck toys were designed in America but were a hit over here in the 1970s too.
Still a staple of many a toy box, Playmobil was invented by a German man called Hans Beck, who developed the toys in the early 1970s. The design of the characters’ faces was based on a child’s drawing – with a large head, big smile and no nose.
The earliest Lego sets were around in the 1950s, but the 1970s saw a continuation in their popularity, particularly in sets featuring families.
Did you have a Pet Rock? It seems so silly now, but back in 1975 we loved ours! It came in a cardboard box packed with straw and breathing holes, and was a fad that lasted a surprising six months!
The 1970s were a golden age for board games, and we still enjoy the ‘clunk’ of slotting a red or yellow penny into our Connect 4 years later.
Peter Powell Kites
In 1976 we loved the special, steerable kite – originally available only in black, but later in blue, red or yellow.
Star Wars figurines
After the release of Star Wars in 1977, children around the world went ga-ga for merchandise – everything from notebooks and pens to figurines.
Simon and Britain’s Combine Harvester
In 1978, little boys around the country asked Father Christmas for this pleasing, green die cast toy.
1979 saw the beginning of the (never-ending) craze for video games, starting with the Atari VCS.
We spent hours in 1980 trying to unscramble our Rubik’s cube. It was one part fun to one part mental torture!
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