Toys in the 1980s

1980s-toys

This the the era in which the owners of RetroWaste grew up! And we still have most of these toys in a box somewhere! Ah, who are we kidding? We still play with them!

The early 1980s had a bit of a 1970s hangover, where most of the toys where very similar to toys that already existed in the 1970s. The smaller-sized Star Wars action figures of 1978 were so popular that almost all action figures changed to the smaller size by 1982.

Remote controlled cars and trucks were getting much better in quality and they were getting cheaper too. But all heck broke loose in 1984 when toy manufacturers figured it all out. The key to toy sales, they discovered, was licensing. Licensing was nothing new, but seemed to lose some of its power in the seventies.

1984 saw an explosion of new toys like Cabbage Patch Kids, Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Care Bears and many different kinds of awesome talking robot toys. The handheld electronic game was also providing hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Video games in the 1980s grew from basic Atari games all the way to the Nintendo NES video game system. The progress video game manufacturers made in the 1980s is impossible to explain in words.

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Scroll down further for over 200 pictures of 1980s toys from various catalogs. To read more detail about a certain year, click on the plus sign next to the corresponding year below.

List of Popular 1980s Toys

Teddy Ruxpin
Masters of the Universe (He-Man)
She-Ra, Princess of Power
Big Wheel
Breyer Horses & Stables
Bristle Blocks
CHiPs Toys
Child-Sized Appliances
Speak & Spell
Doll Houses
Fisher-Price Playsets
Handheld Electronic Sports Games
LEGO & Duplo
Radio Controlled (RC) Cars, Trucks, Airplanes, Helicopters & Boats
Sesame Street Toys
The Talking Robot
Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein & Godzilla Action Figures
Amplifier Helmets
Dukes of Hazzard
Simon
Littles
Mattel Fresh ‘n Fancy
Video Games (ie: Atari, Sega, Nintendo & many more)
Crossbows & Catapults
Handheld Arcade Games (ie: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Q-bert, etc)
Tonka Trucks
A-Team & Mr. T Action Figures
Barbie
Cabbage Patch Kids
Care Bears
Charmkins
Get Along Gang
G.I. Joe
Glo-Worms
Action Games (ie: Gotcha, Cooties, Hungry Hungry Hippos, etc.)
See ‘n Say
Maxx Steele
Michael Jackson Action Figures
Garfield
Gremlins
Knight Rider
Mickey Mouse Toys
Poochie
Rainbow Brite
Rose Petal Palace
Snoopy & Peanuts Toys
Smurfs
Snorks
Star Wars Action Figures
Strawberry Shortcake
Superhero Action Figures
My Little Pony
Pedal Cars
Power Wheels Battery Powered Vehicles
Robo-Force
Robotix
Tomy Omnibot 2000
Transformers
Alphie II Robot
Casey Robot
Golden Girl Action Figures
M.A.S.K.
Voltron
Go-Bot
Wuzzles
My Child Dolls
My Buddy Dolls
Pound Puppies
Talking Mother Goose
Air Raiders
Board Games (ie: Trivial Pursuit, Murder Mystery Games, etc.)
Bravestarr Action Figures
Ghostbusters Action Figures
Disney Playsets
Willow Action Figures
Winnie the Pooh Toys
Playskool Toys
Star Rider
Electric Train Sets
Matchbox Die-Cast Cars & Trucks
Hot Wheels Die-Cast Cars & Trucks
Sectaurs
Photon & Lazer Tag
Sweet Secrets
Popples
WWF Wrestling Superstar Action Figures
Starting Lineup Action Figures
Talking Computron

Toys in 1982

Traditional toy sales rose slightly in 1982. It was generally a year of spotty sales, company acquisitions and several bankruptcies. However there were a few bright stars, including video games and licensed playthings.

Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600 (1982)

Donkey Kong on the Atari 2600 (1982)

Several other companies joined Atari, the leader in the video game arena. Many of them specialized in game cartridges that could be played on a home TV screen! The most popular games were those licensed from coin-operated arcades, like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.

For the first time, board games slowed as people preferred the sophisticated video games. However one board game, Pente, was hailed as the biggest rage since backgammon.

Licensing continued to make its mark on the toy industry. E.T. toys were unbelievable popular. Some equally stellar licensed performers were Smurfs, Garfield and, again, Pac-Man.

Deely bobbers — squiggly antennae attached to a headband with glittering balls, stars or pinwheels bobbing on the ends — became a nationwide sensation.

GI Joe re-enlisted after a 7-year “rest and recuperation.” The totally redesigned GI Joe action figures were much smaller and did not have removable clothing.

Miniture die-cast cars and trucks sold extremely well in 1982. I mean, what little boy in 1982 didn’t have a Tonka truck? Several toy manufacturers followed Strawberry Shortcake’s lead and produced aromatic playthings.

Toys in 1987

For the second consecutive year, there were no hot-selling items or new product trend. Lack of consumer interest in new products and late shipments of some of the new high-tech toys had a negative effect on the industry.

PoGo Bal Advertisement (1987)

PoGo Bal Advertisement (1987)

One of the few best-selling new toys in 1987 was PoGo Bal, a variation on the pogo stick, made by Hasbro. PoGo Bal is a circular disc that has a rubber ball attached to the top and to the bottom. A person stands on the platform, hugs the top ball with his or her feet and hops.

Traditional toys, such as stuffed animals and board games fared well in 1987. Two of the year’s most popular products were Barbie and G.I. Joe. Barbie became the lead singer in her own rock band and G.I. Joe became a space traveler with his own space vehicle launch complex.

One cool toy I had when I was a kid that was from 1987: Captain Power. Designed by Mattel, “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future” toys were made to interact with the television show. During a segment in the show, children shoot light beams at characters on the TV from handheld spaceships and the characters appear to shoot back.

Other high-tech toys introduced in 1987 included the PXL-2000 kiddie camcorder, and Jill, a doll that can pose multiple questions to a child.

Holograms appeared in the toy industry in 1987. They were incorporated into shields of action figures and any other place that needed that extra modern look.

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Pictures of 1980s Toys (in chronological order)


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In-Depth 1980s Toys Profiles

1980s Video Games | NES

Video Games in the 1980s »

Video games evolved immensely from 1980 to 1989. By the end of the decade most of the games could be played at home instead of the arcade. NES & Atari time!

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8 thoughts on “Toys in the 1980s

  1. Vince

    I am trying to identify a toy I had in the 80s that I want to try and find for my son. I believe it was from a Scandinavian country and was similar to Legos. There were several different scenes that could be constructed like a circus, carnival, airport etc. according to the instructions. They used primary colors and I believe were plastic. The figures had cone shaped bodies I believe with round heads. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Vince

    Reply
  2. bethany craig

    Growing up in the late 70’s to early 80’s, I had a bean bag stuffed doll with plastic face. He had brown hair and a mustache. He had a baby with a yellow hooded outfit on. I don’t know the name of the doll or the manufacturer either. Can you help me find out info? I would be interested in purchasing if found. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Jed

    I am trying to find a toy I had as a kid but do not remember the name of it. It was a battery powered vehicle that was made of 4 separate vehicles that linked together to make one long multi wheeled vehicle. It was red (it may have come in other colors, that was the only color I ever saw) with a black roller on the front of the lead vehicle. It was flexible vertically at the joints where the vehicles connected. The premise was that it could drive over what ever it came across. I remember letting it drive from the floor and crawl in the couch all the way to the top. I’m sure someone has one for sale on eBay but I don’t remember the name.

    Reply
  4. Robert

    I need to ask folks here, as I cannot find it anywhere: does anyone remember an led toy that was a black stick/ baton with a handle, kind of flat on both sides, about a foot in length, that you programmed a message into and waved, and it would display the message in the air as you waved? I recall this when I was a kid back in the late 70’s or early 80’s but cannot be sure. If anyone remembers it, pics or a name would be kindly appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Brenda Teter

    I am look for a game. It is a clear tower with a small ball. You have I think 4 levels to get the ball to the bottom. One level you have a lever to pull. Another level you turn. Please help me.

    Reply
  6. Steve

    Trying to find a Knight Rider toy I had as a kid and it is proving impossible. It was Kitt, and a remote control car of sorts. You did not have a hand held controller, but instead you popped the hood and there was a key pad with buttons like straight, left, right, figure 8, horn etc.. You would select a bunch of them and hit go and the car would drive how you just programmed it. Ideas anyone or am I going nuts?

    Reply

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Last modified: Jan 22, 2016 | Written by Paul Phipps