Without them, our childhoods would have been drab and uninteresting. Toys — whether they were action figures, dolls, or interactive games — are what keep us engaged as children. After growing up, they remain a part of life, albeit as a novelty to gawk at and grow nostalgic over. Sure to pull on the strings of reminiscence are these best-selling toys of all time.
Even if you didn’t get to own one of them, chances are you knew their names and hoped you would wind up with one. Were you the recipient of one of these incredibly popular toys?
Cabbage Patch Kids
Around since the late 1970s, Cabbage Patch Kids remained popular well into the 1990s. Even heading into the 21st century, these pudgy-faced kids remained one of the most popular toys ever designed.
The brainchild was 21-year-old Xavier Roberts, who used German “needle molding” to sculpt what would become the launching point for the Cabbage Patch Kids. By 1981, the dolls were on the cover of The Atlanta Weekly and had pieces run in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. Xavier hit a milestone in less than a decade of unveiling the dolls when he sold 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids. When 2003 rolled around, there had been more than 130 million Cabbage Patch Kids sales.
If in mint condition, there are some dolls, typically from the 70s and 80s, that can sell for upwards of $3,000.
If you can entertain the masses with what amounts to nothing more than a metal spring, you’ve hit the jackpot. Over its lifetime, the Slinky has sold more than 300 million units. The success of this overly simplistic toy dates back to 1943, to a mechanical engineer named Richard James.
The invention of the Slinky was an accident on James’ part as he was really working on springs that help keep fragile equipment steady at sea. When he knocked a sample off the table, it “walked” down to the floor and inspired James and his wife Betty to develop the first Slinky.
As expected, the metal spring didn’t sell well initially, but when Gimbels Department Store demonstrated the product for Christmas in 1945, Slinkys started flying off the shelves.
There may be a rule that says everyone, at some point in their lives, owns an egg of Silly Putty. One of the more interesting toys to hit the market and start soaring, Silly Putty has a connection to World War II and was an accidental creation on the search for an alternative to rubber. To counter the reduction of available rubber, the United States sought to create an alternative.
In 2009, it was estimated that more than 20,000 eggs of Silly Putty were sold daily. Extrapolate that over a year, and that’s around 7.3 million units sold annually. Across its lifetime, Crayola has sold approximately 300 million units. Who that credit of those incredible sales figures goes to is a matter of debate, however.
While Crayola credits James Wright for developing the synthetic material, Earl Warrick and Harvey Chin have also earned recognition for Silly Putty. According to Warrick, he and his partner, Rob Roy McGrego, received their patent before Wright did.
With a wide variety of different dolls spanning different occupations, races, and pop culture icons, it’s no wonder Barbie found her way onto this list. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine for Barbie as she’s been seeing a steady decline in sales since 2016, where Mattel suffered a 14% decrease in doll sales.
Even with the decline, Mattel has sold more than a billion Barbie dolls. Part of Barbie’s appeal is her versatility, which has led to her holding more than 180 careers, appearing in more than 40 nationalities, and donning thousands of different accessories.
Among Barbie’s more popular variations, Totally Hair Barbie has sold the most out of any other figure, selling more than 10 million units.
Standing the test of time
Toys come in all shapes and sizes, often morphing to fit the needs and wants of the current generations. While these popular playthings may be on the older side, their age hasn’t taken away from the novelty of owning them.