Toys Are Us
November 21, 2022 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Christmas is right around the corner, and maybe you need to do some shopping? Here's some vintage toy commercials. The 1950's had a tight toy game, but maybe you're more nostalgiac for the 80's or 90's?
posted by valkane (21 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Whoops, that 90's link shoulda been this.
posted by valkane at 9:12 AM on November 21


I'm not nostalgic for the toy commercials of the '70s, or the 2000s, but someone probably is.
posted by box at 9:28 AM on November 21 [5 favorites]


I went to the eighties one because (a) Gen-X and (b) no seventies one but see here. I mentioned once before on the blue that when I find things I taped off the TV (or indeed radio) decades ago, I’m always amused that young me went to a lot of trouble to remove the commercials but older me finds them the most charming part. I suppose it is the more ephemeral nature: plenty of shows I watched thirty or forty years ago I can watch instantly on streaming services now but the ads for movies that flopped or childhood toys are long gone.

And anyone who has watched the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, dubbed from its single airing knows the commercials are doubly the best part.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:30 AM on November 21 [8 favorites]


I heartily recommend that anyone who wants to scratch their (Canada/Toronto-focused) nostalgia itch check out Retrontario.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:39 AM on November 21 [5 favorites]


Gen-X checking in. The commercials were wonderful but they were merely bookmarks. Pointers, if you will, to the canonical reference book that every kid used from October to December. And that is the Sears Wish Book.

The pinnacle of Wish Books, without question, is the 1978 Edition.

Feel free to jump to page 574 and dog-ear it so you can ponder over which Star Wars action figures you are going to ask for.

(For reference, the inflation index from 1978 to now is 4.57. So that sweet sweet Death Star action set is gonna set mom and dad back the equivalent of $80 today. Action figures not included.)
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:37 AM on November 21 [16 favorites]


And that is the Sears Wish Book.

Oh my, yes. For some reason we never got it at my house, but my Grandma did. The first time we visited after it arrived each year meant an afternoon of lying on the floor in her tv room with the Wish Book to one side and a pencil and paper at the ready to start drafting the year's Christmas list.
posted by synecdoche at 10:44 AM on November 21 [4 favorites]


I heartily recommend that anyone who wants to scratch their (Canada/Toronto-focused) nostalgia itch check out Retrontario.

Pouring one out for Consumer's Distributing as we speak.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:54 AM on November 21 [3 favorites]


The pinnacle of Wish Books, without question, is the 1978 Edition.

The library where I work has decades' worth of catalogues from Sears, Consumer's Distributing, Canadian Tire, Eaton's, etc.. Flipping through them is a trip, especially for the years when my interest in toys was at its peak.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:01 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Other obligatory CanCon, in which Roch Carrier recounts the perils of ordering from the Eaton's catalogue: The Sweater.

(For reference, the inflation index from 1978 to now is 4.57. So that sweet sweet Death Star action set is gonna set mom and dad back the equivalent of $80 today. Action figures not included.)

Gen-X here too, and the family that lived next to us when I was a kid had almost every single Star Wars action set and action figure, ditto for G.I. Joe.

Even as a kid, knowing what the prices were on those things, I was like "They must've spent a fortune!" It was bananas.

Needless to say I always opted to go over there to play because they had all the stuff.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:19 AM on November 21 [2 favorites]


All the boys of the world want to play with my Dingalings.
posted by delfin at 11:53 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


Watching kids' commercials from the '80s and early '90s is sort of like watching Krofft Bros. variety shows. All these professional adults, high achievers in their chosen field, get out of bed each morning and go to work and stand under hot lights for hours to make this.

I really enjoy old catalogs from my small times in the '80s, and at the same time they give me a terrible sense of sadness. Part of it is that I realize I was such a lucky child. I was spoiled -- not like FAO Schwartz spoiled,* nothing public like a trampoline or pool, but anything I really hoped for (that wouldn't choke or burn or break a bone), I eventually had in some form. And that can't have been easy for my folks. I don't know if kids these days are able to have that unless their parents are rich enough to be terrible people.

Another part of it is that something about the whole '80s photoshoot vibe reminds me of murder victims. Too much true crime, I guess.

-----
* Because of my grandmother's tabloids, I knew who little Ivanka Trump was, and my first thought about her was that she could probably pick out anything in the FAO Schwartz catalog. I wish to God it had been the last. But I loved to read that catalog, just for fun. I'm not finding a great example online now, but it was like Hammacher Schlemmer for kids. Real working cars!
posted by Countess Elena at 12:03 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I would go through the Sears (and whatever other store's) catalog and type up huge lists for Christmas on my grandma's fancy electric typewriter. I wouldn't get nearly as much as I listed (and frankly shouldn't have; I was adding everything that looked even remotely interesting on there), but that wasn't the point. The point was making the list.
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:17 PM on November 21 [5 favorites]


1966 commercial for Mattel's Baby Secret.
posted by fairmettle at 1:06 PM on November 21


Gen X. In our mid-20s and 30s it was the Sharper Image, Brookfield, DAK and Hammacher Schlemmer catalogues to pore over. Same dopamine surge as the Sears Wish Book.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:56 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Wow, that Most Wanted section of Retrontario was full of references that I haven't considered in eons.
posted by sardonyx at 2:44 PM on November 21 [2 favorites]


Definitely a fan of the Sears Christmas Catalog, but probably before it was the 'wish list'- early-mid '60's. I spent hours...
posted by MtDewd at 3:41 PM on November 21


There were never enough batteries for flying the cool Mattel VertiBird all Christmas Day. It was The Best Toy Ever! (if you could keep Dad from hogging it).
posted by cenoxo at 5:49 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


The toy I coveted the most was Breyer horses, which never had ads and were kind of pricey, leading me to become a garage sale shopper at a young age. I was also known to buy them off of less appreciative friends, though sometimes their parents objected.

Second fave was Barbies, though I didn't care much which ones I got; they were all simply part of my cast of dozens that engaged in extensive drama and adventure. I did often ask for more clothes and vehicles, because every storyline needed costuming and props. Back then you didn't ask for the few Black Barbies if you were white, because racism, but I would have loved to have some.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 AM on November 22


And that is the Sears Wish Book.

Oh my, yes. For some reason we never got it at my house…


Or is that just what your parents wanted you to think?
posted by TedW at 7:47 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


For some reason we never got it at my house, but my Grandma did. The first time we visited after it arrived each year meant an afternoon of lying on the floor in her tv room with the Wish Book

Same same. I didn't even necessarily compile a list, but I could certainly entertain myself for an hour or two carefully studying select pages -- the Star Wars one was a biggie, of course, but the one with the Mego 8" superhero action figures was important to memorize as well. I do recall by burgeoning "but actually" gatekeeping brain being troubled by how Spider-Man was mixed in willy-nilly with Superman and Batman. Marvel was Marvel and DC was DC and never the twain! That was the realm of the oversized cardboard-cover crossovers that cost like a dollar and not the usual twenty cents per issue. Retailers had no right to do this, tut tut.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:59 PM on November 28


And as regards the Star Wars figures, I recall a shocking discovery in early spring 1980 when I went into Zellers department store and discovered they had the first Empire Strikes Back figures. It must have been allowance day or something, because I had the two bucks needed to purchase one, so after careful consideration, I acquired Luke in his Dagobah Bespin coveralls.

In toy circles, I was briefly cock of the walk.

Zellers is long gone and a parking lot has stood on its site for some thirty years, but I cannot look at the parking lot without seeing this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:06 PM on November 28


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