Wishbook Web -- Christmas Catalogs through the 20th Century
August 27, 2007 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Wishbook Web. Christmas catalogs scanned in their entirety from the 1944 Wards Catalog (152 pages) to the 1985 Sears Catalog (648 pages!). The site looks like it was built circa '97, but the scans are quite interesting. via - Similar posts to this one: 1, 2.
posted by Ufez Jones (28 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
The toys were always at the end. God I loved that Sears catalog.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:19 PM on August 27, 2007

When I was a kid my dad always complained about how the Christmas Wishbook (aka xmas catalogue) came earlier each year. I was always convinced he was nuts, and always thought it was perfectly reasonable to start my list in October.

Then, last week, the 2007 Sears Christmas Wishbook showed up on my doorstep. Last week. As in: mid-August. Apparently my dad was right.
posted by drmarcj at 6:26 PM on August 27, 2007

OMG the toy section at the end of the Sears Christmas Wishbook. How I lusted for a metal detector. I pined for a home planetarium. I would have killed my own mother for a radio controlled anything.
posted by DU at 6:29 PM on August 27, 2007

The other day I provoked a mixture of outrage and tittering when I admitted in mixed company that when I was twelve I used to page through the Sears catalog looking for pages like this one.

Hey, there were no internets in the early 80's, and we didn't have cable. What can I say?
posted by dersins at 6:31 PM on August 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

This is great. Sears was truly a wonderful place when I was a kid. I loved stuff like this, and still buy 'em. [last link is to my own flickr page w/pics of my collection]
posted by marxchivist at 6:49 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hell yeah, dersins! It totally beat out National Geographic, though it was a distant second to the cover of Whipped Cream and Other Delights.
posted by Tube at 6:51 PM on August 27, 2007

This blows my mind. I can't imagine a time in which a child would want one of these, a time in which you could give a child a toy machine gun (with chattermatic sound!), or a time in which you had to worry about your ration card to consider purchasing a child-size pair of boots.

And now I want number 8.
posted by darksasami at 6:51 PM on August 27, 2007

Ooooh, the limited edition Breyer Horses! And the fancy dollhouses with miniature "antiques"! And the doll clothes! And the toy stoves! And...

*regresses to age ten*
posted by thomas j wise at 7:22 PM on August 27, 2007

The thing that surprises me about the 1985 one is that a lot of today's prices aren't a whole lot higher. Sears-quality shirts and pants were $20-40 then and now. You can still find a basic washer-dryer pair for not a whole lot more than 1985's $600. Etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 PM on August 27, 2007

Wonderful, thanks Ufez Jones. Does anybody have any information about the game DiG? I found a site that describes a Dig by Parker Bros, 1959 (making it too late for this catalogue), "Players use wands with a gummy end to dig out words from a pile of letters. Money and cards feature the Monopoly Man. Gummy wands liable to dry up with age." The description makes me think it was probably a later rehash of the same game.
posted by tellurian at 7:31 PM on August 27, 2007

It is of my opinion that the fruit cakes in the 1944 Wards Catalog, page 152, should have been used as ordnance on the B-29 raids.
posted by calhound at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2007

There were not words to describe how happy the upper right part of this page made me one Christmans morning.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:02 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I fondly remember the 1985 catalog. The toys, the bikes, the video games, the chicks wearing nighties. So many great memories. This the best post ever.
posted by mathowie at 8:27 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:00 PM on August 27, 2007

Double-Knit Leisure Coordinates! #2 is Siiick!!!
posted by squalor at 9:17 PM on August 27, 2007

Great post, but I don't dare click on the links or I'll never go to bed.
posted by desjardins at 9:23 PM on August 27, 2007

I used to LOVE the wish books when they arrived. My golden years would have been 1972 through about 1978, I guess. Frankly, I'm not sure anything was actually ordered from them for us, but I loved looking, just the same.

Sears was a cool store (I buy tools there still, though their quality has gone down as most of them are made overseas--I'm still heavily using the ratchets my Dad bought in the mid-70's), but I think for me it became less cool as you got older and discovered wearing "toughskins" was liable to get you laughed at.

Still, in a pre-mall world, it was an amazing place to go.
posted by maxwelton at 9:49 PM on August 27, 2007

I'm digging through, looking for long-lost 'boyfriends' ;-)

My fondness for the catalogs got to the point that new catalog season was a high-point in my calendar. Then the internet happened :-O There were a small handful of catalog photos I still remember as being as hot as any internet pr0n. Me likes some mystery, I do.

I am fascinated also though, to remember seeing some of the toys that looked fun and interesting, yet I never even knew anyone to have them, let alone have them myself.
posted by Goofyy at 10:09 PM on August 27, 2007

Ufez Jones, cool find and fun post. Wow, what memories. Going through the JC Penney 1966 catalogue I'm amazed by how little has changed in certain areas, like watch faces, toiletry cases, electric toothbrushes, jewelry cases...

ah, trolls. Only 66 cents for one. wow. A real nostalgia rush.
posted by nickyskye at 10:31 PM on August 27, 2007

Stirrup pants...socks worn with high heel shoes....bows! The hair, children, the HAIR!
(Falls foaming at the mouth.)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:16 PM on August 27, 2007

I found the 1975 Sears catalog...I had some toys from it! Hooray! And I'm a bit boggled at the LED alarm clocks my brother and I each got, mind a couple of years later, so hopefully they had come down in price. $60 in 1975 was a lot of money, and we weren't rich by any means.
posted by maxwelton at 1:02 AM on August 28, 2007

Oh hell, nickyskye -- my grandmother has that troll house in the bottom left.

Which must mean that the 66ยข troll above it was the one I determined was the "boy troll" and therefore needed a hair cut.

My adult "collector" heart cries now at the thought.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:29 AM on August 28, 2007

I've got a sizable collection of Sears catalogs, and was thinking of scanning all the 80s Wishbooks in for a website... glad to see someone else had more free time than me!

old Sears catalogs are such a great snapshot of a period of time for pop culture.
posted by inthe80s at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2007

I'm trying to create a graphic novel right now set in the early 80's and a year ago I went on eBay and bought a few JC Penney catalogs because I thought that that would be the quickest way to suss out the style of furniture, clothes, toys of that era.

Great post! Thanks.
posted by Sully at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2007

ah, trolls. Only 66 cents for one.

That does give a rush of nostalgia. These days they cost five bucks.
posted by dersins at 8:07 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was alive then but oblivious to anything not within 100 yards of home.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:25 AM on August 31, 2007

Oh U.S.S. Flagg, someday I'll own you.
posted by drezdn at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2007

That made me feel wonderful.
posted by k8t at 10:39 AM on September 13, 2007

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