Christmas is the favourite time of the year for big kids and smaller kids alike! You start making your ‘wishlist’ in August and then hopefully by December 25th, Santa would have brought you the gift at the top of your list and hopefully a few others too!
Photo Credit: KalexAnderson
As an adult, when you find those Star Wars figurines now in an old Adidas shoe box filled with dust and battered through years of being thrown around the spare room, your mind starts to feel a sense of nostalgia. Many Christmases merge into one and you start thinking of the most wonderful time of the year being defined by tradition; reuniting with family, overdosing on treats (and turkey) and trying to avoid the numerous awful Christmas specials that find their way onto the TV.
Take another step back in time with our list of 12 of The Best Retro Christmas Toys
Space Hopper (1968-present)
The Space Hopper was first introduced in 1968 and introduced in the UK a year later in 1969. Designed by Italian Aquilino Cosani, the Space Hopper made it into the UK and immediately became a hit. This overgrown orange Satsuma-like toy became the favourite of many a child throughout the UK, particularly in the 1970’s and is still in production today.
Rubik’s Cube (1977-present)
The Rubik’s Cube was designed to annoy everyone, it didn’t discriminate either, it didn’t care if you were 5 or 105. For a puzzle toy that was seemingly complicated to crack, its premise was extraordinarily simple; all you had to do was match the six sides of the cube to the same colours. Easier said than done, eh?
As difficult as it was to solve, the mystical cube managed to sell in huge numbers throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s and is still considered a Christmas classic, not just for kids but for adults too.
Raleigh Chopper Bike (1970-82)
The Raleigh Chopper was seen as the king of the bicycles. A legend amongst the pedal bike community, the chopper was introduced in 1970 riding on the popularity of and inspired by the road movie Easy Rider (1969) in which the Chopper motorbikes used became iconic.
However, in the early days they were known for not being the most reliable pedal bike nor the easiest to ride due to their new design.
The most popular model, which was the Mk 2 and released in 1972, came complete with five gears and an image of epic coolness as you pretended to be Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda riding down the highway. Well, we could dream couldn’t we?
Anyway, the Chopper became increasingly popular and was a smash hit immediately after release. In the UK, the bike was branded ‘THE HOT ONE’ and immediately became a symbol of coolness and chic amongst school kids throughout the country.
Is there an image more in-keeping with the Christmas present than the famous miniature figure-of-eight track? Consisting of plastic piece of circuit with miniature tram lines set in them, your electrified miniature cars were supposed to stay on the track as you raced your family members.
For the majority of us, this was the closest we ever got to participate in a real race and as your car passed over the ‘bridge’ and flew off the track, you’d be wondering what you had to do to win, why yours? Then you would realise that you had your finger permanently pressed down on the trigger button on the sci-fi-esque controller.
It required skill to control them at speed and certainly around the corners of the track, then you would get the whiff of the burning of the little metal brushes that kept the cars stapled to the track and you suddenly got this rush, probably through breathing in the potentially toxic fumes – who knows – all that mattered was that you had won!
Nintendo 64 (1996-2003)
The Nintendo 64 or N64 for short was a revolution in gaming during the mid-1990’s. Using the cartridge system that had been in use since the 1980’s but had not entirely been perfected, the N64 was a marvel for young kids who were entering a new generation of Christmas presents.
Released in 1996, Nintendo supplied the gaming world with a new and refreshing console, something that the industry needed. It’s appearance and of course the seemingly unique (in the sense that it worked properly) cartridge system, the N64 became a major selling machine around Christmas 1996 with kids just eager to get their hands on one.
BMX Bike (1972-present)
It is hard to believe that it is over 40 years since the BMX was introduced. First seen in the USA, on the dirt tracks of Southern California through the advent of BMX racing and when the Chopper became obsolete in the early 1980’s, the BMX was of course its natural successor and pretty much every kid wanted one for Christmas.
Battling Tops (1968-late 80s)
Battling Tops is the classic board game, which involves spinning tops where the object of the game is to have the last standing spinning top. Initially, the game was very popular and throughout the 1970’s sales of the game remained strong. In 1977, in light of the recently released Star Wars and the popularity surrounding the movie at the time, the game was re-named Battling Spaceships.
Corgi’s Aston Martin DB5 (1964-present)
The Corgi Aston Martin DB5, released in 1964 as a promotional item accompanying the 007 flick Goldfinger, quickly became a collectors classic. The Aston Martin DB5 toy became the biggest selling toy of 1964 and was an immediate hit with kids who became fascinated with the numerous imitation gadgets that featured on the toy itself.
The model is still produced to this very day although not as mass produced as it was, however, in 2006 at the relaunch of the James Bond franchise with the launch of Casino Royale; a highly detailed model with working features was produced by Danbury Mint, ensuring that collector’s editions remain in circulation.
It’s hard to believe that Subbuteo has been around since 1947 – well actually it was 1946 but creator Peter Adolph had no sets available to buy until March of 1947. It wasn’t until twenty years later that the figures evolved into the classic heavyweight figures we know and love of today.
What’s interesting is that Subbuteo wasn’t the only like-for-like game in the business when it came onto the scene. A game called Newfooty has been in existence since 1929 and it was locked into a fierce rivalry with Subbuteo until Newfooty ceased trading in 1961.
The game became increasingly popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s with numerous specials for the World Cups introduced throughout the period and they have become valuable collector’s items for those who still have them.
Star Wars Toys (1977-1985)
The Kenner Star Wars toys were based on characters from the first three Star Wars movies produced from 1977 to 1985 (although now they’ve made three prequel films, these “first” films are the last three in the story, but we’ll overlook that for now). They were an incredible Christmas present for fans the Star Wars trilogy.
From the beginning of the production on the first film to the last in 1985, over 300 million Star Wars figurines were sold, meaning that many kids got their wish of finding toy versions of Han Solo along with Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in their Christmas stockings.
Transformers: Generation One (1984-1993)
The Transformers: Generation One range was produced from 1984 to 1991 in the US and to 1993 in the UK and featured the multi-use machines in toy form now made famous on the big screen by the Hollywood blockbusters that followed some 20+ years later.
As a kid, who wouldn’t want to be part of the Autobots and Decepticons battle? This was your chance to participate in the war between them, ensuring the evil Decepticons didn’t gain the upper hand. This was a marvellous toy for the 80’s generation and one, much like the Star Wars toys, have become valuable collectibles throughout the years.
Commodore 64 (1982-1994)
Through being lower priced and having more flexible hardware, the Commodore 64 quickly established itself as the home computer system to have in the 1980’s, however, in the UK competitors such as the Spectrum were selling for less than half of the price of the Commodore which meant the C64 only reached the levels of sales which meant it had beaten its competition within the UK by the late-1980’s.
As the system was becoming less popular in the US and Japan even through the emergence of Nintendo computer systems, the C64 remained increasingly popular in the UK where kids throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s had become increasingly familiar with its quirks and ROM cartridge usage for gaming.
The indirect pre-cursor to Nintendo’s N64 gaming system, the Commodore 64 remains a popular classic and children of the 80’s will remember fondly the joys they had with theirs, particularly those that were delivered for Christmas.
What was your favourite Christmas toy as a child? Do you have any that you kept and still have stored away somewhere? Leave a comment to share your retro Christmas Toy story!