50 Toy Fads That Drove Us Crazy!

By   

View as:

Photo credit: VaLiza/shutterstock

TOYS IN THE ATTIC

Adults don't understand them. Schools ban them. Parents buy them or risk having the only kid on the block without one. These fad toys come out of nowhere, command the attention of America's youth for a moment, and earn their inventors millions. Then they disappear ... only to return years later as nostalgic kitsch purchases, of course.
Photo credit: Jennie Book/shutterstock

2017: FIDGET SPINNERS

There's always a "next big thing," and at the moment it's fidget spinners. Although they date back to at least 1993, these devices began enthralling kids and annoying parents and teachers en masse only recently, brilliantly marketed under the guise of soothing fidgety children.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2014: SHOPKINS

One of many fads proving that tiny toys sell, Shopkins went through 100 million units in the year after their debut. The little characters can be individualized for the child obsessing over them -- and once sold on eBay for thousands of dollars despite costing $4 in stores.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2010: SQUINKIES

One of several fad toys packaged in tiny plastic eggs, Squinkies rode a wave fueled by mommy bloggers across the country. The squishy little dolls were so popular that at the height of the craze, stores nationwide rationed sales to try to avoid selling out.
Photo credit: OlegDoroshin/shutterstock

2009: ANGRY BIRDS

By 2011, children and adults alike were wasting 200 million minutes every day flinging angry birds at befuddled pigs. The "Angry Birds" game, developed two years earlier, revolutionized app-based mobile games and, like all good toy fads, became a movie.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2009: ZHU ZHU PETS

People once paid thousands to get their hands on one of these $10 fake pets, essentially cheap robotic hamsters. They endure today in different animal forms, but the frantic race to get one is over.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2006: SILLY BANDZ

The most recent in a long line of bracelet fads, Silly Bandz are rubbery wristwear formed into different shapes. Producers were once strapped to meet the insane demand of a million packs per week.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2005: WEBKINZ

Ganz blended the real with the virtual with Webkinz -- among the first toys that reached their potential only when the child owner visited a website to bring his or her plush toy to online life.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2004: LIVESTRONG BRACELETS

Another bracelet-related must-have, these charity bracelets leaped from good intentions to fashion statement. Adults jumped on, too, but it was not uncommon to see teens wearing five or more at a time. Revelations that Armstrong had spent much of his storied career lying and cheating sent demand plummeting.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2003: JELLY BRACELETS

Madonna originally popularized these colored, rubbery bracelets two decades earlier, but the 2003 craze added rumors they were part of a shocking middle-schooler sex game. The myth was debunked; the craze was just tweens wearing jelly bracelets.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2002: BEYBLADES

One of the most dramatic -- and profitable -- twists on spinning tops, Beyblades pit friends against each other in battles of customized toys. When the spinning stopped and the fad ended, 150 million of the little hunks of plastic had reportedly spun off the shelves.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2002: FURREAL FRIENDS

Hasbro launched the latest in a long line of pet toy crazes in 2002, grown over a decade to 260 animal breeds and 61 million units sold in 74 countries.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

2001: BRATZ

Giant heads. Tiny bods. Excessive makeup. A bit of controversy over appropriateness. Apparently, that's all it takes to sell 125 million Bratz dolls, a fad that generated more than $2 billion in worldwide sales within five years.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1998: FURBIES

Credited with being the first robot toy that responded to stimulus and training, fuzzy Furbies spoke your language -- literally. And the international language of marketing: 27 million were sold within the year after launch.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1996: DEVIL STICKS

People "juggling" one long baton between two shorter control batons has been around from biblical times through 1970s Grateful Dead concerts, but in 1996 a resourceful T-shirt screener began selling and marketing them out of his shop, turning them into a staple of beach boardwalks and contemporary concert parking lots.
Photo credit: Angelina Pilarinos/shutterstock

1996: POKEMON CARDS

Trading cards once made people think of baseball players, not anime capsule monsters, but with the release of 102 collectible cards based on Nintendo characters, Pokemon fever swept the planet. An equally annoying augmented reality phone game, "Pokemon Go," came 20 years later.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1996: TAMAGOTCHI

Japanese toymaker Bandai birthed the world's first virtual pet and a virtual pet craze. At the peak, 15 Tamagotchi were bought every minute in the United States and Canada alone -- 40 million worldwide for the year.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1994: POGS

Originally designed to seal the inside of passion-orange-guava drinks bottled in Hawaii, the little cardboard circles known as Pogs were soon a common sight in the pockets of kids and the top drawer of principals' desks. At the height of the craze, $10 million in Pogs were sold every week just in California.
Photo credit: Pe3k/shutterstock

1993: MAGIC CARDS

"Magic: The Gathering" debuted at the Origins Game Fair in Dallas, with success so instant that the game's designers sold out what they'd thought would be a year's worth of cards.
Photo credit: Keith Homan/shutterstock

1993: SUPER SOAKER

The standard water pistol was rendered obsolete when a NASA engineer unveiled this version that could drench a target 50 feet away. More than 200 million have sold since.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1990: SLAP BRACELETS

Slap bracelets are responsible for millions of jarring popping sounds and more than a few injured wrists, thanks to an avalanche of cheap foreign knockoffs. The first big fad of the 1990s, slap bracelets stand as a testament to the fad power of toys you can wear.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1988: SKIP IT

Bruised shins, America. America, bruised shins. The ball-and-chain-like Skip It (an odd forebear of the Fitbit with its counting ability) has gone on despite being kind of boring and sometimes painful.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1987: BOINKS

A full 30 years before fidget spinners annoyed their way into the mainstream, there were Boinks. Marketed under the vague half-promise they might sort of help a kid concentrate, focus, and stop fidgeting, Boinks are actually just netted finger sleeves.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1987: POGO BALL

More advanced than a Hoppity-Hop but less advanced than a pogo stick, the Pogo Ball became a craze almost immediately. Then it was gone. Initially lauded for encouraging exercise, the Pogo Ball was quickly recognized as a nuisance and an emergency room visit waiting to happen.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1987: KOOSH BALL

Named for the sound it made landing and formed from 2,000 rubber filaments, the Koosh Ball is a squishy sphere that's easy to throw and catch and doesn't hurt when it hits. It sold in 14,000 stores in 20 countries within a year of debuting.
Photo credit: Nancy Bauer/shutterstock

1987: FRIENDSHIP BRACELETS

They date back to ancient Latin America, were reinvented by hippies in the 1960s, and were kept alive in the late 1980s as sweaty, waterlogged, rotting wrist appendages traded by BFFs in middle schools across America.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1987: GROW MONSTERS

Put a small, hard dinosaur into water, wait a few days, and get a big, gross, slimy, misshapen dinosaur -- and a cup full of four-day-old standing water. Grow Monsters were awesome, until doctors warned that if swallowed, they also quadrupled in size in a kid's esophagus.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1985: GARBAGE PAIL KIDS

Gross, disturbing, graphic, and all-around awesome, Garbage Pail Kids were banned from schools, loathed by parents, and loved by kids. The gory, gruesome stickers and cards burned bright, turned into an ill-fated movie, then went away until a 2003 revival.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1983: WACKY WALL WALKERS

If you were alive in 1983, chances are good you saw a miniature rubber octopus crawling down a wall. Cheap to produce and marketed for vending machines and cereal box giveaways, they just had to be thrown hard enough to stick; gravity would do the rest.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1983: POLLY POCKET

Though it's grown over the years, the original Polly Pocket was, as the name implies, small enough to fit in a pocket. Like so many fads, the toy eventually went Hollywood. It become an animated movie series.
Photo credit: dnd_project/shutterstock

1980: RUBIK'S CUBE

This toy fad was the first retail phenomenon of the 1980s, a color-coded, three-dimensional cube that became a frustratingly addictive must-have for kids and adults alike.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1977: CHIA PETS

The brainchild of Joe Pedott might be the most enduring fad of pets that weren't pets. From animals like bulls and rams to human heads and just about anything with hair or fur, these sprouting sculptures were marketing magic.
Photo credit: jarabee123/shutterstock

1976: SLIME

Arguably Mattel's grossest toy ever, Slime would stay gooey for as long as kids kept returning it to its trash can-style container. Then they could remove it, squeeze it between their fingers and invariably throw it into siblings' hair.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1975: THE PET ROCK

Advertising genius Gary Dahl's work remains part of pop culture 40 years later. One of history's most successful marketing gimmicks, the Pet Rock launched the no-maintenance "pet" genre by selling 1.5 million small rocks in boxes for about $4 each.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1975: THE MOOD RING

Mood rings were supposed to be as individual as the teens who emptied the shelves of them during the "Me Decade." First appearing in New York City, they took the country by storm before disappearing within two years, the lifespan of their temperature-sensitive liquid crystal.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1973: BABY ALIVE DOLL

Swarms of kids demanded Hasbro's so-alive-it's-kind-of-creepy Baby Alive Doll, which opened its mouth to receive food, chewed, swallowed, and eventually requested a diaper change.
Photo credit: pablofdezr/shutterstock

1973: OUIJA BOARDS

Ouija boards have been on the fringes of pop culture since the 1880s, but in 1973 one appeared in "The Exorcist" and millions of kids suddenly turned to witchcraft in their spare time, much to the chagrin of parents, teachers, and clergy everywhere.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1973: SHRINKY DINKS

Shrinky Dinks required kids to operate a hot oven (and left open the potential of burns from scalding hot plastic). Although they debuted in 1973, a real Shrinky Dinks craze wouldn't arrive for another decade.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1969: NERF BALL

Billed as the "first ball for inside the house," Nerfs evolved for footballs, table hockey, pool, and table tennis uses. Now they're known for a variety of backyard combat gear.
Photo credit: Keith Bell/shutterstock

1966: BARREL OF MONKEYS

Huge swaths of America's youth agreed Lakeside Toys had a game "more fun than a barrel of monkeys" and were soon wasting countless hours trying to hook red monkey tails onto blue plastic barrels.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1965: SUPERBALL

No ball has ever bounced better than the SuperBall, which could bounce for a full minute when dropped and sail over a three-story building if smashed hard enough into the sidewalk. It sold as well as it hopped, with 20 million bouncing off of shelves in the 1960s alone.
Photo credit: Dietrich Leppert/shutterstock

1963: LAVA LAMP

Bubbly, trippy, and mesmerizing, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things psychedelic and countercultural and became a staple of dorm rooms for generations.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1959: TROLL DOLLS

Troll dolls are the Grover Cleveland of fad toys -- they served two non-consecutive terms at the top. Invented in 1959, they became a must-have in the 1960s, went dormant for a generation, and re-emerged as a craze of the 1990s.
Photo credit: StanislauV/shutterstock

1958: HULA-HOOP

Arguably the most iconic fad in U.S. history, the Hula-Hoop sold 25 million in the first four months of production. The famous plastic circles are still around, associated with simpler times.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1955: PEZ DISPENSER

PEZ had been around since the 1920s, and dispensers were unveiled in the early 1950s. But in 1955, they got heads. The earliest collectible dispensers can now fetch $10,000 at auction.
Photo credit: Keith Homan/shutterstock

1950: SILLY PUTTY

Intended as a rubber alternative during World War II, this purposeless "solid liquid" in an egg container became one of the biggest toy fads ever, drawing orders for 250,000 units within three days after it was profiled in The New Yorker.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1950: MAGIC 8 BALL

At least as accurate as actual fortune tellers, this oversized billiards ball is filled with dark liquid and floating dice that answers questions -- after a fashion. Sales at the time? Reply hazy. But about 1 million of these still sell every year.
Photo credit: cekiztas/shutterstock

1945: SLINKY

There was a time when 80 feet of coiled wire was an acceptable present to give a child. That time was 1945 and the toy was the Slinky -- which sold 400 in the minutes after its debut department store demonstration, the first of more than 250 million sold.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

1932: JOY BUZZER

In the early '30s, kids across America dressed like small grownups, worked grown-up jobs, and didn't tire of jolting unsuspecting people with shock handshakes. The joy buzzer swept America in the golden age of pranks, made by the same company behind exploding cigars, snake nut cans, sneezing powder, and "razzberry cushions."
Photo credit: vincent noel/shutterstock

1928: YO-YO

Probably the first toy to be confiscated by teachers until the end of the day on Friday nationwide, yo-yos were selling 300,000 a day within a year of their release.
Photo credit: THPStock/shutterstock

1884: MARBLES

Although they have ancient roots, the basic, simple marble became one of America's earliest toy fads in 1884, when an Ohio manufacturer developed a way to produce and market a million -- enough to fill five train carloads -- every day.