50 Toy Fads That Drove Us Crazy!


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Young teen boy holding popular fidget spinner toy
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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.

Two fidget spinners
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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.

Shopkins toys in package
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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.

Assorted Squinkies
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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.

Angry Birds game on a mobile phone
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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.

Zhu Zhu Pets hamster
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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.

Silly Bandz in package
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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.

Webkinz image from online game
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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.

Yellow Livestrong bracelet
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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.

Jelly bracelets in assorted colors
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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.

Beyblade toy
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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.

Furreal Friends kitten toy
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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.

Bratz doll with accessories
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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.

Blue Furbie toy
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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.

Orange and black striped devil sticks
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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.

Pokemon cards on a wooden table
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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.

Three Tamagotchi toys
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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.

Assorted pogs in an open chest
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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.

Collection of Magic the Gathering cards
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"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.

Super Soaker water gun in package
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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.

Assorted slap bracelets next to a wrist with a slap bracelet
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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.

Child with a Skip It toy around her ankle
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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.

Assorted Boinks toys
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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.

Blue and red Pogo Ball
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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.

Koosh ball in package
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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.

Assorted colorful friendship bracelets
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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.

Variety of Grow Monster dinosaurs in packages
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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.

Collection of Garbage Pail Kids cards
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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.

Wacky Wall Walker in package
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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.

Opened Polly Pocket on display
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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.

Rubik's cube
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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.

Dog Chia Pet next to its box
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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.

Finger pulling green slime off of the floor
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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.

Pet Rock next to its box
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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.

Three stacked blue mood rings
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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.

Young girl feeding her Baby Alive Doll in her lap
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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.

Ouija Board
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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.

Shrinky Dinks in package
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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.

Nerf football, basketball and soccer ball
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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.

Barrel of Monkeys toy
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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.

Assorted Superballs
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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.

Three lava lamps
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Bubbly, trippy, and mesmerizing, the lava lamp came to symbolize all things psychedelic and countercultural and became a staple of dorm rooms for generations.

Troll doll with rainbow hair
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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.

Pink striped hula-hoop
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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.

Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman Pez dispensers
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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.

Silly Putty in package
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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.

Magic 8 Ball in package
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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.

Brightly colored Slinky
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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.

Silver metal practical joke hand buzzer
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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."

Vintage wooden yo-yo with red string
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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.

Assorted colored marbles
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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.

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