These fad toys have inspired store sell-outs, parent pandemonium and crazy resale values over the years. Is your kid’s fave—or your childhood obsession—on the list?
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These rubber band bracelets—which spring back into cool shapes when they're not being worn—took kids by storm in 2009. Originally designed to be an office supply with enough design interest to avoid the garbage bin, the bands got so big that schools started banning them due to classroom disruption.
The nation came down with Furby fever during the holiday season of 1998, when it became the toy on the top of every kid's wish list, according to Wikipedia. The part owl/part hamster/part Yoda robot critters spoke their own language—Furbish, of course—but gradually "learned" English the more you played with them. Although kids are no longer Furby-crazy, you can still find them for sale online.
Your kid wants a dog, but you don't, so get him the next best thing—a virtual pet! The egg-shaped handheld, which had its heyday in the mid-90s according to Wikipedia, lets you name your pet, feed it, clean up its poop, give it medicine and get it to bed. Fail to take proper care of it, and it dies—just like the real thing, only a lot less traumatic. In early versions, half a day of neglect could lead to the pet's demise, but after complaints from teachers and parents who wanted their child to engage in other real world activities, the company introduced a pause feature. You can still purchase the latest iteration of the toy, TamaTown, which lets you plug in and swap out characters for more varied play.
Tickle Me Elmo
TV Elmo has an eerie ability to enchant toddlers; those tiny minds get blown away when they meet him in 3-D. Tickle Me Elmo, a giggling, vibrating plush toy version of the red furry monster, was introduced in 1996 according to Wikipedia and became an instant success. Due to unexpectedly high demand, the toy, which retailed for $28.99, fetched as much as $1500 in re-sale. In 2006, TMX (Tickle Me Extreme), an amped-up version that rolled around on the floor and begged the tickler for mercy, was released. The hype was so great that it was unveiled live on Good Morning America, and packaging made it impossible to get a sneak peek at the product. Although the hype has since died down, Tickle Me Elmo is still on the market today.
Hitting the market in 2001, these saucy dolls ignited a firestorm over the hyper-sexualization of little girls. Even the American Psychological Association weighed in, saying in 2007: "Bratz dolls come dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas. Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girls or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality." The dolls were then pulled from the market in 2008 due to copyright infringement. Love 'em or hate 'em, Jade, Sasha, Cloe and Yasmin—the original girls with a passion for fashion—were big business in the mid-2000s, and are set to be relaunched.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Did you know that the original name for Cabbage Patch Kids was Little People, and that all have the signature of inventor Xavier Roberts stamped on their butt-cheek? The fugly-cute dolls that you don't just buy but adopt become all the rage in the mid-80s, even making the cover of Newsweek in 1983. Later versions had more human-like hair and come in special editions -- NASCAR CPK anyone? You can still, uh, adopt an original Cabbage Patch Kid today, but it will set you back $295 to do so.
Currently one of the biggest toy crazes, Bakugan is a game consisting of spring-loaded balls that flip open into robotic figures when rolled onto a special matching card. The figures, which all have complex backstories from the anime series they're based on, do battle, allowing players to collect cards and win.
Zhu Zhu Pets
These interactive toy hamsters are as cuddly as the real thing but come in pink and don't smell! Each Zhu Zhu pet makes one of 40 noises based on how you interact with it, from purrs to squeaks. Pet them and they zoom across the floor, making a surprised sound and changing direction when they bump into something. Hit another button to put them in "nurture mode," where they'll coo and even go to sleep. Low supply in 2009 made these a hot and hard-to-get toy, according to Wikipedia, but bigger shipments caused the hysteria to die down a bit in 2010.
Actually a game that's been around since the 1920s (according to Wikipedia) but commercialized in the 1990s, Pogs are small discs you stack, then hit with a slammer that causes them to scatter. You keep the Pogs that land face-up during your throw. When all the chips have been claimed, whoever has the most wins. As this toy fad gained steam, Pogs started being manufactured with themes—movies, sports, famous world leaders, even anti-drug messages. Although their popularity has plummeted, you can still get your hands on Pogs today.
This toy with an online component revolutionized the industry when they were introduced in 2005, according to Wikipedia. Cute stuffed animals come with a secret code that you enter into the Webkinz World website, which allows kids to play with and take care of a virtual version of their animal. Kids decorate their web-based playroom using Kinzcash, which they earn through spending time on the site. All sorts of extras (like a swimming pool—cool!) can be unlocked through frequent play and more purchases. Webkinz are still going strong, and since online play expires after a year unless you purchase more animals, they have a built-in insurance policy.
You never know what's going to set off a fad, and in the mid-90s, animal-shaped bean bags called Beanie Babies had that special unknowable something. By limiting supply amidst growing demand, and continually retiring lines, parent company Ty stoked a fervor among collectors, according to Wikipedia. Competing with Webkinz, Beanie Babies went online in 2008 (plug in an access code for online play), and are still available today.
This iconic 3-D puzzle has been around since 1980, with more than 350 million sold worldwide and is generally considered to be the world's best-selling toy, according to Wikipedia. Mix the puzzle by turning rows both vertically and horizontally, and then try to get it back to a single color on each side (if you pop it, that's cheating). The world record for solving the puzzle was set in 2008, with a time of 7.08 seconds. Think you could beat it?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
We're not sure who thought up this weird-but-winning combo, but in the late 80s and early 90s, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael were on fire. The turtles originally came to life in comic books before licensing was sold for toys, games, videos and four feature films. There are rumblings that a new TV series is being developed, which could mean a, uh, renaissance for the crime-fighting reptiles.
Who doesn't a love a little slap on the wrist? This vaguely masochistic piece of jewelry—which The New York Times called "a Venetian blind with attitude"—pressed straight until you were ready to accessorize. The original bracelet, Slap Wrap, became popular among kids and teens in the early 90s and inspired a slew of competitors. Interest mostly died down amidst reports of injuries, but you can still find the fabric-covered, bendable steel bracelets on the market today.
It all started with a pair of video games, and morphed into a dynasty of anime, toys, trading cards, books, a TV series, movies, and even theme parks. Pokémon are creatures that you catch and train to fight other Pokemon trainers in a complex virtual world. Random Pokémon fact: According to Wikipedia, in 1997 more than 600 children in Japan were hospitalized with seizures brought on by an episode of the TV series, which thankfully has never re-aired. Pokémon is still going strong, with new video games coming out in 2010.