Big Trak

November of 1979 was the moment the future finally arrived in the American living room. When the holidays arrived a month later, many American children (mostly boys) were treated to the toy of their dreams, lovingly realized in injection mold plastic and the invisible world of internal chip technology.

Imagine the revelatory shock that spread like miniature mushroom clouds of excitement through your nervous system when underneath the torn wrapping of a holiday gift lay a bright, shining box containing Big Trak, the first artificial intelligence robotic vehicle made expressly for children. The mind raced with evil genius delusions of grandeur, fantasizing about all the limitless applications of your new six wheeled, programmable domestic assault vehicle.

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Highlights From the 1988 Sears Christmas Wish Book

Well, Christmas is coming up quick, so I thought it would be a good time to open up an old Sears Christmas Wish Book and relive some great old memories from the past.   I’m going back in time to 1988 with that year’s edition of the Wish Book to pick out some of the cool toys I wanted and thought I’d share them with you. 

I was 10 years old in 1988, so it was right at that perfect time of still being into toys, but at the same time, starting to have an eye towards some gifts that were a little more “grown-up”.  The 1988 edition of the Wish Book was loaded with so much cool stuff, I don’t think I’m going to be able to cover them all this time out, so I’ll probably stop at ten or so things for now, and hopefully do more later.  Let’s get to it! 

G.I. Joe Locker Bag Kit

Oh my goodness!  If you’ve got to start a personal grooming habit as a young man, what better way to do it than with G.I. Joe?!?  This kit has everything a 10 year old young man would need too.  G.I. Joe approved toothbrush and toothpaste (ADA be damned), mini soap with its own case to keep it from getting all slimy, a brush and comb for whatever stylish ‘do you are sporting, and a cup to go along with that tooth care set.  To top it all off, there is a small pocket size pack of tissue to take with you wherever you go, and a cool ass locker bag to store it all in.  You would be the envy of your fellow gym mates if you walked into a locker room with that bag slung over your shoulder.  And on top of all of that, how cool would it be to see this puppy hanging up in your bathroom at home.  It would almost make coming in from playing outside to get cleaned up enjoyable.  Almost. 

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M.U.S.C.L.E. Toys from the 1986 Mattel Catalog

Here are scans of the M.U.S.C.L.E. toys lineup as featured in the 1986 Mattel Toy Catalog.  Intended for retailers, Mattel’s dealer catalogs showcased all the latest and greatest releases, along with existing products within its various current (at the time) toy lines.  These are great photos of some of my favorites toys from the past.  Hope you enjoy them as well! 

When you’re done here, you should also check out the 1986 Masters of the Universe Catalog, and the complete 1988 Toys ‘R’ Us Christmas Sale paper. Let’s get onto the scans!

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Talking Mother Goose

Product of the Past: The Talking Mother Goose

Talking Mother Goose

So in what appears to be a marketing gimmick to capitalize on the success of the Teddy Ruxpin dolls, we’ve got The Talking Mother Goose.  A big, plush, goose that reads stories to you and moves…just like Teddy.

Teddy Ruxpin was a good toy to copy, as it’s sales were off the chart for a while there in the mid-1980s.  And what better “character” to get behind than Mother Goose.  Kids everywhere were familiar with her from hearing the stories and nursery rhymes.  That’s also not a bad selection of story titles that were available for this.  Worlds of Wonder was hitting on all cylinders at this point apparently.

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Five Highlights From a 1988 Toys ‘R’ Us Sale Paper

On this week’s episode of The Retro Network Podcast, Jason and I scoured through an old Toys ‘R’ Us sale paper from 1988. Even at just sixteen pages, the thing was loaded with all kinds of cool toys from the past. You can listen to us salivate over everything in the ad on the show, but here are five things from it that I want to highlight.

Army Gear Playsets from Galoob

Until we recorded the show, I was completely unaware of the existence of these incredible looking toys. They’re kind of like Transformers in that they’re two distinct toys in one. Like the M-16…you could play with it as a machine gun while running around chasing the neighbor kids, but you could also open it up into a playset for the Combat Troops.

Besides the M-16, it looks like there was also a flashlight that transformed into an air defense station, a watch that transformed into some kind of missile base, and a pistol that turned into a 3-level silo…and they had sounds!

Not to mention the combat troops themselves which you would obviously need to ramp up the fun with the playsets. And for just $3.99 you got ten good guys and ten bad guys to battle it out. This is a line I’m going to have to look into further.

Bone Age from Kenner

Way back when, well I guess in 1988 as it turns out, I saw commercials for what I thought were pretty cool looking toys. I never ended up having any of them, and they gradually slipped from my mind until just a few years ago. I searched high and low for a name for the toy line with no luck. Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I turned to Twitter for the answer and got it pretty quickly. Bone Age.

I had been enamoured with the “vehicles” and the like from the line, and still am today. So when we flipped the page in the sale paper and happened upon these things, I was ecstatic. These aren’t even the best representations of the toys in the line. It wouldn’t fit this post if I started adding in images from other sources, so you’ll just have to google them yourselves.

But the gist is that you’ve got these big skeleton dinosaurs and the cave men that ride on them I guess. But some of the other toys in the line are net launchers and other such fancy weapons. Maybe the coolest thing about them were that you got to put the dinosaur skeletons together before you played with them, adding another layer of fun to the toy.

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The History and Heydey POGs

In the 1990s, people began to realize that the word “collectible” need not be limited to things like comic books and movie posters. Anything that someone wanted could be considered a collectible, especially if a group of people (like kids, for instance) wanted it. And with this realization came the birth of the POG. These small discs were designed for use in a simple kid’s game, but they became a phenomenon when toy companies realized their potential as a collectible. The result was one of the biggest kid crazes of the 1990s.

Although POGs became a craze in the 1990s, their origin actually stretches back as far as the late 1800s. The small discs began their life in 1889 when H.P. and S.I. Barnhart got a trademark for their creation, the milk cap. These lightweight devices were intended to seal the mouths of milk bottles, but they also happened to be the perfect shape and size to be used as a toy by kids. The seeds of the Pog craze were sown in Hawaii when the children there began using the milk caps to play a ‘flipping game’ that resembled a cross between baseball card-flipping and tiddlywinks. The most popular caps used in this game were a brand of Hawaiian tropical fruit juice known as POG for its ingredients (Passion fruit, Orange, Guava).

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